Trump Invites Netanyahu to United States

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

President Trump invited Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu to visit Washington, DC next month as part of a phone conversation between the two world leaders that was described as “very warm.”

The two did not discuss whether or not the United States would move its embassy to Jerusalem. This has been a point of contention for a while now. Former President Obama refused to move the embassy, saying that the move to lead to more violence in the region. Former Secretary of State John Kerry has said that such a move could lead to “an absolute explosion” of violence in the area.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, Israeli security forces are reported to also have expressed concerns about such a move. The same article states that “a number of Arab ambassadors to Washington have met with Trump advisers and warned them of the possible consequences” of moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu also discussed the international nuclear deal with Iran and the Palestinian peace process.

For more information, check out the Christian Science Monitor. 

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Islamic Brotherhood Tries to Shut Down ISIS in Gaza

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Global Panorama https://www.flickr.com/photos/121483302@N02/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Global Panorama https://www.flickr.com/photos/121483302@N02/

According to Haarvetz, the Islamic Brotherhood has been trying to shut down ISIS’ activities in Gaza. ISIS has responded with accusations that the Islamic Brotherhood is “too soft” on Israel.

From Haarvetz.com:

Islamic State supporters in Gaza have given the ruling Hamas movement a 48-hour deadline to halt its crackdown on them.

A statement sent to media on Monday did not say what the ISIS supporters would do if the crackdown continued. It included a claim of responsibility for a rocket fired at Israel from Gaza last week. The claim could not be independently verified.

Hamas has launched a crackdown on radical Islamists following a series of unclaimed bombings, arresting activist and seizing arms.

The extremists accuse Hamas of being soft on Israel and failing to impose religious law. It’s unclear how many ISIS supporters are in Gaza, or if any have operational links to the extremist group.

Meanwhile, Hamas security forces killed an activist of a rival Islamist militant group in a shoot-out at his Gaza home on Tuesday, witnesses said.

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Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress: An Overload of Truth

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by IsraelinAmerica https://www.flickr.com/photos/israeldc/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by IsraelinAmerica https://www.flickr.com/photos/israeldc/

The Obama Administration has engaged in unseemly behavior, trying to block Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech before Congress.

I say it is unseemly because Congress is a separate body of government and it is their right to invite anyone they want into their house to address them. That simply is not the President’s call. I’m going to leave all the policy considerations alone, and leave it at that. I know how the Oklahoma House of Representatives would react if the Governor tried to tell them how to run their house. It wouldn’t be pretty.

Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a powerful speech that, frankly, was an overload of truth in our national capital. I say that because I sometimes get the feeling that our government is more concerned with manipulating and lying to the American people than it is with governing this great nation.

However, it is important to remember that he is the Prime Minister of Israel, not the United States. That doesn’t make anything he says untrue. But it does shift the concerns he raises.

As a side note, I think that the applause was at least in part a response to the president’s attempt to tell Congress not to allow Prime Minister Netanyahu speak. As I said, that is bound to rile just about any member of Congress, regardless of their party affiliation.

I’m going to write about this speech in detail in the next few days. But, in the meantime, I want you to hear it in its entirety and judge for yourself without me or anyone else telling you what to think. These are grave issues. The fate of the world rests on them. Americans are their government. So think carefully. Think deeply. Think prayerfully.  Think without partisan blinders.

To read the transcript of the speech, go here.

This is a video of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, in full.

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Netanyahu Calls for Jews to Leave Europe, Migrate to Israel

Photo Source: Flickr Commons by Dennis Jarvis https://www.flickr.com/photos/archer10/

Photo Source: Flickr Commons by Dennis Jarvis https://www.flickr.com/photos/archer10/

Israeli  Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has issued a call for the remaining European Jews to immigrate to Israel. European leaders have repudiated this call, urging unity instead.

Europe’s Jews are a vanishing group.

In 1939, 9.5% of the world’s Jews lived in Europe. By 1945, that had dropped to 3.8%. That number reflects the catastrophe of the Holocaust which decimated the numbers of Jewish people on this planet. Hitler killed 35% of the world’s Jews in those six years.

The decline in the Jewish population of Europe was slow for the first 15 years after World War II, dropping from 3.8% in 1945 to 3.2% in 1960. Then, the pace of migration increased. Jews were 2% of the European population in 1991 and by 2010, they had dropped to 1.4%.

