Friday, January 29, 2016

Hillary Decides What’s Top Secret, What’s Not - Jonathan F. Keiler

by Jonathan F. Keiler

If Hillary does it, it's right

Hillary Clinton and her campaign minions are trying mightily to dismiss the conclusions of the intelligence community inspector general that highly classified Special Access Protocol (SAP) documents were transferred to Clinton’s unsecured private server. The first line of Clinton’s defense is (as usual) that the allegations are 1) nothing new and 2) politically motivated. But beyond this usual rote Clintonian response is the additional claim that the documents were also 1) not so classified when Clinton received them and 2) even if they were classified documents the information they contained was public knowledge anyway, so no harm, no foul. 

As to Clinton’s first line of defense, what can one say? You support Hillary and accept her mendacious paranoia as part of the package, or you don’t. That Charles McCollough (the IG) is an Obama appointee confirmed by a Democrat Senate, thus making the charge of that his actions are political even more absurd than usual, matters not to Clintonistas for whom truth and logic are inconveniences. 

The first part of Clinton’s second line of defense is of the bend but don’t break variety. Hillary first denied that any classified documents were sent or received over her server. When that proved patently false, she fell back and claimed that such documents were not so marked at the time, so how could she know? That this is not a legal defense under the applicable statutes doesn’t matter to the Clinton gang, it sounds okay, so go with it. At least one email reveals that Hillary instructed an aide to delete classified markings on a document and send it on an unsecure machine. But hey, when Hillary actually received it was not marked classified, so she was not lying about that, only breaking the law, and that’s just something that Clintons, from time to time, do.     

And finally we get to the real interesting part, the last line of Clinton’s defense, that even if the documents were classified at the highest level, it was all a mistake.  The information in the documents -- reportedly about the American drone strike program -- was public knowledge anyway, so whoever classified the documents didn’t know what they were doing. 

Now let’s take this position to its logical conclusion, which if applied across the board in the intelligence community or the military, anybody handling a sensitive document could determine on their own whether the document should be classified or not. “Oh sure” an Air Force officer might say “I posted a schematic of a new radar for the F-35 on my personal blog, but I hear the Chinese already have it anyway, so it’s really not classified. Please take off the handcuffs.”  

An apologia for Clinton’s actions on Media Matters citing various anonymous “government officials” basically attempts to explain why the SAP classified material was not really classified at all, and so nothing to get excited about. Since the drone strike program was already widely reported in the media, including the New York Times (as Mrs. Clinton pointed out the other day on NPR) how could documents relating to that possibly be secret? 

Well in fact, there are several reasons that the documents may have been highly classified regardless of the actual information contained within them. The first and most important is sources and methods. Many years ago I worked as an Intelligence Clerk in what was then called the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (BIR), Department of Soviet Internal Affairs. My job was basically to go through thousands of intelligence cables that came into the office every day, and pick out the few that were relevant to my department’s mission, to discern what was happening in the top echelons of the Soviet government. I looked at a lot of classified stuff, and ended up rejecting and burning about 90% of it. Almost all of the information in those thousands of classified documents was quite mundane. Often stuff you might read in the newspapers -- and in fact newspapers from the Soviet Union and elsewhere were a part of my daily intel trove. The reason why the documents were classified usually had to do with where they came from and how we got them, not what the documents said. Divulging that information could not only endanger sources but lives, and so is quite serious business.

Now the Media Matters article says that at least one of the two documents that were SAP marked did not come from confidential sources or methods, while the other -- well they can’t say so they just sort of mumble that part away. If even one of those documents came from a secure source or method, that is quite consequential, for most people handcuff time. 

But let’s assume that neither document originated with confidential sources or methods. Why might the intelligence community still highly classify the documents when the information contained in them about U.S. drone strikes was “public knowledge?” Well, because the U.S. still does not officially acknowledge the drone program, and an official document that does is by its very nature secret. Now Hillary or her supporters might think it is ridiculous that President Obama does not wish to publicly acknowledge this program, but that is really not their decision to make, is it? Hillary worked directly for the president, and if he and his national security team deemed that having some level of deniability for the drone program was important, even if reporters for the New York Times had already figured out that American drones were killing bad guys, then on what authority does Hillary ignore that?

Did Hillary go to the president first and say “Hey Barack, why are we denying this drone program when everybody knows you have a disposition matrix and knock these guys off once in awhile? Let’s declassify the whole thing.” That would have been okay, and then the president could have said yes or no. But Hillary didn’t do that, so far as we know. She and her aides just decided -- after the fact -- that this stuff was not worthy of classification so passing it around on an unsecured private email account was perfectly acceptable. 

Now way back when I was at BIR we might have gotten an embassy cable that said something like “Brezhnev and Andropov disagree over Soviet policy in Poland.” That might have been something that a prominent reporter (like the late Joseph Kraft who sometimes quietly stopped by the office to chat with my boss) might have already known. But were he to see the classified cable because I had carelessly left it out on a desk, even assuming that the source and method was benign, he would know that this was something that concerned U.S. diplomats which if reported would be known to the Soviets. And while that might not have been disastrous, it would not be something we’d wish to share. Not to mention I would have been fired and likely sent to jail. Like Hillary should be.   

Jonathan F. Keiler


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

New campaign targets 'foreign agents in culture' - Gil Ronen

by Gil Ronen

Im Tirtzu movement lists funds, directors, actors, playwrights who are part of the New Israel Fund.

Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg
Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg
Yoni Kempinski
A new campaign by grassroots Zionist movement Im Tirtzu targets "foreign agents" in the Israeli cultural scene, in response to the firestorm around Culture Minister Miri Regev's intention to make government funding for cultural endeavors conditional on loyalty to the state.

"Our cultural world is controlled by many foreign agents of the New Israel Fund (NIF) and its organizations," the group explained.
It went on to say:
"Numerous cultural councils, film funds, directors, actors, scriptwriters, playwrights and other 'people of letters' behave like a political junta, which does all it can to preserve its power and influence," the organization said.
"Whenever elected officials try to carry out the duty that the people tasked them with, in the most democratic and legitimate fashion, we encounter a campaign of vilification by the 'people of culture.'
"One day it is [writer] Amos Oz, another day it is [actress] Gila Almagor or [writer] David Grossman.  In the current round against the Culture Minister, it is [playwright] Yehoshua Sobol who stands at the forefront.
"The problem is that the same people neglect to mention the fact that they are members in organizations that are foreign implants, which are funded by foreign governments and the New Israel Fund.
"Sobol is a member of Yesh Din's board. Oz, Grossman, and [writer] A.B. Yehoshua are members of B'Tselem's board. [Musician] Sha'anan Street is a member of the board of the New Israel Fund, a US corporation."
"Since the public has the right to know these details, we will publish dozens of names of 'people of letters' who are members in various 'implanted' organizations, in the coming days. We will not allow 'implanted' groups to deceive the public," vowed Im Tirtzu.

It went on to list the names of dozens of artists who took part in activities on behalf of highly controversial organizations lie Breaking the Silence, and who sit on the boards of the NIF and its organizations.

In mid-December, Im Tirtzu released a powerful short video to accompany the shocking report it compiled, which examines 20 Israeli NGOs that receive foreign funding and are actively involved in anti-Israel activity. The campaign was followed by hidden camera revelations about the nefarious activities of Ta'ayush and B'Tselem, which were exposed by a group called Ad Kan. Together, the campaigns seem to have the far left reeling and it appears Im Tirtzu seeks to keep up the pressure.

Gil Ronen


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Iran Shows the U.S. Who’s in Charge - Robert Spencer

by Robert Spencer

John Kerry’s “safer world” grows more perilous by the day.

When the U.N. certified that the Iranians were in compliance with the nuclear agreement and sanctions were removed in mid-January, John Kerry proclaimed, “The world is safer today.” That was on January 18. On January 27, Iran warned the U.S. that a Navy vessel and fighter jet had gotten too close to an Iranian military drill, and told the Americans to back off. It was just the latest of numerous indications that in John Kerry’s safer world, Iran is in charge.

This warning followed a tweet last Sunday from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, featuring a photo of the American sailors that Iran captured and briefly held hostage earlier in January. The sailors were kneeling with their hands behind their heads. Khamenei added other photos of himself smiling with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) forces that captured the Americans along with a text congratulating them.

