The plight this Christmas of the Christian community in the Palestinian Territories.

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Part of this article was originally published by the Gatestone Institute, and republished with permission by jewishinfoNews on December 24, 2016

Yet another wake-up call!

by Alan Simons

The Palestinian Information Center, so-called “Voice of Palestine to the World and the Voice of the World to Palestine,” as seen in the illustration above, directs its oppugnant Christmas message to the world. One would surmise, at this time of year, an honourable declaration of peace, compassion and goodwill to mankind that encompasses all that is good in Jesus Christ and Mary would be appropriate. Think again! At the time of writing this article, PICs website extends no hand in friendship and not even to its own Christian community in the West Bank and Gaza.

Within the Palestinian Territories the Christian population, comprising of a mere grain of sand compared to the overwhelming number of predominantly Sunni Muslims, only 1,100 Christians live in the Gaza Strip compared to 5,000 in 2006. And in the West Bank only 42,000 Christians remain. One wonders, with some dismay, what is to become of its Christians? Will history repeat itself as in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt?

This morning, Khaled Abu Toameh, who is based in Jerusalem  and is one of the areas most respected journalists, in an article originally published by the Gatestone Institute, and republished below with permission by jewishinfoNews, had something to say about the plight of the Christian community in the Palestinian Territories. Irrespective of your religious faith, I urge you to read it now!

Palestinians: The Nightmare of Christians

  • For the past four decades, Samir Qumsieh, who hails from a large and well-respected Christian family in the town of Bet Sahour, near Bethlehem, has fought for the rights of the region’s minuscule Palestinian Christian minority. He has even dared to speak out against the subjugation of Christians living under the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
  • He regularly receives death threats, and he has been the target of a petrol bomb attack.
  • “The solution to extremism starts with the kindergarten, with elementary school. It begins with the churches, with the mosques and the school curricula. Curricula are very important – Jewish, Christian and Muslim ones. They should concentrate on accepting the ‘other.’ If this idea is adopted, the future generation will be liberal and open-minded.” — Samir Qumsieh.
  • “Every day we hear and see some radical Muslim clerics speaking strongly against Christians. Just recently, one of the sheiks was saying that Christian Copts should be slaughtered like sheep. Where is the Egyptian security? If I were in charge of Egyptian security, I would have this sheikh arrested immediately, and have him rot in a dark underground cell.” — Samir Qumsieh.
  • “To understand the severity of the situation is, let us recall that in the 1950s about 86% of the population of the Bethlehem area was Christian. Today, we are only 12%. In Israel, by contrast, we have 133,000 Christians and the figure is stable. Of course, I am worried about the future of Christians here.” — Samir Qumsieh.
  • “I fear the day will come when our churches will become museums. is my nightmare.” — Samir Qumsieh.

Without question, Samir Qumsieh is one of the most courageous Christian leaders in the Middle East. Qumsieh is one of the few willing to risk his life to speak out against Muslim persecution of Christians in the Palestinian territories and the Middle East, generally.

For the past four decades, Samir Qumsieh, who hails from a large and well-respected Christian family in the town of Bet Sahour, near Bethlehem, has fought for the rights of the region’s miniscule Palestinian Christian minority. He has even dared to speak out against the subjugation of Christians living under the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The plight of the Christians living under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is a subject truly taboo. Yet Qumsieh perseveres – and pays the price. He regularly receives death threats, and he has been the target of a petrol bomb attack. Muslim extremists have also distributed leaflets in the Bethlehem area condemning him for his outspoken views and activities on behalf of persecuted Christians.

Samir Qumsieh.

However, the campaign of intimidation has not deterred Qumsieh from defending them.

In an exclusive interview with Gatestone Institute, the prominent Christian figure, who founded the private Nativity TV Station in Bet Sahour, accuses the Obama Administration of failing to combat ISIS and radical Islam. Qumsieh says he is convinced that President-elect Trump will “terminate” ISIS.

Qumsieh discloses that a “Muslim mafia” has been stealing Christian-owned lands in the Bethlehem area.

