Dershowitz: The appalling talk of boycotting Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses US Congress in 2011. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses US Congress in 2011. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Jerusalem Post (Feb 28) — As a liberal Democrat who twice campaigned for US President Barack Obama, I am appalled that some Democratic members of Congress are planning to boycott the speech of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 3 to a joint session of Congress.

At bottom, this controversy is not mainly about protocol and politics – it is about the constitutional system of checks and balances and the separation of powers. Under the Constitution, the executive and legislative branches share responsibility for making and implementing important foreign-policy decisions. Congress has a critical role to play in scrutinizing the decisions of the president when these decisions involve national security, relationships with allies, and the threat of nuclear proliferation.

Congress has every right to invite, even over the president’s strong objection, any world leader or international expert who can assist its members in formulating appropriate responses to the current deal being considered with Iran regarding its nuclear-weapons program. Indeed, it is the responsibility of every member of Congress to listen to Netanyahu, who probably knows more about this issue than any world leader, because it threatens the very existence of the nation state of the Jewish people.

Congress has the right to disagree with the prime minister, but the idea that some members of Congress will not give him the courtesy of listening violates protocol and basic decency to a far greater extent than anything Netanyahu is accused of doing for having accepted an invitation from Congress.

Recall that Obama sent British Prime Minister David Cameron to lobby Congress with phone calls last month against conditionally imposing new sanctions on Iran if the deal were to fail. What the president objects to is not that Netanyahu will speak to Congress, but the content of what he intends to say.

This constitutes a direct intrusion on the power of Congress and on the constitutional separation of powers.

Not only should all members of Congress attend Netanyahu’s speech, but Obama – as a constitutional scholar – should urge members of Congress to do their constitutional duty of listening to opposing views in order to check and balance the policies of the administration.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Speaker John Boehner’s decision to invite Netanyahu or Netanyahu’s decision to accept, no legal scholar can dispute that Congress has the power to act independently of the president in matters of foreign policy. Whether any deal with Iran would technically constitute a treaty requiring Senate confirmation, it is certainly treaty-like in its impact.

Moreover, the president can’t implement the deal without some action or inaction by Congress.

Congress also has a role in implementing the president’s promise – made on behalf of the American nation as a whole – that Iran will never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

That promise seems to be in the process of being broken, as reports in the media and Congress circulate that the deal on the table contains a sunset provision that would allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons after a certain number of years.

Once it became clear that Iran will eventually be permitted to become a nuclear-weapon power, it has already become such a power for practical purposes.

The Saudis and the Arab emirates will not wait until Iran turns the last screw on its nuclear bomb. As soon as this deal is struck, with its sunset provision, these countries would begin to develop their own nuclear-weapon programs, as would other countries in the region. If Congress thinks this is a bad deal, it has the responsibility to act.

Another reason members of Congress should not boycott Netanyahu’s speech is that support for Israel has always been a bipartisan issue. The decision by some members to boycott Israel’s prime minister endangers this bipartisan support.

This will not only hurt Israel, but will also endanger support for Democrats among pro-Israel voters. I certainly would never vote for or support a member of Congress who walked out on Israel’s prime minister.

One should walk out on tyrants, bigots, and radical extremists, as the United States did when Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust and called for Israel’s destruction at the United Nations. To use such an extreme tactic against our closest ally, and the Middle East’s only vibrant democracy, is not only to insult Israel’s prime minister, but to put Israel in a category in which it does not belong.

So let members of Congress who disagree with the prime minister’s decision to accept Boehner’s invitation express that disagreement privately and even publicly, but let them not walk out on a speech from which they may learn a great deal and which may help them prevent the president from making a disastrous foreign- policy mistake.

Inviting a prime minister of an ally to educate Congress about a pressing foreign-policy decision is in the highest tradition of our democratic system of separation of powers and checks and balances.

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Iran Opposition Unveils Secret Tehran Uranium Enrichment Site

Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director of the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, shows satellite photos during a press conference at the National Press Club February 24, 2015, in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director of the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, shows satellite photos during a press conference at the National Press Club February 24, 2015, in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

Washington (AFP) – An exiled Iranian opposition group Tuesday accused Tehran of running a “secret” uranium enrichment site close to Tehran, which it said violated ongoing talks with global powers on a nuclear deal.

“Despite the Iranian regime’s claims that all of its enrichment activities are transparent … it has in fact been engaged in research and development with advanced centrifuges at a secret nuclear site called Lavizan-3,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

He said the site was hidden in a military base in the northeastern suburbs of Tehran.

He presented to reporters a series of satellite images drawn from Google Maps which he said backed “this intelligence from highly placed sources within the Iranian regime as well as those involved in the nuclear weapons projects.”

The Lavizan-3 site was apparently constructed between 2004 and 2008 and has underground labs connected by a tunnel.

“Since 2008, the Iranian regime has secretly engaged in research and uranium enrichment with advanced… centrifuge machines at this site,” Jafarzadeh said.

The group had shared its information with the US administration, he added.

The existence of the site was “a clear violation” of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as well as UN resolutions and an interim November 2013 deal struck with global powers gathered in the P5+1 group, he said.

Under the interim accord, Iran agreed not to allow “any new locations for enrichment” and to provide IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, all information about its nuclear facilities.

“It is absolutely senseless to continue the negotiations,” added Jafarzadeh.

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Verdict against Palestinian Authority could spell trouble for Abbas at ICC

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attends a ceremony in Ramallah. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attends a ceremony in Ramallah. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Jerusalem Post (Feb 24) — One cannot underestimate the impact of the $655.5 million US terrorism trial verdict against the Palestinian Authority on its hopes to convince the International Criminal Court prosecutor to indict Israeli soldiers and leaders for alleged war crimes in last summer’s Gaza war.

Whether the ICC intervenes is viewed as an open question, and the overall diplomatic and legal situation could have a big impact.

On one hand the ICC is not (yet) viewed as unabashedly biased against Israel like many UN organizations, such as the UN Human Rights Council, UNRWA and the UN General Assembly.

It is viewed as far more legal-professional in its approach and less automatically controllable by the nonaligned movement of Muslim states and other third-world countries, who regularly vote against Israel.