Khamenei tweeted his words to the IRGC: “What you did was very great, interesting and timely and it was in fact God’s deed that took Americans to our waters so that through your timely job they raised their hands over their heads and were arrested.”

One might almost get the impression that Khamenei thinks Iran is embroiled in a war. The head of Iran’s armed forces, Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, gave the same impression when he declared: “This incident in the Persian Gulf, which probably will not be the American forces’ last mistake in the region, should be a lesson to troublemakers in the U.S. Congress.”

The new Boss of the region would certainly let the U.S. know when it made more “mistakes.” The Iranians claimed that the American sailors were weak: Hossein Salami, the deputy commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), crowed:
“American sailors started crying after arrest, but the kindness of our Guard made them feel calm.” He boasted that “since the end of the Second World War, no country has been able to arrest American military personnel” – until now.
IRGC commander Ahmad Dolabi added: “I saw the weakness, cowardice, and fear of American soldiers myself. Despite having all of the weapons and equipment, they surrendered themselves with the first action of the guardians of Islam. American forces receive the best training and have the most advanced weapons in the world, but they did not have the power to confront the Guard due to weakness of faith and belief.”

This crowing over America’s alleged weakness comes after numerous statements by Iranian leaders saying they wanted to confront the U.S. militarily, and that such a confrontation was inevitable. On February 11, 2014, the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said:

The Defense Ministry is working to ensure that the Iranian people are armed and ready to confront any enemy threat. Yesterday’s successful test of Iranian-made ballistic missiles was also a crushing response to the nonsense of the American officials who frequently threaten Iran. It is a clear answer to their military option.
The Defense Ministry and the Iranian nation are always ready, and Iran will welcome it if the Americans again put themselves to the test and face the consequences. The Americans will again be defeated, just as they were in the Iran-Iraq war. If they implement their nonsense, the Iranian nation will hand them a crushing defeat.

Firouzabadi once boasted: “Iran is prepared for the decisive war against the U.S. and the Zionist regime.…Iran has been making plans, conducting maneuvers, and preparing its forces for this battle for years now.”

And in May 2014, senior Iranian commander Massoud Jazayeri warned that if the U.S. attacked Iran, not only would the result be “the annihilation of the Israeli regime,” but war in the U.S. itself: “[The Americans] know that aggression against the Islamic Republic of Iran would mean annihilation of Tel Aviv and spread of war into the United States.” Fadavi added: “Today the Americans and the entire world know that one of our operational goals is destroying U.S. Navy Forces.”

In May 2015, Salami, said forthrightly that Iran wanted war with the United States: “We have prepared ourselves for the most dangerous scenarios and this is no big deal and is simple to digest for U.S.; we welcome war with the U.S. as we do believe that it will be the scene for our success to display the real potentials of our power.”

The lieutenant commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Navy General Alireza Tangsiri, was even more bellicose in October 2015, issuing this warning to the United States: “I declare now that if the enemy wants to spark a war against Iran, we will chase them even to the Gulf of Mexico and we will do it.”

This war would involve jihad-martyrdom suicide attacks. Said Tangsiri: “[The Americans] have tested us once and if necessary, there are people who will blow up themselves with ammunitions to destroy the U.S. warships.”

The disastrous Obama/Kerry nuke deal clearly has only encouraged the Iranians to consider the Americans weak and ripe for the taking. After the deal and what it revealed about the muddle-headedness and impotence of American leadership, the Iranians clearly knows who’s in charge, and they’re taking full advantage.

Robert Spencer


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Investigation Reveals Hizballah Directed Palestinian Cell to Kill Israelis - IPT News

by IPT News

The Lebanese terrorist organization is trying to set up operations and recruit Palestinians in the West Bank to launch attacks against Israelis.

Despite being bogged down in the Syrian Civil War, Hizballah continues to focus on expanding its terrorist infrastructure to multiple fronts in an effort to target Israel. Hizballah's entrenchment in the Golan Heights – at Iran's behest – has been well documented. Now, the Lebanese terrorist organization is trying to set up operations and recruit Palestinians in the West Bank to launch attacks against Israelis.

Last week, Israeli security authorities foiled a Palestinian terrorist cell planning a suicide bombing and shooting attack under Hizballah's command. Five Palestinian men, none of whom belonged to the terrorist organization, were arrested. The terrorists were also threw Molotov cocktails at Israeli forces in violent riots during the past year.

According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, the operatives confessed that Hizballah's Unit 133 directed the operation and that Jawad Nasrallah, son of Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah recruited the cell's leader, Muhammad Zaghloul.

Jawad Nasrallah asked Zaghloul to recruit terrorists into a cell and scout potential targets for attack. Through encrypted email exchanges with a Hizballah handler, Zaghloul received instructions for conducting suicide-bombing attacks and he even offered a plan to kill an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer. Zaghloul admitted that the cell conducted surveillance of the officer and requested $30,000 to purchase arms to kill him.

The operatives received $5,000 from Hizballah, which covered the purchase of a sub-machine gun and magazine. The plot to shoot Israeli soldiers was likely in its execution phase since the two terrorists were arrested in possession of the firearm.

Unit 133 is a Hizballah division devoted to creating terrorist networks among Palestinians, but has failed to secure a major presence in the West Bank. Nevertheless, it is likely Hizballah will continue to seek making inroads in the Palestinian territory and recruit terrorists to attack Israelis.

Acting on Iranian orders, Hizballah was able to direct and coordinate dozens of Palestinian terrorist cells during the second Intifada. From 2002 to 2007, Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hizballah directed and coordinated dozens of Palestinian terrorist networks, mostly cells that were part of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Throughout the 1990s and beginning of 2000s, Hizballah sent Lebanese operatives with foreign passports to Israel via Europe in order to support Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups devoted to sabotaging the Oslo Peace Process and damage the Palestinian Authority.

Similar to Hamas' recent attempts, Hizballah is trying to escalate the ongoing wave of Palestinian violence into a full-blown violent uprising by introducing an organized terrorist dimension to a phenomenon that has been largely characterized by individual initiatives.

IPT News


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

US requires Judea-Samaria goods to be labeled - Ari Yashar

by Ari Yashar

Mail from US Customs reveals products from Judea and Samaria are not to be labeled as being from 'Israel,' on pain of sanctions.

A mail from the Cargo Systems Messaging Service of the US Customs and Border Protection dated to this Saturday, and revealed by Channel 1's "Mabat" show on Thursday, shows the US is now required products from Judea and Samaria to be labeled differently.

In new instructions on marking requirements sent out to American importers, goods from Judea and Samaria are not to be marked "Israel." Those who do not comply are to be sanctioned.

"West Bank Country of Origin Marking Requirements," reads the title of the mail, which begins by clarifying that "the purpose of this message is to provide guidance to the trade community regarding the country of origin marking requirements for goods that are manufactured in the West Bank."

"Goods produced in the West Bank or Gaza Strip shall be marked as originating from 'West Bank,' 'Gaza,' 'Gaza Strip,' 'West Bank/Gaza,' 'West Bank/Gaza Strip,' 'West Bank and Gaza,' or 'West Bank and Gaza Strip.'"

"It is not acceptable to mark the aforementioned goods with the words 'Israel,' 'Made in Israel,' 'Occupied Territories-Israel,' or any variation thereof," warned the mail. It threatened that such goods that are marked as products of Israel "will be subject to an enforcement action carried out by U.S. Customs and Border Protection."

The instructions were published on Saturday, apparently due to complaints by Palestinian Arabs and leftist organizations in the US, who claimed there is no enforcement of the 1995 American law on marking goods from the region.

The US State Department confirmed the details of the mail, and explained that the labeling does not distinguish between Jewish and Arab goods from the region, instead simply defining the entire area as not part of "Israel."

The Obama administration gave support to the EU decision last November to label Jewish products from Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights. In December the EU double-standard in the move was put on display as a top European court struck down a trade deal with Morocco in the occupied Western Sahara, and the EU responded by petitioning the ruling.

Legal experts revealed the ruling undermines the EU's claims that its labeling of Israel and taking other punitive actions are due to a principle of "non-recognition," since the court decision shows that it can and does do business with "occupiers."