As a prominent Palestinian Christian figure in the living in the Middle East, how would you assess the Obama Administration’s role in the war on ISIS?

President Obama is the spiritual father of ISIS. His administration and he were never serious about fighting ISIS. This is what I firmly believe, and many facts confirm my thoughts. When Obama saw that this was about to be exposed, he finally acted, but in a weak manner. He put out a ransom against (ISIS leader) Abu Baker Al-Baghdadi and started telling us that he had bombed ISIS, and so on.

How do you explain Obama’s refusal to use the term radical Islam?

If you ask me, I will tell you the truth: I doubt that Obama is a Christian. Really, I doubt it. During his term, ISIS emerged, and the Christians have suffered heavily. Let me ask you a question. What is ISIS? Why is it that this mobilization of the whole world has not been able to eradicate them? Who can convince me? When America toppled Saddam Hussein, who had a very big and strong army, he collapsed. But when it comes to ISIS, how come they still exist?

Do you believe that President-elect Donald Trump will endorse a different stance toward ISIS?

Absolutely. Trump will obliterate ISIS. Had Hilary Clinton won, believe me ISIS would have continued and flourished. In my view, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the ‘father’ of ISIS, and Clinton is its ‘mother.’

I have a friend who is a painter. He paints portraits of presidents. He is a Muslim, by the way. We sent portraits to King Abdullah, to Mahmoud Abbas and the Pope. He painted a portrait of Obama in front of the Church of Nativity. He worked on it for two months and it cost a lot of money. When the portrait was presented to Obama through the US consul-general in Jerusalem, they did not bother to send a thank you letter to the painter, although I personally talked to the consulate about this. I told them, ‘Gentlemen, this is shameful, at least send a thank-you letter to this man.’ The consul-general at that time came to my office and took the portrait. Doesn’t the painter deserve at least a thank-you letter?

Are you saying that Obama has not done anything to help Christians in the Middle East?

Nothing at all. As I said, I think he was not serious about fighting ISIS, which has harmed the Christians very badly.

In your opinion, what is the best way to fight religious extremism?

I have always said that the solution to extremism is not through the military or security. The solution to extremism starts with the kindergarten, with elementary school. It begins with the churches, with the mosques and the school curricula. Curricula are very important – Jewish, Christian and Muslim ones. They should concentrate on accepting the ‘other.’ If this idea is adopted, the future generation will be liberal and open-minded.

But isn’t the turmoil and violence in the Middle East the result of religious extremism?

The current conflict in the entire region is a religious and sectarian war. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are Sunni. They are against Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Alawite regime of Bashar Assad in Syria. So we are witnessing a religious and sectarian war. This is not only a conflict between Sunnis and Shias.

How do you feel as a Christian when you see what is happening to Christians in the Middle East, especially the recent bombing of a church in Egypt?

What is happening is extremely sad, especially the bombing of a church. I think the Egyptian authorities should act decisively. Every day we hear and see some radical Muslim clerics speaking strongly against Christians. Just recently, one of the sheiks was saying that Christian Copts should be slaughtered like sheep. Where is the Egyptian security? If I was in charge of Egyptian security, I would have this sheikh arrested immediately, and have him rot in a dark underground cell.

Are you aware of Palestinian Muslim clerics who also speak out against Christians?

Yes. This past Friday, one of the sheikhs at a mosque was speaking in a threatening way about Christians. He said that Muslim youths should not imitate Christian youths, and should not wish them well at Christmas. He also said that Muslims should not be doing business with Christians. The sheikh said some highly intimidating things about Christians.

Did the Christians protest against this incitement by the sheikh?

My cousin, who is a retired officer with the Palestinian Authority Intelligence Security Department, published something about the Friday sermon on Facebook. The following day he had to delete the post because it seems he received threats or something like that. When I told my cousin that I will talk with the Palestinian Authority attorney-general about it, he asked me not to talk to anyone. My cousin said, ‘Please don’t talk about this matter because we are 40 Christian families in that area (where the sheikh lives). It is clear to me that my cousin did receive threats, although he would not admit to it.

