Latest Analysis and Commentary

A "Guide" to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by the United Church of Christ

by Denis MacEoin  •  September 15, 2019 at 5:00 am

  • Titled, "Promoting a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel", and sub-headed "A Guide for United Church of Christ Faith Leaders", this toxic document is a desperately one-sided, inaccurate, and counter-factual exercise in futile politics.

  • There is no room in it for a Jewish, Israeli or moderate Christian voice; just hatred of Israel and defence of the Palestinians who, time after time, have turned down generous offers of peace. The naïvety of the UCC is particularly striking in its choice to take at face value the Palestinian statement that if Israel ended its occupation, "Then they will see a new world in which there is no fear, no threat but rather security, justice and peace." That is simply bunkum. Sadly, the Palestinians have a history of regarding every goodwill gesture by Israel as a retreat, as the triumph of aggression over diplomacy -- as if to say: We shoot at Israelis and they leave; so, let's keep shooting!

  • Palestinian terrorism against Israelis has continued up to 1967, right through the period of Israeli non-occupation. There were no "settlements" then. Rather, the Palestinians have always regarded all of Israel as one big "settlement". Just look at any Palestinian maps; they cover both the entirety of Israel and the Palestinian territories.

  • The UCC boasts that it is "a just peace church", but instead of supporting peace and justice, it defends mass murderers. It complains about the defensive actions of the Jews but is knowingly silent about the horrors wrought by Palestinian wars and terrorism.

Wafa Samir al-Biss personifies the deep dehumanization of Jews by Palestinian terrorists and those multitudes who praise and honor them. Ms Biss attempted to bomb Soroka Hospital in Beersheba, Israel -- the very hospital where, as a burn victim, she had been treated for months by Jewish and Muslim doctors and nurses. Pictured: Soroka Hospital. (Image source: Avishai Teicher/PikiWiki/Wikimedia Commons)

Welcome to yet another skewed guide on the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. After a vote to support boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel in 2015, an organization affiliated with the UCC, the UCC Palestine Israel Network (UCCPIN), published a guide to Israel-Palestine affairs. Titled, "Promoting a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel," and sub-headed "A Guide for United Church of Christ Faith Leaders", this toxic document is a desperately one-sided, inaccurate, and counter-factual exercise in futile politics. Legally, UCCPIN operates under the aegis of one of the denomination's local conferences. Its Guide is, therefore, not the direct work of the church's leadership, but is clearly endorsed by a section of it.

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Russia: Dreaming of a Return to the West

by Amir Taheri  •  September 15, 2019 at 4:00 am

  • Russia may be talking in Slavophile tones but deep in its heart, desires to be readmitted into the Western camp. This is seen in the way Russians dress, the kind of food they eat, the beverages they drink, the music they listen to, the TV shows and the films they watch, and the books they read. Queues in front of McDonald's joints may be a vulgar sign of creeping Westernization.

  • The results of this month's municipal elections, declared last week, show a clear setback for Putinism in its Slavophile version. The president's United Russia party lost more than a third of its seats in Moscow that, as in other metro-centric countries, has set the tone for national politics at least since the 1920s.

  • Putin wants to fool the Western democracies into helping negotiate a bad patch before he returns to his old shenanigans. President Macron's call for reintegrating Russia into the G7 summit last month was dismissed by other participants even before it made it onto the agenda.

Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has behaved much like a loose cannon, causing nasty surprises, not to say mystification, not only in the West but also in China and elsewhere. (Photo by Kenzaburo Fukuhara - Pool/Getty Images)

If every nation, like every language, has its grammar, what is the grammar that might help us understand Russia today?

Even the least observant foreign visitors to Russia these days are likely quickly to discover the first rule of that metaphorical grammar: the unity of opposites. On one side, we have a Russia that is attached almost obsessively to its "otherness". On the other, we have a Russia that craves after "sameness" as a member of the family of Western nations.

This "otherness-sameness" duality is not new in Russian history.