… Why would a US ruling on whether the PA was involved in terrorism in 2004, matter in 2015? Because until now, despite Israeli allegations of Yasser Arafat’s involvement in the second intifada violence, the PA has said Hamas performed all the terrorism and that it has been clean since the mid-1990s Oslo Accords.

If it emerges in the verdict that the PA was involved in terrorism from the top down, suddenly the PA is not coming with clean hands, but with hands awash in the war crimes that it accuses Israel of.

If the ICC prosecutor is on the fence, a major decision like this – and maybe more like it following – could push the narrative far enough in Israel’s favor that the prosecutor could be concerned about being viewed as having indirectly assisted terrorists.

Israel or Israel-supporters could even try to use the US decision, though it is a civil damages case, to push the ICC to intervene against the PA, dating back to the second intifada.

Until now, PA President Mahmoud Abbas had no personal risk going to the ICC, as the Gaza war at most, put Israel and Hamas at risk.

Investigating the second intifada could put him and his inner circle at legal risk – producing a situation where the ICC would be reliant on Abbas providing evidence against Israel, which in turn could present equally damaging testimony against him.

Though this is only one verdict and one bad day for the PA, which it may successfully brush off, Israel and its supporters have already made good on the threat that the PA’s use of “lawfare” could boomerang in unpredictable ways.

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An Iran nuclear deal is coming into focus, but there’s one glaring problem

Business Insider (Feb 22) — U.S. negotiators believe restrictions on enrichment and rigorously enforced enriched uranium stockpile limits will be able to prevent Tehran from accumulating enough highly enriched uranium to construct a nuclear weapon undetected.

By this logic, the problem with Iran’s nuclear program isn’t its 19,000 centrifuges, secretive and heavily guarded nuclear facilities, weaponization and advance centrifuge research, Revolutionary Guards Corps involvement, ballistic-missile program, and plutonium reactor.

Instead, the problem is the much more narrow, and solvable, issue of preventing Iran from having enough plutonium or highly enriched uranium needed to construct a bomb within a certain time.

So the latest reports suggest Iran would be allowed to keep between 4,500 and 6,500 centrifuges. According to Olli Heinonen, a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a former deputy director general for safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency, a nuclear weapon requires 5,000 separative work units, or SWUs, of uranium enrichment. (SWU is a standard unit for measuring the effort needed to separate uranium isotopes.)

Each Iranian centrifuge produces 1 SWU a year, although the country has 1,000 more advanced machines capable of producing 5 SWU. So it would take Iran about six months to create a single nuclear weapon with 10,000 centrifuges if it had no previous stockpile of low or highly enriched uranium to bump up to weapons grade. At the moment, Iran has over 8 metric tons of low-enriched uranium, shortening its path to a bomb.

Interestingly, one of Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s stated “red lines” in negotiations is 190,000 SWU a year.

If Iran were really building a nuclear program for purely civilian reasons, it could just purchase all of its enriched uranium from a foreign seller. Even the U.S. actually imports the vast majority of its enriched uranium and has no currently operating industrial-scale enrichment facilities, says Olli Heinonen, former deputy director general for safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency.

There’s a larger principle at stake. A deal including 4,500 centrifuges or more would make Iran one of the few countries in the world to have its uranium enrichment formally legalized under an international treaty.

Strikingly, this wouldn’t happen as the result of an alliance with the US. The US has a nuclear cooperation treaty with India, for instance, but Delhi is a longstanding US economic and political ally and a fellow democracy. And this wouldn’t be a reward for Iran’s virtuous behavior on the world stage. Iran’s uranium enrichment is banned under several UN Security Council resolutions. Tehran is still a US-listed state sponsor of terrorism, and its assistance is responsible for Bashar Assad’s regime hanging on in Syria.

Under an agreement that allows Iran to keep thousands of centrifuges, Iran will be given a green light to enrich uranium — something it has no practical need to do — thanks to decades of recalcitrance, single-minded policy dedication, and outright deceit. It would be a historic and nearly unprecedented accomplishment, and one with unknown implications for nuclear proliferation.

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IDF Diversity Week: The True Face of Israel

Every year, thousands of minority recruits join the IDF. Israel’s military makes tremendous efforts to integrate minorities into the army and society in general, resulting in a vast diversity of soldiers among the IDF’s ranks.

coverM-1IDFblog.com (Feb 23) — Israel is a country known as “a nation of immigrants.” Soldiers come from all over the world to live in Israel and serve in the IDF, bringing their unique culture and traditions from their countries of origin. Other soldiers come from racial, national, cultural and religious groups that have lived in Israel for generations, including Bedouin, Circassians, Druze, Arab Christians and Arab Muslims. The IDF acts to unite members of Israeli society, providing them all with equal opportunity to serve their country.

Did you know? Here are some facts about minorities and diversity in the IDF:

1. At military swearing-in ceremonies, soldiers may pledge an oath of allegiance on the Tanakh (Old Testament), Christian Bible or Koran.

2. The many minorities that join the IDF are given special privileges since their differences in religion and culture are accepted. For instance, additional vacation time is allotted to soldiers of all faiths and religious backgrounds. An example is Bedouin and Druze soldiers who are granted time off from the army to celebrate the religious holiday of Eid al-Adha with friends and family.

3. Israel is one of few countries that allow gay individuals to openly serve in the military. Sexual orientation does not stand as a barrier to receiving promotions or joining elite units. Israelis show a “great tolerance” for gay soldiers.

4. The Druze are an ethnoreligious monotheistic community who live primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. Over 133,000 live in Israel, mostly in the north. They have the highest draft rate in Israel, with 88% of Druze males joining the IDF.

5. Since 1948, women have served side-by-side with male soldiers in the IDF. The Equality Amendment to the Military Service Law states that “the right of women to serve in any role in the IDF is equal to the right of men.” Each year, over 1,500 female combat soldiers are drafted into the IDF and 92 percent of all positions are open to women.

6. In 2001, the Women’s Affairs Advisor to the Chief of Staff was created in an effort to empower women and maximize the capabilities and opportunities of women serving in the IDF.

7. Despite being exempt from their mandatory military service due to mental or physical difficulties, many still choose to enlist in the IDF as volunteers. The Shiluv Menatzeach program helps over 150 mentally challenged and Down’s syndrome volunteers complete 1-2 years of military service, where they are integrated in roles with the general soldier population.

faces

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We Palestinians hold the key to a better future

Bassem Eid

Bassem Eid

Bassem Eid is a Palestinian and the founder and former director of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG). He is an advocate for peace with Israel, and a critic of terrorism.