How would you describe relations between Christians and Muslims in the Bethlehem area?

Objectively speaking, there are millions of Muslims who are good people. I have many close Muslim friends whom I consider as my brothers. The problem is not Muslims. The real problem is radical Islam. In the Quran, there are various kinds of statements, and every Muslim, depending on his belief and attitude, selects what suits him. Some verses call for peace and describe Christians as the ‘People of the Book’ and good people. There are also verses that describe us as infidels and sinful folks. Everyone chooses what appeals to him. According to my humble knowledge, these verses are undated. I think that if they were dated, the fresh ones would supersede the old ones.

My understanding is that you have personally been the target of threats and violent attacks. Can you elaborate?

Yes, I have faced a great deal of harassment, and in 2006 I was even attacked with Molotov cocktails. Also, fliers that spoke against me have been distributed.

What is the main accusation against you? Why are some Muslims angry with you?

When I saw that there was encroachment on Christian-owned land here, I protested against it.

Is it true that Muslims have been illegally laying their hands on Christian property in Bethlehem?

We have a mafia here that is seizing Christian-owned lands. I protested against this Muslim mafia, and I even called a large gathering. I invited 80 people to my home. They included the elite of society – Muslims and Christians. They all joined my protest. That same night, fliers were distributed in Bethlehem threatening to kill me.

What has the Palestinian Authority done to help against you fight this mafia?

There are still many unresolved cases with regards to land encroachment. These cases are in the courts, but our judicial system is very slow. If you go to court, you have to wait 15-20 years. Recently, we have noticed that the encroachments decreased immensely because we have been talking to the Palestinian Authority and pressing them about the problem. Today, there are only a few cases like this taking place. We want all these cases to be solved.

Is there discrimination against Christians living under the Palestinian Authority?

One cannot say that there is official discrimination. President Abbas attends Christmas midnight mass, his prime minister attends the lighting of the Christmas tree. Still, I can simply say that among our people you will find some who harbor radical extremist thoughts. ISIS is a thought. There are Christians working in the Palestinian Authority, but not many. We have Christian mayors, and that is how it should be. Bethlehem, Bet Sahour and Bet Jala have Christian mayors, although some have been demanding that this be changed because Christians are a minority. Fortunately for us, the Palestinian Authority did not respond to these demands.

Do you believe that Christian leaders are doing enough to defend the interests of their people?

Frankly, I do not want the day to come when the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Church of the Nativity are turned into museums. Rather, I wish to seize this opportunity hope that it will encourage our leaders to tackle the problem and find a solution. Any Christian businessman who is interested in the general issue of Christians should come and invest here. We want them to build projects, including housing projects. We are also hoping that these projects will provide jobs for young Christians. The biggest problem we are facing is Christian emigration. Some Christians are helping, but this is being done on a very limited scale. But I cannot say that Christian patriarchates are doing their best. Some of them are far from the congregation and do not even care about us. We want wealthy Christians to come here and create project initiatives. It is not enough to say ‘I love the Christians and I care about them.’ This love should be demonstrated through deeds.

Are you worried about the growing number of Christians who are leaving the West Bank and Gaza Strip?

Once, 5,000 Christians lived in the Gaza Strip. When Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2006, Christians began to be harassed and discriminated against. Today, only 1,100 Christians live there. In the Bethlehem area, there are about 40,000 Christians. Altogether, there are about 42,000 Christians remaining in the West Bank. There are two reasons behind the dwindling figures. The first of these is the ongoing emigration, which is a nightmare for us; the second is the low birth rate among Christian families. To understand the severity of the situation is, let us recall that in the 1950s about 86% of the population of the Bethlehem area was Christian. Today, we are only 12%. In Israel, by contrast, we have 133,000 Christians and the figure is stable. Of course, I am worried about the future of Christians here. Looking at the facts on the ground, you can see that there is no future for the Christians here. We are melting; we are disappearing. I fear the day will come when our churches will become museums. That is my nightmare.

Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist, is based in Jerusalem.