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Wisdom That Transcends Time: Self Esteem and Public Service

by Lawrence Kadish  •  September 14, 2019 at 5:00 am

  • "Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel." — Socrates, "On Personal Service," 469-399 BCE.

  • "With no attempt there can be no failure; with no failure no humiliation. So our self-feeling in this world depends entirely on what we back ourselves to be and do." — William James, "The Strangest Lightness."

  • Those in public service have a daily opportunity either to welcome that challenge of advancing our nation or to retreat into mediocrity.... [I[t becomes evident that securing self-esteem is the true benefit from such a career and one that every public servant should aspire to.

  • "You will learn that those with ideas and enthusiasm to work hard and improve services may be ostracized by the status quo elements.... Set goals, dream big, and ask 'why not.' Maintain an exemplary standard of ethics. Begin with the end in your sights. And, above all, maintain your sense of humor!" — Larry J. Gordon, Gordon Visiting Professor, UNM School of Public Administration, 1994 Commencement Address.

When it came to the role of teachers in our society, Socrates knew exactly what their role was. He observed, "Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel." Pictured: The Statue of Socrates, by Leonidas Drosis (d. 1880), at the Academy of Athens. (Image source: C messier/Wikimedia Commons)

That most precious of resources, time, gives us the means to think, ponder, reflect and acquire that most coveted of treasures: wisdom. The thought-provoking writings of three eminent scholars -- Socrates, William James and Larry J. Gordon -- bridge the centuries to provide us with the means better to understand ourselves and our era. Take the time to read their essays.

When it came to the role of teachers in our society, Socrates knew exactly what their role was. He observed, "Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel." He reminded all of us that the educator's real goal is to excite a student with the love of learning -- perhaps one of the most crucial responsibilities in any society. More than any paycheck, pension or summer recess, creating a legacy that ensures a new generation will welcome that "flame" of wisdom elevates our teachers far beyond measure, a fact too often lost amidst the debate over benefits and course curriculum.

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Iranian Tanker Fiasco Exposes Britain's Muddled Thinking

by Con Coughlin  •  September 13, 2019 at 5:00 am

  • The ensuing diplomatic stand-off between London and Tehran eventually resulted in Britain agreeing to release the Grace One, but only after the British authorities received written assurances from Iran that the oil would not be delivered to Syria.

  • Now it appears that Iran has deliberately misled the British government about its intentions after satellite photographs revealed the ship, which has now been renamed the Adrian Darya 1, is in Syria, where its $130 million oil cargo has been handed over to the Assad regime.

  • "Anyone who said the Adrian Darya-1 wasn't headed to #Syria is in denial. Tehran thinks it's more important to fund the murderous Assad regime than provide for its own people. We can talk, but #Iran's not getting any sanctions relief until it stops lying and spreading terror!" — Ambassador John Bolton, then US National Security Advisor, September 7, 2019.

When Iran seized the British-registered tanker Stena Impero on July 19 as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz, it caused deep embarrassment for the government of then British Prime Minister Theresa May, which had failed to put adequate measures in place to protect British shipping from any act of Iranian retaliation. Pictured: The Stena Impero and one of the Iranian gunboats that seized it. (Image source: Fars News/CC BY 4.0 [cropped])

The sorry saga of the Iranian oil tanker that was originally seized by Britain before making its way to Syria to unload its cargo in breach of EU sanctions highlights the confusion that lies at the heart of the British government's policy towards Tehran.

The Iranian-registered tanker, which at the time sailed under the name Grace One, was seized by British Royal Marines in early July off the coast of Gibraltar on suspicion that it was delivering its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of oil to Syria, a clear violation of EU sanctions that are in place against the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Iran responded two weeks later by seizing the British-registered tanker Stena Impero as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz, thereby causing deep embarrassment for the government of then British Prime Minister Theresa May, which had failed to put adequate measures in place to protect British shipping from any act of Iranian retaliation.