Last Tuesday US State Department spokesperson John Kirby indicated the Obama administration also supports the EU's controversial resolution from the day before, according to which EU agreements with Israel no longer apply over the 1949 Armistice lines.
Regarding the legal status of Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria, and consequentially of products from the region and agreements in it, the 2012 Levy Report proved that Israel's presence is legal according to international law.

However, despite being commissioned by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, two consecutive coalition governments led by him have yet to adopt the findings of the report.

Ari Yashar


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

In Syria, Locals Take the Fight Back to Islamic State - Jonathan Spyer

by Jonathan Spyer

196 villages have been liberated by Syrian Kurdish forces in the past year.

Excerpt of an article originally published under the title "Striking a Winning Formula as Locals Take the Fight Back to Islamic State."

In late December, I travelled to northern Syria to take a closer look at how things were working out. Is Islamic State being contained and eroded? And if it is, who are the forces on the ground that are achieving this?

Kobane is a good place to start. This once anonymous Kurdish town on the Syrian-Turkish border was the subject in 2014 of Islamic State's predatory intentions. The jihadists wanted to remove the logistical irritation of a Kurdish enclave poking into their domain. Abu Omar al-Shishani, the most feared of the Islamic State commanders, declared that he would "drink tea in Ayn al-Islam" (the name Islamic State gave the town). He came close to achieving his objective.

By October 2014, the nearly surrounded Kurdish forces were preparing for a last stand. The fighters of the YPG (the People's Protection Units of the de facto Kurdish ­autonomous region in northern Syria) were determined, but outgunned.

Then something changed. The intervention of US power, partnering with the lightly armed but determined Kurds, turned the tide and proved the formula for success against Islamic State. More than 2000 jihadists died inside the ruins of Kobane, under the relentless US air attacks and the determined assaults of the YPG. In January, the group abandoned the attack. Kobane had survived.

Western air power is partnering with local ground forces across a broad front stretching from the Syrian-Turkish border to Iraq.
This formula for success — Western air power in partnership with carefully selected and directed local ground partners — is now being applied across a broad front stretching from Jarabulus on Syria's Turkish border all the way to deep inside Iraq.

Kobane today bears fearful testimony to the awesome destructive capacity of modern war. There is hardly a building that is not damaged. Roads are ploughed up. Craters made by the bombs, filled with rainwater, offer mute testimony to the fierceness of the fight. Once residential streets are now just lines of damaged structures — rubble and masonry and foundation walls rising like outstretched hands towards the sky.

But, importantly, the war is now far from here. Once the assault on Kobane ended in January last year, the YPG and its US allies continued to push the jihadists back: 196 villages and an area of 1362 sq km were liberated from the jihadists. As of now, since the capture of Ain Issa, the front lines at their most forward point are situated just 30km from Islamic State's "capital" in Raqqa City.

This has enabled life to begin tentatively to return to Kobane. About 40,000 people are now living in the town, although its reconstruction remains in the opening stages. It has also set the stage for the current phase of the war in which Islamic State is often no longer on the attack. Rather, it is being slowly pushed back. What comes next, I asked Colonel Talal Silu, spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, at a facility in al-Hasakah city. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose existence was announced in October last year, is the 40,000-strong military alliance with which Western air power and special forces are partnering in the war against Islamic State.

Silu, an ethnic Turkmen from northern Syria and a member of the Jaysh al-Thuwar (Army of Revolutionaries), is a living example of the purpose of the SDF.

The victories against Islamic State at Kobane and to its east were won by the combination of determined Kurdish ground forces and US air power. This partnership works militarily. Politi­cally, however, it is problematic.

The US is committed to the maintenance of Syria as a territorial unit. The PYD (Democratic Union Party) in Syrian Kurdistan is a franchise of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), which is based in Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan and is engaged in an armed conflict with Turkey. The PYD is widely believed by Syrian Arabs to be seeking to secede from Syria. Yet, more problematically, the PKK remains on the US and EU lists of terrorist organisations. And the secular, leftist YPG in Syria is clearly the creation of the PKK, though spokesmen deny formal links.

Syrian Kurds have taken the initiative in the war with Islamic State.
The SDF, which brings in non-Kurdish organisations and fighters around the nucleus of the 30,000-strong YPG, is intended to remedy this situation. It serves a purpose for both Kurds and Americans. It enables the YPG to present itself as an integral part of Syria. The US, meanwhile, can claim to be working with a multi-ethnic alliance rather than a Kurdish nationalist force.

This latter aspect is of particular importance because of Turkish concerns. The Turks have warned the YPG not to cross west of the Euphrates River. Ankara is concerned at Kurdish ambitions to acquire control of the entire long border between Syria and Turkey. At present, an isolated Kurdish canton in the area of Afrin in northwest Syria remains cut off from the main area of Kurdish control. Areas of rebel and Islamic State control separate the two.
Silu, however, is not interested in discussing the intricacies of ­Levantine power politics on the morning that we met. What needs to come next, he tells me, is heavy weapons. On October 14, the US dropped 50 tonnes of ammunition to the SDF. This, the colonel says, is not enough. "What they dropped was only enough to fight for two or three days. Not so useful."

So, what would be useful? "Heavy weapons, tow missiles, anti-tank missiles ... The Americans gave million to people who did nothing. Saudi Arabia is supporting forces and providing high-quality weapons. But we are the only force that is fighting Islamic State seriously."

YPG and YPJ fighters at the funeral of three comrades killed fighting Islamic State.
This sentiment is repeated again and again as we follow the SDF front lines down south of al-Hasakah to the last forward positions before the town of al- Shaddadah. The SDF liberated al-Hawl on November 16 and is now pushing beyond it.

The remnants of Islamic State rule are plainly visible as we drive through the town. "The Islamic Court in al-Hawl", one painted structure proclaims grandly. But the building is ransacked and deserted, and someone has painted a livid red YPG emblem above that of the former Islamist rulers. Islamic State is on the retreat.

"If we had effective weapons, we could take Raqqa in a month," says Kemal Amuda, a short and energetic YPG commander on the front line south of al-Hawl. "But the area is very large. And the airstrikes are of limited use."

'If we had effective weapons, we could take Raqqa in a month,' says YPG commander Kemal Amuda.
What would help? Once again: "Anti-tank weapons, tanks, armoured vehicles."
The reason the heavy weapons these commanders desire have not been forthcoming may relate to the provisional nature of the alliance underpinning the SDF.

The Western forces want to use this force as a battering ram against Islamic State. But the Kurdish core of the force has other ambitions, which include the unification of the cantons and acquiring control of the border. The Western coalition may well prefer to neutralise Islamic State advantage in heavy weapons by employing air power, rather than afford the Kurds an independent capacity in this regard.

But despite the absence of such weapons and the political complications, the SDF is proving a serviceable tool in the battle against Islamic State. The strategy appears to be to slowly chip away at the areas surrounding Raqqa City in order to weaken the jihadists' ability to mount a determined defence of the city. The loss of al-Hawl meant Islamic State also lost control of the Syrian section of Highway 47 from Raqqa City across the Iraqi border to Mosul, Iraq's second city and the other jewel in the Islamic State crown.

The SDF captured the Tishrin Dam on December 27.
The conquest of the Tishrin Dam by the SDF on December 27 further isolates Raqqa. The dam was the last bridge across the Euphrates controlled by Islamic State. Its loss significantly increases the time it would take for the ­jihadists to bring forces from Aleppo province on the western side of the river to the aid of the city.

So the SDF, partnering with US air power, appears to be aiming to split Islamic State in two, before attacking its most significant points.

The YPG component, which accounts for most of the SDF's fighting strength, is an irregular force. It lacks the resources and the structure of a regular army. The fighters have only the simplest of equipment. No body armour. No helmets. Night vision equipment also appears to be absent. Medical knowledge and supplies are basic.

Concerns have been raised regarding the high rate of attrition in this force, including fighters who suffered wounds that ought not to have been fatal had skilled medical attention been close at hand.

But despite all this, they appear to get results, and morale was clearly high among the young combatants that I interviewed in the frontline areas south of al-Hawl and al-Hasakah.
A particularly striking element was the constantly repeated refrain that Islamic State fighters suffered from severe attrition and noticeably declining motivation.