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SEVENTY YEARS LATER -

OVER SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

The Arab/Iranian English Language Press: What they are saying

News in brief from the media

Apology Worse Than The Crime

The Arab Times, Kuwait reports: The Iranian apology to the United Nations Security Council over the attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad is, to say the least, worse than the crime itself. This is because the apology insinuates how the regime of peacocks in Tehran belittles the issues concerning the sovereignty of other countries and its lack of recognition for this sovereignty — a clear testimony to years of aggression against Saudi Arabia and the other GCC countries. Therefore, it is acceptable to fall for this ‘regret’ but the focus should be on the aggression itself. The attacks necessitate stern international position against the regime which does not respect and honor international agreements and pacts. The leaders of Tehran will definitely be hallucinating if they think they can pull the wool over the eyes through a statement which hides in its lines many evil intentions or stop the storm of condemnation and severing relations.

Jordan renews support for Saudi Arabia

The Jordan Times reports: His Majesty King Abdullah on Wednesday reviewed in separate telephone calls with Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz regional developments, according to a Royal Court statement. In the two telephone calls, talks focused on Saturday’s assaults on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran, which the statement described as “a blatant violation of international conventions”. His Majesty renewed Jordan’s full support for Saudi Arabia in its efforts to combat terrorism and extremism and to protect its security and stability. His Majesty strongly condemned the attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran, the statement said. For their part, the Saudi monarch and deputy crown prince thanked Jordan for its stand and support, the Royal Court added. 

Djibouti cuts ties with Iran after attacks on Saudi missions

The Daily Star, Lebanon reports: Djibouti cut diplomatic relations with Iran on Wednesday, its foreign minister said, in response to the storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran by Iranian protesters. The tiny Horn of Africa nation, which is home to the United States’ only military base on the African continent, joins Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Sudan in entirely severing relations with Iran. “Djibouti cut its diplomatic ties with Iran out of solidarity with Saudi Arabia,” Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf told Reuters in a text message.

Palestinian Authority adrift after a long unrest

The Oman Observer reports: Three months into a wave of violence some have likened to a new uprising, the Palestinian Authority has found itself adrift and increasingly out of touch with frustrated youths behind the unrest, analysts say. There is even speculation of an eventual collapse of the PA, the governing authority set up under the 1990s Oslo accords that were meant to lead to a final peace deal. “Young people see no political horizon and suffer from economic crisis and unemployment,” with nearly half jobless compared with more than 27 per cent of the overall population, said Ghassan Khatib, vice-president of Birzeit University near Ramallah and a former Palestinian cabinet minister. Young Palestinians see little hope of an independent state more than two decades after the Oslo accords — and many do not feel president Mahmoud Abbas represents their concerns. They have come of age as Israeli settlement building has continued and with their own political leadership deeply fractured. In a recent poll, two-thirds of Palestinians said they believed a new armed intifada would serve “national interests” better than negotiations. Security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel has at the same time been maintained, an arrangement some analysts say is vital for Abbas to keep hardliners who oppose him in check. Palestinian elections have not been held in a decade due to the bitter split between Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and Abbas’s Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank. Abbas’s mandate expired in 2009 but he remains in office because there have been no polls. The Palestinian parliament last met in 2007, following a general election the previous year won by Hamas. “The leaders are incapable of satisfying their (young Palestinians’) political and economic demands,” said Khatib.

Abbas denies concern of PA collapse

Gulf Times, Qatar reports: Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas dismissed yesterday weeks of rumours that the Palestinian Authority could collapse, saying he would “never give up” on it.
Abbas, 80, was speaking publicly for the first time since rumours surfaced last week that he was in poor health, which the PA has categorically denied. He did not discuss the matter and appeared well. He also spoke as three months of violent attacks by frustrated Palestinian youths on Israeli targets have made the PA and its leadership appear increasingly out of touch. The PA, the governing authority set up under the 1993 Oslo peace accords with Israel, has faced funding shortages, and its ongoing security co-operation with the Jewish state has been heavily criticised. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing a contingency plan in the event of the PA’s collapse, according Israeli media reports. “I have heard a lot of talk in the past few days about the Authority, the destruction of the Authority, the collapse of the Authority,” Abbas said. “The Authority is an achievement of ours that we will never give up.” “Don’t dream of its collapsing, don’t even dream,” he told a press conference during a lunch during a lunch to mark Christmas, which some Orthodox churches celebrate today.