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UK: Tony Blair Think-Tank Proposes End to Free Speech

by Judith Bergman  •  September 12, 2019 at 5:00 am

  • Disturbingly, the main concern of Blair's think-tank appears to be the online verbal "hatred" displayed by citizens in response to terrorist attacks -- not the actual physical expression of hatred shown in the mass murders of innocent people by terrorists. Terrorist attacks, it would appear, are now supposedly normal, unavoidable incidents that have become part and parcel of UK life.

  • Unlike proscribed groups that are banned for criminal actions such as violence or terrorism, the designation of "hate group" would mainly be prosecuting thought-crimes.

  • Democratic values, however, appear to be the think-tank's least concern. The proposed law would make the British government the arbiter of accepted speech, especially political speech. Such an extraordinary and radically authoritarian move would render freedom of speech an illusion in the UK.

  • The Home Office would be able to accuse any group it found politically inconvenient of "spreading intolerance" or "aligning with extremist ideologies" -- and designate it a "hate group".

A new law proposed by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change would make the British government the arbiter of accepted speech, especially political speech. Such an extraordinary and radically authoritarian move would render freedom of speech an illusion in the UK. (Images' source: iStock)

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change has released a report, Designating Hate: New Policy Responses to Stop Hate Crime, which recommends radical initiatives to tackle "hate" groups, even if they have not committed any kind of violent activity.

The problem, as the think-tank defines it, is "the dangerous nature of hateful groups, including on the far right like Britain First and Generation Identity. But current laws are unable to stop groups that spread hate and division, but do not advocate violence". The think-tank defines what it sees as one of the main problems with hate crime the following way:

"A steady growth in hate crime has been driven by surges around major events. Often this begins online. Around the 2017 terror attacks in the UK, hate incidents online increased by almost 1,000 per cent, from 4,000 to over 37,500 daily. In the 48-hour period after an event, hate begins to flow offline".

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Turkey: Religious Backlash?

by Uzay Bulut  •  September 12, 2019 at 4:00 am

  • It is notable, however, that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's efforts to create "devout generations" of Muslims, through the establishment of numerous state-funded Imam Hatip religious schools, may not be having the desired results.

  • "Since [last summer], seventeen students with headscarves who identify as atheists have come to my office and [told me that] the reason [for their atheism] is the actions of the people who say they represent religion." — Dr. İhsan Fazlıoğlu, Istanbul Medeniyet University, T24, March 19, 2018.

  • "The religion that the [Turkish] government is trying to 'impose' on society is emotionally unsatisfying: it is loveless." — Professor Murat Belge, Head of the Department of Comparative Literature, Bilgi University, Istanbul, to Gatestone.

  • "Mosques or churches in your neighborhoods are no longer your only sources of information... Of course, societal pressures and the situation of the country are also [important] elements, but they are only elements that get the questioning started. This situation makes many people ask, 'Is this what my religion is about?' or they say, 'If this is religion, I am out.'" [Emphasis added] — Selin Özkohen, head of the Atheism Association, Euronews, March 19, 2019.

A 2018 survey reveals that, over the last decade, there has been a 4% decrease -- from 55% to 51% -- in the number of people in Turkey who define themselves as "religious" and that non-believers are becoming "more visible." (Image source: iStock)

In a radio interview on July 23, Temel Karamollaoğlu -- the head of Turkey's Islamist opposition party, Felicity -- accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of driving young people, particularly those from religious families, away from Islam and towards deism, a belief in a non-interventionist creator, or a god of nature.

According to a 2018 survey conducted by Turkey's leading polling company, KONDA, Karamollaoğlu appears to be correct, at least about the growing number of young Turks who no longer consider themselves "religious" Muslims.

The survey reveals that, over the last decade, there has been a 4% decrease -- from 55% to 51% -- in the number of those who define themselves as "religious" and that non-believers are becoming "more visible."

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Why Egypt Does Not Want to Help Gaza

by Khaled Abu Toameh  •  September 11, 2019 at 5:00 am

  • Israel's goodwill gestures, however, have so far failed to deter Hamas and other Palestinian groups from repeatedly violating the ceasefire understandings.