Islamic State fighters reportedly suffer from severe attrition and declining motivation.
As we pass through an eerily silent and seemingly deserted frontline area close to al-Bassel Dam, 30km east of Shaddadah, I come across a group of YPG men defending a position about 3km from the jihadists.

The officer commanding this group refuses to give his name or to be recorded. "Journalists aren't really supposed to be around here," he remarks with a smile. Nevertheless, in the conversation that follows, the commander gives a precise description of the changing tactics used by the jihadists, and what in his view this portends for the fight against Islamic State.

Once, the jihadists attacked en masse. The order, as described by the commander, was that a number of "suicide cars" — vehicles filled with explosives and intended to spread panic among the defenders — would appear first, followed by suicide bombers on foot, who would try to enter the positions of the defenders and detonate themselves. Then a mass of ground fighters would follow behind, with the intention of breaking through the shocked defenders.

These methods had been effective, but also very costly in terms of manpower. Now, however, the jihadists are evidently seeking to preserve the lives of their force. Their tactics have changed accordingly. They move in smaller groups, preferring to leave only token forces to defend areas subjected to determined attack.

The change, suggests the commander, derives from a dwindling flow of eager recruits in comparison with mid-2014. "Formerly, they were attractive as conquerors. Their power derived from intimidation and imposing terror," he says. "This has now gone."

This decline in the stream of recruits for Islamic State probably explains an amnesty for deserters announced last October, as revealed in a recent trove of Islamic State documents leaked to British researcher Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi. The announcement suggests Islamic State can no longer maintain in their entirety the ruthless and draconian methods that characterised its early stages. The need for manpower precludes this.

The turn to international terrorism by Islamic State in recent months is probably also explained by its loss of momentum in Iraq and Syria. The group needs "achievements" to maintain its "brand". Its slogan is "baqiya wa tatamaddad" (remaining and expanding). But expansion of its territorial holdings is no longer taking place. The downing of the Russian Metrojet passenger airliner on October 31, the coordinated attacks in Paris on November 13 and a series of attacks in Turkey suggest action on the global stage may be a substitute for gains on the battlefield closer to home.

What is most striking about the large swath of northern Syria now administered by the Kurds is its atmosphere of near normality. This was not always the case. This reporter first visited "Rojava", as the Kurds call Syrian Kurdistan, in early 2013 — just a few months after the Assad regime pulled out of most of northeast Syria. At that time, the security structures put in place by the Kurds were rudimentary and somewhat chaotic. And the remaining regime presence in the cities of al-Qamishli and al-Hasakah was far more extensive.

By the end of last year, however, the rule of the PYD and its allies had taken on a look of solidity. Pictures of martyrs are everywhere, testimony to the high cost the maintenance of the enclave continues to exact. But the YPG checkpoints and the presence of both the Asayish (paramilitary police) and the "blue" police force established by the Kurds leaves no doubt as to who is in control here.

Syrian Kurds have carved out an enclave constituting more than 20 per cent of the country's territory.
The US decision to partner with the Kurdish de facto force in this area is an acknowledgment of this achievement. Finding physical evidence of the American presence, however, is a challenge. YPG commanders interviewed by me insisted the process of calling in airstrikes was handled by the YPG alone, via a control room that was in contact with US forces. The Americans, in this telling, were responsible only for advising and some training of forces.

Yet it seems likely that the small complement of US special forces committed to Syria (up to 50 operators, according to the official announcement) are doing more than simply training and advising.

In neighbouring Iraqi Kurdistan, evidence has already emerged of the ground involvement of US special forces in operations against Islamic State. Similar events are likely taking place in Syria, too.

According to a recent report in the regional newspaper al-Hayat, plans are afoot to broaden the US presence, with the construction of a base in which, according to a Western official quoted by the paper, "US experts will reside and from which they will travel to battle lines". The base, according to al-Hayat, is set to be built outside the town of Derik (al-Malikiyah), deep in the heart of the Kurdish-controlled area in northeast Syria. These reports, if they have substance, suggest a deepening of the military alliance between the US and the Kurds of Syria.
But this war, in truth, looks nowhere close to conclusion. In the meantime, the Syrian Kurds have carved out an enclave constituting more than 20 per cent of the country's territory of the country and established at least a semblance of normal life.

The jihadists are far from a spent force. On January 15, they launched a ferocious counterattack against Assad regime forces in the Deir ez-Zor area. A massacre of civilians followed. Islamic State's capacity for mass murder should not be underestimated.

Still, as we crossed the Tigris River from northern Syria into Iraq, two memories remained particularly vivid.

The first was of Kobane. As we entered the ruined city, a celebration was taking place. About 100 young Kurds were dancing in an open area, Kurdish music blaring from a primitive sound system, with the ruined, macabre buildings casting their shapes all around.

The second was of a clump of strange mounds that we found by the roadside in the desert south of al-Hawl. These, on closer inspection, turned out to be the torn corpses of a group of Islamic State fighters — killed perhaps in an airstrike. Their foes had covered them lightly with earth before continuing south. The sightless eyes stared skyward.

The war against Islamic State and the larger war of which it is a part are far from over. But on this front at least, the direction is clear. The SDF is moving forward.

Jonathan Spyer is director of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Sweden: A Church with No Conscience - Nima Gholam Ali Pour