Egyptian ambassador returns to Israel after 3-year hiatus

Arab News, Saudi Arabia reports: Israel says Egypt has sent a new ambassador after a three-year hiatus. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday that the ambassador, Hazem Hairat, arrived on Friday. Israel and Egypt signed a historic peace accord in 1979, but relations have often been cool. Egypt withdrew its ambassador in November 2012 to protest an Israeli offensive against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. At the time, Egypt was led by Islamist President Muhammad Mursi. Since Mursi was ousted by the military in 2013, relations have steadily improved. In September, Israel reopened its embassy in Cairo, four years after it was ransacked by a crowd protesting the deaths of five Egyptian policemen killed unintentionally by Israeli forces chasing a group of Gaza militants.

Turkey diversifies allies with first Mideast military base in Qatar

Al-Arabiya , UAE reports: In view of rising regional threats, Turkey seems to be diversifying its potential allies, especially on the military and energy fronts. According to a decision announced Wednesday by Turkey’s ambassador to Qatar, Ankara will have its first Middle East military base in Qatar, with 3,000 troops to be stationed in the country. The base will be supported by air and naval units, special forces and military trainers. Joint training exercises will be held at the base, and Qatar will be able to set up its own base in Turkey. Qatar is home to the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East, where about 10,000 military personnel are placed. Currently, 100 Turkish troops are providing the Qatari army with military training. This move is in line with a bilateral defense agreement – signed in 2014 and ratified by the Turkish parliament in June – with the aim of confronting “common enemies.”… The regional policies of the two countries coincide with their support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, while they also support efforts to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They oppose Iran’s growing regional influence, and Russia’s intervention in Syria.

Hezbollah proxy ties with Iran divulged

Bahrain News Agency reports: Lebanese parliamentary Future Bloc today deplored the recent statements by a number of Hezbollah officials, considering the remarks as flagrant unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It said that these statements clearly revealed the relationship of Hezbollah with Iran and Iranian regional policies based on domination and interference in the internal affairs of the Arab countries.
This came in a statement after the bloc’s weekly meeting on Tuesday, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

Turkey needs Israel: Erdogan

Egypt Independent reports: Turkey must accept that it needs Israel, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday, as the two countries seek to thrash out a deal on normalizing ties. NATO member Turkey was a key regional ally of Israel until the two countries fell out over the deadly storming by Israeli commandos in 2010 of a Turkish aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, bound for Gaza. Erdogan further raised hackles in Israel with his sometimes inflammatory rhetoric towards the Jewish State. But the atmosphere was transformed following the revelation last month the two sides were making progress in secret talks to seek a rapprochement. “Israel is in need of a country like Turkey in the region,” Erdogan said in remarks to Turkish reporters published in leading dailies Saturday. “And we too must accept that we need Israel. This is a reality in the region,” said Erdogan. “If mutual steps are implemented based on sincerity, then normalization will follow.”

Syrian Dissident: Execution of Saudi Cleric Plotted in Tel Aviv

Fars News Agency, Iran reports: A prominent Syrian dissident leader says Israel has persuaded the Riyadh government to kill prominent Saudi Muslim cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr. “It is clear that the Saudis had taken order from their masters in Tel Aviv and the US to commit the crime of executing Sheikh Nimr; therefore, it is not surprising to say that the decision to execute Sheikh Nimr was taken in Tel Aviv and confirmed in Washington,” Secretary-General of al-Talia opposition party Noufal Noufal told FNA on Wednesday. He said that the al-Saud has always been a tool in the US hands to implement its plots in the region. Noting that the al-Saud and ISIL are two sides of the same coin which seek to foment sectarian strife in the region, Noufal said, “Saudi Arabia executed Sheikh Nimr to provoke Iran into sectarian tensions in the region but Iran sees no place for sectarian conflicts in its equations and assumes it to be an undignified move.”