  • Israel is prepared to do whatever is required to help the Palestinians in return for a cessation of terrorist attacks against Israel. Meanwhile, the Egyptians themselves offer nothing but broken promises regarding the crisis in the Gaza Strip. Egyptian policy, it appears, is based on the assumption that the Gaza Strip is – and must remain – solely the problem of Israel.

  • Why do Egyptians have to travel all the way to Israel to discuss supplying the Gaza Strip with food, medicine and fuel (through Israel) when Egypt can easily do so through its shared border with the Gaza Strip? The world seems to have forgotten that the Gaza Strip has a shared border not only with Israel, but with Egypt as well.

  • Egypt's shifting and sometimes contradictory policy toward the Gaza Strip seems to have one goal: to divert attention from Cairo's responsibility for the ongoing plight of its Palestinian neighbors.

  • Here is what Egypt and the Arab states should be telling Israel: "Thank you for all that you have done so far to help the people of the Gaza Strip. However, these are our Arab brothers. Therefore, it seems fair that we step in and assume this burden."

The world seems to have forgotten that the Gaza Strip has a shared border not only with Israel, but with Egypt as well. The Rafah border crossing (on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt) is the main exit point for most Palestinians. This border crossing, however, has been essentially closed since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. It is only opened every few days or weeks to allow a trickle of Palestinians to come or go to the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Egypt has resumed its mediation efforts to prevent an all-out military confrontation between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Earlier this week, senior officials from Egypt's General Intelligence Service (Mukhabarat) who visited the Gaza Strip reportedly relayed to Hamas leaders a message from Israel: it promised to "ease restrictions" on the Palestinians in return for a cessation of anti-Israel terrorist attacks.

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Brexit and the Deficiencies of Parliament

by Malcolm Lowe  •  September 11, 2019 at 4:00 am

  • What has characterized the last year of UK politics is that individual MPs in the various parties have begun to seek the same freedom of action as US Members of Congress. So far, however, they are both fearful of suffering the same fate as the 21 banned by Johnson and remain inexperienced in the exercise of such freedom.

  • Johnson now has two alternatives. One is to reinstate the 21. His defenders claim that this would encourage similar defections in the future. The other alternative is to stick to his unpopular decision and risk being dismissed himself by his party. Either way, the unwitting heritage of Johnson may include the end of the tyrannical powers of the UK PM.

  • The Bank of England in its latest report estimates that the consequences of no-deal on October 31 will be less dire than it thought a year ago, but dire they will be: GDP will shrink by 5.5%, inflation will rise from 2% to over 5%, unemployment will "surge to 7% rather than 7.5%, up from a current 45-year low of 3.8%." In short, a very healthy economy will turn into a problematic economy. The most worrying problem, however, is that the Bank is engaged in guesswork about an event without precedent. If things turn out much better or much worse than estimated, nobody should be surprised that the Bank got it wrong.

Pictured: Westminster Palace in London, seat of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. (Image source: Adrian Pingstone/Wikimedia Commons)

It is remarkable that the UK Parliament has spent almost a year of debates about the Brexit deal agreed by Theresa May's government and the European Union. Indeed, about one small detail of that deal. We shall briefly describe what that detail is before explaining that the inordinate resulting delay reflects deep and longstanding dysfunction in the whole parliamentary system of the UK.

The deal consisted of two documents, the Withdrawal Agreement (WA, 585 pages) and the Framework for the Future Relationship (FFR, 26 pages). Most of the WA consists of regulations obviously needed for winding up UK participation in EU institutions, settling mutual debts, safeguarding the interests of UK citizens resident in the EU and vice versa, and the like. Even Boris Johnson regards all that as basically good and necessary.

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Will Denmark Become Like Sweden?

by Judith Bergman  •  September 10, 2019 at 5:00 am

  • Sweden is exporting not only its bombings to Denmark. Gang crime, with its shootings and murders, has also traveled across the border.