by Nima Gholam Ali Pour

  • The response from the Church of Sweden to the Kairos Palestine document contained no criticism at all against the massive lies, racism and distortions it contains. More sadly, there seems not to have been the slightest attempt to verify if any of the allegations in it were even true.
  • A church that genuinely believes in love and understanding would long ago have renounced the Kairos Palestine document, which has been pointed out by serious organizations out as anti-Semitic and racist.
  • The country's largest religious institution is therefore helping and encouraging people to study a rawly anti-Semitic, racist document.
  • Attacks against Jews in Sweden have partly originated through such normalization. When the Church of Jesus Christ in Sweden supports an anti-Semitic document, the Jews in Sweden become fair game.
The Church of Sweden[1] has a problem. Its deep involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian issue -- and especially its support for the Kairos Palestine document [full English text and annotations in Appendix below] -- is something that should be noted and held up for criticism by other churches, and all those who oppose anti-Semitism and all forms of racism.
The Kairos Palestine document can be found in Swedish on the Church of Sweden's website and is described by the Church of Sweden as follows:
"The Kairos document has been produced by Palestinian Christians and is about their vulnerability under occupation. Since it was published in December 2009, it has spread throughout the world and in some areas has become a movement that believes and fights for peace and justice in Palestine and Israel."
The Kairos Palestine document, from 2009, is a letter that describes itself as "the Christian Palestinians' word to the world about what is happening in Palestine." Israel's presence in what the document refers to as "Palestinian land" -- even though this Biblical region has continuously been home to the Jews for nearly four thousand years -- is bizarrely described as "a sin against God and humanity."
In addition to distortions and unjust descriptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the state of Israel, the Kairos Palestine document incites Christians to act against Israel. The document also justifies and excuses Palestinian terrorism:
"Yes, there is Palestinian resistance to the occupation. However, if there were no occupation, there would be no resistance, no fear and no insecurity. This is our understanding of the situation."
The problem with this explanation is that it is simply not true. For nearly a hundred years, long before Israel entered the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the Six Day War of 1967, Jewish/Israeli civilians were being attacked by Palestinian terrorists. Therefore, the content of the Kairos Palestine document claiming "occupation" as a justification for terrorism is simply not accurate. Worse, it was Arab provocation -- closing the Strait of Tiran at the mouth of the Suez Canal, a casus belli [legitimate cause for war] according to international law -- that preceded and caused the Six Day War in 1967. In other words, the Arabs started a war, and then were irked when they lost it.
Yet the Kairos Palestine document, several times, implicitly (and incorrectly) states Israel's presence in the "Palestinian territories" as the reason, justification and excuse for Palestinian terrorism against Israel. In the Kairos document, Israel is (incorrectly) accused of launching a "cruel war" against Palestinians, restricting religious liberty, and violating human rights, among other offenses that any decent person would oppose.
The most offensive part of the Kairos Palestine document, however, is the raw anti-Semitism, which expresses itself in the form of "replacement theology" (also known as supersessionism), in which, as its name would suggest, the "newer" Christianity is supposed to replace and completely supplant, the "older," supposedly-antiquated, Judaism.
The Kairos Palestine document calls on the world's churches and the international community to make use of boycott and divestment against Israel, a movement which, of course, is code for trying to strangle Israel to death economically. The Kairos document even questions Israel's right to exist: It says that the Jewish state was to be "a state that practices discrimination and exclusion, preferring one citizen over another" -- an odd statement given that the Jewish state of Israel is the only country in the Middle East where all citizens -- Jews, Arabs, Christians, Muslims, men, women -- have the right to hold all jobs, own property, sit in the parliament [Knesset] and vote in free elections.
The Kairos Palestine document also ignores that in reality, conversely, the charge of "discrimination and exclusion" pertains to many Muslim states: Saudi Arabia has apartheid laws forbidding non-Muslims from even entering Mecca. Human Rights Watch's World Report 2015: Saudi Arabia states that that "Systematic discrimination against women and religious minorities continued," and goes on to assault Saudi Arabia's entire judicial system, its "refusal to register political or human rights groups" and its abysmal treatment of migrants.
The Jewish state of Israel, on the other hand, is the only state in the Middle East that has given Arabs all their human rights. It should be no surprise that a recent poll found that 52% of Palestinians living in Jerusalem would prefer to live in Israel rather than a future Palestinian state.
Due to the content of the Kairos Palestine document, which is filled with staggering distortions, anti-Semitism and racism, you would think that the Church of Sweden would have immediately distanced itself from the document, but what happened was exactly the opposite. For some reason, the Church of Sweden gave both legitimacy and support to this document.
In 2010, the international department of the Church of Sweden sent a response to the Kairos Palestine document in the form of a letter, which inexplicably concluded:
"Finally, we would like to thank you for the document and for its hopeful message that love and mutual trust is possible, as well as peace and final reconciliation, and that justice and security will be attained for all - Palestinians as well as Israelis."
Sadly, in what appears to be a massive miscarriage of justice, the response from the Church of Sweden to the Kairos Palestine document contained no criticism at all against the massive lies, racism and distortions it contains. More sadly, there seems not to have been the slightest attempt to verify if any of the allegations in it were even true.
To its credit, the Church of Sweden did at least try to distance itself from the replacement theology in the Kairos Palestine document, by writing in its response letter:
"It is our view that the Sinai Covenant with the Jewish people, as well as the covenant in Jesus Christ, are both valid and expresses God's nature and will, and his ultimate love for all people."
In 2012, however, the General Synod of the Church of Sweden made some decisions that resulted in the Kairos Palestine document effectively becoming an official document within the Church of Sweden.
Regrettably, these decisions also resulted in the Church of Sweden declaring support for the proposals that were in the Kairos Palestine document. The General Synod decided to:
  • "Instruct the Church Board [the executive branch] to send the Kairos document and the response of the international department to the members of the General Synod."
  • "The General Synod decides to instruct the Church Board to continue its efforts to demand an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza and to recommend the parishes to follow the calls in the Kairos Palestine document to cancel investments, impose sanctions and boycott companies and products of the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, the West Bank and East Jerusalem as well as supporting the forces in the Gaza Strip who work for democracy and human rights and to demand that the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza is lifted."
Today, you can find a tutorial on how to study the Kairos Palestine document on the Church of Sweden website. The Church of Sweden has evidently produced this tutorial to encourage their members to study the Kairos Palestine document, and thus unwittingly promoting the malicious distortions in it. A document that has clear anti-Semitic elements and multiple historical inaccuracies is thus being used by the world's largest Lutheran church as a way to present the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The tutorial on the Church of Sweden website opens with this:
"Do you find it difficult to understand the conflict in Israel / Palestine? Do you want to know more and be able to influence? Do you believe that the Bible can be an instrument in it? The Church of Sweden wants to stimulate discussion about the conflict and about a document written on this subject: The Kairos Palestine Document (KPD)."
One can be critical of Israel, but what the Church of Sweden does is to spread a wildly inaccurate and racist document to their 6.2 million members.
Anti-Semitism has thereby literally become institutionalized in Sweden. The country's largest religious institution is helping and encouraging people to study a rawly anti-Semitic, racist document that should be laughed out of town.
It is ironic that the Church of Sweden, which has as its savior a Jewish man from Nazareth, is spreading an anti-Semitic document. It is also important to understand that this is happening in a Europe where anti-Semitism is worsening day by day.
The Church of Sweden is spreading the Kairos Palestine document in a Europe where terrorists have already attacked Jews, synagogues and even Christians. This is happening in a Europe from which Jews already are fleeing.
A church that genuinely believes in love and understanding would long ago have renounced this document, which has been pointed out as racist by serious organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League.
Through its actions, the Church of Sweden is normalizing anti-Semitism in Sweden and Europe. As a church in which the majority of Swedes are members, the Church of Sweden has the power to carry out such normalization. Attacks against Jews in Sweden have partly originated through such normalization. When the Church of Jesus Christ in Sweden supports an anti-Semitic document, Jews in Sweden become fair game.

[1] The Church of Sweden is the world's largest Lutheran church. 6.2 million Swedes, or more than 60% of Sweden's population, are members of the Church of Sweden -- one of many European national churches created during the Protestant Reformation. From the years 1544-2000, the Church of Sweden was the state church of the Kingdom of Sweden and a part of the Swedish state, just as the Anglican Church became the state church of England. Even though Sweden is one of the world's most secular countries, because of historical and cultural reasons, the Church of Sweden still plays an extremely important role in the Swedish society. The Church is still controlled by the political parties through ecclesiastical political assemblies. In other words, in Sweden, political parties, as opposed to keeping a sharp separation between church and state, have been encouraged to become actively involved with the Church. Political parties represented in the Swedish parliament, as well as other political parties, contend in nationwide church elections, to win seats in different assemblies. These political assemblies then take decisions about church activities and the agenda of the Church of Sweden -- locally, regionally and nationally. In the Church of Sweden, there are several hundred such parish assemblies. The highest governing body of the Church of Sweden is the General Synod, with 251 members; it decides on the Church's common and general issues. These political assemblies are formed after nationwide church elections, which are held every four years. The Social Democratic party has always been the biggest party in the General Synod, and represents the hegemonic role of the party in Swedish politics in general.
Nima Gholam Ali Pour is a member of the board of education in the Swedish city of Malmö and is engaged in several Swedish think tanks concerned with the Middle East. Gholam Ali Pour is also editor for the social conservative website Situation Malmö.


Text of the 2009 "Kairos Palestine" Document.

With annotations by Nima Gholam Ali Pour, in brackets, marked in bold italics.