747 children killed, 724 recruited in Yemen conflict, UN

Yemen Post reports: Some 747 children have been killed, 1.108 others injured and another 179 kidnapped since the conflict escalated in late March following the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, UNICEF said on Thursday.  Moreover, 724 children have been recruited by parties to the conflict in 2015, it said, pointing out that around 60 schools and 60 hospitals have been attacked, it said. In previous statement, lit revealed that ongoing bombing and increased ground fighting has forced 2 million children to stop going to school and 6 million children at risk of deadly diseases like diarrhea, measles and Polio. There is 1.3 million children at risk of pneumonia and 1.8 at risk of suffering from acute malnutrition, it added. Moreover, half of the internally displaced people, around 2.5 million, are below the age of 18, it said, pointing out that 10 million of the total of 21 million requiring humanitarian aid are children.  

And finally from the Arab News, Saudi Arabia.

Matrimonial 1: 

Indian Sunni Muslim parents invites alliance for their (Saudi born) son, 30 yrs, 5’11”, B.Tech, M.S.(USA), working in US(Green card); From religious minded fair , beautiful girl, age 22-27 yrs, height 5’3” and above, and professionally educated. Only seriously interested call at: 0565…

Matrimonial 2:

SM Urdu speaking parents from West Bengal presently residing at Jeddah invite alliance for their daughter, 26 yrs., 5’3”, beautiful, religious, brought up in KSA presently pursuing B.Sc (Psychology) from IOU. Groom should be smart, well settled and professionally qualified. Interested Indian parents please call at: 0501…

Matrimonial 3:

Sunni Muslim parents from HYD origin, Canadian Citizen, invite alliance for their son, 29 yrs., 5’10”, Diplomas in Avionics/Aircraft Maintenance, working at Toronto Pearson Intl. Airport in Canada as ramp agent. Girl to be above 24 yrs, 5’4”, fair. Kindly contact us at: hyd

(Photo credit: Freedom Messenger) 

* * *

SEVENTY YEARS LATER -

SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

Thank God there’s an Israel!

بفضل الله، هناك إسرائيل

ہم اسرائیل کے پاس خدا کا شکر ہے

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Weekend News Round-up

What They Are Saying

UAE publishes list of terrorist organisations

Gulf News, UAE reports: The UAE Cabinet on Saturday announced the names of dozens of extremist groups that have been put on its list of terrorist organisations.  The list, which is in line with the anti-terror law issued by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan in August, includes major terror groups such as Al Qaida, Daesh and the Muslim Brotherhood, and its regional and local affiliates, as well as smaller regional and international groups…  Among the terror groups on the UAE list are Al Qaida and its affiliates in the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa, Daesh (the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), the International Organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Syrian-based Jabhat Al Nusra and its Ahrar Al Sham allies, the Nigerian-based Boko Haram, Al Houthis group in Yemen, Hezbollah’s affiliates in the Gulf, Iraqi militias such as Badr, Asaaeb Al Haq, Abul Fadhl Al Abbas, Pakistan Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. 

ISIS now threatens to behead female hostage

IsraelNews reports: To increase shock and awe. The Islamic State claims its next victim is a 26 year-old American woman, the only woman captivated by the organization. The American woman was captivated by IS in August 2013, after travelling to Syria to aid children who had been separated from their families in the civil war. The rest of the humanitarian aid workers who had been with her were reportedly released by IS.

ISIS will not find reservoir of recruits in Lebanon: expert

The Daily Star, Lebanon reports: Although a number of Lebanese have joined the ranks of ISIS, the terrorist group will not find a deep reservoir of recruits in Lebanon, according to leading security expert Ali Soufan. Soufan, a Lebanese-American who was previously a special agent with the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations, says Lebanon does not provide a “nurturing environment” for those seeking to wage violent jihad with groups like ISIS or Al-Qaeda. The majority of the foreign fighters in Syria hail from predominantly Sunni countries with relative religious homogeneity, Soufan explained. Lebanon, however, is more of a confessional patchwork where an appreciable percent of the population supports dialogue and peaceful coexistence.

