Syrian Ambassador Addresses UN Security Council

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The above video is an address by Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari to the UN Security Council after the council–yesterday– unanimously adopted a resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria. During the ambassador’s remarks Nikki Haley got up and walked out, apparently unwilling to listen to anything he had to say.

In his address, Ja’afari discusses Syrian casualties in Damascus due to shelling from terrorist-held East Ghouta. He lambasts the US and other countries for supporting the so-called “moderate rebels” who have killed Syrian civilians, and he stakes a claim to the right of Syria to resist US occupation:

“According to the article 51 of the Charter, my country has the right to defend itself with all legal tools. There is a military presence, a colonial presence, a US presence, in our country and we have the right to respond to that. She (Haley) threatened us and we’re threatening her from this rostrum because we have the right to defend ourselves according to article 51 of the Charter.”

He also makes a good point: that whenever ceasefires have been agreed upon in the past, the terrorist factions have used the ceasefires as an opportunity to regroup and re-arm. Perhaps they will do so this time as well, although apparently the groups occupying Ghouta don’t, at least for now–despite yesterday’s UN vote–seem to be laying down their weapons. The following is reported by RT:

Jihadists in control of East Ghouta are “deliberately exacerbating” the humanitarian crisis in the Damascus suburb, hindering all government attempts to help civilians, according to the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria.

“The humanitarian, social and economic situation in Eastern Ghouta is deliberately exacerbated by the leaders of the al-Islam, Failak Ar-Rahman and Jabhat al-Nusra illegal armed groups,” Maj. Gen. Yuri Yevtushenko said on Saturday. “All attempts by the government of the Syrian Arab Republic to provide assistance to civilians in the Eastern Ghouta region are blocked by militants.”

The Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria specifically noted that Jeyish al-Islam militants continue to terrorize the local population and prevent civilians from leaving the militant-controlled areas by blocking a humanitarian corridor near Muhayam al-Waffedin.

Over the last 24 hours, the militants in control of the suburb of East Ghouta detonated 27 mines and fired two missiles into residential areas of Damascus. One of the rockets hit a house in Rukn ad-Din district of the Syrian capital. “There is significant destruction and casualties among civilians,” Yevtushenko said. “Over 24 hours, a total of four civilians were killed and 51 more were injured.”

The Russian military accused the terrorists of deliberately subverting the negotiation progress and attempting to provoke government forces to respond.

Parasites Which Take Over Their Hosts

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The fact that Israel receives billions each year from the US taxpayer as our politicians in Washington endlessly pledge their devotion to the “special relationship,”  has led many observers to liken the pro-Israel lobby in America to a parasite that has invaded a host.

It’s a powerful analogy, so much so that even books have been published expounding at length upon the idea.

Most of us, when we hear the word “parasite,” think of such creatures as ticks, tapeworms, or giardia, which, upon gaining a foothold, may feed upon a host’s blood or gastrointestinal microbiota.

But within the world of parasitology, we come across the phenomenon of parasites that literally take over the host, compelling it into certain acts and behaviors that it otherwise would not exhibit. In many cases these actions can be quite pronouncedly detrimental to the host’s own interests.

In other words, there are certain parasites that can, strictly speaking, literally take control of the host’s mind.

Examples of this in the biological world can be found herehere, and here.

One such example is a microbial creature known as Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that infects rats and mice. Upon ingestion, it produces a condition known as toxoplasmosis, the main symptom of which is that the rodent is drawn to cats, losing its natural fear of them. This occurs because the rodent, under the influence of the parasite, becomes sexually attracted to a pheromone in cat urine.

In inducing this effect, the Toxoplasma gondii is clearly acting in its own interests rather than the mouse’s. The parasite’s goal is to get inside a cat’s stomach–because cats are the only medium in which the parasite can sexually reproduce. But of course it produces a pattern of behavior in the rodent that eventually leads to the latter’s own destruction.

Another example is the Glyptapanteles, a genus of wasp that is classified as a parasitoid, a parasite that kills its own host. This wasp will single out a baby caterpillar and lay its eggs upon the rather hapless creature, and as the caterpillar grows, so do the eggs–inside the caterpillar.

When the eggs, or larvae, reach a certain stage of development, they will emerge from the caterpillar, literally boring through its skin, to reach the outside, and once out of the caterpillar they then settle nearby and begin pupation, i.e. the metamorphic transformation from a pupa to an adult insect.

It is at this point that the caterpillar becomes the protector of the wasp pupae. It covers them with silk in order to protect them until they reach maturity. It refuses to eat until they hatch, and if another insect approaches it will fight it away with violent head swings. Eventually, after the adult wasps emerge from their pupae, it dies.

The photo I’ve posted above shows such an enslaved caterpillar–one that has become obsessed with protecting the wasp pupae. The video below shows a similarly-situated caterpillar in action–basically fighting wars on the wasp’s behalf:

It’s of course one way of looking at America’s endless wars on behalf of Israel, particularly the war now taking place in Syria.

In a post yesterday I included a video which featured an edition of the RT program “Cross Talk.” One of the guests on the program is Mohammed Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran.  I usually find Marandi’s commentaries interesting, and his February 15 appearance on Cross Talk was no exception. In one segment of the show, he commented how “everything that the United States does in this region is about Israel.”

In a later segment in the same show, Marandi commented that “one wonders who is in charge in the United States.” He could perhaps just as easily have contemplated the question of who is in charge–the host or the parasite:

A bit earlier I alluded to a type of parasite known as a “parasitoid.” This is a parasitic organism that kills its own host. If we think of Israel and its lobby as a parasite, the question might leave us wondering, then, if the calamitous effects we are seeing in our country today are a result of the deleterious actions of a parasitoid.

Or maybe to put it another way: will the fighting of needless wars abroad and the seemingly endless attacks on the First Amendment here at home eventually do us in completely–much like the mice running up to befriend the cats or the caterpillars banging their heads on behalf of the Glyptapanteles wasp?

If you look at the caterpillars infected with the Glyptapanteles, the mice infected with the Toxoplasma gondii, or numerous other animals vitiated and contaminated by parasitoids, it is, as Marandi puts it, hard to know “who is in charge.”

This is something all Americans need to think about. Our own survival could be at stake.

Free Ahed! Bassem Tamimi and Miko Peled Chat on One-Month Anniversary of the Slap

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Israelis Deface Poster of Killed Tamimi Family Member

On January 3 Musab Tamimi became the first Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces in the year 2018. Musab was the 16-year-old cousin of Ahed Tamimi, who remains imprisoned for slapping an Israeli soldier.

It is customary in Palestinian society to make posters of those killed by Israeli forces. For bereaved family members, it is a way of paying tribute to lost loved ones. Yesterday, on January 18, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, in an article by Gideon Levy and Alex Levac, reported that Israeli soldiers defaced a poster of Musab with stars of David and filthy graffiti.

The photo above shows Musab’s father, Firas, holding the defiled picture of his son. In their article, the two writers report:

Here’s what soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces scrawled on a mourning notice for 16-year-old Musab Tamimi, who was killed by a sniper’s shot to the throat: “Son of a bitch, slut, dead.” For good measure, they drew a Star of David.

Two days after they killed the teen, IDF troops again invaded his village, Deir Nizam, north of Ramallah. In a late-night raid, they arrested four young residents and left behind as a souvenir the memorial notice they violated. Neatly folded, the notice is now in the possession of the bereaved father, Firas Tamimi. An expression of pain crosses his face when he shows it to us. He was the one who carried his bleeding son two weeks ago to the car and rushed him to a hospital, where the teen was pronounced dead.

Readers can access the full article here.

The story also relates previously-unknown circumstances regarding Musab’s death. The youth was shot in the neck by an Israeli sniper. Israeli officials justified the shooting on the grounds that he was armed with a rifle. However, Musab’s younger brother told Haaretz there was no gun. Also it seems an Israeli official, apparently worried that information might get out, issued a warning to the family against talking to the media:

This week, before our visit to Deir Nizam, a villager was summoned for a talk with “Captain Malek” from the Shin Bet security service. Through him, Firas relates, the agent conveyed a message to Musab’s family not to talk to the media and to ensure quiet in the village.

Musab lived in the village of Deir Nizam, not far from Nabi Saleh, where Ahed Tamimi slapped the soldier on December 19. Earlier this week an Israeli military court denied bail to Ahed, ruling that she must remain incarcerated until she stands trial.

Another manifestation of off-the-rails Israeli insanity to make the news recently is the story of Abdullah Eyad Ghanayem, who was crushed to death by an Israeli military jeep in 2015. According to a report here, the Israeli army has filed suit against Ghanayem’s family, as well as his entire village of Kafr Malik, located in the central West Bank near the city of Ramallah.

The suit reportedly seeks 95,260 Israeli shekels (about $28,000) for damages to the jeep. The story was brought to my attention by one of our readers, Siljan.

And Speaking of Banned and Challenged Books…

A few days ago I posted an article about children’s books by Jewish authors, a disproportionately high number of which were found by Andrew Joyce, the writer of the article, to have been included on a list of “banned and challenged books” that is yearly maintained by the American Library Association (ALA).

Not long after I posted the article, a friend sent me an email about the children’s book you see above.

P is for Palestine has not, at least as of yet, made the ALA’s list, although that could be because it was only published this past November. Yet assuredly the book has been challenged (rather persistently), and may possibly have been banned in certain places as well. It is not currently available, for instance, at either Amazon or Barnes and Noble. The only online retailer that appears to be carrying it is Etsy.

According to Joyce, the books published by Jewish authors and which made the ALA’s list were found to have been objectionable by parents and school officials mainly due to their sexual content. For instance, one of the books he talks about, It’s Perfectly Normal, contains graphic illustrations of people engaging in sex acts. The book, which has been made available to ten-year-olds, has a section explaining that sexual intercourse “can involve the penis and the vagina, or the mouth and the genitals, or the penis and the anus.” Not surprisingly, the inclusion of the book in public school curricula has sparked considerable protest.

P is for Palestine has also sparked protests–but for an entirely different reason.

In November of 2017, shortly after the book’s release, a number of New York City Jews launched a campaign against a local bookstore after it scheduled an event featuring a reading and book signing by the author. The following was reported by the website Palestine Legal:

Last week, a popular independent book store in New York’s Upper West Side, Book Culture, received calls to censor and denounce a children’s book, P is for Palestine, after the book’s author, Professor Golbarg Bashi, publicized an event at the store on an Upper East Side mother’s blog.

I haven’t actually seen a copy of the book, but apparently it does not include any graphic depiction of the human anatomy or sex acts. On the contrary, like many children’s books, it attempts to expand children’s vocabularies by presenting them with words beginning with different letters of the alphabet (this I do know from reading the reviews). And the chief complaint from Jews who have gone ballistic over the issue is the “I” word–intifada.

“I is for Intifada, Intifada is Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or a grownup!” reads one section of the book.