What that means in real numbers is that the Jewish population of Europe was 9.5 million in 1939 and 3.8 million in 1945. The death of such a large percentage of its people decimated world Jewry. Pew Research estimates that the 2010 world Jewish population was about 14 million, which is still less than it was in 1939.

Much of the migration of Jews from Europe in recent decades has come from immigration of Jews out of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Most of the migration of Jews from Europe has been due to them going to Israel.

The shooting in Denmark last week included the murder of a Jewish man at a synagogue at which a Bar Mitzvah was taking place. Hundreds of gravestones in a Jewish cemetery were desecrated in France, hours after the shooting. Five young men have been arrested in connection with this crime.

In 2014, more than 7,000 French Jews left for Israel. The numbers of migrants have been on the increase since March 2012 when Mohammed Merah stormed a Jewish school in Toulouse, and killed three children and a rabbi.

The graveyard vandalism came just a month after a gunman killed four Jews in a kosher supermarket in Paris. These murders were part of a three-day siege of violence that left 17 people dead.

In Brussels, four people were shot and killed at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May 2014. This came after pro-Palestinian rallies were marked by demonstrators shouting “Death to the Jews!” and “Gas the Jews!” in France, Belgium and Germany.

Later last year, a Jewish-owned pharmacy in Paris was destroyed by youths protesting Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. A synagogue in Wuppertal Germany was attacked with firebombs. A group of Muslim men patrolled the neighborhood wearing uniforms that said “Shariah Police.”

These violent attacks are accompanied by a “soft” anti-Semitism that sounds a lot like the hazing, bashing, hate speech that always precedes violent persecution.

“The fear is that now things are blatantly being said open, and no one is batting an eyelid,” Jessica Frommer told the New York Times.  “The Middle East is being imported into Europe,” said Philip Carmel, European policy director for the European Jewish Congress.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Monday that the French government would defend French Jews against “Islamo-fascism.”

“A Jew who leaves France is a piece of France that is gone,” he told RTL radio.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that her government would do everything possible to make sure Jewish sites are secure. “We are glad and thankful that there is Jewish life in Germany again,” she said.

 

 

 

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A Slide on the Ice is No Reason to Go to War

 

Much of the news media has been hard-selling war in Syria to their viewers for quite some time now.

Economic issues are the toughest issues to discuss with traditional Christians. I believe this is because far too many of our religious leaders have aligned themselves and their teaching with the Republican party rather than with Christ.

I am well aware that there are many religious leaders who have done the same thing with the Democrats. But when it comes to false teachings about money, the worst offenders are the heretical religious leaders who follow the Rs.

I believe quite firmly that money is playing a decisive part in this push for war-war-any-war-we-can-find that is coming out of certain opinion-makers’ mouths. Not so long ago, these same folks were pushing us to go to war with Iran. If we don’t go to war in Syria, they’ll be looking for another war someplace else before you can say bottom line.

There are real issues involved with this debate about Syria, but you won’t find them on the cable news. That is because the various cable news stations are, as I said earlier “opinion makers.”

Think about that.

Noodle with it.

Let the idea roll around in your mind as you look at it from different angles.

Opinion makers.

Not journalists. Not reporters of the news.

But opinion makers, which is, I think, a nice phrase for propagandists.

They’re not trying to inform you. They are trying to use you. Their “discussions” always go one direction, and that is war, war, more war.

I am not, as I have said many times, a pacifist. I believe in defending this nation. I understand the lessons of World War II when those in power were so hungry for peace that they became enablers of actions that resulted in the most destructive war in human history.

On the other hand, I sort of understand the side-step, two-step of the war that to this day nobody can really explain: World War I. The world slid into World War I like a line of cars rear-ending one another on an icy road.

One salient point that is usually overlooked is that World War I and World War II were not isolated events. They are actually one event. I have always regarded World War I and World War II as the same war with a 20-year, depression-wracked truce between engagements. The world oh-noooed its way into World War II by letting the bullies have their run-up. But the real causes of that war were in the first world war and its inconclusive and destructive pause. In a real way, the horrors of the 20th century began with a slide on the ice.

The moral of all this, at least for me, is that a slide on the ice is no reason, ever, to go to war. We need to think things through.

War is evil. It is destruction. Even when it must be fought, it is always a tragedy, and it always destroys precious lives. I have stood beside enough graves, I have witnessed the psychological deaths of enough parents standing like hollowed out husks of themselves beside those same graves, to be very slow to say that we should commit America to war.