By Bassam Eid for the Times of Israel (Feb 20) — I am a proud Palestinian who grew up in a refugee camp and raised a large family. I want peace and prosperity for my people. I want an end to the misery and the destruction.

After 66 years of mistakes and missed opportunities, it is time for us Palestinians to create the conditions for peace and to work for a better future. It is time that we stopped pretending that we can destroy Israel or drive the Jews into the sea. It is time that we stopped listening to Muslim radicals or Arab regimes that use us to continue a pointless, destructive, and immoral war with Israel.

Our sad state of affairs

Let’s be realistic. We Palestinians are not doing well.

In Gaza, our schools are controlled by Muslim fanatics who indoctrinate our children, and Hamas uses our civilians as human shields in a losing battle against Israel. Hamas maintains power through violence, and it ensures that money is spent on its arsenal rather than on making the Palestinians’ lives better. While President Abbas is quick to denounce Israel whenever it attacks Hamas, he has absolutely no ability to stop Hamas from provoking Israel.

In the West Bank, while Abbas has been incapable of stopping the construction of Israeli settlements, the only good jobs are with Israeli companies, and the BDS (Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment) movement is doing its best to take those jobs away from us. Abbas runs a corrupt dictatorship that uses international funds to consolidate its own administration rather than to develop the Palestinian economy.

In East Jerusalem, the PA is so mistrusted that most Palestinians would prefer to live under Israeli rule than under PA rule, and yet some of us seem unable to live in peace with the Jews.

In Palestinian camps in Arab countries, our human rights are constantly being violated, and we are simply used by our Arab hosts to further their own goals.

The facts about Israel

Despite what we tell ourselves, Israel is here to stay. What’s more, it has a right to exist. It is the nation of the Jews but also a nation for Israeli Arabs who have better lives than Arabs anywhere in Arab countries. We must accept these facts and move on. The antisemitism promoted by Hamas, Fatah, and the BDS movement is not the answer for us Palestinians.

The answer is to live in peace and democracy, side by side with Israel. We missed many opportunities to do that. We missed it in 1947 when Arab regimes encouraged us to refuse the UN partition plan. We missed it between 1948 and 1967 when we refused to create a state next to Israel. We missed it again every time after that when we refused a two-state solution presented to us.

Yet we know that Israelis want to live in peace, and that the vast majority of Israelis are friendly and neighborly. We know that Palestinian violence results in Israelis being discouraged about peace and electing ever more right-wing governments. We know that Egypt was able to secure a very favorable peace deal with Israel because Egypt agreed to accept Israel and to give up on violence. We know that the soft approach works with Israel, and yet we continue to use violence and extremist rhetoric.

Israel will never accept a large influx of Palestinians that would change the Jewish character of Israel. This means that insisting on the return of millions of refugees into Israel is pure delusion. In addition to this, the villages that we tell Palestinian refugees that they will one day return to no longer exist. We are simply lying to ourselves.

A new approach

To make peace with Israel, we need to change our approach. We need to accept that the right of return will be resolved through financial compensation that will allow Palestinian refugees to settle either in Arab countries or in Palestine. We need to accept that Israel’s security is a key to any solution. We need to accept that East Jerusalem may have to remain part of Israel.

Our most important change in approach, however, and one with which we need the help of the international community, is that we need a democratically elected and secular government that responds to the needs of our people. As I wrote in August 2008 with Nathan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident and the author of the book “The Case for Democracy”, there won’t be peace without democracy. As long as the so-called Palestinian leader is able to use international funds towards consolidating his own network of corrupt cronies, Palestinians will not trust him and will look to the alternative, which sadly happens to be Hamas.

As Sharansky and I wrote in 2008, the Israeli and international rationale that strengthening a non-democratic corrupt leader will ensure that he is “able to fight Hamas and forge a final peace with Israel” does not work. Almost seven years later, it is even clearer that this approach leads nowhere. President Abbas has no credibility among Palestinians, and even if he wanted a peace deal (which seems doubtful), he has no ability to sell it to the Palestinian public.

What we Palestinians need is a strong civil society and strong democratic institutions, and we need an end to human rights violations, including those perpetrated by Palestinians and other Arabs. Well-meaning international donors must ensure that their money is spent towards this goal, and not towards propping up either Hamas or Fatah. There is no doubt that much work is needed, but at the very least we need to reverse the current trend that is causing Palestinian society to drift even further towards corrupt and brutal rule, both in Gaza and in the West Bank. Ironically, it is only in East Jerusalem, under Israeli rule, that most Palestinians feel adequately represented by their politicians.

Hope for the future

Despite our current predicament, I believe that our future will be bright if we do what is needed to achieve peace. We can have a secular democracy that pursues our own best interests. We can live in peace with Israel and the Jews, and we can benefit from Israel’s economic success and democratic values. We have it within our power to transform a long-time enemy into a friend. We have a choice, and we can exercise that choice towards a better future for our people.

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The Cause of Terror? It’s Not Poverty

So it turns out the Obama Administration does have a strategy for combating terrorists: give them jobs.

ISIS brutalityIsraelNationalNews (Feb 22) — In a remarkable exchange with MSNBC’s “Hardball” host Chris Matthews on February 16, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said: “We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium to longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s a lack of opportunity for jobs, whether–we can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance. We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people.”

Yet study after study of the motives of Arab and Muslim terrorists during the past two decades has found exactly the opposite

Between 1996 and 1999, relief worker Nasra Hassan interviewed nearly 250 Palestinians who either attempted to carry out suicide bombings, or trained others for such attacks, or were related to deceased bombers. She reported (in The New Yorker): “None of [the bombers] were uneducated, desperately poor, simple-minded, or depressed. Many were middle class and, unless they were fugitives, held paying jobs…Two were the sons of millionaires.”

The attacks on September 11, 2001, focused new attention on the causes of Islamic terrorism. The New York Times reported that the personal details concerning the hijackers had “confounded the experts.”

“They were adults with education and skill, not hopeless young zealots,” the Times said of the attackers. “At least one left behind a wife and young children…They were not reckless young men facing dire economic conditions and dim prospects, but men as old as 41 enjoying middle class lives.”