Additionally, there is a section reading, “J is for Jesus,” which probably also doesn’t sit too well with the kosher critics.

“We forcefully reject Palestinian efforts to persuade us that ‘intifada’ has a peaceful connotation,” wrote three rabbis in an open letter posted on the website of a local synagogue after the controversy erupted. “These are apologetics, at best, and more likely, attempts to confuse, whitewash, and distort. It is easy to philosophize from afar about the Arabic origins of the word ‘intifada’ if you have never experienced its murderous wrath or lived under its constant violent threats.”

Besides all the venom-spitting over the book, the article in Palestine Legal goes on to report on threats to block the store, Book Culture, from participating in an upcoming book fair sponsored by a local synagogue. The piece was published November 29, but on December 4, an update was posted noting that the store’s owners had been “forced to put out a statement which says that they do not endorse boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns for Palestinian rights, that they support Israel’s right to exist, and that they oppose terrorism.”

The statement issued by the store reads as follows:

  1. We regret that we did not fully appreciate the political or communal ramifications of the children’s book P is for Palestine by Dr. Golbarg Bashi, nor did we anticipate the pain and distress it has caused in our community. We now understand these much better.
  2. We oppose terrorism or other forms of violence perpetrated against Israeli civilians during the intifada or thereafter. Any impression from the book to the contrary is not our view.
  3. We support Israel’s right to exist.
  4. We do not endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

In addition to the above written statement, one of the store’s owners, Chris Doeblin, produced an outpouring of contrition in an interview with a local media outlet–in an article headlined, “Rabbis and Bookstore Owner Break Bread After Split Over Palestine Book.”

The store, we are told by Palestine Legal, was finally allowed to participate in the book fair.

The author of P is for Palestine is Goldbarg Bashi, an Iranian-Swedish woman who formerly taught at Rutgers University. You can visit her website here. In a Facebook post in late November she talks about death threats and other hostile communications she has received since the release of her book. Here is an excerpt:

A small but very loud minority have accused my book of very serious but false charges. It is important for me to note, once again, that their disproportionate backlash against my book and my person (resulting in death threats, devaluing of my social-impact business) was initially to the mere title of the bookPalestine they claimed does not exist, even though the UN and scores of legitimate nation states on our globe recognize Palestine as a country, and how dare I (read an Iranian, or Muslim, or Arab, or Palestinian woman) publish such a book in “their” city New York.

There are 26 letters in the English alphabet, and in the Palestinian context the letter I most certainly stands for Intifada, as does B for BethlehemC for ChristmasJ for JesusF for FalafelK for KuffiyaN for Nazareth and so on.

Intifada means resistance and resilience against the global and the UN condemnation of the Israeli occupation of Palestine—it is a daily component of Palestinian life that is manifested in carrying the signs and symbols of Palestinian life with pride—carrying a Palestinian flag, wearing a Palestinian dress, cooking a Palestinian dish, protecting a Palestinian olive tree from being bulldozed etc are all examples of Intifada.

It would be irresponsible of an author of a book for Palestinian children (or e.g. Native American children) to ignore or whitewash the fact that their people have a resistance movement, most of which is manifested in peaceful protest—I have written a loving book for real Palestinian children with some of whom I grew up in a Swedish refugee camp—along with many other refugee children from around the world. My sense of moral responsibility emerged in those refugee camps not among the self-proclaimed powerful neighborhoods of New York City who racially-profile me, incite hatred and violence against my person and my social-impact start-up, and issue edicts to boycott and shut down bookstores for having dared to sell world’s first English language alphabet book on Palestine.

I wonder how many of the Jews who have gotten so upset over P is for Palestine, became equally as worked up over It’s Perfectly Natural.

Something tells me probably not many.

And I wonder how many of those who take such offense at the word “intifada” have ever bothered to go out and protest against any of  Israel’s murderous campaigns in Gaza?

Again, something tells me probably not many.

Whether the book P is for Palestine has specifically been banned from Amazon and Barnes and Noble I can’t say. All I know for sure is that as of this posting it is not available at either (unlike It’s Perfectly Natural, which is available at both). Certainly it’s possible that the author, for whatever strange reason, chose not to sell it through these two major online dealers.

But a question very much worth pondering at this point is whether any of this will be mentioned by the American Library Association when it publishes its next list of the most “banned and challenged books.”

And once again…though I hope I’m wrong…I have a feeling I know the answer to that as well.

‘We Create Life from Death’–Ahed Tamimi (from 2016 interview)

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In the video above (hat tip Greg Bacon) we see an interview conducted with Ahed Tamimi in 2016 by Abby Martin. At one point, Martin asks Tamimi about a necklace she is wearing around her neck. The girl replies that the pendant consists of bullets that were taken from an uncle who was martyred–apparently a reference to Rushdi Tamimi, who was shot in the back by Israeli forces in 2012 and who died the following morning.

“These are bullets which the soldiers shoot at us,” Ahed tells Martin. “We collect them after they leave the village. These came from my uncle who was martyred, my cousin gave them to me.”

“We make beautiful things out of them, like jewelry,” she adds. “We create life from death.”

Probably not surprisingly, Martin–accurately, I might add–describes Ahed Tamimi as “a new icon of resistance.”

Recently RT published a report saying that Israel, in an effort to fight the BDS movement, has launched a new project known as “Kella Shlomo”–a secretive organization which will carry out “engagement in the online space” supposedly to  counteract the “delegitimization campaign” the Israelis are so haunted and preoccupied by.

I might have more to say about the new project in days to come, but for now I’ll simply say I don’t think it’s going to do them much good. The world is turning against the Israelis. Evidence of this is manifest in the global opposition to Trump’s embassy move, and I predict that Ahed Tamimi–and this interview with her in particular–are going to go a long way toward making Israel into even moreof a pariah than it already is.


The above is a photo of a memorial held for Rushdie Tamimi following his death in 2012 in which young Ahed can be seen holding up a picture of her uncle. The girl now “creates life from death” by wearing a necklace made of the bullets that were dug from his body.

To read an account of Rushdie Tamimi’s death click here.

Israel is a pariah state and becoming more so by the day.

If the Palestinians go on creating life out of death, eventually death will be defeated.

Russian Patriarch Discusses Good, Evil, and the End-Times

The feature image that Russia Today selected when i uploaded this video is quite cheesy, but the comments by Russian Patriarch Kirill are actually quite powerful and relevant.

Syrian Kids on Talent Show: Is the US Planning to Steal One-Third of Their Country?

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[ Ed. note – Yesterday I posted an article from Sputnik about a report suggesting that the US is now pursuing a new strategy, one aimed at establishing a 28,000-square-kilometer Kurdish enclave in eastern Syria. The area is said to be three times the size of Lebanon.

The report, according to Sputnik, is based on an article that appeared in Asharq al-Awsat. The latter is an international newspaper based in London but which reportedly has ties to the Saudi government–so the story may be fictitious, or at least questionable. But Sputnik, at any rate, gave it enough credence to post an article about it, and indeed what the report says–regarding US moves toward “diplomatically recognizing” a Kurdish-controlled area east of the Euphrates–seems entirely consistent with past US behavior…and Sputnik’s report on the matter included the map you see below:

The yellow area shows territory which, as of late 2017, was de facto controlled by Kurdish forces and their allies. The red outlines the part of the country remaining under Syrian government control. As you can see, the yellow area comprises roughly a third of the country, perhaps a little more. The news that the US is moving to “diplomatically recognize” the Kurdish area–if in fact the report is true–suggests that it is planning on setting up a Kurdish state. The establishment of a “Kurdistan” in the Middle East, as Sarah Abed has reported, would be seen by some as the establishment of a “second Israel.”

In my post of yesterday I commented that the partitioning of the country in this manner would be “an affront to the sacrifices made by the brave Syrians who fought and died for their country.” I got up early this morning and decided to see if I could find anything about the report on SANA, the Syrian Arab News Agency. I didn’t find anything on it. But what I did find was an article about a group of Syrian children competing on “Voice Kids,“–apparently a reality-type talent show showcasing children that appears on TV in a number of countries (I don’t watch TV, so I tend not to keep up with these things).

Below is the article from SANA about the talented Syrian kids who have been selected to appear on the show–and beneath that a video of a Voice Kids segment that I found on YouTube and which in fact features one of the Syrian children singing. The song she sings is a plea for peace. “My land is small. Small like me. Give us peace,” she sings. The words, the entire performance really, is/are incredibly powerful. The song is entitled, “Give Us Our Childhood.”

These are talented children quite obviously–children who, we can presume, have had their entire childhoods stolen from them by the US with its evil, nefarious regime-change designs. Setting up a Kurdish state in eastern Syria serves no US interest. The only interest is serves is Israel’s.

US: Get Out of Syria!

***

13 Syrian Children Take Center Stage in Voice Kids Season 2

By SANA

Damascus, SANA – 13 Syrian children have made their way to the second stage of the Voice Kids show in its second edition after they stunned the audience, viewers and judges with their adorable and talented performance in the blind auditions.

The Syrian children have been chosen among other 45 children from several Arab countries to move to the next round (battle stage).

The show’s panel consists of three Arab stars: Kazem al-Saher, Nancy Ajram and Tamer Hosny.

Ajram took the biggest share of Syrian talents, as her team included the 9-year old kids: Jessica Gharbi, Yaeel al-Qasem and Obai al-Fares, Komay Gharz Eddin (13 years old), Zain Ammar (10 years old), the twin Khaled & Abed al-Merhi (11 years old) and Taha Mohsen (12 years old).

Continued here

***

The US has already stolen their childhood. If it pursues this devious quest at setting up a Kurdish state in eastern Syria, it will effectively also be stealing one-third of their homeland. That in a nutshell is what it comes down to.

From the video description: “Syrian child brings judges and audience to tears singing ‘Give Us Our Childhood’”

Report: US Plans to Recognize Kurdish Area in Syria 3x the Size of Lebanon

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[ Ed. note – If the report below is true, then the US is setting the stage for continued warfare in Syria, with the possibility of dramatic escalation depending on whether Russia will be content to sit back and allow the plans to proceed. A partitioning of this nature would also be an affront to the sacrifices made by the brave Syrians who fought and died for their country. ]

Sputnik

Washington is planning ‘concrete steps’ toward providing a Syrian Democratic Forces-controlled area in northern Syria’s eastern Euphrates area three times the size of Lebanon with diplomatic recognition, a leading Arabic international newspaper has reported.

The 28,000 square km territory, controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a collection of predominantly Kurdish militias including the YPG People’s Protection Units, took its first step toward US recognition after US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis promised to send US diplomats to SDF-controlled areas to work alongside US troops operating in the region, the official said.

Map of the Syrian Civil War, as of late 2017. The yellow area shows territory which are de facto controlled by Kurdish forces and their allies. The red outlines territory controlled by the Syrian government.
Map of the Syrian Civil War, as of late 2017. The yellow area shows territory which are de facto controlled by Kurdish forces and their allies. The red outlines territory controlled by the Syrian government.