Denmark is still relatively far from having reached the kind of crime epidemic that is currently plaguing Sweden. However, given the proximity of the two countries, the open borders and the apparent free flow of criminals across the borders -- not to mention Denmark's own crime level -- there seems little to stop the situation in Denmark from getting out of control and becoming increasingly more like Sweden. Pictured: The Øresund Bridge, part of the road and rail connection between Denmark and Sweden. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Denmark has experienced 10 bombings since February. The latest took place on August 27 in a residential complex, Gersager, in the Greve area, very close to Copenhagen. No one was injured, but the building was seriously damaged. This year, the Swedish city of Malmö has experienced 19 bombings. An August 16 editorial in the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende said:

"No one wants Swedish conditions where shootings and bombings have reached an extreme degree. In addition to conflicts in the gang environment, there have been bombing attacks against police stations as well as courthouses, a town hall and the Swedish Tax Agency in Malmö in recent years."

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Turkey Faces "Almost a Revolution in the Middle East"

by Burak Bekdil  •  September 10, 2019 at 4:00 am

  • "Hatice Karahan, Erdogan's top economic advisor, told DW that economic relations between the countries represented a 'win-win situation' for both: 'Turkey exports automobiles, iron, steel, electrical devices and plastic to Israel. And in return, it imports Israeli fuel and oil.'" — Deutsche Welle, December 12, 2017.

  • Erdoğan was unjust, wrong and unrealistic in his quest internationally to isolate Israel. The world has not quite moved in the direction he wished for.

  • "[T]he rapprochement that significant sections of the Israeli military and security establishment have long wanted with the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] has taken root since 2011, as the post-Arab Spring landscape has provided the opportunity to deepen unofficial ties in areas of shared concern." — Baker Institute, Rice University.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may have dreamed of an Israel that is internationally isolated, but the world has not quite moved in the direction he wished for. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Turkey's Islamist leaders, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have been pledging to their voters that they would "internationally isolate Israel" ever since they launched a diplomatic war on the Jewish state in 2010.

In a 2011 speech, Turkey's foreign minister at the time, Ahmet Davutoğlu (later prime minister), said that his country's Turkey's policies in the Middle East "have brought Israel to its knees" and isolated the Jewish state both regionally and internationally.

The facts, however, could not have been more distant.

According to official reports, Israel's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rose by a healthy 3.3% in 2018, compared to 1.3% in 2009, while Turkey reported a drop from 8.5% in 2010 to 2.8% in 2018. The unemployment rate in Israel stood at 3.7% in July 2019. Turkey, meanwhile, boasted an unemployment rate of 14.7% in the December-February 2018-2019 period, its highest level in nearly a decade.

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Why Arabs Hate Palestinians

by Khaled Abu Toameh  •  September 9, 2019 at 5:00 am

  • You simply cannot burn pictures of the Saudi crown prince one day and rush to Riyadh to seek money the next. You cannot shout slogans against the Egyptian president one day and go to Cairo to seek political backing the next.

  • Remarkably, Turki al-Hamad, a Saudi writer, did what even some Western countries refuse to do: he dared to condemn Hamas and other Gaza-based groups for firing rockets at Israel.

  • "Palestinians bring disaster to anyone who hosts them. Jordan hosted them, and there was Black September; Lebanon hosted them, and there was a civil war there; Kuwait hosted them, and they turned into Saddam Hussein's soldiers. Now they are using their podiums to curse us." — Mohammed al-Shaikh, Saudi author, RT Arabic, August 13, 2019.

  • Many people in the Arab countries are now saying that it is high time for the Palestinians to start looking after their own interests and thinking of a better future for their children.... The Arabs seem to be saying to the Palestinians: "We want to march forward; you can continue to march backward for as long as you wish."

  • "We should not be ashamed to establish relations with Israel." — Ahmad al-Jaralah, a leading Kuwaiti newspaper editor, arabi21.com, July 1, 2019.