A moment of truth A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering
We, a group of Christian Palestinians, after prayer, reflection and an exchange of opinion, cry out from within the suffering in our country, under the Israeli occupation, with a cry of hope in the absence of all hope, a cry full of prayer and faith in a God ever vigilant, in God's divine providence for all the inhabitants of this land. Inspired by the mystery of God's love for all, the mystery of God's divine presence in the history of all peoples and, in a particular way, in the history of our country, we proclaim our word based on our Christian faith and our sense of Palestinian belonging – a word of faith, hope and love.
Why now? Because today we have reached a dead end in the tragedy of the Palestinian people. The decision-makers content themselves with managing the crisis rather than committing themselves to the serious task of finding a way to resolve it. [Not true. The Israeli government is committed to a two-state solution and the advancement of peace. Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and other radical groups continue to oppose Israeli attempts at reconciliation. And even the Palestinian authority refuses to acknowledge that Israel is the legitimate nation-state of the Jewish people.] The hearts of the faithful are filled with pain and with questioning: What is the international community doing? What are the political leaders in Palestine, in Israel and in the Arab world doing? What is the Church doing? The problem is not just a political one. It is a policy in which human beings are destroyed, and this must be of concern to the Church.
We address ourselves to our brothers and sisters, members of our Churches in this land. We call out as Christians and as Palestinians to our religious and political leaders, to our Palestinian society and to the Israeli society, to the international community, and to our Christian brothers and sisters in the Churches around the world.
1. The reality on the ground
1.1 "They say: 'Peace, peace' when there is no peace" (Jer. 6:14). These days, everyone is speaking about peace in the Middle East and the peace process. So far, however, these are simply words; the reality is one of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, deprivation of our freedom and all that results from this situation: [There is a continued dispute, even about the territories. The two-state partition plan called for a Jewish state and an Arab state, but the Arabs did not accept the agreement and instead declared war on Israel upon its foundation in May 1948.]
1.1.1 The separation wall erected on Palestinian territory [The barrier was erected in the midst of the Second Intifada as Palestinian terrorists were detonating explosives within Israel on an almost daily basis], a large part of which has been confiscated for this purpose [No land was confiscated. In fact, members of the Israeli right-wing were upset at the move.], has turned our towns and villages into prisons [Palestinian towns and villages are not prisons. The PA has authority over most Palestinian living habitations], separating them from one another, making them dispersed and divided cantons. Gaza, especially after the cruel war Israel launched against it during December 2008 and January 2009 [Hamas was freely elected in 2006. Since that time, Hamas has routinely fired rockets into Israel. Israel was forced to respond in an attempt that any country would take to allow its citizens, Arabs, Christians and Jews in Southern Israel, to live in peace and security. Gaza is geographically not contiguous to the West Bank, through no fault of Israel. Gaza had been part of Egypt, not Jordan.], continues to live in inhuman conditions, under permanent blockade and cut off from the other Palestinian territories. [Yes, they are "cut off" but historically they have never been contiguous. Again, Gaza has been a part of Egypt, while the West Bank is currently under dispute.]
1.1.2 Israeli settlements ravage our land in the name of God and in the name of force, controlling our natural resources, including water and agricultural land, thus depriving hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and constituting an obstacle to any political solution. [Israel was willing to end the occupation and agree to the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state in 2000-2001 and again in 2007. But the Palestinian leadership refused to accept the Israeli offers. When Israel in 2005 destroyed all Jewish settlements and ended all military presence in Gaza, there was still no peace. On a basic level, historically Judea and Samara, as is evident from its name, it is not "Palestinian land." Beyond that, while some Israelis live in Judea and Samaria for religious reasons, a full one-third of all residents are non-religious and are instead seeking inexpensive living. The entire framework is off, because if the Palestinians decided that they wanted to live in peace with Israel, there would be peace.]
1.1.3 Reality is the daily humiliation to which we are subjected at the military checkpoints, as we make our way to jobs, schools or hospitals. [The checkpoints are part of a routine security procedure set in place because to protect Israelis from the high volume of Palestinian terrorists entering Israel and blowing up men, women and children in suicide bombings. Now there are daily stabbing attacks against Jews. The checkpoints are an unfortunate consequence of the brutal actions pursued by groups such as the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.]
1.1.4 Reality is the separation between members of the same family, making family life impossible for thousands of Palestinians, especially where one of the spouses does not have an Israeli identity card. [Israel has permitted family reunification consistent with security needs. But some who have been allowed to live in Israel have turned to terrorism.]
1.1.5 Religious liberty is severely restricted; the freedom of access to the holy places is denied under the pretext of security. Jerusalem and its holy places are out of bounds for many Christians and Muslims from the West Bank and the Gaza strip. [There are no holy places that are restricted. Unfortunately, as many Palestinian terrorists, under the claim of religious observance, have abused their freedom to enter holy places in order to carry out terrorist attacks, the Palestinians now have to go through security checks. As do the Israelis when they go to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount.] Even Jerusalemites face restrictions during the religious feasts. Some of our Arab clergy are regularly barred from entering Jerusalem. [Some of these clergy preach violence and incite terrorism.]
1.1.6 Refugees are also part of our reality. Most of them are still living in camps under difficult circumstances. [Millions of Palestinian "refugees" are living in camps in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. This would seem to be the fault of Arab leaders who refuse to integrate the Palestinian "refugees" so that they can be used as "victims" to accuse Israel of transgressions. Israel absorbed hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees who were forced to leave Muslim lands in which they had lived for thousands of years.] They have been waiting for their right of return, generation after generation. What will be their fate?
1.1.7 And the prisoners? The thousands of prisoners languishing in Israeli prisons are part of our reality. The Israelis move heaven and earth to gain the release of one prisoner, and those thousands of Palestinian prisoners, when will they have their freedom? [Typical of this entire document, the postulate is off. The prisoners are detained for terrorist activities; rock-throwing, stabbings, etc., not because they are upstanding citizens who are randomly abducted. Israel, unlike the PA and Hamas, functions under the rule of law. Palestinian prisoners have access to due process and family visits. The "prisoners" that the Israelis seek to release were kidnap victims -- not prisoners.]
1.1.8 Jerusalem is the heart of our reality. It is, at the same time, symbol of peace and sign of conflict. While the separation wall divides Palestinian neighbourhoods, Jerusalem continues to be emptied of its Palestinian citizens, Christians and Muslims. [Simply not true. For example, Jerusalem's Arab population grew by 2.2% in 2014]. Their identity cards are confiscated, which means the loss of their right to reside in Jerusalem. Their homes are demolished or expropriated. Jerusalem, city of reconciliation, has become a city of discrimination and exclusion, a source of struggle rather than peace. [Punishment is administered only under the rule of law.]
1.2 Also part of this reality is the Israeli disregard of international law and international resolutions, as well as the paralysis of the Arab world and the international community in the face of this contempt. Human rights are violated and despite the various reports of local and international human rights' organizations, the injustice continues. [Israel has by far the best human rights record in the mid-East and one of the best in the world.]
1.2.1 Palestinians within the State of Israel, who have also suffered a historical injustice, although they are citizens and have the rights and obligations of citizenship, still suffer from discriminatory policies. They too are waiting to enjoy full rights and equality like all other citizens in the state. [Israeli Arabs who break the law – such as the Beduin who recently murdered an Israeli soldier in Beersheba – are punished. Every country has some discrimination. Israel has far less than any Muslim country has against Christians and Jews.]
1.3 Emigration is another element in our reality. The absence of any vision or spark of hope for peace and freedom pushes young people, both Muslim and Christian, to emigrate. Thus the land is deprived of its most important and richest resource – educated youth. The shrinking number of Christians, particularly in Palestine, is one of the dangerous consequences, both of this conflict, and of the local and international paralysis and failure to find a comprehensive solution to the problem. [This is a lie. Israel has far less emigration of Christians than any Muslim country in the Middle East. Gaza has lost nearly all of its Christian population.]
1.4 In the face of this reality, Israel justifies its actions as self-defense, including occupation, collective punishment and all other forms of reprisals against the Palestinians. In our opinion, this vision is a reversal of reality. Yes, there is Palestinian resistance to the occupation. However, if there were no occupation, there would be no resistance, no fear and no insecurity. [This is also not true. Arabs and Jews have had ancient battles for generations. The war of 1948, for example, was fought before any new land was supposedly "occupied."] This is our understanding of the situation. Therefore, we call on the Israelis to end the occupation. Then they will see a new world in which there is no fear, no threat but rather security, justice and peace. [Terrorism is the cause of the occupation, not the result.]
1.5 The Palestinian response to this reality was diverse. Some responded through negotiations: that was the official position of the Palestinian Authority, but it did not advance the peace process. [The Palestinian Authority has, throughout time, subsidized terrorists while paying lip service to the idea that they were seeking "solutions."] Some political parties followed the way of armed resistance. Israel used this as a pretext to accuse the Palestinians of being terrorists and was able to distort the real nature of the conflict, presenting it as an Israeli war against terror, rather than an Israeli occupation faced by Palestinian legal resistance aiming at ending it. [Israel offered a two state solution twice in recent years. Neither was accepted.]