In 2002, Prof. Alan Krueger of Princeton and Prof. Jitka Maleckova of Prague’s Charles University studied the lives of 129 Lebanese Hezbollah terrorists who were killed in attacks on Israel. They found that as compared to other Lebanese, the Hezbollah members “were less likely to come from poor families and were significantly more likely to have completed secondary education.”

That same year, the Muslim writer Hala Jaber spent four days with Fatah’s Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, which organized a number of suicide bombings. She found that their members were “educated [and] middle class.”

In 2004, Prof. Alberto Abadie of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government undertook a study of terrorists’ motives. When he started, he thought that “it was a reasonable assumption that terrorism has its roots in poverty.” By the time he was done, he had concluded that there is “no significant relationship” between the economic conditions in a given country and the rise of terrorists there.

So why is a State Department spokeswoman presenting job creation in the Arab world as the centerpiece of the administration’s strategy for combating ISIS?

And why do President Obama and his aides still stubbornly cling to the utterly unscientific idea that poverty causes terrorism?

Because in their hearts, they want to believe that we hold the key to ending terrorism in our own hands , so that ISIS can somehow be defeated non violently. That if we just give them enough financial aid (over $10-billion to the Palestinian Authority alone since 1994), they’ll stop stoning and bombing and burning and beheading us.

That’s what they think. But the evidence says otherwise.

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Iran: “We Are Witnessing the Export of the Islamic Revolution Throughout the Region”

Qassem Suleimani, the increasingly public head of Iran's elite Quds Force. Photo: AP

Qassem Suleimani, the increasingly public head of Iran’s elite Quds Force. Photo: AP

Bloomberg (Feb 19) — The commander of the foreign wing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards was upbeat as he addressed a rally marking the 36th anniversary of the uprising that ushered in theocratic rule.

“We are witnessing the export of the Islamic revolution throughout the region,” Qassem Suleimani, the increasingly public head of the elite Quds Force, said last week. “From Bahrain and Iraq to Syria, Yemen and North Africa.”

While grand declarations regularly feature in speeches commemorating the 1979 revolution that ousted the Shah, this year Suleimani’s words carry more meaning. As it attempts to negotiate a nuclear deal that would free its economy from sanctions, Shiite Iran’s influence is increasingly visible from the Gulf of Aden to the Mediterranean. Sunni states, especially those like Saudi Arabia that have waged proxy wars with Iran in a fight for regional supremacy, are uneasy.

“Iran’s threat is growing — either due to Iran’s success or to our failures — but Iran is advancing,” said Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi commentator who has advised Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former intelligence chief in Riyadh. Iran “has succeeded in Syria in maintaining Bashar al-Assad, succeeded in Iraq in having all the Shiites on its side and it has expanded now to Yemen.”

The Houthi rebels who this month removed a Saudi-backed president from power in Yemen follow the Zaidi sect of Islam that’s linked to Shiism, Iran’s dominant religion. The group’s overseas links are disputed, yet many analysts say it draws funds and inspiration from Iran.

Iran has expressed support for the Houthis. In October, Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said he hoped that the rebels play the same role in Yemen as Hezbollah does in Lebanon.

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Is Israel the problem, or are Jews the problem?

AP100127022968-441x350By Ben Shapiro for FrontPage Mag (Feb 20) — In the aftermath of the killing of a man at a Copenhagen synagogue by a member of the Religion of Peace, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “This wave of attacks is expected to continue. Jews deserve security in every country, but we say to our Jewish brothers and sisters, Israel is your home.” Russian emigre Natan Sharansky echoed Netanyahu’s call, stating, “There is no future for Jews in western Europe.”

In response, European leaders shouted down Netanyahu. “We know there are doubts, questions across the community,” said French President Francois Hollande, who was elected with in excess of 93 percent of the Muslim vote. “I will not just let what was said in Israel pass, leading people to believe that Jews no longer have a place in Europe and France, in particular.” The same week, Jewish tombstones were spray-painted by the hundreds in eastern France.

But undoubtedly, European anti-Semites will now claim that Netanyahu’s comments simply demonstrate why Europe must force out its Jews: because Israel is just so awful. That, at least, is what a German court in the city of Wuppertal concluded after convicting two German Palestinians of setting fire to a synagogue. The Wuppertal court stated that the men were simply attempting to bring “attention to the Gaza conflict.” In other words, Jews are fair game because of Israel.

But it’s precisely the reverse that is true: Israel is fair game because it is Jewish. This is the dirty little secret of anti-Israel policy: It is almost entirely anti-Semitic policy. That is why Muslims attack Jewish synagogues in Paris during the Gaza war: because Israel is a stand-in for the Jews, not the other way around. Were Israel a Muslim country, the rest of the world would see it as a beacon of light and hope for the future of an entire religion.

Because it is Jewish, Muslims target it for destruction, and the rest of the world tut-tuts Israel’s nasty habit of attempting to survive. The extra-American world hates Israel because it is Jewish. It does not hate Jews because of Israel. Israel is merely a convenient excuse.

Ironically, radical Muslims, in targeting Jews throughout the world, reinforce the necessity of a state of Israel. Their argument seems to be that Israel is an unnecessary Jewish nationalist cancer; to prove that argument, they suggest killing Jews all over the planet, leaving no place safe for Jews except for Israel.

And so Jews go to Israel by the droves. European governments can rip Netanyahu all they want for his supposedly brusque dismissal of European tolerance, but that supposed tolerance means less and less when Swedish Jews abandon entire cities as the authorities make way for radical Muslims. European governments can condemn the Gaza war, but Jews see that war for what it was: an exercise in Jewish self-preservation, with the Europeans once again attempting to prevent such self-preservation.

Unlike the Europeans, Americans continue to side with Israel because America is founded on Judeo-Christian principles. America embraces Judaism, and so it embraces Israel, not the other way around. The formula is simple: Love Jews; love Israel. Hate Jews; hate Israel. Opposing Israeli action may not be anti-Semitism, but it sure does have a funny habit of backing the agenda of anti-Semites.

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What ISIS Really Wants

The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.

This is one of the best articles I’ve read about ISIS. It is very comprehensive and goes way beyond the surface.

307796482The Atlantic (Feb 18):

What is the Islamic State?

Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.