Saudi writer Mohammed al-Shaikh has called for banning Palestinians from performing the Islamic hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, after a video surfaced showing Palestinians, during the recent hajj, carrying Palestinian flags and chanting, "With blood, with soul, we redeem you, Al-Aqsa Mosque!" Saudi Arabia has strict rules banning political activities during the hajj. Pictured: Hajj pilgrims in and around Mecca's Grand Mosque and on its roof, during night prayers. (Image source: Al Jazeera/Wikimedia Commons)

Is it true? If so, why? Sadly, the Palestinians are known for betraying their Arab brothers, even effectively stabbing them in the back. The Palestinians, for example, supported Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait – a Gulf state that, together with its neighbors, used to give the Palestinians tens of millions of dollars in aid each year.

This disloyalty is precisely how a growing number of Arabs, particularly those living in the Gulf states, have been describing the Palestinians for the past few years.

In recent months, however, Arab criticism of the Palestinians, mostly aired through traditional and social media, has further escalated, and sometimes turned ugly.

Some Arab writers and journalists expressed outrage over the Palestinians' opposition to peace plans, particularly the US administration's yet-to-be-announced "Deal of the Century."

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Iran Ready to "Wipe the Zionist Regime off the Map"

by Majid Rafizadeh  •  September 9, 2019 at 4:00 am

  • If, for any reason, the Israeli government ever issued a declaration, about destroying Iran "in half an hour," as Iran recently said about Israel, we would probably never hear the end of the criticism from all parts of the world. The European Union would likely take even more measures to counter Israel. There would doubtless be an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to hurl slanders against Israel, followed by countries pledging solidarity and support for Iran.

  • Amazingly, Israel has been bullied and criticized by the same international community for merely taking precautionary measures to defend its citizens and territorial integrity, as any country would.

  • For some reason, the Islamic Republic is getting a free pass for constantly threatening to wipe out Israel off the map. This lopsided injustice is either a case of selective amnesia or outrageous double standards by the international community.... The international community... needs to stop its double standards by taking measures against Iran's vows to annihilate Israel.

  • Fortunately, since President Donald J. Trump took office, America's Iran policy has been heading in the right direction. Steadily escalating economic sanctions have inflicted serious damage on Iran's economy. Maximum pressure is the right policy to adopt to bridle this predatory regime.

Recently, the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, again vowed to obliterate Israel. He boasted that Iran has empowered its Lebanese proxy to such an extent that Hezbollah "alone" can wipe out Israel. Pictured: Salami receives his promotion to the rank of Major General, from Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a ceremony held on April 22, 2019. (Image source: khamenei.ir)

Malign behavior in the world today seems largely to be the result of people who have the power to correct what is wrong willfully looking the other way: hypocrisy. Currently, one of the biggest beneficiaries -- along with China, North Korea, Venezuela, Russia, Turkey and Cuba -- is the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Among other lawlessness, Iran, since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, has continued non-stop to threaten the existence of Israel in contravention of Chapter 1 the United Nations Charter -- without any reproof or rebuke from the international community.

Amazingly, Israel has been bullied and criticized by the same international community for merely taking precautionary measures to defend its citizens and territorial integrity, as any country would.

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Christians Massacred, Media Look the Other Way

by Giulio Meotti  •  September 8, 2019 at 5:00 am

  • "In the same week as the awful attack on the mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand... more than two hundred Christians were killed in Nigeria. There was hardly any mention of the latter in the news. There were no marches for martyred Christians, no tolling of church bells ordered by governments, no 'Je suis Charlie' t-shirts... no public outrage at all." — Fr. Benedict Kiely, Crisis Magazine, September 4, 2019

  • NASA's satellites observed the Amazon fires, prompting world leaders to pledge to protect the rainforest. But the burning, chopping and murder of Christians is not tracked by satellites and their suffering is not seen on our televisions and newspapers. Actually, it seems in the West as if the persecution of Christians does not even exist.

  • The Vatican and Pope Francis have a choice: to shed light on these persecuted Christians or be accused of willful blindness.... The Vatican should dedicate the next synod to them.