According to the official, US initiatives in the region include empowering local councils, backing reconstruction efforts, assisting in training of government agency workers, improving public services and infrastructure, protecting SDF areas and engaging in the upkeep of military bases, all of which will eventually lead to diplomatic recognition.

Last week, it was reported that a new ‘North Syrian Army’ which included SDF formations and backed by the US-led coalition, was being created to carry out ‘border security duties’ in territories under their control. Local media said that the militias would guard areas along the region’s northern border with Turkey.

The US and its coalition allies are expected to provide the new force with technical assistance, weapons and training.

Kurdish forces have been in control over the de facto autonomous region commonly known as Rojava since 2013 amid the civil conflict in Syria. During the war against Daesh and other terrorist groups, Syrian Army units have mostly engaged in pragmatic cooperation with Kurdish forces. In September 2017, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Damascus would consider granting the Kurds greater autonomy once the war against the terrorists was over.

At the same time, Damascus has voiced its opposition to the US presence and operations on Syrian territory, including Rojava, saying that it does not accord with the principles of international law, including respect for Syria’s territorial integrity. The Syrian government has insisted that US operations inside Syria are illegal, since they were never invited into the country by Damascus.

Merry Christmas! Orthodox Christmas Service in Moscow

Source

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From Sputnik:

Orthodox Christians in Russia celebrate Christmas on January 7. There is a 40-day Lent preceding Christmas Day. On the eve of the significant event, orthodox observers attend liturgies in churches all over the country that last well into the early hours of the morning.
The main mass in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior is led by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Commentary is provided by Sergei Brun, academic fellow at the Museum of the Russian Icon in Moscow, and RT journalist Daniel Bushell.

Ahed Tamimi Indicted on 12 Counts by Israeli Court; Father says, ‘I’m very worried about my daughter’

“I am very worried about my daughter. Her fate is now in the hands of people who don’t even see Palestinians as full human beings.”

Those are the words of Bassem Tamimi, father of Palestinian teen Ahed Tamimi, who at a hearing today was formally indicted on 12 counts by an Israeli military court.

According to a report by Aljazeera, the charges against Ahed include assaulting an Israeli soldier, interfering with a soldier’s duties, and two past instances of stone-throwing.

Ahed’s mother, Nariman, and her cousin, Nour, have now also been formally indicted. Nariman stands accused of “incitement” for uploading the video of the slap to social media, while Nour–at a hearing held in the same court yesterday–was indicted on charges of aggravated assault of a soldier and “disturbing soldiers conducting their duties,” according to a Press TV report here. All three remain in Israeli custody.

Ahed was arrested on December 19 after slapping an Israeli soldier. She has been held in detention ever since.

The girl’s lawyer is Gaby Lasky, an Israeli human rights attorney, who can be seen briefly in a video accompanying the Press TV report linked above and who is also quoted in an RT report.

“I am sure they want to keep her as long as possible because they don’t want the voice of resistance outside prison,” Lasky said.

Bassem, according to yet another report, here, “called Monday’s indictment a ‘political trial’ saying Israel dug up old incidents as well as the one filmed in order to justify her arrest.’”

Tamimi family photo: Bassem, Nariman, and a younger Ahed

But by far the most stirring and profound words from the worried father are contained in a commentary he wrote and which was published yesterday at Haaretz. The piece is entitled, “My Daughter, These are Tears of Struggle.” Here is a brief excerpt:

My daughter is just 16 years old. In another world, in your world, her life would look completely different. In our world, Ahed is a representative of a new generation of our people, of young freedom fighters. This generation has to wage its struggle on two fronts. On the one hand, they have the duty, of course, to keep on challenging and fighting the Israeli colonialism into which they were born, until the day it collapses. On the other hand, they have to boldly face the political stagnation and degeneration that has spread among us. They have to become the living artery that will revive our revolution and bring it back from the death entailed in a growing culture of passivity that has arisen from decades of political inactivity.

Ahed is one of many young women who in the coming years will lead the resistance to Israeli rule. She is not interested in the spotlight currently being aimed at her due to her arrest, but in genuine change. She is not the product of one of the old parties or movements, and in her actions she is sending a message: In order to survive, we must candidly face our weaknesses and vanquish our fears.

A bit later in the same article, Bassem goes on to address his remarks to Ahed directly:

Ahed, no parent in the world yearns to see his daughter spending her days in a detention cell. However, Ahed, no one could be prouder than I am of you. You and your generation are courageous enough, at last, to win. Your actions and courage fill me with awe and bring tears to my eyes. But in accordance with your request, these are not tears of sadness or regret, but rather tears of struggle.

In 2015, the Israeli Knessett adopted a law prescribing a prison sentence of up to 20 years for throwing stones. The fact that Ahed has been charged with two counts of stone throwing would suggest that Israeli prosecutors are planning to seek a lengthy prison sentence for the young girl.

Putin Wishes Russian Children a Happy New Year

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A time of mounting excitement in Moscow as the city gets set for the holidays–in Russia, New Year is celebrated before Christmas, rather than after it. The Russian Orthdox Christmas will be observed on January 6-7, 2018. What I find most striking about the video is the extent to which the Russian children seem to idolize Putin–almost as if he’s a rock star or something. I would find it hard to imagine any group of American children displaying such frenzy and adoration upon the appearance of a US president.

You’ll note also that some of the children in the video are from Sevastopol. The city is located in Crimea, and for many of them it’s their first trip to Moscow. Obviously they are quite impressed!

A little bit about Russian Orthodox Christmas:

People in Russia celebrate Christmas Day with activities such as having a family dinner, attending a Christmas liturgy and visiting relatives and friends. There is a 40-day Lent preceding Christmas Day, when practicing Christians do not eat any meat. The Lent period ends with the first star in the night sky on January 6 – a symbol of Jesus Christ’s birth. Many Orthodox Christians go to the church to attend a Christmas liturgy that evening. (Source).

Flashback to 2011: Asma Assad: A Rose in the Desert

[ Ed. note – The article below was initially published in Vogue Magazine in early 2011. I am re-posting it here as it provides a striking look back at Syria as it was just prior to the outbreak of the neocon-instigated regime-change war which so devastated the country.

Asma Assad, the wife of President Bashar Assad, is a woman of grace and beauty, and it’s probably not surprising that a fashion magazine would have decided to publish an article on her. But after the article appeared, Vogue, along with Joan Juliet Buck, the writer of the piece, were attacked by certain mainstream media outlets, such as The Atlantic, presumably for not sufficiently demonizing the Syrian government.

“Asma al-Assad has British roots, wears designer fashion, worked for years in banking, and is married to the dictator Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has killed over 5,000 civilians and hundreds of children this year,” wrote Max Fisher in a sarcastically-worded lead paragraph for The Atlantic.

Fisher also criticized Vogue’s “fawning treatment of the Assad family and its portrayal of the regime as tolerant and peaceful,” noting that this treatment had “generated surprise and outrage in much of the Washington foreign policy community.”

The article by Buck had appeared in Vogue’s February 2011 issue. The Syrian regime-change operation got underway in March, a month later, when protests broke out in Daraa. And the timing of the two probably was nothing more than coincidental.

But of course the neocons in the State Department would have already begun executing their scheme, and a media vilification campaign would have been deemed necessary, or at any rate helpful, in greasing the wheels–and the sudden appearance of the Vogue article (the magazine reportedly has over 11 million readers) probably was looked upon as something of a monkey wrench in the plans. You could think of it as one of the rare moments that a mainstream media organ stepped out of bounds.

Fisher, who now holds a position with the New York Times, went on to kvetch that “the glowing article praised the Assads as a ‘wildly democratic’ family-focused couple who vacation in Europe, foster Christianity, are at ease with American celebrities, made theirs the ‘safest country in the Middle East,’ and want to give Syria a ‘brand essence.’”

It is of course true that the Assads “foster Christianity,” as Fisher contemptuously puts it (indeed–you can go here to see a video I posted two years ago of the first couple attending a Christmas service at a church in Damascus in 2015), but of course it would not do to have this kind of information put out in the mainstream just before the launch of a long-planned regime change operation.

Other mainstream media attacks upon Vogue came from Gawker, where writer John Cook also accused the publication of “fawning”; the New York Times, which published a piece headlined “The Balance of Charm and Reality“; and Slate, whose writer, Noreen Malone, damned Vogue for paying “besotted compliments” to the Assads and for “unwittingly exacerbating” a “modern day Marie Antoinette problem.”

Buck should now be proud of the mainstream media attacks upon her work–but aside from this, her article, as I say, is important also in that it provides a valuable glimpse into life in the country just before the outset of the war.

Syria, she notes, was known as “the safest country in the Middle East.” Buck was roundly excoriated for making this observation, but certainly at the time, in 2011, it was true in spades: Syria was eminently safer than either US-occupied Iraq or Israeli-occupied Palestine.

Buck also notes that Syria is “a place without bombings, unrest, or kidnappings”–which would have run completely counter to the narrative of Assad being the ubiquitous “brutal dictator who kills his own people” and who serves as a “magnet to jihadis”–but perhaps most noteworthy of all are Buck’s revelations about programs set up for children in the country.

When I visited Syria in 2014, one of the things I heard about were Asma Assad’s charity efforts on behalf of children, so it was not surprising for me, upon reading the Vogue article, to learn of Massar, an organization founded by the First Lady and “built around a series of discovery centers,” or to learn that at these centers children and young adults, ages five to twenty-one, were taught “creative, informal approaches to civic responsibility.”

Buck also tells of Asma’s jaunts around the country visiting local schools and interacting with children in what seems to have been a very life-fulfilling manner.

All of this, of course, would have come to a dramatic halt, or a dramatic curtailment at any rate, when the nightmare began and the country suddenly found itself invaded by armies of US-backed terrorists.

Another fascinating aspect of the article is what it reveals regarding Asma’s contributions toward safeguarding Syria’s cultural heritage. While in Syria I attended, along with several members of the staff of Veterans Today, an anti-terrorism conference held at the Dama Rose Hotel in Damascus. Among the subjects discussed at the conference were the ongoing attacks upon cultural heritage sites.  It was disclosed that at the outset of the conflict, the country’s Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), in anticipation of terrorist looting of cultural heritage sites, had begun securing priceless artifacts by placing them in secure storage sites around the country.

The effort was a herculean one, involving DGAM’s 2500 employees spanning out across the country, and while most of the credit has gone to Dr. Maamoun Abdulkarim, the director of DGAM, it would appear, if Buck’s article is any indication, that Asma Assad played a role in the effort as well:

There are 500,000 important ancient works of art hidden in storage; Asma al-Assad has brought in the Louvre to create a network of museums and cultural attractions across Syria, and asked Italian experts to help create a database of the 5,000 archaeological sites in the desert. “Culture,” she says, “is like a financial asset. We have an abundance of it, thousands of years of history, but we can’t afford to be complacent.”