1.5.1 The tragedy worsened with the internal conflict among Palestinians themselves, and with the separation of Gaza from the rest of the Palestinian territory. [Gaza has always been a separate entity.] It is noteworthy that, even though the division is among Palestinians themselves, the international community bears an important responsibility for it since it refused to deal positively with the will of the Palestinian people expressed in the outcome of democratic and legal elections in 2006. [They freely elected a terrorist organization, Hamas.]
Again, we repeat and proclaim that our Christian word in the midst of all this, in the midst of our catastrophe, is a word of faith, hope and love.
2. A word of faith
We believe in one God, a good and just God
2.1 We believe in God, one God, Creator of the universe and of humanity. We believe in a good and just God, who loves each one of his creatures. We believe that every human being is created in God's image and likeness and that every one's dignity is derived from the dignity of the Almighty One. We believe that this dignity is one and the same in each and all of us. This means for us, here and now, in this land in particular, that God created us not so that we might engage in strife and conflict but rather that we might come and know and love one another, and together build up the land in love and mutual respect.
2.1.1 We also believe in God's eternal Word, His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, whom God sent as the Saviour of the world.
2.1.2 We believe in the Holy Spirit, who accompanies the Church and all humanity on its journey. It is the Spirit that helps us to understand Holy Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, showing their unity, here and now. The Spirit makes manifest the revelation of God to humanity, past, present and future.
How do we understand the word of God?
2.2 We believe that God has spoken to humanity, here in our country: "Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days God has spoken to us by a Son, whom God appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds" (Heb. 1:1-2)
2.2.1 We, Christian Palestinians, believe, like all Christians throughout the world, that Jesus Christ came in order to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and in his light and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we read the Holy Scriptures. We meditate upon and interpret Scripture just as Jesus Christ did with the two disciples on their way to Emmaus. As it is written in the Gospel according to Saint Luke: "Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures" (Lk 24:27)
2.2.2 Our Lord Jesus Christ came, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was near. He provoked a revolution in the life and faith of all humanity. He came with "a new teaching" (Mk 1:27), casting a new light on the Old Testament, on the themes that relate to our Christian faith and our daily lives, themes such as the promises, the election, the people of God and the land. We believe that the Word of God is a living Word, casting a particular light on each period of history, manifesting to Christian believers what God is saying to us here and now. For this reason, it is unacceptable to transform the Word of God into letters of stone that pervert the love of God and His providence in the life of both peoples and individuals. This is precisely the error in fundamentalist Biblical interpretation that brings us death and destruction when the word of God is petrified and transmitted from generation to generation as a dead letter. This dead letter is used as a weapon in our present history in order to deprive us of our rights in our own land.
Our land has a universal mission
2.3 We believe that our land has a universal mission. In this universality, the meaning of the promises, of the land, of the election, of the people of God open up to include all of humanity, starting from all the peoples of this land. In light of the teachings of the Holy Bible, the promise of the land has never been a political programme, but rather the prelude to complete universal salvation. It was the initiation of the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God on earth.
2.3.1 God sent the patriarchs, the prophets and the apostles to this land so that they might carry forth a universal mission to the world. Today we constitute three religions in this land, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Our land is God's land, as is the case with all countries in the world. It is holy inasmuch as God is present in it, for God alone is holy and sanctifier. It is the duty of those of us who live here, to respect the will of God for this land. It is our duty to liberate it from the evil of injustice and war. It is God's land and therefore it must be a land of reconciliation, peace and love. This is indeed possible. God has put us here as two peoples, and God gives us the capacity, if we have the will, to live together and establish in it justice and peace, making it in reality God's land: "The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it" (Ps. 24:1).
2.3.2 Our presence in this land, as Christian and Muslim Palestinians, is not accidental but rather deeply rooted in the history and geography of this land, resonant with the connectedness of any other people to the land it lives in. It was an injustice when we were driven out. The West sought to make amends for what Jews had endured in the countries of Europe, but it made amends on our account and in our land. They tried to correct an injustice and the result was a new injustice.
2.3.3 Furthermore, we know that certain theologians in the West try to attach a biblical and theological legitimacy to the infringement of our rights. Thus, the promises, according to their interpretation, have become a menace to our very existence. The "good news" in the Gospel itself has become "a harbinger of death" for us. We call on these theologians to deepen their reflection on the Word of God and to rectify their interpretations so that they might see in the Word of God a source of life for all peoples.
2.3.4 Our connectedness to this land is a natural right. It is not an ideological or a theological question only. It is a matter of life and death. There are those who do not agree with us, even defining us as enemies only because we declare that we want to live as free people in our land. We suffer from the occupation of our land because we are Palestinians. And as Christian Palestinians we suffer from the wrong interpretation of some theologians. Faced with this, our task is to safeguard the Word of God as a source of life and not of death, so that "the good news" remains what it is, "good news" for us and for all. In face of those who use the Bible to threaten our existence as Christian and Muslim Palestinians, we renew our faith in God because we know that the word of God can not be the source of our destruction.
2.4 Therefore, we declare that any use of the Bible to legitimize or support political options and positions that are based upon injustice, imposed by one person on another, or by one people on another, transform religion into human ideology and strip the Word of God of its holiness, its universality and truth.
2.5 We also declare that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity because it deprives the Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God. It distorts the image of God in the Israeli who has become an occupier just as it distorts this image in the Palestinian living under occupation. We declare that any theology, seemingly based on the Bible or on faith or on history, that legitimizes the occupation, is far from Christian teachings, because it calls for violence and holy war in the name of God Almighty, subordinating God to temporary human interests, and distorting the divine image in the human beings living under both political and theological injustice.
3. Hope
3.1 Despite the lack of even a glimmer of positive expectation, our hope remains strong. The present situation does not promise any quick solution or the end of the occupation that is imposed on us. Yes, the initiatives, the conferences, visits and negotiations have multiplied, but they have not been followed up by any change in our situation and suffering. Even the new US position that has been announced by President Obama, with a manifest desire to put an end to the tragedy, has not been able to make a change in our reality. The clear Israeli response, refusing any solution, leaves no room for positive expectation. Despite this, our hope remains strong, because it is from God. God alone is good, almighty and loving and His goodness will one day be victorious over the evil in which we find ourselves. As Saint Paul said: "If God is for us, who is against us? (...) Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all day long" (...) For I am convinced that (nothing) in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God" (Rom. 8:31, 35, 36, 39).
What is the meaning of hope?
3.2 Hope within us means first and foremost our faith in God and secondly our expectation, despite everything, for a better future. Thirdly, it means not chasing after illusions – we realize that release is not close at hand. Hope is the capacity to see God in the midst of trouble, and to be co-workers with the Holy Spirit who is dwelling in us. From this vision derives the strength to be steadfast, remain firm and work to change the reality in which we find ourselves. Hope means not giving in to evil but rather standing up to it and continuing to resist it. We see nothing in the present or future except ruin and destruction. We see the upper hand of the strong, the growing orientation towards racist separation and the imposition of laws that deny our existence and our dignity. We see confusion and division in the Palestinian position. If, despite all this, we do resist this reality today and work hard, perhaps the destruction that looms on the horizon may not come upon us.
Signs of hope
3.3 The Church in our land, her leaders and her faithful, despite her weakness and her divisions, does show certain signs of hope. Our parish communities are vibrant and most of our young people are active apostles for justice and peace. In addition to the individual commitment, our various Church institutions make our faith active and present in service, love and prayer.
3.3.1 Among the signs of hope are the local centres of theology, with a religious and social character. They are numerous in our different Churches. The ecumenical spirit, even if still hesitant, shows itself more and more in the meetings of our different Church families.
3.3.2 We can add to this the numerous meetings for inter-religious dialogue, Christian–Muslim dialogue, which includes the religious leaders and a part of the people. Admittedly, dialogue is a long process and is perfected through a daily effort as we undergo the same sufferings and have the same expectations. There is also dialogue among the three religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as well as different dialogue meetings on the academic or social level. They all try to breach the walls imposed by the occupation and oppose the distorted perception of human beings in the heart of their brothers or sisters.
3.3.3 One of the most important signs of hope is the steadfastness of the generations, the belief in the justice of their cause and the continuity of memory, which does not forget the "Nakba" (catastrophe) and its significance. Likewise significant is the developing awareness among many Churches throughout the world and their desire to know the truth about what is going on here.