Pictured: Sobame Da, a mainly Christian village in Mali, after the June 2019 attack by Fulani gunmen in which 100 men, women and children were slaughtered. (Image source: United Nations/MINUSMA/Flickr)

"In the Amazon rainforest, which is of vital importance for the planet, a deep crisis has been triggered by prolonged human intervention, in which a 'culture of waste' (LS 16) and an extractivist mentality prevail", the Vatican stated.

"The Amazon is a region with rich biodiversity; it is multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-religious; it is a mirror of all humanity which, in defense of life, requires structural and personal changes by all human beings, by nations, and by the Church."

That is why a Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region has been scheduled to meet in Rome from October 6 to 27. In an interview with Italian paper La Stampa, Pope Francis said that one of the biggest challenges to the Amazon region is the "threat to the life of the populations and territory which derives from the economic and political interests of the dominant sectors of society."

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Moscow Divided Between Two Proverbs

by Amir Taheri  •  September 8, 2019 at 4:00 am

  • Putin has also succeeded in establishing Russia as the key player in war-torn Syria by marginalizing not only Iran but also Turkey and the United States. Putin adulators are especially proud of his success in playing the Iran card against the United States while squeezing the Tehran mullahs for unprecedented concessions.

  • The impression one gets in Moscow these days is that reality may have started to bite at the edges of the hubris nurtured by Putin's opportunistic tactics and the weakness of the Western, especially European, response.

  • Well-to-do Russians, the backbone of Putin's system, are sore about the fact that they are no longer treated as welcome friends in the Western world, to which they think they belong. The less privileged Russians are equally unwilling to find their nation grouped together with a number of "Third World" countries such as Syria, Iran, Venezuela and North Korea.

The impression one gets in Moscow these days is that reality may have started to bite at the edges of the hubris nurtured by Putin's opportunistic tactics and the weakness of the Western, especially European, response. (Image source: iStock)

In Russia, August is often regarded as the uncertain season closing the short summer and opening the path to the long duet of autumn and winter. It was, therefore, no surprise in a recent visit to Moscow to see that sense of uncertainty reflected in the political mood of the Russian elites.

To be sure, the uncertainty one notices is still in filigree. Officials and intellectuals supporting the current government are still full of self-confidence, not to say bombast, defending President Vladimir Putin's "strongman" politics. Nevertheless, conversations regarding the political situation in Russia soon reveal three sources of uncertainty, perhaps even anxiety.

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The U.S.-Taliban Negotiations: A Deadly Qatari Trap

by Yigal Carmon  •  September 7, 2019 at 5:00 am

  • One can understand President Donald Trump's wish to leave Afghanistan. There are, however, ways to leave without losing people, respect, and allies. Mr. Trump, instead of leaving unilaterally, while reinforcing the democratically elected government in Kabul without boots on the ground, is unfortunately empowering his Taliban enemy by protracted negotiations, where America makes successive concessions and ultimately throws its Afghan allies under the bus.

  • Afghan officials are the first to sense that the sellout of the Kabul government is impending, and are scurrying to defect to the Taliban (in July alone there were 800 defections).

  • As opposed to what many Americans think, Qatar did the US no favors in building the base in the mid-1990s. It needed an American base for its own self-protection and this dependence still persists. Without this base, this Lilliputian energy Gulliver would be taken over by its neighbors (whether Iranian or Saudi) within a day. The US military establishment ignores this reality to its own detriment, and behaves as if America is in Qatar's debt rather than the reverse.

  • Qatar is already threatening to limit potential operations against Iran from Al-Udeid, should they be needed, and Qatar's Tamim told Rouhani that "only countries [placed] along the coast [of the Persian Gulf] should keep security in the region."

Pictured: U.S. Marines at Camp Shorab on September 11, 2017 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)

This is an edited and shortened version of an article recently in MEMRI. It is published here with the kind permission of the author.

What is happening in Afghanistan is already beyond grief. The United States is negotiating with the Taliban, without the Taliban first agreeing to a cease-fire as a precondition for talks, and although President Trump has emphatically announced his determination to withdraw from the country, American soldiers are still being killed (in recent days, three American servicemen died). [1]

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