The reference to works of art being “hidden in storage” would suggest that already at that time–February of 2011–Syrian officials had begun to anticipate the hellfire that was about to be unleashed upon their country.

One other thing I might mention is a small criticism I have of Buck’s piece. She speaks of “minders” who she claims accompanied her throughout her visit, commenting as well that “on the rare occasions I am out alone, a random series of men in leather jackets seems to be keeping close tabs on what I am doing and where I am headed.”

All I can say in response to this is that I never experienced anything of the like during my own visit to Syria. I stayed at the Dama Rose Hotel–the location where the conference was held–and while I occasionally went out for strolls through the neighborhood, I never once was followed by any “random series of men in leather jackets.” Yes–there were Syrian soldiers in the streets. But they were stationed at certain locations, busy street corners for instance, and they did not begin tailing me suspiciously after I had passed them by. They remained at their posts. Moreover, their presence, rather than threatening, was a comforting assurance I would not be attacked or kidnapped by terrorists, at least while the soldiers were around.

Lastly, I would also mention that Vogue succumbed to the withering barrage of criticism and removed Buck’s article from their website. Less than a year later, the only trace of it that remained on the Internet was at a pro-Syrian site called PresidentAssad.net–something which was made note of in a January 3, 2012 article by Fisher at The Atlantic.

The PresidentAssad.net site is still around, but for some reason the Vogue article seems to have gotten dropped over the years. However, it has re-surfaced–at Gawker. There you may find it (at least for the time being) along with a link back to the attack piece I mentioned above, written by Cook and posted in February of 2011. ]

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Asma al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert

By Joan Juliet Buck

Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic—the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She’s a rare combination: a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement. Paris Match calls her “the element of light in a country full of shadow zones.” She is the first lady of Syria.

Syria is known as the safest country in the Middle East, possibly because, as the State Department’s Web site says, “the Syrian government conducts intense physical and electronic surveillance of both Syrian citizens and foreign visitors.” It’s a secular country where women earn as much as men and the Muslim veil is forbidden in universities, a place without bombings, unrest, or kidnappings, but its shadow zones are deep and dark. Asma’s husband, Bashar al-Assad, was elected president in 2000, after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, with a startling 97 percent of the vote. In Syria, power is hereditary. The country’s alliances are murky. How close are they to Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah? There are souvenir Hezbollah ashtrays in the souk, and you can spot the Hamas leadership racing through the bar of the Four Seasons. Its number-one enmity is clear: Israel. But that might not always be the case. The United States has just posted its first ambassador there since 2005, Robert Ford.

Iraq is next door, Iran not far away. Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, is 90 minutes by car from Damascus. Jordan is south, and next to it the region that Syrian maps label Palestine. There are nearly one million refugees from Iraq in Syria, and another half-million displaced Palestinians.

“It’s a tough neighborhood,” admits Asma al-Assad.

It’s also a neighborhood intoxicatingly close to the dawn of civilization, where agriculture began some 10,000 years ago, where the wheel, writing, and musical notation were invented. Out in the desert are the magical remains of Palmyra, Apamea, and Ebla. In the National Museum you see small 4,000-year-old panels inlaid with mother-of-pearl that is echoed in the new mother-of-pearl furniture for sale in the souk. Christian Louboutin comes to buy the damask silk brocade they’ve been making here since the Middle Ages for his shoes and bags, and has incidentally purchased a small palace in Aleppo, which, like Damascus, has been inhabited for more than 5,000 years.

The first lady works out of a small white building in a hilly, modern residential neighborhood called Muhajireen, where houses and apartments are crammed together and neighbors peer and wave from balconies. The first impression of Asma al-Assad is movement—a determined swath cut through space with a flash of red soles. Dark-brown eyes, wavy chin-length brown hair, long neck, an energetic grace. No watch, no jewelry apart from Chanel agates around her neck, not even a wedding ring, but fingernails lacquered a dark blue-green. She’s breezy, conspiratorial, and fun. Her accent is English but not plummy. Despite what must be a killer IQ, she sometimes uses urban shorthand: “I was, like. . . .”

Asma Akhras was born in London in 1975, the eldest child and only daughter of a Syrian Harley Street cardiologist and his diplomat wife, both Sunni Muslims. They spoke Arabic at home. She grew up in Ealing, went to Queen’s College, and spent holidays with family in Syria. “I’ve dealt with the sense that people don’t expect Syria to be normal. I’d show my London friends my holiday snaps and they’d be—‘Where did you say you went?’ ”

She studied computer science at university, then went into banking. “It wasn’t a typical path for women,” she says, “but I had it all mapped out.” By the spring of 2000, she was closing a big biotech deal at JP Morgan in London and about to take up an MBA at Harvard. She started dating a family friend: the second son of president Hafez al-Assad, Bashar, who’d cut short his ophthalmology studies in London in 1994 and returned to Syria after his older brother, Basil, heir apparent to power, died in a car crash. They had known each other forever, but a ten-year age difference meant that nothing registered—until it did.

“I was always very serious at work, and suddenly I started to take weekends, or disappear, and people just couldn’t figure it out,” explains the first lady. “What do you say—‘I’m dating the son of a president’? You just don’t say that. Then he became president, so I tried to keep it low-key. Suddenly I was turning up in Syria every month, saying, ‘Granny, I miss you so much!’ I quit in October because by then we knew that we were going to get married at some stage. I couldn’t say why I was leaving. My boss thought I was having a nervous breakdown because nobody quits two months before bonus after closing a really big deal. He wouldn’t accept my resignation. I was, like, ‘Please, really, I just want to get out, I’ve had enough,’ and he was ‘Don’t worry, take time off, it happens to the best of us.’ ” She left without her bonus in November and married Bashar al-Assad in December.

“What I’ve been able to take away from banking was the transferable skills—the analytical thinking, understanding the business side of running a company—to run an NGO or to try and oversee a project.” She runs her office like a business, chairs meeting after meeting, starts work many days at six, never breaks for lunch, and runs home to her children at four. “It’s my time with them, and I get them fresh, unedited—I love that. I really do.” Her staff are used to eating when they can. “I have a rechargeable battery,” she says.

The 35-year-old first lady’s central mission is to change the mind-set of six million Syrians under eighteen, encourage them to engage in what she calls “active citizenship.” “It’s about everyone taking shared responsibility in moving this country forward, about empowerment in a civil society. We all have a stake in this country; it will be what we make it.”

In 2005 she founded Massar, built around a series of discovery centers where children and young adults from five to 21 engage in creative, informal approaches to civic responsibility. Massar’s mobile Green Team has touched 200,000 kids across Syria since 2005. The organization is privately funded through donations. The Syria Trust for Development, formed in 2007, oversees Massar as well as her first NGO, the rural micro-credit association FIRDOS, and SHABAB, which exists to give young people business skills they need for the future.

And then there’s her cultural mission: “People tend to see Syria as artifacts and history,” she says. “For us it’s about the accumulation of cultures, traditions, values, customs. It’s the difference between hardware and software: the artifacts are the hardware, but the software makes all the difference—the customs and the spirit of openness. We have to make sure that we don’t lose that. . . . ” Here she gives an apologetic grin. “You have to excuse me, but I’m a banker—that brand essence.”

That brand essence includes the distant past. There are 500,000 important ancient works of art hidden in storage; Asma al-Assad has brought in the Louvre to create a network of museums and cultural attractions across Syria, and asked Italian experts to help create a database of the 5,000 archaeological sites in the desert. “Culture,” she says, “is like a financial asset. We have an abundance of it, thousands of years of history, but we can’t afford to be complacent.”

In December, Asma al-Assad was in Paris to discuss her alliance with the Louvre. She dazzled a tough French audience at the International Diplomatic Institute, speaking without notes. “I’m not trying to disguise culture as anything more than it is,” she said, “and if I sound like I’m talking politics, it’s because we live in a politicized region, a politicized time, and we are affected by that.”

The French ambassador to Syria, Eric Chevallier, was there: “She managed to get people to consider the possibilities of a country that’s modernizing itself, that stands for a tolerant secularism in a powder-keg region, with extremists and radicals pushing in from all sides—and the driving force for that rests largely on the shoulders of one couple. I hope they’ll make the right choices for their country and the region. ”

Damascus evokes a dusty version of a Mediterranean hill town in an Eastern-bloc country. The courtyard of the Umayyad Mosque at night looks exactly like St. Mark’s square in Venice. When I first arrive, I’m met on the tarmac by a minder, who gives me a bouquet of white roses and lends me a Syrian cell phone; the head minder, a high-profile American PR, joins us the next day. The first lady’s office has provided drivers, so I shop and see sights in a bubble of comfort and hospitality. On the rare occasions I am out alone, a random series of men in leather jackets seems to be keeping close tabs on what I am doing and where I am headed.

“I like things I can touch. I like to get out and meet people and do things,” the first lady says as we set off for a meeting in a museum and a visit to an orphanage. “As a banker, you have to be so focused on the job at hand that you lose the experience of the world around you. My husband gave me back something I had lost.”

She slips behind the wheel of a plain SUV, a walkie-talkie and her cell thrown between the front seats and a Syrian-silk Louboutin tote on top. She does what the locals do—swerves to avoid crazy men who run across busy freeways, misses her turn, checks your seat belt, points out sights, and then can’t find a parking space. When a traffic cop pulls her over at a roundabout, she lowers the tinted window and dips her head with a playful smile. The cop’s eyes go from slits to saucers.

Her younger brother Feras, a surgeon who moved to Syria to start a private health-care group, says, “Her intelligence is both intellectual and emotional, and she’s a master at harmonizing when, and how much, to use of each one.”

In the Saint Paul orphanage, maintained by the Melkite–Greek Catholic patriarchate and run by the Basilian sisters of Aleppo, Asma sits at a long table with the children. Two little boys in new glasses and thick sweaters are called Yussuf. She asks them what kind of music they like. “Sad music,” says one. In the room where she’s had some twelve computers installed, the first lady tells a nun, “I hope you’re letting the younger children in here go crazy on the computers.” The nun winces: “The children are afraid to learn in case they don’t have access to computers when they leave here,” she says.

In the courtyard by the wall down which Saint Paul escaped in a basket 2,000 years ago, an old tree bears gigantic yellow fruit I have never seen before. Citrons. Cédrats in French.

Back in the car, I ask what religion the orphans are. “It’s not relevant,” says Asma al-Assad. “Let me try to explain it to you. That church is a part of my heritage because it’s a Syrian church. The Umayyad Mosque is the third-most-important holy Muslim site, but within the mosque is the tomb of Saint John the Baptist. We all kneel in the mosque in front of the tomb of Saint John the Baptist. That’s how religions live together in Syria—a way that I have never seen anywhere else in the world. We live side by side, and have historically. All the religions and cultures that have passed through these lands—the Armenians, Islam, Christianity, the Umayyads, the Ottomans—make up who I am.”