The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been its leader since May 2010, but until last summer, his most recent known appearance on film was a grainy mug shot from a stay in U.S. captivity at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq. Then, on July 5 of last year, he stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to deliver a Ramadan sermon as the first caliph in generations—upgrading his resolution from grainy to high-definition, and his position from hunted guerrilla to commander of all Muslims. The inflow of jihadists that followed, from around the world, was unprecedented in its pace and volume, and is continuing.

Our ignorance of the Islamic State is in some ways understandable: It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned. Baghdadi has spoken on camera only once. But his address, and the Islamic State’s countless other propaganda videos and encyclicals, are online, and the caliphate’s supporters have toiled mightily to make their project knowable. We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

We have misunderstood the nature of the Islamic State in at least two ways. First, we tend to see jihadism as monolithic, and to apply the logic of al‑Qaeda to an organization that has decisively eclipsed it. The Islamic State supporters I spoke with still refer to Osama bin Laden as “Sheikh Osama,” a title of honor. But jihadism has evolved since al-Qaeda’s heyday, from about 1998 to 2003, and many jihadists disdain the group’s priorities and current leadership.

Bin Laden viewed his terrorism as a prologue to a caliphate he did not expect to see in his lifetime. His organization was flexible, operating as a geographically diffuse network of autonomous cells. The Islamic State, by contrast, requires territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it. (Its bureaucracy is divided into civil and military arms, and its territory into provinces.)

We are misled in a second way, by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature. Peter Bergen, who produced the first interview with bin Laden in 1997, titled his first book Holy War, Inc. in part to acknowledge bin Laden as a creature of the modern secular world. Bin Laden corporatized terror and franchised it out. He requested specific political concessions, such as the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia. His foot soldiers navigated the modern world confidently. On Mohammad Atta’s last full day of life, he shopped at Walmart and ate dinner at Pizza Hut.

Nearly all the Islamic State’s decisions adhere to what it calls, on its billboards, license plates, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology.”

The Islamic State awaits the army of “Rome,” whose defeat at Dabiq, Syria, will initiate the countdown to the apocalypse.

Our failure to appreciate the essential differences between ISIS and al-Qaeda has led to dangerous decisions.

Social-media posts from the Islamic State suggest that executions happen more or less continually.

After mujahideen reported having seen American soldiers in battle, Islamic State Twitter accounts erupted in spasms of pleasure, like overenthusiastic hosts upon the arrival of the first guests at a party.

Given everything we know about the Islamic State, continuing to slowly bleed it appears the best of bad military options.

A theological alternative to the Islamic State exists—just as uncompromising, but with opposite conclusions.

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Don’t trust the AP’s report on civilian deaths in Gaza

The APTN Building in London. Photo: Benjamin Holler.

The APTN Building in London. Photo: Benjamin Holler.

Algemeiner (Feb 15) — AP and other major media outlets (including the New York Times and Reuters) simply parroted the Hamas claim that most of the war dead were civilians. Sometimes they attributed it to the UN, which received its figures from Hamas. Why did this matter? Because every time a major media outlet reported that “a majority” or “a vast majority” or the “overwhelming number” of casualties were civilians, it reverberated around the globe like a missile—fueling anti-Israel and general anti-Semitic sentiment (and violence against Jews in Europe and elsewhere).

… 2. Last month, the highly-regarded Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Center released its latest report on the subject of civilian casualties. Their experts are taking the time to go through the deaths, one by one, and their final tally won’t be available for months—if not years. Indeed, after Operation Cast Lead [2008-9], as I’d reported, “nearly two years passed before a Palestinian minister inadvertently let slip that the IDF figures then were correct,” according to Eado Hecht, an independent defense analyst who has taught military theory and history at the IDF Command and General Staff College. (Hecht currently works with the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, one of Israel’s leading think tanks.)

However, in the Meir Amit center’s January report, they announced that 1,600 of the 2,140 Gazans who were killed have been identified as such: 55% are combatants, and 45% non-combatants. For the other 540 people, they do not yet know which category to put them in. The center also says that Hamas is obfuscating the actual lists and affiliations, partly because of objective technical difficulties (poor paperwork and a lack of access to some of the bodies), and partly deliberately as part of its propaganda campaign against Israel.

The article in AP is focused on “a particular subset of the fatalities—those killed while inside houses ostensibly targeted by the Israelis,” defense analyst Hecht told me on Friday. “I write ‘ostensibly’ targeted by Israelis because something in the order of 2,600(+) Palestinian rockets and mortar bombs were fired deliberately (most of them) or by mistake into Palestinian residential areas. The deliberate fire being against Israeli soldiers in that area—but without warning local civilians to move out. So of the 247 houses struck, how many were clearly struck by Israel and how many by Palestinian fire.”

… 3. AP then credits “preliminary” UN figures that at least 66% of the total dead were civilians. Really? And where did the UN get that number? We know the answer [from Hamas]. And why didn’t AP do their readers a service by at least including the 45% figure from the Meir Amit center that contradicts the UN/Hamas?

… 5. One other thing I noted in my article last summer (which I’m delighted that more than 114,000 people felt worthy of viewing—thus supporting this kind of media criticism): A groundbreaking study ignored by my colleagues came out in June of 2014, a month before the Israel-Hamas war started. A prominent group of American public health experts found that civilian casualties constituted 85% to 90% of the 248 armed conflicts in the world since the end of World War II. While even one civilian casualty in Gaza is a tragedy, given the complexities and civilian-shielding in Gaza, what the IDF has accomplished there will be a model for future warfare. Might not AP consider such statistics when they write articles such as Friday’s? Given the rise in anti-Semitism around the world just since the summer’s war, such stats might give some historical context that might even lessen the Jew-hatred—or at least not expand it.

6. I’ll close with more from my communication today with defense expert Hecht. “UN figures are not really UN figures,” he says, which I also reported back in August. “They are Hamas-controlled figures passed on to the UN.”

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When a Regime Leads Its People in Chants of “Death to America,” We Should Believe They Mean It

Iran FlagsThe National Interest (Feb 13) — Denying Iran nuclear-weapons capability is not only a means of limiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It is also part of a broader ideological struggle that Tehran is taking much more seriously than is the United States.