War makes money, big money, for some. But I am from the economic class that fights these wars. I have talked to the men and women who’ve come back and can’t stop remembering. I have, as I said, stood beside graves into which we lowered coffins containing bodies so mutilated their parents were told not to look.

War is not a video game.

There are three points I want us to consider in this post.

1. Should President Obama have asked Congress to authorize action in Syria, or should he have acted unilaterally?

2. Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons on the Kurds in Iraq, yet the world did nothing. Why is Syria different?

3. Can the American people resist the “opinion makers” who are trying to hard-sell them on war with somebody/anybody and think for themselves?

A couple of days ago:

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One year ago:

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Eleven years ago:

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Christian Persecution: Activist Says Media Ignores Christian Persecution Due to Anti-Christian Bias

Is the media ignoring violent persecution of Christians in the same way that it once ignored lynchings of African Americans, attacks on Jews in Nazi Germany?

According to activists on behalf of Christians in the Middle East, the answer is yes.

CBN NEWS JERUSALEM, Israel — Tens of thousands of Christians are fleeing the Middle East because of persecution. Yet this modern day exodus is getting little attention in the West.

Now, a Jewish group is teaming up with Christians to help spread the word about this persecution.

Almost 200 million Christians are targeted each year, especially in the birthplace of their faith, the Middle East. Iraq is just one example.

“Since 2003, there has been a systematic attack launched against the Christian community and other minorities in Iraq,” Juliana Taimoorazy, with the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, said.

“Unfortunately the mainstream media and many churches really don’t talk about persecution of their brothers and sisters in Christ,” she added.

Taimoorazy is an Assyrian Christian. She had to be smuggled out of her home country because of religious persecution.

She said since the end of Saddam Hussein’s reign, Islamic persecution has forced about two-thirds of Iraq’s Christians to flee.

The persecurtion escalated from attacks on churches to forcing Christians to choose between converting to Islam or paying a protection tax.

“And the next step for the Islamic extremists were to go in and attack families — kill children, kidnap women, impregnating them, torturing men, beheading them. Then they started attacking clergy members,” Taimoorazy said.

Author Raymond Ibrahim said anti-Christian violence is widespread across the region.

“It’s kind of amazing to me to see that what’s happening to Christians by Islamic forces…Christian worshippers are in a church and it gets attacked and it gets burned, things like that,” he said.

Ibrahim was born in the United States to Egyptian Coptic Christian parents. He said the media ignores Christian persecution because it contradicts the media’s perception of Islam.

“If this idea gets out that Islam is intolerant to the other, then it kind of puts the struggle with Israel in a different light,” Ibrahim explained.

Taimoorazy blamed the lack of attention on an anti-Christian sentiment in the American media and throughout the world.

“This is something they don’t want to talk about because then they would be perceived as pro-Christian. But it’s a human rights issue,” she said.

Alan Schneider, with the B’nai B’rith World Center, a well-known Jewish organization in Jerusalem, agreed. (Read more here.)

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Passing Holocaust Tattoos from One Generation to the Next

Israeli grandchildren of Holocaust survivors are beginning to have their own arms tattooed with the same number that their grandparents had put on them in the concentration camps. This is an interesting way to memorialize what happened to their grandparents. I would guess that it also eases whatever remaining shame these Holocaust survivors may feel.

It seems especially poignant to me since we live in a time when whole sections of our population are being marginalized and reduced to non-human status. I am thinking specifically of the unborn, especially unborn children who have disabilities, and people who are feeble with age and injury whose lives we have begun to think of as so burdensome to the rest of us that they should be given the “right” to self-euthanize.

The article, which was published on the German website DW, says in part:

Soon, there will no longer be any living Holocaust survivors. But in Israel, some of their grandchildren are choosing to have themselves tattooed with the concentration camp ID numbers on their grandparents’ arms.
Holocaust survivors are disappearing and, with them, the memory of what they went through.
But some of their children and grandchildren have found a way to preserve the past – by tattooing on their arms the very numbers the Nazis inscribed on their victims. The crude mark that had been a concrete and painful reminder of the Holocaust has turned into a strong symbol of solidarity for some of the survivors’ family members.

Arik Diamant, a 33-year-old from the Israeli city of Herzliya, came up with the idea four years ago to duplicate his late grandfather Yosef Diamant’s Auschwitz identification number on his own arm.

“I went to my father and told him I wanted to tattoo my grandfather’s number,” Diamant told DW. “But I said I would do it after he passed away. My father told me right away that there was no reason to wait and that we could go and ask grandpa right now what he thought about it.”