“Does that include the Jews?” I ask.

“And the Jews,” she answers. “There is a very big Jewish quarter in old Damascus.”

The Jewish quarter of Damascus spans a few abandoned blocks in the old city that emptied out in 1992, when most of the Syrian Jews left. Their houses are sealed up and have not been touched, because, as people like to tell you, Syrians don’t touch the property of others. The broken glass and sagging upper floors tell a story you don’t understand—are the owners coming back to claim them one day?

The presidential family lives surrounded by neighbors in a modern apartment in Malki. On Friday, the Muslim day of rest, Asma al-Assad opens the door herself in jeans and old suede stiletto boots, hair in a ponytail, the word happiness spelled out across the back of her T-shirt. At the bottom of the stairs stands the off-duty president in jeans—tall, long-necked, blue-eyed. A precise man who takes photographs and talks lovingly about his first computer, he says he was attracted to studying eye surgery “because it’s very precise, it’s almost never an emergency, and there is very little blood.”

The old al-Assad family apartment was remade into a child-friendly triple-decker playroom loft surrounded by immense windows on three sides. With neither shades nor curtains, it’s a fishbowl. Asma al-Assad likes to say, “You’re safe because you are surrounded by people who will keep you safe.” Neighbors peer in, drop by, visit, comment on the furniture. The president doesn’t mind: “This curiosity is good: They come to see you, they learn more about you. You don’t isolate yourself.”

There’s a decorated Christmas tree. Seven-year-old Zein watches Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland on the president’s iMac; her brother Karim, six, builds a shark out of Legos; and nine-year-old Hafez tries out his new electric violin. All three go to a Montessori school.

Asma al-Assad empties a box of fondue mix into a saucepan for lunch. The household is run on wildly democratic principles. “We all vote on what we want, and where,” she says. The chandelier over the dining table is made of cut-up comic books. “They outvoted us three to two on that.”

A grid is drawn on a blackboard, with ticks for each member of the family. “We were having trouble with politeness, so we made a chart: ticks for when they spoke as they should, and a cross if they didn’t.” There’s a cross next to Asma’s name. “I shouted,” she confesses. “I can’t talk about empowering young people, encouraging them to be creative and take responsibility, if I’m not like that with my own children.”

“The first challenge for us was, Who’s going to define our lives, us or the position?” says the president. “We wanted to live our identity honestly.”

They announced their marriage in January 2001, after the ceremony, which they kept private. There was deliberately no photograph of Asma. “The British media picked that up as: Now she’s moved into the presidential palace, never to be seen again!” says Asma, laughing.

They had a reason: “She spent three months incognito,” says the president. “Before I had any official engagement,” says the first lady, “I went to 300 villages, every governorate, hospitals, farms, schools, factories, you name it—I saw everything to find out where I could be effective. A lot of the time I was somebody’s ‘assistant’ carrying the bag, doing this and that, taking notes. Nobody asked me if I was the first lady; they had no idea.”

“That way,” adds the president, “she started her NGO before she was ever seen in public as my wife. Then she started to teach people that an NGO is not a charity.”

Neither of them believes in charity for the sake of charity. “We have the Iraqi refugees,” says the president. “Everybody is talking about it as a political problem or as welfare, charity. I say it’s neither—it’s about cultural philosophy. We have to help them. That’s why the first thing I did is to allow the Iraqis to go into schools. If they don’t have an education, they will go back as a bomb, in every way: terrorism, extremism, drug dealers, crime. If I have a secular and balanced neighbor, I will be safe.”

When Angelina Jolie came with Brad Pitt for the United Nations in 2009, she was impressed by the first lady’s efforts to encourage empowerment among Iraqi and Palestinian refugees but alarmed by the Assads’ idea of safety.

“My husband was driving us all to lunch,” says Asma al-Assad, “and out of the corner of my eye I could see Brad Pitt was fidgeting. I turned around and asked, ‘Is anything wrong?’ ”

“Where’s your security?” asked Pitt.

“So I started teasing him—‘See that old woman on the street? That’s one of them! And that old guy crossing the road?

That’s the other one!’ ” They both laugh.

The president joins in the punch line: “Brad Pitt wanted to send his security guards here to come and get some training!”

After lunch, Asma al-Assad drives to the airport, where a Falcon 900 is waiting to take her to Massar in Latakia, on the coast. When she lands, she jumps behind the wheel of another SUV waiting on the tarmac. This is the kind of surprise visit she specializes in, but she has no idea how many kids will turn up at the community center on a rainy Friday.

As it turns out, it’s full. Since the first musical notation was discovered nearby, at Ugarit, the immaculate Massar center in Latakia is built around music. Local kids are jamming in a sound booth; a group of refugee Palestinian girls is playing instruments. Others play chess on wall-mounted computers. These kids have started online blood banks, run marathons to raise money for dialysis machines, and are working on ways to rid Latakia of plastic bags. Apart from a few girls in scarves, you can’t tell Muslims from Christians.

Asma al-Assad stands to watch a laborious debate about how—and whether—to standardize the Arabic spelling of the word Syria. Then she throws out a curve ball. “I’ve been advised that we have to close down this center so as to open another one somewhere else,” she says. Kids’ mouths drop open. Some repress tears. Others are furious. One boy chooses altruism: “That’s OK. We know how to do it now; we’ll help them.”

Then the first lady announces, “That wasn’t true. I just wanted to see how much you care about Massar.”

As the pilot expertly avoids sheet lightning above the snow-flecked desert on the way back, she explains, “There was a little bit of formality in what they were saying to me; it wasn’t real. Tricks like this help—they became alive, they became passionate. We need to get past formalities if we are going to get anything done.”

Two nights later it’s the annual Christmas concert by the children of Al-Farah Choir, run by the Syrian Catholic Father Elias Zahlawi. Just before it begins, Bashar and Asma al-Assad slip down the aisle and take the two empty seats in the front row. People clap, and some call out his nickname:

Two hundred children dressed variously as elves, reindeers, or candy canes share the stage with members of the national orchestra, who are done up as elves. The show becomes a full-on songfest, with the elves and reindeer and candy canes giving their all to “Hallelujah” and “Joy to the World.” The carols slide into a more serpentine rhythm, an Arabic rap group takes over, and then it’s back to Broadway mode. The president whispers, “All of these styles belong to our culture. This is how you fight extremism—through art.”

Brass bells are handed out. Now we’re all singing “Jingle Bell Rock,” 1,331 audience members shaking their bells, singing, crying, and laughing.

“This is the diversity you want to see in the Middle East,” says the president, ringing his bell. “This is how you can have peace!”


The Damask Rose

It’s interesting that the title of the Vogue article would have contained the words “Rose of the Desert.” Syria, of course, is a major cultivation center of the Damask rose, a species of flower highly prized for its fragrance and used in the production of rose oil and rose water.

Below is a report on the rose harvest in Syria posted by China TV earlier this year. The reporter makes a good point: “Life and light are stronger than death and darkness.”

Stun Grenades, Spitting Rabbis, and Zio-Amigos on Christmas Eve

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Above we see Israeli soldiers firing stun grenades and pushing and shoving Palestinians dressed as Santa Clause. This comes coincidentally the same day as Guatemala has announced it will follow the US lead in moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Guatemala is one of the eight states which recently sided with the US in a UN General Assembly vote opposing the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales seems to have a deep affection in his heart for the Jewish state. Morales, who assumed the presidency of the Central American country in January of 2016 and who was awarded an “honorary doctorate” from Hebrew University later that same year,  made the announcement of the embassy move in a Facebook post on Christmas Eve:

“Dear people of Guatemala, today I spoke with the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. We discussed the excellent relations that we have had as nations since Guatemala supported the creation of the state of Israel. One of the most important topics was the return of the embassy of Guatemala to Jerusalem. So I inform you that I have instructed the chancellor to initiate the respective coordination so that it may be.
God bless you.

Morales made a state visit to Israel in November of 2016 (presumably he didn’t go dressed as Santa Clause), at which time Knesset President Yuli Edelstein hailed the ties between Israel and Guatemala as being “deep and historic.” The JTA at the time panegyrized, “Since entering office in January, President Morales has led the struggle against government corruption in his country.” However, Wikipedia offers a slightly different take on Morales’ stand vis-à-vis corruption:

In January 2017, Morales’ older brother and close adviser Samuel “Sammy” Morales, as well as one of Morales’ sons, José Manuel Morales, were arrested on corruption and money laundering charges.

Wikipedia also describes the Guatamalan president as an “evangelical Christian.” I guess that’s why he signed off his Facebook post with the words “God bless you.”

But perhaps Morales would do well to watch the following video and pay special attention to the story told by Brother Nathanel of the rabbi who spat on a hospital floor upon hearing the name “Jesus” mentioned:

During his visit to Israel last year, Morales got a chance to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu, and it seems the two became close amigos.

“Latin America has always been friendly to Israel, but I think we’re at a position where these relationships can be far, far, far advanced,” Netanyahu is reported to have told him.

Guatamalan President Jimmy Morales met with Benjamin Netanyahu in November of 2016

I wonder who Morales holds in higher esteem, God or Netanyahu?

Joy to the World–UN General Assembly Defies Trump and Nikki Haley

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I was waiting for some good news to post along with that most joyous of all Christmas carols, and the news came today: the UN General Assembly, by an overwhelming majority, has resisted blatant intimidation efforts by President Trump and his sidekick Nikki Haley.

Over the past couple of days both Trump and Haley had issued statements implying cutoffs of US aid to any country which failed to side with Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem–an issue that was addressed in a momentous vote today in the General Assembly.

So I guess we can assume the US will continue giving aid to Micronesia, Palau, the Marshal Islands, Togo, Nauru, Guatemala, Honduras…and of course Israel…but other than these eight, not a single country stood with the US in opposition to a resolution declaring the embassy move a violation of international law.

The measure passed by a vote of 128-9 with 35 abstentions.

The text of the resolution reads in part:

Guided by the purpose and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and reaffirming inter alia, the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force,

Bearing in mind the specific status of the Holy City of Jerusalem and, in particular, the need for the protection and preservation of the unique spiritual, religious and cultural dimensions of the City, as foreseen in the relevant United Nations resolutions,

Stressing that Jerusalem is a final status issue to be resolved through negotiations in line with relevant United Nations resolutions,

Expressing in this regard its deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem,

Affirms that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered, the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council, and in this regard, calls upon all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem, pursuant to resolution 478 (1980) of the Security Council;

The following is a report from RT on the historic vote.

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128 Countries Vote in Favor of UN Call for US to Withdraw Jerusalem Decision

RT

The UN General Assembly has overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution calling on the US to reverse its decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. One hundred and twenty eight countries backed the motion.

Nine states voted against the UN resolution and 35 nations abstained. The voting took place at a rare UN General Assembly (UNGA) emergency meeting, convened Thursday at the request of Arab and Muslim nations.