This month, Iran celebrates the 36th anniversary of the return of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini from exile in 1979 and the advent of the Islamic Revolution. In speeches, rallies and state-sponsored television shows, Tehran is reaffirming the messages of the heady days of the downfall of the Shah, the supremacy of Shi’a Islam and the destruction of Iran’s enemies, particularly Israel and the United States. The celebration reminds us that Iran is not just a Middle Eastern adversary state with dreams of regional hegemony. It is a revolutionary regime seeking to reshape the map of the region, and the belief system of the world.

Tehran remains committed to its revolutionary agenda. Today, Iran is active in promoting its ideology in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran supports the largest international terrorist network in the world, including backing Hezbollah and Hamas. Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have captured vast swathes of territory and disrupted the established government. This is a revolution in action, and it illustrates that Tehran is not simply seeking to extend its influence in the region. Rather, it is working to impose Khomeini’s Shi’ite Islamist agenda beyond its borders.

Yet the White House is loathe to wage a war of ideas with Iran. Given President Obama’s well-documented sensitivities regarding Islam, his administration prefers to focus on other aspects of the effort to achieve global stability. Jihadist terror groups such as the Sunni-aligned ISIS or pro-Tehran Houthis are termed “violent extremists.” The Western rivalry with Iran is reduced to the language of power politics, ignoring the ideological dimension.

But Iran is not seeking nuclear-weapons capability simply to preserve its regime; it is also doing so to extend its revolution. When Iran can deter the use of force, it can also increase the reach of its ideas. And if Washington refuses to promote a convincing counterargument for freedom, it is unilaterally disarming.

Tehran, meanwhile, is not timid about promoting its vision in the West. In January, in the wake of the jihadist attack on the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei penned an open letter to the youth of the West making the case for Islam. He maintained that the view of Islam most young people receive is filtered through hostile governments and negative press reports. He asked why “attempts are made to prevent public awareness regarding an important issue such as the treatment of Islamic culture and thought” and encouraged young people to “study and research the incentives behind this widespread tarnishing of the image of Islam.” As well, Khamenei asked them to study the Koran themselves, because, he said, “the future of your nations and countries will be in your hands.” For its part, the White House is making little effort to promote the cause of freedom among Iran’s youth, even though—given the radical, repressive nature of that regime—it is likely to be a much easier idea to sell.

Focusing only on the nuclear dimension of the Iranian threat is a mistake, because the ideological conflict is the root cause of the problem. Absent Tehran’s revolutionary aspirations, there would be no drive to acquire weapons of mass destruction and no Iranian-backed global terrorist network. Arms-control agreements, verification regimes and contentious international inspections cannot guarantee that Iran is not still secretly developing nuclear weapons.

When a regime leads its people in chants of “death to America,” we should do them the courtesy of believing that they mean it.

James S. Robbins is Senior Fellow in National Security Affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC.

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Terror attack in Denmark: Targeting Jews and freedom of speech

‘Forces That Want to Hurt Denmark’: Investigators Uncovering Possible Link Between Islamic State and Free Speech Event Shooter

Police investigators work at the scene of Saturday’s shooting at a free speech event in Copenhagen, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015. Danish police shot and killed a man early Sunday suspected of carrying out shooting attacks at a free speech event and then at a Copenhagen synagogue, killing two men, including a member of Denmark’s Jewish community. Five police officers were also wounded in the attacks. (AP Photo/ Michael Probst)

Police investigators work at the scene of Saturday’s shooting at a free speech event in Copenhagen, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015. Danish police shot and killed a man early Sunday suspected of carrying out shooting attacks at a free speech event and then at a Copenhagen synagogue, killing two men, including a member of Denmark’s Jewish community. Five police officers were also wounded in the attacks. (AP Photo/ Michael Probst)

TheBlaze (Feb 15) — Danish police shot and killed a man early Sunday suspected of carrying out shooting attacks at a free speech event and then at a Copenhagen synagogue, killing two men, including a member of Denmark’s Jewish community. Five police officers were also wounded in the attacks.

“Denmark has been hit by terror,” Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said. “We do not know the motive for the alleged perpetrator’s actions, but we know that there are forces that want to hurt Denmark. They want to rebuke our freedom of speech.”

Jens Madsen, head of the Danish intelligence agency PET, said investigators believe the gunman was inspired by Islamic radicalism.

“PET is working on a theory that the perpetrator could have been inspired by the events in Paris. He could also have been inspired by material sent out by (the Islamic State group) and others,” Madsen said.

Islamic radicals carried out a massacre at the Charlie Hebdo newsroom in Paris last month, followed by an attack on Jews at a kosher grocery store, taking the lives of 17 victims.

At a news conference Madsen also said investigators have identified the suspect and that he is someone who had been on the agency’s “radar.” He did not reveal his identity.

Denmark’s Chief Rabbi, Jair Melchior, identified the Jewish victim as Dan Uzan, 37, a longtime security guard for the 7,000-strong community. He was guarding a building behind the synagogue during a bat mitzvah when he was shot in the head. Two police officers who were there were slightly wounded.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried the attack and said his government plans to encourage a “massive immigration” of Jews from Europe.

“Again, Jews were murdered on European soil just because they were Jews,” Netanyahu said at the start of his Cabinet meeting Sunday. “This wave of attacks is expected to continue, as well as murderous anti-Semitic attacks. Jews deserve security in every country, but we say to our Jewish brothers and sisters, Israel is your home.”

Other leaders also condemned the attacks, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU President Donald Tusk,

“The shootings in Copenhagen are an appalling attack on free speech and religious freedom,” Cameron said. “Two innocent people have been murdered simply for their beliefs and my thoughts are with their loved ones and all those injured at this tragic time.”

The first shooting happened before 4 p.m. Saturday when the gunman used an automatic weapon to shoot through the windows of the Krudttoenden cultural center during a panel discussion on freedom of expression featuring a Swedish artist who had caricatured the Prophet Muhammad. The artist, Lars Vilks, was whisked away unharmed by his bodyguards but a 55-year-old man attending the event was killed, while three police officers were wounded, authorities said.

The attack at the synagogue occurred hours later, shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday.

About four hours later, the shooter was confronted by police as he returned to an address that they were keeping under surveillance. Investigators described him as 25 to 30 years old with an athletic build and carrying a black automatic weapon. They released a blurred photograph of the suspect wearing dark clothes and a scarf covering part of his face.