Diamant didn’t wait. One Friday night, after the weekly dinner he and his family ate with his grandfather, he delicately brought up the idea.

“I told him that if it bothered him at all, I wouldn’t do it. At first, he was really shocked and asked me why I would want to do something like that,” remembered Diamant. “But then he stopped me and said, ‘When you have a grandchild and he asks you what it is, will you tell him about me?'”

Diamant’s story has been worked into a documentary film to be released soon: “Numbers,” produced by Uriel Sinai and Dana Doron.

Ayal Gelles’ arm on the right and his grandfather Avraham Nachshon’s on the left
Ideology of numbers

Diamant is one of a growing number of young Israeli Jews who are deciding to preserve their grandparents’ stories in this way. About three years ago, Ayal Gelles, a 28-year-old from Tel Aviv, tattooed the number of his grandfather, Avraham Nachshon, during a trip to South America. Gelles said he had thought it over for a while – but it was a cow that sealed his decision.

Gelles says that that the same day he got the tattoo he also became a vegan after reading a book by Charles Peterson, who writes that, for animals, every day is like a day in the Treblinka concentration camp. Gelles sees the story of the meat industry as a reflection of the Holocaust: a story of superiority and subordination, of one being above all else. And that triggered him to get the tattoo.(Read more here.)

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Christian Persecution: Israel and the Global War on Christians

American Christians are among Israel’s most stalwart supporters.

Evangelical Christians, in particular, have been unyielding in their demands that America stand by the tiny nation. Their advocacy for Israel has raised the political stakes concerning America’s policy toward Israel in the upcoming election.

Violent persecution of Christians is a growing reality in much of the world. It cuts especially deep when it happens in countries and comes from people that Christians here in America support. There is an innate desire to turn our heads and pretend that it isn’t happening. As a long-time supporter of Israel, I understand the feeling. However, our first allegiance must be to our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.

In a September 7 article Playing politics with the global war on Christians, John Allen discusses just such a conundrum: The violent persecution of Christians in Israel. Members of my parish went on pilgrimage to Israel last year and came back with eyewitness testimony concerning similar stories. It appears that persecution of Christians in Israel is real.

You can write the Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren here. Please do so. If there is one country that should be willing to listen to American Christians it is Israel.

The article says in part:

Playing politics with the global war on Christians

Most people, most of the time, are fundamentally decent. Hence if they knew that there’s a minority facing an epidemic of persecution — a staggering total of 150,000 martyrs every year, meaning 17 deaths every hour — there would almost certainly be a groundswell of moral and political outrage.

There is such a minority in the world today, and it’s Christianity. The fact that there isn’t yet a broad-based movement to fight anti-Christian persecution suggests something is missing in public understanding.

In part, of course, the problem is that unquestionable acts of persecution, such as murder and imprisonment, are sometimes confused with a perceived cultural and legal “war on religion” in the West, a less clear-cut proposition. In part, too, it’s because of the antique prejudice that holds that Christianity is always the oppressor, never the oppressed.

Yet as with most things, politics also has a distorting effect, and a story out of Israel this week makes the point.

On Tuesday, the doors of a Trappist monastery in Latrun, near Jerusalem, were set ablaze, with provocative phrases in Hebrew spray-painted on the exteriors walls, such as “Jesus is a monkey.” The assault was attributed to extremist Jews unhappy with the recent dismantling of two settlements on nearby Palestinian land.

Founded in 1890 by French Trappists, the Latrun monastery is famed for its strict religious observance. Israelis call it minzar ha’shatkanim, meaning “the monastery of those who don’t speak.” Ironically, it’s known for fostering dialogue with Judaism, and welcomes hundreds of Jewish visitors every week.

Tuesday’s attack was not an isolated incident. In 2009, a Franciscan church near the Cenacle on Mount Zion, regarded by tradition as the site of Christ’s Last Supper, was defaced with a spray-painted Star of David and slogans such as “Christians Out!” and “We Killed Jesus!” According to reports, the vandals also urinated on the door and left a trail of urine leading to the church.

Last February, the Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land wrote to Israeli authorities to appeal for better protection after another wave of vandalism struck a Baptist church, a Christian cemetery and a Greek Orthodox monastery. That time, slogans included “Death to Christianity,” “We will crucify you!” and “Mary is a whore.”

At the time, the custodian, Franciscan Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, complained that no arrests had been made in any of these cases. (Read more here.)

 

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