The outcome of the UNGA vote was hailed as a “victory” by Palestine. “We will continue our efforts in the United Nations and at all international forums to put an end to this occupation and to establish our Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital,” Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudainah said.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister praised the decision after the vote, saying, that it “once again showed that dignity and sovereignty are not for sale.

The voting was preceded by a number of member states explaining their stance on the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Turkey, which has led the Muslim opposition to the US Jerusalem declaration, was among the first to speak at the meeting. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stressed that only a two-state solution and sticking to the 1967 borders can be a foundation for a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine. The minister said that since Jerusalem is the cradle for the “three monotheistic religions,” all of humanity should come together to preserve the status quo.

The recent decision of a UN member state to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel violates the international law, including all relevant UN resolutions. This decision is an outrageous assault on all universal values,” Cavusoglu said.

US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley said that whatever decision is made by the UNGA, it will not influence Washington’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Haley reminded UN members of the US’ generous contributions to the organization and said that the United States expects its will to be respected in return.

When we make a generous contributions to the UN, we also have a legitimate expectation that our goodwill is recognized and respected,” Haley said, adding that the vote will be “remembered” by the US and “make a difference on how the Americans look at the UN.”

Continued here

***

It may comes as a surprise to Haley, but there are Americans who are gladdened by  the UN vote, and who see the 128 countries which voted in favor of the resolution as taking a stand on principle–something we see very rarely in votes held in the US Congress (or the UN either, for that matter), particularly when it comes to Israel.

Joy to the world!

Perhaps all the lost sheep are coming home.

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

–Jesus

Russian Church Vows to Rebuild Christian Syria

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[ 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.

Zionists Form Group to Promote Kurdish Statehood

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By Richard Edmondson

Perhaps at some point we’ll see a sly Zionist pop up somewhere claiming the Kurds are an “ancient biblical people.”

(And doubtless, if so, he’d have plenty of money to buy off plenty of historians to “verify” his claim).

And maybe in the not-so-distant future we could even anticipate publication of a brand new modern English translation of the Bible with a rewording of the Book of Genesis to include the following: “So Abraham and his wife Sarah and his nephew Lot set out from Harran, but on the way they stopped off and got down and partied with their cousins, the Kurds, before heading off to conquer the land of Caanan.”

Don’t laugh. In the world we’re presently living in absurdities of this nature are well within the possible.

A group of prominent Zionists have now formed the Jewish Coalition for Kurdistan–an organization with the stated objective of promoting “the legitimate rights of the Kurdish people to self-determination”–which may sound like a reasonable goal, but of course establishment of a Kurdish state would likely result in the breaking off of parts of Syria and possibly Iraq, and maybe even Turkey or Iran as well.

In other words, depending upon how successful this new group turns out to be, there’s a high likelihood we could see more bloodshed and violence in the Middle East with more waves of refugees flooding into Europe.

The JCFK is headquartered in Belgium. Its president is Joël Rubinfeld, who has served as secretary-general of the Belgium-Israel Friendship Society, president of the Jewish Community of Belgium, and vice-president of the European Jewish Parliament.

However prominent American Jews are involved with the JCFK as well. Rabbi Abraham Cooper serves on its Honorary Board. Cooper is with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, based in Los Angeles, an organization now building a “Museum of Tolerance” on top of a Palestinian cemetery in Jerusalem. And another member of the Honorary Board is Alan Dershowitz, Harvard law Professor Emeritus and regular contributor on CNN and Fox News.

I posted an article about Dershowitz last week discussing a recent piece he published attacking Congresswoman Betty McCollum over her sponsorship of the “Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian children Act” in Congress. Dershowitz appears to have something of a bi-polar view of the Middle East (hate the Palestinians/love the Kurds), and while he has been described as a “civil liberties lawyer,” he has also publicly clashed with civil libertarians such as Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, and Alice Walker. (The latter he accused of “bigotry”–for refusing to allow an Israeli publisher to publish her book, The Color Purple.)

Kurds have long enjoyed support from Israelis as well, although in the past that support has often been kept under wraps for political reasons. Now, however, it is coming out in the open–big time. On Wednesday, November 29, the Israeli Knesset hosted an international conference entitled “Kurdistan and Israel: Together Towards Peace and Stability in the Middle East” (notice the use of the word “Kurdistan,” as if such a state already exists).

The event took place, significantly, on the 70th anniversary of the UN resolution on the partitioning of Palestine, and one of the participants was Rubinfeld, who was there along with a delegation from the European Kurdish Society. A host of prominent Israelis, including Tzipi Livni and Michael Oren, also attended, and the occasion sparked the introduction of a Knesset bill calling for the right of Israelis to travel freely between Israel and Kurdish-controlled areas. The following is from a report here that discusses the bill (emphasis added):

The bill, a copy of which was given to The Times of Israel, makes no explicit distinction between Kurdish-controlled areas in Iraq–known as the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), where Israelis can travel fairly safely–and other Kurdish areas, whether in northern Syria or in Iran.

The vagueness is intentional, the bill’s author told The Times of Israel. The legislation is currently meant to refer just to Iraqi Kurdistan, though that could change in the future.

On Tuesday, November 28, one day prior to the Knessett event in Jerusalem, a number of pro-Kurdish events were held in New York as well. One of these was a screening at the UN of a documentary entitled “Peshmerga,” directed by French-Jewish “philosopher” Bernard Henri-Levy. Peshmerga is the name of the troops operating under the aegis of the Kurdish Regional Government of Northern Iraq. Sponsored by the  French and British missions to the UN, the film screening was attended by some 700 people, while François Delattre, France’s UN ambassador, spoke of the “historic rights of the people of Kurdistan.”

The Kurds, it may be remembered, held a referendum for independence back in September. Three days after the vote,  The Forward published an article under the headline “The Secret Friendship Behind Israel’s Support of Kurdish Independence.” Discussing the “deep affinity” between Israel and the Kurds, the writer notes that:

In some ways, Israel’s view is pragmatic. The Middle East could do with another secular democracy.

Yes, the Middle East could do with another secular democracy, but of course the writer, one Michael Goldfarb, omits any mention of the fact that Israel has been trying to overthrow the democratic, secular government of Syria. The piece nonetheless is somewhat revealing, for Goldfarb offers up a quote from an Israeli by the name of Eliezer Gheizi Safrir, described as “Mossad’s station chief in Kurdistan in the mid 1970s.”

“They [Kurds] called me Kak Gheizi,” he said proudly.  Kak or kaka means brother. It is a term of friendship. “These are good people, ” says Gheizi. “They share the same values as Jews.”

The fact that a former Mossad chief is a fan of the Kurds might not be all that surprising. Back in mid-to-late summer of this year, Sarah Abed published a series of articles about the Kurds that focused on, among other things, the close ties that have developed over the years with Israel. In one of the articles, here, she writes:

Documents leaked by WikiLeaks in 2010 suggested that Israeli Mossad Chief Meir Dagan wanted to use Kurds and ethnic minorities to topple the Iranian government. The Israeli spy service was aiming to create a weak and divided Iran, similar to the situation in Iraq, where the Kurds have their own autonomous government, the spy chief told a U.S. official.

The Partiya Jiyana Azad a Kurdistane (PJAK), a militant Kurdish nationalist group based in northern Iraq, has been carrying out attacks on Iranian forces in the Kurdistan Province of Iran (Eastern Kurdistan) and other Kurdish-inhabited areas. Half the members of PJAK are women. The PJAK has about 3,000 armed militiamen. They represent yet another example of the Kurds finding themselves in the middle of a conflict and being used as a pawn by the West.

The party is closely linked to the PKK. Iran has often accused PJAK and other Kurdish nationalist groups from Iran of being supported by Israel. Journalist Seymour Hersh has also claimed that the U.S. supported PJAK and other Iranian opposition groups. However, both the U.S. and Israel have denied supporting PJAK. In fact, the U.S. Treasury branded PJAK as a terrorist organization in 2009.

As Hersh noted in 2004: “The Israelis have had long-standing ties to the Talibani and Barzani clans [in] Kurdistan and there are many Kurdish Jews that emigrated to Israel and there are still a lot of connection. But at some time before the end of the year [2004], and I’m not clear exactly when, certainly I would say a good six, eight months ago, Israel began to work with some trained Kurdish commandos, ostensibly the idea was the Israelis — some of the Israeli elite commander units, counter-terror or terror units, depending on your point of view, began training — getting the Kurds up to speed.”

You’ll recall the comment of Eliezer Gheizi Safrir, the Mossad station chief, as quoted by Goldfarb in The Forward article. Recall also that Gheizi served in his post in the mid 1970s. Interestingly, a man by the name of Abd al-Aziz al-Uqayli, who was Iraq’s defense minister in the 1960s, made some rather revealing remarks concerning efforts under way at that time to create a “second Israel” in his own country. According to a report here (emphasis added):

In 1966, Iraqi defense minister Abd al-Aziz al-Uqayli blamed the Kurds of Iraq for seeking to establish “a second Israel” in the Middle East. He also claimed that “the West and the East are supporting the rebels to create [khalq] a new Israeli state in the north of the homeland as they had done in 1948 when they created Israel. It is as if history is repeating itself.”

Perhaps, on top of all his love for secular democracies, Goldfarb might delight even more at the creation of a “second Israel”–although there are plenty of people who would likely shudder at the thought. Among these are Middle East Christians who have had some nightmarish run-ins with Kurds. This is something discussed by Abed in a separate article here:

On the Nineveh plains of northern Iraq, the Kurds dwell in cities such as “Dohuk” (formerly known by the Assyrian name of Nohadra). But these cities are “theirs” only in that they have established a relatively recent presence there.

Employing the criteria of cultural identity and thousands of years of historical authenticity, these lands are, and have been, uniquely Assyrian. The Kurds were essentially “given” these lands in the early 1970s as a means of drawing their eyes away from the oil-rich lands in and around the Iraqi city of Kirkuk. To this end, there were large migrations of Kurds into Dohuk which displaced, often forcibly, Assyrians who had far greater legal and historical claims to these lands.

This is a tactic commonly employed by the Kurds when attempting to ascribe validation to their “sacred quest” of establishing a Kurdish state – something which has never existed at any point in recorded history. By defining “Kurdistan” as any place where Kurds happen to dwell at any given point, they seem to be going by the maxim “possession is nine-tenths of the law” – which may work well in determining criminal liability, but not so well in determining one’s homeland….

In 2011, imams in Dohuk encouraged Sunni Kurds to destroy Christian churches and businesses. In response, shops were attacked and clubs were besieged by mobs of people numbering in the hundreds. Hotels and restaurants were attacked with small arms fire.

In recent years, Kurds have continued acting disingenuously towards Christian minorities, including Assyrians and even Yazidis…This was also seen when they took refuge in northern Syria in the early 19th century and proceeded to drive Arabs and Armenians out of numerous towns.