Oliver Larsen, 26, who lives in a building above the street where the suspect was shot dead, said he was awoken at 5 a.m. by the sound of shooting.

“I looked out of the window to see what was going on and I saw a lot of policemen and a guy lying on the street; he was probably dead,” Larsen told the AP.

Vilks, a 68-year-old artist who has faced numerous death threats for depicting Muhammad as a dog in 2007, told The Associated Press he believed he was the intended target of the first shooting, which happened at a panel discussion titled “Art, blasphemy and freedom of expression.”

“What other motive could there be? It’s possible it was inspired by Charlie Hebdo,” he said, referring to the Jan. 7 attack by Islamic extremists on the French newspaper that had angered Muslims by lampooning Muhammad.

The depiction of the prophet is deemed insulting to many followers of Islam. According to mainstream Islamic tradition, any physical depiction of the Prophet Muhammad — even a respectful one — is considered blasphemous.

While many Muslims have expressed disgust at the deadly assault on the Charlie Hebdo employees, many were also deeply offended by its cartoons lampooning Muhammad.

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Glenn Beck’s deep dive on Russia – Part 2

Below is Part 2 of the report compiled by Glenn’s research team for “The Red Storm”. Read Part 1 HERE.

From GlennBeck.com:  The Root of The Problem: Russia – Part 2:

Screen-Shot-2015-01-13-at-5.01.06-PM-1200x675On December 25th 1991 the President of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev resigned his office in a nationally televised broadcast.

“I hereby discontinue my activities at the post of President of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.”

The Soviet Union had officially dissolved. The Soviet flag was taken down from the Kremlin and replaced with the new flag of the Russian Federation.

The Soviet Union at the height of her power had influence from the Sea of Okhotsk, across Eurasia, all the way to East Berlin. The Soviets had re-established the Russian Empire. The old Carolingian/Eastern Orthodox line was still the de facto border, but the Warsaw Pact provided the Russians with a reach into Western Europe that they had never had before. After the collapse the 3 main Slavic nations of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine were separated and millions of ethnic Russians were suddenly waking up behind foreign borders. Not only had their economy collapsed but Ukraine, their spiritual and cultural heart, was now separated by a line on the map. To Russians this was akin to an amputation.

In 2005 during his annual State of the Union address Russian President Vladimir Putin would call the collapse of the Soviet Union, “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

“First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century. As for the Russian people, it became a genuine tragedy. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory.”

When Putin came to power in 2000 he inherited a crippled economy and a nation that lacked direction. His plan was to remedy both. He started to work on the Russian economy. From 2000-2008 the Russian GDP grew by over 70%. Individual Russian wages tripled. The one aspect Russia seemed to be stagnant in was influence. While Putin was busy rebuilding the economy NATO advanced further Eastward. The United States and Western Europe practically ignored Russia on the world stage.

Putin needed a geopolitical and foreign policy that would return Russia to her glory. Just such a policy was under development. This policy was put into effect in 2008 and Putin has been following it like a playbook ever since.

I believe the architect of Russia’s geopolitical strategy is Aleksandr Dugin. If this is true the future of Western and Eastern Europe is headed toward catastrophic possibilities.

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Glenn Beck’s deep dive on Russia – Part 1

From GlennBeck.com:  The Root of The Problem: Russia – Part 1

Charlemagne and Western Europe

In the late 700’s the Roman Empire was divided. The Christian Papacy was based out of Rome, but the government was now ran from Constantinople. The Byzantine Empire would be dubbed “the Eastern Roman Empire” and even “the second Rome”. The heavily Greek influenced Byzantines began to adopt Greek language and customs moving away from the latin language. Western Rome became more and more alienated maintaining their allegiance to the papacy. Rome became more of a protectorate to the Byzantines relying on troops from Constantinople to protect the Pope.

Rome and the papacy were on the verge of elimination. A barbarian tribe called the Lombards had invaded modern day Italy and set out to rule Rome. This time the Byzantines were unable to run to Rome’s rescue. Hordes from the Steppe were ravaging Eurasia and the Byzantine military was fully committed. In desperation the Pope reached out to Charlemagne the new King of the Franks. Besides the Pope, Charlemagne was the most famous Christian in Western Europe. Charlemagne rode to the Pope’s rescue and defeated the Lombards. Charlemagne became the Pope’s champion. Not only liberating Rome but Uniting all of Western Europe. On Christmas Day in the year 800 Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor. His empire would stretch all the way to the Slavic lands. If you laid a map of Charlemagne era Europe next to a map of Cold War era Europe the division is nearly identical.

Word-During-Charlemagne-640x359After Charlemagne’s death his empire was split amongst his sons. The result of these divisions would lay the foundation for the modern day nation states of Germany and France. Carolingian Christianity would forever dominate Western Europe. They would look to Rome as their spiritual center.

Eastern Europe

While the Apostle Peter was headed towards Rome the Apostle Andrew headed north toward the Black Sea. Andrew converted Slavs in Crimea even traveling as far as present day Kiev. Standing in what would later be called Ukraine the Apostle Andrew declared that “a great Christian city” would one day be founded there. St. Andrew’s Cathedral now stands in Kiev at that exact same spot.

800 years after Andrew made his prophecy Prince Oleg of the Rus’ ruled in what is now Northwest Russia near the borders of Estonia and Finland. Prince Oleg was looking for a more strategic location to base his kingdom after getting attacked repeatedly by steppe hordes. He campaigned south eventually settling at the same location the Apostle Andrew made his prophesy. Kiev became the capital of what was called Kievan Rus’. At that time the “Russians” declared Kiev “the mother of all Rus’ cities”.

The Rus’ used their new capital of Kiev to strike back at the steppe invaders and defended trade routes from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. With their power and pocket books building they began to challenge the Byzantine Empire. Even attacking Constantinople herself several times from the late 800’s to early 900’s.

The ever clever Byzantines decided to use their culture and their religion as the best weapon against the Rus’. A Byzantine monk named Cyril developed a written language based off the Slavic dialect from Greeks in Thessalonica. In this writing Cyril translated the bible and other Byzantine prayers and liturgical rite. The Christianization of the Slavs had begun. In 988 Vladimir the Great was baptised in Crimea and Kievan Rus’ became a Christian State.