Infighting mars memorial

Al-Ahram Weekly, Egypt reports: Mutual recriminations and threats between Fatah and Hamas following the explosions that targeted the homes of several Fatah leaders in Gaza and led to the cancellation of ceremonies to commemorate President Yasser Arafat have revived fears of a return to factional violence in Gaza.  A renewed security breakdown would jeopardise many crucial issues, including Palestinian reconciliation, the reconstruction of Gaza and the resumption of Egyptian-brokered ceasefire negotiations with the Israeli occupation authorities. The bombings, for which no one has yet claimed responsibility, targeted the stage for the ceremonies commemorating the tenth anniversary of the death of Arafat as well as the properties of some Fatah leaders. Fatah officially cancelled the ceremonies on Sunday and blamed Hamas for the bombings and for sending threatening letters to a number of Fatah leaders. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday accused Hamas of carrying out the bombings.

Afghan MP survives assassination bid

Gulf Daily News, Bahrain reports: A suicide bomber attacked an armoured car carrying a prominent Afghan women’s rights leader and MP in Kabul yesterday, killing three people and wounding 32 others, Afghan officials said. The MP who was apparently the target of the attack, Shukria Barakzai, survived the blast, which occurred several hundred feet away from the parliament building, her destination at the time. Barakzai, 42, had once helped run underground schools for girls during the Taliban era. She quickly emerged as a public figure in Afghanistan not long after the American-led coalition toppled the Taliban government. A member of the assembly that approved Afghanistan’s Constitution in early 2004, she was elected to parliament the following year and re-elected in 2010.

Tehran’s former prosecutor disbarred over protest deaths

Arab News, Saudi Arabia reports: Iran’s supreme court has permanently disbarred Tehran’s ex-chief prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, upholding a previous ruling, over the deaths of three jailed anti-government protesters, media said Sunday. Mortazavi was also suspended from public office for five years, the pro-government newspaper Iran said. The notorious former prosecutor was suspended in August 2010 over the deaths of Mohammad Kamrani, Amir Javadifar and Mohsen Ruholamini in Kahrizak jail the previous summer. The men had been jailed in connection with anti-government protests that swept Iran following the disputed June 2009 re-election of hard-line president Mahmud Ahmadinejad. Their deaths, from injuries inflicted in custody, were denounced by lawmakers at the time as a “crime.”

 Turkish police chief found dead in hotel room

Today’s Zaman, Turkey reports:  A police chief in eastern Turkish province of Bayburt was found dead in an hotel room on Friday, with cuts on his arms and stomach. Turkish security services immediately launched an investigation to figure out how and why the police chief, Ömer Lütfi Evci, 42, was murdered or if he committed a suicide. The body of Evci was found in the hotel room in Zahit neighbourhood, when police broke into the room after the police chief didn’t respond to calls by his colleagues for a long time. The police chief was on duty at Bayburt Police Academy.

 Greece’s Neo-Nazis Were Scarier Than Anyone Imagined

Foreign Policy, USA reports:  In the prosecutors’ 697-page case file, he is known only as Witness E — a Golden Dawn ex-member turned state informant. And what he has to share about the neo-Nazi political party — its ideology, its training methods, and its plans for the future — is terrifying.  Golden Dawn recruited a butcher to train its members in the art of using a knife effectively, in order to “neutralize opponents,” Witness E told prosecutors. Party members participated in the mass slaughter of sheep in various farms around the Attica region, which encompasses Athens and its suburbs, to learn the best technique for “striking directly at the jugular.” He’d heard, Witness E said, that the same butcher supplied guns to Golden Dawn members, as well. Other evidence prosecutors uncovered seems to back up his claim: The case file is littered with photos of members in military clothing carrying knives, swords, handguns, rifles, and, in one case, even a bazooka.  All this training was “in preparation to overthrow the Greek government,” Witness E suggested to prosecutors — a jarring reminder of how little the Greek public truly understood the operational capabilities of Golden Dawn, or what the party even aimed to be.