In July 2014, as Daesh began its incursion into Iraqi territory, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) began its systematic disarmament of Assyrians and several other ethnic groups so that it could use their weapons in its own struggle.

Notices were circulated threatening severe punishment for noncompliance. Assurances were given that the Peshmerga would provide some degree of protection.

But as Daesh advanced, the Peshmerga took the weapons and fled, following the same example as the Iraqi Army.

This left the Assyrians and Yazidis with no means to resist or defend themselves against Daesh. Reports even surfaced of these same Peshmerga gunning down Yazidis who tried to prevent them from fleeing with all the weapons.

Haydar Shesho, a Yazidi commander who managed to procure weapons from the Iraqi government, was then arrested by KDP authorities for organizing an “illegal” militia.

This scene was repeated elsewhere throughout the country, as 150,000 Assyrians were forced to flee the Nineveh plains, their ancestral land.

These actions can only be seen as a deliberate ploy by the Kurdish leadership to allow foreign forces to violently cleanse these areas of all non-Kurdish residents and then, with the help of their U.S. allies, retake and “liberate their lands.”

Abed also reports that Kurds “have a centuries-long history of persecuting minority groups,” and she supplies a link to a web page entitled Genocides Against the Assyrian Nation, documenting attacks against Assyrians (not all of them carried out by Kurds) dating all the way back to the fall of Ninevah in 612 BC (the title “ancient biblical people”–were one to conjure up such a laurel–would seem rather more meritoriously applied to the Assyrians than the Kurds).

Moreover, it would appear that the Kurds also participated in the genocide against the Armenians (see inset below).


New York Times–Sept. 24, 1915:

The records of the State Department are replete with detailed reports from American Consular officers in Asia Minor, which give harrowing tales of the treatement of the Armenian Christians by the Turks and the Kurds. 

__________

During the exodus of Armenians across the deserts they have been fallen upon by Kurds and slaughtered, but some of the Armenian women and girls, in considerable numbers, have been carried off into captivity by the Kurds.


One would think that, rather than making common cause with the Kurds, Jews would be at the forefront demanding Turkish and Kurdish reparations for the Armenians, but we don’t seem to hear much about that. In fact, in 2015, when the rest of the world was marking the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, Israel pointedly refused to recognize that the genocide had even occurred.

“It’s important to differentiate between Kurdish people who have assimilated in the countries they now reside in and reject the idea of establishing an illegal Kurdistan and those who are power hungry and are allowing themselves to team up with the West and Israel to assist in the destabilization of the region,” says Abed–and this for sure is an important point to consider. In other words, one is wise not to paint with too broad a brush stroke.

The Feyli Kurds are cited by Abed as a prime example. She comments that this particular Kurdish faction, located in northern Iraq, opposed the September referendum, fearing that “it could lead to an escalation of the area’s ongoing crisis.” Perhaps we could think of the Feylis as the “self-hating Kurds.” But judging from the results of the referendum–with more than 90 percent voting in favor of “Kurdish independence”–they seem to be in the minority.

The establishment of a Kurdish state is consistent with the goals outlined more than 30 years ago in Israel’s Oded Yinon plan — that is to say the goals of breaking up or balkanizing Muslim countries into smaller, weaker statelets. This seems to have been the motivation behind Israel’s support of Sunni extremist forces in Syria over the past six years or so, and now, with that effort having largely been scuppered (thanks to help from Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah), the strategy seems to be shifting in the direction of an all-out drive toward formal establishment of a Kurdish state…presumably in Iraq, although “that could change in the future,” as the author of the Knesset bill seems to feel.

By the way, the bill’s author is Ksenia Svetlova, a member of the Zionist Union party who was instrumental in organizing the gala Kurdistan-in-the-Knesset affair on November 29 and who also outlined her air castle of dreams for a Kurdish state in an article that appeared in the Huffington Post on September 25–the same day of the Kurdish referendum.

Wholly ignoring the Oded Yinon plan and Israel’s regime-change schemes in Syria and elsewhere, Svetlova claims that one of the main reasons Israelis support the Kurds has to do with “morality”– informing Huff-Po readers that “many Kurds identify their own suffering with that of persecuted Jews.”

So now we have another “suffering” people, it seems.

Svetlova also asserts that if the Kurds get a state then “Iran’s dream of extending hegemony over the Kurdish region will be ruined,” and she accuses the Iranians of “imperial ambitions in the Middle East” and of endeavoring to “rule over the vast territory between Tehran and Quneitra (Syria).”

You may perhaps have heard of the “Greater Israel Project,” but Svetlova seems to be hoping to foster the notion of a “Greater Iran Project” almost.

This seems to be the hokum being sold by Benjamin Netanyahu as well in a video, here, uploaded recently by RT’s Ruptley video service and in which the Israeli prime minister can be seen comparing Iran to Nazi Germany. Of course, leaving aside the “Nazi” Doppelganger, one might do a simple comparative analysis between, say, Iran and Israel, in which case the proneness  to peaceful coexistence with neighbors seems well on the side of Iran, which has not invaded another country in more than 230 years.

An Israeli singer by the name of Hadassa Yeshurun has also taken up the Kurdish cause, this in the belief that the “Peshmerga deserves more support as they fight evil on behalf of the world,” and you can go here to see a video of her singing and waving the Kurdish and Israeli flags while dressed in combat fatigues.

Also Google supplies plenty of photos of Kurds waving Israeli flags (and to some extent vice versa), and Rubinfeld, the director of the JCFK, has a theory about all this ostentatious flag waving. In an interview with the JTA, he proffers the opinion that the Israeli flag is a second national symbol to many Kurds “because they identify with Israel and the Jews.”

And apparently Kurds, unlike Palestinians, are popular with the Israeli general public as well. According to Rubinfeld, “widespread understanding” as to the “rightfulness of the Kurdish cause” can be found throughout the Zionist state’s populace. Whether that includes West Bank settlers as well he leaves unstated.

But it definitely does seem to apply to Goldfarb, author of The Forward piece quoted above and who adds a personal note to his thesis on the matter:

“I first reported from Kurdistan in 1996 and felt this inexplicable affinity for the place. Don’t laugh when I say it felt like my ancestors must have passed through 1500 years ago on their way north to the Black Sea and into the heartlands of Ashkenaz.”

I opened this article by suggesting, somewhat half tongue-in-cheek, that we may at some point see a Zionist pop up and proclaim the Kurds to be an “ancient biblical people,” and in that regard, you may be unsurprised to learn that a study conducted by Hebrew University has purported to find a “close genetic connection between Jews and Kurds.”

Whether the same astonishing “genetic similarities” were found between Kurds and descendants of the Khazars, as presumably may exist between Kurds and Mizrahi Jews, or whether this even figured at all in the researchers’ data, is unclear from the Haaretz report on the study. But then why bother the public with details like that? The world is in dire need of a Kurdish state, and perhaps that’s all we really need to know.

Moreover, should a “Kurdistan” incubus of some sort actually be born, Israel would likely be one of the first countries to establish formal diplomatic ties with it, but this doubtless would be founded upon political considerations much more so than upon any presumed blood ties.

Propensity for acts of brutality after all have far more to do with ideology than with genetic composition. Self love and a sense of chosenness can create oceans and rivers of blood, whereas genes as a general rule do not.

***

Please Help Support this Website

It is time once again for our twice-yearly fundraising drive. If you would like to make a donation please click the button below. My purpose in maintaining this website is two-fold: I try to call people’s attention to political issues, such as the efforts under way now to create a Kurdish state, but I also endeavor to animate the teachings of Christ, and to awaken people to the dire need–particularly at this dangerous hour we’re living in–for spirituality and faith in God. The Creator of every living thing is God. In a poem I wrote some twenty years ago I referred to Him as “The Flower Maker.”

Pleases and thank-yous
Mill about his flower stand,
Green-studded DNA
Caught in the stems,
Caverns of light
Taller than the mind
Perfuming
Awakened hearts.
After they killed
The flower maker’s son
They took thirty
Pieces of silver and
Purchased a field
To be used
For a cemetery.

The poem as I say is an old one–far older than this website. (It originally appeared in a book I published in 2002 entitled American Bus Stop: Essay and Poems on Hope and Homelessness.) But in a strange way I kind of view this website as a small, modest little flower stand. And maybe, with help from the master flower maker, we–all of us together–can find a way to change things for the better…before we end up turning this world into a mass cemetery.

So if you can, please donate. You can do so through our PayPal account:

70th Anniversary of the Greatest Blunder Ever Committed by the United Nations

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Seventy years ago today the United Nations adopted UN Resolution 181, which partitioned Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state. It was an act which led to 70 years of bloodshed and turmoil in the Middle East, and was the greatest blunder ever perpetrated by the UN.

Apparently the Trump administration is now intending to perpetuate the blunder. According to Vice President Mike Pence, Trump is now “actively considering” how to make good on his pledge to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Alan Dershowitz Pens Tirade Against U.S. Congresswoman Over Child Protection Bill

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) introduced the “Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian children Act.”

By Richard Edmondson

Alan Dershowitz, former Harvard law professor and pro-Israel to the core, apparently thinks Rep. Betty McCollum has committed a cardinal sin–introducing a bill that calls for monitoring of Israel’s treatment of Palestinian child prisoners.

The bill, entitled “Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian children Act,” or H.R. 4391, would require the U.S. State Department begin certification–on  an annual basis–that US funding to Israel is not going “to support the military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment” of Palestinian children.

The bill was introduced by McCollum on November 14. Dershowitz’s hit piece, published on November 23 at the Gatestone Institute, appeared under the headline “How Ten Dem (Dumb) Members of Congress Encourage the Use of Child Terrorists.”

The former trial lawyer and now CNN regular asserts that McCollum’s bill has been co-sponsored “by nine other ‘progressive’ members of Congress,” though in reality the bill has now picked up a total of 12 co-sponsors.

Dershowitz doesn’t exactly accuse its backers of being anti-Semites–although he comes close.

He asserts that McCollum’s “hypocrisy” is “palpable,” and he accuses her and the co-sponsors of giving “terrorist leaders” (the term is used a total of 7 times) an incentive, in effect, to use children to attack Jews. The bill, he insists, “would further incentivize terrorist leaders to keep using children in pursuit of their key objective: wiping Israel off the map,” and he goes on to contend that:

“…rather than condemning the abhorrent and unlawful use of children as pawns in this deadly process, this group chose to single out only the nation-state of the Jewish people for punishment, as it tries to protect its own citizens from indiscriminate terror attacks. People of good faith on both sides of the aisle should call out this double standard for what it really is: an attack on Jewish victims of teenage terrorism and their state. For shame on this group of biased anti-Israel “progressive” Democrats…

The article seems to be a heavy-handed attempt at intimidating other members of Congress from supporting the legislation.

The Harvard legal scholar also informs his readers about the modus operandi of “Palestinian terrorist leaders,” asserting that it is “well established” that “recruiting and using young Palestinians to wage terror on Israeli civilians” is a part of this “modus operandi.”