The relationship between Kiev and Constantinople over the next couple of centuries would be complicated. As Rome had become the spiritual center to the Western Europeans Constantinople was the spiritual center to the Rus’. Kievan Rus’ continued to defend trade routes within the empire and the Byzantines continued to put their fingers in the damn as Steppe hordes and Turks from Anatolia continued to invade.

The Mongol invasion would eventually splinter Kievan Rus’. The Russians abandoned Kiev and did as they’ve always done when facing elimination. Taking advantage of their defense in depth they retreated Northeast up into the Russian forest.Through it all the Orthodox Church remained their center. The Russians moved the Kiev church to Moscow and they continued to look toward Constantinople as their home base.

Conclusion

Just 100 years after Western Europe was Christianized and centered on Rome, Eastern Europe would be Christianized and centered on Constantinople. The Pope in Rome tried to ban the use of Cyrillic but the Byzantines exported it like wildfire amongst the Slavs.

Eastern Orthodoxy would become fused into the DNA of every Russian. Places such as Kiev and the Crimea peninsula are considered their holy sites. The legitimacy of such traced all the way back to an apostle of Jesus. You could make the argument that just as Charlemagne saved Roman Catholicism in the West the Eastern Orthodox Church saved the Russians in the East and helped keep them together. When the Byzantine Empire effectively collapsed the Russians saw it as their holy succession to establish the “Third Rome”. The Russian Orthodox Church provided their divine legitimacy.

The medieval “Iron Curtain” line was drawn. It was further solidified in the 11th century during the Great Schism. The Roman Catholic Church officially split from the Eastern Orthodox Church. Western Europe continued to look to Charlemagne’s France as their protector and leader. Eastern Europe looked to Russia as their champion and preserver of Eastern Orthodox tradition. Russian nationalism was always centered on Orthodoxy. It wasn’t until the dawn of the 20th century that a certain leader tried to change the Russian struggle from cultural….to class. But the ROOT of this conflict began over a thousand years ago.

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Palestinian Authority studies details of each terrorist act before issuing salaries

Newly obtained documents show meticulous process by which martyrdom status, payment levels, honorary ranks are determined.

Palestinian gunmen of Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades march during a military parade to mark the 50th anniversary of the Fatah movement in the Qalandia refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015. (photo credit: AP Photo / Majdi Mohammed)

Palestinian gunmen of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades march during a military parade to mark the 50th anniversary of the Fatah movement in the Qalandia refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015. (photo credit: AP Photo / Majdi Mohammed)

Times of Israel (Feb 9) — Congressional legislators were astonished last year to learn that the Palestinian Authority was issuing monthly payouts totaling $3-7 million as salaries and other financial rewards to specific terrorists and their families. The money was channeled, in part, through the Ministry of Prisoners pursuant to the Law of the Prisoner. The law set forth a graduated scale, pegging monthly salaries to the length of Israeli jail sentences, which generally reflects the severity of the crime and the number of people killed and/or injured.

Thousands of documents, newly obtained by this reporter through a lawsuit to unseal court-protected files, demonstrate that these payouts are not blind automated payments. Rather, senior Palestinian Authority officials as high as President Mahmoud Abbas scrutinize the details of each case, the specific carnage caused, and the personal details of each terrorist act before approving salaries and awarding honorary ranks in either the PA government or the military.

Ministry of Prisoners spokesman Amr Nasser has explained, “We are very proud of this program and we have nothing to hide.” Nonetheless, in response to the international furor over the payments, the Palestinian Authority announced last year it would replace the Ministry of Prisoners with an outside PLO commission known as the Higher National Commission for Prisoners and Detainees Affairs.

The PA is dependent upon foreign donor countries to supply much of its budget, which now exceeds $4.2 billion annually. About ten percent of the PA budget, more than $400 million, is contributed annually by United States foreign aid. The US and many other countries have enacted laws forbidding any payments when the monies directly or indirectly support or encourage terrorism.

The interdepartmental bureaucratic notations the Palestinian Authority has recorded on each terrorist before approving the level of salaried compensation is extensive. For example, one prominent case involved Ahmad Talab Mustafa Barghouti, who personally coordinated numerous terrorist acts. These included a January 2002 shooting spree on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem, killing two and wounding 37; a March 2002 shooting spree at a Tel Aviv restaurant, killing three and wounding 31; and finally a March 27, 2002 attempt to smuggle an explosive suicide belt in an ambulance. The Israel Defense Forces arrested Barghouti. On July 30, 2002, a military court concluded that he was responsible for murdering 12 Israelis, and he was sentenced to 13 life sentences.

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US: 20,000 foreigners heading to Syria to join Islamic State

The reason “the rate of foreign fighter travel to Syria is unprecedented” is because the Islamic State has proclaimed the re-establishment of the Islamic Caliphate, with the first Caliph (leader of the Caliphate) with actual political and military power. This is a very desirable idea to radical Muslims around the world.

“Rates of travel of foreign jihadists is ‘unprecedented,’ officials say; 3,400 are from West, 150 are US citizens.”

This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 shows fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria. (photo credit: AP/ militant website, File)

This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 shows fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria. (photo credit: AP/ militant website, File)

AFP (Feb 11) — Foreign fighters are flocking to Syria at an “unprecedented” rate, with more than 20,000 volunteers from around the world joining the Islamic State or other extremist groups, US intelligence officials said Tuesday.

The foreign fighters have traveled to Syria from more than 90 countries, including at least 3,400 from Western states and more than 150 Americans, according to the latest estimate from the National Counter-Terrorism Center.

A majority of the foreign volunteers who arrived recently have joined forces with the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, it said.

No precise numbers are available “but the trend lines are clear and concerning,” Nicholas Rasmussen, NCTC director, said in prepared remarks for a congressional hearing on Wednesday.

“The rate of foreign fighter travel to Syria is unprecedented. It exceeds the rate of travelers who went to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, or Somalia at any point in the last 20 years,” he said.

“The battlefields in Iraq and Syria provide foreign fighters with combat experience, weapons and explosives training, and access to terrorist networks that may be planning attacks which target the West,” he said.

Western governments have voiced increasing alarm over the flow of foreign volunteers heading to the Syrian conflict, particularly in the aftermath of jihadist attacks in Paris that left 17 dead.

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