 Erdoğan says America was discovered by Muslims, not Columbus

The Hürriyet Daily News,Turkey reports: America was discovered by Muslims, not by Christopher Columbus, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has claimed, vowing to build a mosque “on that hill” in Cuba if the authorities of the Caribbean nation grant the permit.  Speaking at the closing ceremony of the first Latin American Muslim leaders summit in Istanbul on Nov. 15, Erdoğan slammed colonialism before referring to a controversial claim about the discovery of the Americas. “Muslim sailors had arrived in the shores of America in 1178. In his diaries, Christopher Columbus referred to the presence of a mosque on top of a mountain in Cuba,” Erdoğan said, claiming the diary is a proof that “the religion of Islam was widespread” when the first European explorer discovered the New World in 1492.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard showcases ballistic capabilities to “attack and destroy” Israel

Asharq Al-Awsat, London reports: Iranian websites close to the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have run special feature reports and interviews relating to Iran’s capability to “attack and destroy” Israel using ballistic missiles, the semi-state-run Fars and Tasnim news agencies reported on Saturday.  A special feature report published by Fars on three missiles—named Israel-hitter—stated the missiles could be launched quickly from Iranian territory to reach targets in Israel, and explained the extensive infrastructure that has been built underground to house them. A Tehran-based analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat that publishing such “provocative” reports just two weeks before the November 24 deadline for reaching a comprehensive agreement with Western powers on Iran’s nuclear program was an intentional move by more conservative elements in the Iranian leadership, and designed to derail President’s Hassan Rouhani’s reconciliatory foreign policy approach to close the nuclear dossier.

Saudi school ‘teaching anti-Semitism’

The Local, Austria reports: Vienna’s Saudi School – a private school for Islamic immigrants from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East – is under review by the city council after allegations that it is teaching conspiracy theories and anti-Semitism. A reporter from News magazine got hold of a copy of a school history textbook which is said to contain “a smorgasbord of conspiracy theories and incitement against Jews, Israelis and divergent trends in Islam”. News commissioned a translation of the book from Arabic – which has sentences like “the Freemasons were a secret, subversive Jewish organization, which aimed to secure Jewish control of the world”.  The school has now been asked to provide certified German translations of all its teaching materials by the end of the year. The Saudi School is run by the Saudi government and is not a religious institution. All lessons are taught in Arabic and follow the Saudi curriculum. However, the school must still comply with statutes set by the Austrian Education Ministry, and anti-Semitism and incitement is against Austrian law. The ministry could withdraw the school’s educational status if it identifies serious teaching problems or a lack of responsible leadership – meaning the students would have to be home schooled or attend another school.

Orthodox Jew stabbed in Antwerp

Flanders News, Belgium reports: A 31-year-old Jew from Antwerp was attacked on Saturday. His assailant stabbed him with a knife, apparently out of the blue. The victim was taken to hospital, but was able to return home later on Saturday. The aggressor is still on the run. The attack took place around 9.15am under the rail bridge in the Kievitstraat, near Antwerp’s Central Station. The victim was walking on the pavement when he was suddenly attacked by another pedestrian. The assailant managed to escape. Police arrested a suspect using a description made by witnesses, but it turned out they had the wrong man. The assailant is still on the run. Investigators do not exclude any possible motive just yet. 

Indonesia. No Religion on ID Cards, no Public Services

Jakarta Globe, Indonesia reports: Residents of Pontianak in West Kalimantan who do not list their religion on identification cards will not be allowed to access public services, the city’s deputy mayor has said. In comments that are likely to inflame debate about religious freedom and the rights of minority groups, Sutarmidji said he would instruct the region’s population agency and sub-district offices not to serve people who fail to put their religion on ID cards, known as KTP. He said the religion column on the cards should not be omitted as it was required under current law. “If you want to add another religion or belief you should first amend the law that stipulates it,” he told detik.com. Indonesia formally recognizes only six religious designations: Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant, Confucian, Hindu and Muslim. Adherents are required to identify themselves on their KTP.

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