He further asserts that these “terrorist leaders” (it’s not clear if he means Hamas or if he counts Mahmoud Abbas as a “terrorist leader” as well) “have been stirring up young people to wage war against the Jews and their nation state.” If this is the case, it would seem Israel makes their jobs easy for them. After all, how much external “stirring up” does it require when school kids see their classmates mass arrested, handcuffed, locked in cages, and blindfolded by squadrons of Israeli soldiers?

Heavily armed Israeli Occupiers kidnapping 18 Palestinian children. They were taken into one room and blindfolded, questioned with the blindfold on, and some were subjected to beatings and threats. while beating them.

Suppose the federal government had sent troops to arrest your students at Harvard in this manner, Mr. Dershowitz? How much “stirring up” do you think it would have taken to get the rest of the campus angry about it?

Rep. McCollum’s bill cites a UNICEF report released in 2013 which found that “ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the [Israeli] military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until the child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing.”

Dershowitz, however, identifies what he believes is a major shortcoming in the bill, namely that it “fails to acknowledge that some of the most barbaric terrorist attacks against Jewish Israelis have been committed by Palestinian teens who have been recruited by terrorist leaders.” Actually, however, this is a bit disingenuous. While it doesn’t use the same inflammatory rhetoric seemingly favored by our Doctor of Jurisprudence (who, really, is “stirring up” whom, Mr. Dershowitz?), the bill does enumerate the problem of children being recruited by armed groups, this in section 2, paragraph 4:

Approximately 2,700,000 Palestinians live in the West Bank, of which around 47 percent are children under the age of 18, who live under military occupation, the constant fear of arrest, detention, and violence by the Israeli military, and the threat of recruitment by armed groups.

Of course, if Mr. Dershowitz insists on bringing up the subject of “barbaric terrorist attacks,” we should not omit to mention Israel’s periodic attacks upon Gaza. Take a good look at the girl in the photo below–she was killed in the Gaza attack of 2008-09 known as “Operation Cast Lead.”

Yes, she definitely looks like she’s had some lead cast at her, Mr. Dershowitz.

Or let’s look at this boy who fell victim to Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” attack of 2014 when he and some friends were playing football on a Gaza beach:

Or these kids who died in the same 2014 conflict:

By the way, Israel investigated itself on the Gaza beach bombing and found that it had acted “legally.”

Barbarism. It is defined as: “1. absence of culture and civilization; 2. extreme cruelty or brutality.”

The attacks on Gaza would seem to meet that definition. This is not to say there haven’t been cruel and brutal attacks on Israelis. In his article, Dershowitz cites two examples:

Consider the terrorists attack that took place over this past summer in Halamish (an hour outside Jerusalem) where a Palestinian in his late teens — from a nearby PA-controlled village — chose a Jewish house at random;, and fatally stabbed three members of a family as they ate Shabbat dinner. The Palestinian “child” murderer also wounded several other family members, while one mother hid her young children in an upstairs room until the terrorist left. This scene of carnage is reminiscent of a similar attack that occurred only six years earlier when two Palestinian teens armed with knives broke into the Fogel family home in Itamar as they slept on Friday night; the teens butchered the mother, father and three of their children — including a three-month-old baby as she slept in her crib.

What he doesn’t mention is that both Halamish and Itamar, where the two attacks occurred, are Israeli settlements in the West Bank and are therefore illegal under international law. This does not excuse the murder of civilians. But it does supply us with some additional context in which to evaluate Mr. Dershowitz and his disingenuous opposition to H.R. 4391.

Moreover, Halamish is designated as a “community settlement,” that is to say it was formed out of a legal construct in Israel whereby residents are organized into a cooperative that “can veto a sale of a house or a business to an undesirable buyer.” Most community settlements in Israel are entirely Jewish, according to Wikipedia: “Some community settlements openly require applicants to be Jews (e.g., by declaring themselves a religious community), while other community settlements find more indirect ways to reject non-Jewish candidates, us usually claiming ‘lack of social compatibility.’ Another problem for non-Jews is that the Jewish National Fund, the owner of the land in many community settlements, views itself as a Jewish organization whose mission is to spread the Jewishpopulation, and therefore refuses to lease to non-Jews.”

Perhaps here we get down to the core of the problem–the illegal settlements and the apartheid, or separation, policies. In his article, Dershowitz tries to apply Israeli standards to America by asking the “what if” question. He writes:

So I ask: what do these members of Congress think Israel should do? If children as young as 13 or 14 were roaming the streets of New York, Los Angeles or Boston stabbing elderly women as they shopped at the supermarket or waited at a bus stop, would they protest the apprehension and prosecution of the perpetrators?

But he is comparing apples to oranges. Discrimination is against the law in the US. There are no neighborhoods or communities–in Boston, New York, Los Angeles or elsewhere in America–where people can be prohibited from purchasing homes or taking up residence on the basis of their race, religion, or ethnicity.

Another thing to consider is that discriminatory policies are applied in Israel not only with regard to home sales but also in the issuance of building permits. Back in August, I put up a post about Israel’s destruction of a Palestinian kindergarten as well as its seizure of mobile classrooms that were to have served as an elementary school. The official reason given in both cases was the lack of a permit. The seizure of the mobile classrooms took place on Tuesday, August 22–one day before the new school year was set to begin. A photo was published at the time of children who showed up on the first day of school only to find their classrooms missing:

Children arrive on the first day of school only to discover that their classrooms have been taken.

It seems rather mean-spirited to come and steal the classrooms one day before school is about to start. By the way, the kindergarten is in the village of Jabal al-Baba, east of Jerusalem; the elementary school in Jubbet al-Dib, near Bethlehem. Both villages are in the West Bank–both under military occupation.Occupation tends, by its very nature, to involve “extreme cruelty or brutality.” Destroying schools would seem to denote as well a certain “absence of culture and civilization.”

In order to maintain its occupation Israel apparently also employs torture–apparently even upon children. This we find in the text of McCollum’s bill, from section 2, paragraph 11:

In 2013, the annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Israel and the Occupied Territories (“Annual Report”) published by the Department of State noted that Israeli security services continued to abuse, and in some cases torture, minors, frequently arrested on suspicion of stone-throwing, in order to coerce confessions. The torture tactics used included threats, intimidation, long-term handcuffing, beatings, and solitary confinement.”

Additionally, paragraph 12 notes that the same report discusses “signed confessions by Palestinian minors, written in Hebrew, a language most could not read,” while paragraph 13 cites a later “Annual Report”–issued in 2016–and which noted a “significant increase in dententions of minors” that year. An additional quote from the 2016 report reads: “Israeli authorities continued to use confessions signed by Palestinian minors, written in Hebrew.”

The full text of H.R. 4391 is available here in PDF. You can also go here to access a list of its co-sponsors.

Given that it maintains all of these settlements, and given that they are built illegally on Palestinian land, one must ask the question: how does Israel go on credibly maintaining to the world that it is truly interested in seeking peace with the Palestinians? Perhaps part of the answer is that it gets lots of help from people like Dershowitz.

In essence painting McCollum as a terrorist sympathizer as well as an anti-Semite, Dershowitz accuses the Minnesota Democrat of refusing to “condemn the Palestinian leadership for perpetrating acts of child abuse by recruiting children to commit terror attacks on Jewish women and children.” And he adds that the co-sponsors of her bill “give a bad name to the Democratic Party, to the Progressive Caucus and to Congress.”

Broad brush strokes. Inflammatory rhetoric. Both seem to work like charms in curtailing criticism of Israel. Of course a standard argument we hear from Israelis is that the settlements don’t pose an obstacle to peace, but this is a load of hasbara hooey.

Maybe it all comes down to history and who is on the right or the wrong side of it. As someone once said, the path to peace is by learning to love your enemies. The same person also said that he who lives by the sword will die by the sword. It’s a lesson all of humanity needs to learn, and if Israel were led by truly enlightened people it would teach that lesson to humanity by setting aside its sword and making peace.

In either event, the bottom line is that if Israel wants to be a state for all its people it will build Palestinian schools. If it wants to go on being a state that gives political preference to one group of people only–the definition of apartheid–it will continue to tear them down.

What the rest of us can do in the meantime is provide our support for those truly seeking to advance the cause of peace. McCollum is such a person. She is, in other words, a peacemaker.

Peacemakers are said to be blessed, Mr. Dershhowitz. It’s a pity you chose to attack this one.

US to Hold Massive Military Exercise on Korean Peninsula…Again

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

US Trying to Deliberately ‘Provoke’ North Korea, says Lavrov

It was back in August that the US staged a massive 10-day war war games exercise on the Korean peninsula. Involving some 75,000 US and South Korean troops, the exercise, dubbed “Ulchi-Freedom Guardian,” saw forces deployed on land, sea, and in the air–a massive display of military power denounced by the North Koreans as a “reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war”…and it was also around this time that the DPRK threatened to attack Guam.

Now here we are three months later, and the US is about to do it all again. An exercise called “Vigilance Ace” is scheduled to run December 4-8, and according to Sputnik it will involve 230 war planes, including F-22 Raptors and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

The “realistic” combat exercise is tailored to “enhance interoperability between US and Republic of Korea forces and crease the combat effectiveness of both nations,” the Seventh US Air Force, which operates out of South Korea, said in a Friday statement.

All this comes just 10 days after reports emerged of three US aircraft carrier groups taking positions in waters around the Korean peninsula in what North Korea’s UN ambassador described as a “strike posture.”

As in the previous two incidents–the Ulchi-Freedom exercise in August and the carrier deployments earlier this month–the North Koreans are again speaking out in protest, calling the upcoming Vigilance Ace games a “serious provocation.”

But perhaps the most arresting, eye-brow-raising remarks of all have come from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who suggested that the US is intentionally trying to provoke the North Koreans.

“We are alarmed that in the last two months when North Korea conducted no tests or rocket launches, it seemed that Washington was not happy about that, and tried to do things that would irritate and provoke Pyongyang,” Lavrov said.

He has a good point. It has been approximately 70 days since North Korea’s last missile test. Why the need for a massive military exercise now?

Lavrov also suggested that the confrontation with North Korea is a pretext, and that the real objective is the placement of US missiles on Russia’s doorstep. He is almost certainly correct in this, but of course it is extremely rare for a high-ranking Russian official to speak this candidly.

“We are expressing deep concern, with facts to back it up, that Japan, along with South Korea, is becoming a territory for the deployment of elements of the US global missile defence system which is being rolled out in that region under the pretext of the North Korea threat,” Lavrov said.

“We have no problems directly with Japan, we do not see risks there. We see risks because of the proliferation of a global US missile defence system on the territory of countries that neighbour Russia, including Japan,” he added.

Lavrov made the remarks during a visit to Moscow by Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono.

Russia and China have proposed an agreement calling for an end to US war games on the Korean peninsula in exchange for a halt in missile testing by the North. The proposal has been rejected by the US and South Korea.

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