3.3.4 In addition to that, we see a determination among many to overcome the resentments of the past and to be ready for reconciliation once justice has been restored. Public awareness of the need to restore political rights to the Palestinians is increasing and Jewish and Israeli voices, advocating peace and justice, are raised in support of this with the approval of the international community. True, these forces for justice and reconciliation have not yet been able to transform the situation of injustice, but they have their influence and may shorten the time of suffering and hasten the time of reconciliation.
The mission of the Church
3.4 Our Church is a Church of people who pray and serve. This prayer and service is prophetic, bearing the voice of God in the present and future. Everything that happens in our land, everyone who lives there, all the pains and hopes, all the injustice and all the efforts to stop this injustice, are part and parcel of the prayer of our Church and the service of all her institutions. Thanks be to God that our Church raises her voice against injustice despite the fact that some desire her to remain silent, closed in her religious devotions.
3.4.1 The mission of the Church is prophetic, to speak the Word of God courageously, honestly and lovingly in the local context and in the midst of daily events. If she does take sides, it is with the oppressed, to stand alongside them, just as Christ our Lord stood by the side of each poor person and each sinner, calling them to repentance, life, and the restoration of the dignity bestowed on them by God and that no one has the right to strip away.
3.4.2 The mission of the Church is to proclaim the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice, peace and dignity. Our vocation as a living Church is to bear witness to the goodness of God and the dignity of human beings. We are called to pray and to make our voice heard when we announce a new society where human beings believe in their own dignity and the dignity of their adversaries.
3.4.3 Our Church points to the Kingdom, which cannot be tied to any earthly kingdom. Jesus said before Pilate that he was indeed a king but "my kingdom is not from this world" (Jn 18:36). Saint Paul says: "The Kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom.14:17). Therefore, religion cannot favour or support any unjust political regime, but must rather promote justice, truth and human dignity. It must exert every effort to purify regimes where human beings suffer injustice and human dignity is violated. The Kingdom of God on earth is not dependent on any political orientation, for it is greater and more inclusive than any particular political system.
3.4.4 Jesus Christ said: "The Kingdom of God is among you" (Luke 17:21). This Kingdom that is present among us and in us is the extension of the mystery of salvation. It is the presence of God among us and our sense of that presence in everything we do and say. It is in this divine presence that we shall do what we can until justice is achieved in this land.
3.4.5 The cruel circumstances in which the Palestinian Church has lived and continues to live have required the Church to clarify her faith and to identify her vocation better. We have studied our vocation and have come to know it better in the midst of suffering and pain: today, we bear the strength of love rather than that of revenge, a culture of life rather than a culture of death. This is a source of hope for us, for the Church and for the world.
3.5 The Resurrection is the source of our hope .Just as Christ rose in victory over death and evil, so too we are able, as each inhabitant of this land is able, to vanquish the evil of war. We will remain a witnessing, steadfast and active Church in the land of the Resurrection.
4. Love
The commandment of love
4.1 Christ our Lord said: "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another" (Jn 13:34). He has already showed us how to love and how to treat our enemies. He said: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous (...) Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:45-47).
Saint Paul also said: "Do not repay anyone evil for evil" (Rom. 12:17). And Saint Peter said: "Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called" (1 Pet. 3:9).
4.2 This word is clear. Love is the commandment of Christ our Lord to us and it includes both friends and enemies. This must be clear when we find ourselves in circumstances where we must resist evil of whatever kind.
4.2.1 Love is seeing the face of God in every human being. Every person is my brother or my sister. However, seeing the face of God in everyone does not mean accepting evil or aggression on their part. Rather, this love seeks to correct the evil and stop the aggression.
The aggression against the Palestinian people, which is the Israeli occupation, is an evil that must be resisted. It is an evil and a sin that must be resisted and removed. Primary responsibility for this rests with the Palestinians themselves suffering occupation. Christian love invites us to resist it. However, love puts an end to evil by walking in the ways of justice. Responsibility lies also with the international community, because international law regulates relations between peoples today. Finally responsibility lies with the perpetrators of the injustice; they must liberate themselves from the evil that is in them and the injustice they have imposed on others.
4.2.2 When we review the history of the nations, we see many wars and much resistance to war by war, to violence by violence. The Palestinian people have gone the way of the peoples, particularly in the first stages of its struggle with the Israeli occupation. However, it also engaged in peaceful struggle, especially during the first intifada. We recognize that all peoples must find a new way in their relations with each other and the resolution of their conflicts. The ways of force must give way to the ways of justice. This applies above all to the peoples that are militarily strong, mighty enough to impose their injustice on the weaker.
4.2.3 We say that our option as Christians in the face of the Israeli occupation is to resist. Resistance is a right and a duty for the Christian. But it is resistance with love as its logic. It is thus a creative resistance for it must find human ways that engage the humanity of the enemy. Seeing the image of God in the face of the enemy means taking up positions in the light of this vision of active resistance to stop the injustice and oblige the perpetrator to end his aggression and thus achieve the desired goal, which is getting back the land, freedom, dignity and independence.
4.2.4 Christ our Lord has left us an example we must imitate. We must resist evil but he taught us that we cannot resist evil with evil. This is a difficult commandment, particularly when the enemy is determined to impose himself and deny our right to remain here in our land. It is a difficult commandment yet it alone can stand firm in the face of the clear declarations of the occupation authorities that refuse our existence and the many excuses these authorities use to continue imposing occupation upon us.
4.2.5 Resistance to the evil of occupation is integrated, then, within this Christian love that refuses evil and corrects it. It resists evil in all its forms with methods that enter into the logic of love and draw on all energies to make peace. We can resist through civil disobedience. We do not resist with death but rather through respect of life. We respect and have a high esteem for all those who have given their life for our nation. And we affirm that every citizen must be ready to defend his or her life, freedom and land.
4.2.6 Palestinian civil organizations, as well as international organizations, NGOs and certain religious institutions call on individuals, companies and states to engage in divestment and in an economic and commercial boycott of everything produced by the occupation. We understand this to integrate the logic of peaceful resistance. These advocacy campaigns must be carried out with courage, openly sincerely proclaiming that their object is not revenge but rather to put an end to the existing evil, liberating both the perpetrators and the victims of injustice. The aim is to free both peoples from extremist positions of the different Israeli governments, bringing both to justice and reconciliation. In this spirit and with this dedication we will eventually reach the longed-for resolution to our problems, as indeed happened in South Africa and with many other liberation movements in the world.
4.3 Through our love, we will overcome injustices and establish foundations for a new society both for us and for our opponents. Our future and their future are one. Either the cycle of violence that destroys both of us or peace that will benefit both. We call on Israel to give up its injustice towards us, not to twist the truth of reality of the occupation by pretending that it is a battle against terrorism. The roots of "terrorism" are in the human injustice committed and in the evil of the occupation. These must be removed if there be a sincere intention to remove "terrorism". We call on the people of Israel to be our partners in peace and not in the cycle of interminable violence. Let us resist evil together, the evil of occupation and the infernal cycle of violence.
5. Our word to our brothers and sisters
5.1 We all face, today, a way that is blocked and a future that promises only woe. Our word to all our Christian brothers and sisters is a word of hope, patience, steadfastness and new action for a better future. Our word is that we, as Christians we carry a message, and we will continue to carry it despite the thorns, despite blood and daily difficulties. We place our hope in God, who will grant us relief in His own time. At the same time, we continue to act in concord with God and God's will, building, resisting evil and bringing closer the day of justice and peace.
5.2 We say to our Christian brothers and sisters: This is a time for repentance. Repentance brings us back into the communion of love with everyone who suffers, the prisoners, the wounded, those afflicted with temporary or permanent handicaps, the children who cannot live their childhood and each one who mourns a dear one. The communion of love says to every believer in spirit and in truth: if my brother is a prisoner I am a prisoner; if his home is destroyed, my home is destroyed; when my brother is killed, then I too am killed. We face the same challenges and share in all that has happened and will happen. Perhaps, as individuals or as heads of Churches, we were silent when we should have raised our voices to condemn the injustice and share in the suffering. This is a time of repentance for our silence, indifference, lack of communion, either because we did not persevere in our mission in this land and abandoned it, or because we did not think and do enough to reach a new and integrated vision and remained divided, contradicting our witness and weakening our word. Repentance for our concern with our institutions, sometimes at the expense of our mission, thus silencing the prophetic voice given by the Spirit to the Churches.
5.3 We call on Christians to remain steadfast in this time of trial, just as we have throughout the centuries, through the changing succession of states and governments. Be patient, steadfast and full of hope so that you might fill the heart of every one of your brothers or sisters who shares in this same trial with hope. "Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet. 3:15). Be active and, provided this conforms to love, participate in any sacrifice that resistance asks of you to overcome our present travail..
5.4 Our numbers are few but our message is great and important. Our land is in urgent need of love. Our love is a message to the Muslim and to the Jew, as well as to the world.
5.4.1 Our message to the Muslims is a message of love and of living together and a call to reject fanaticism and extremism. It is also a message to the world that Muslims are neither to be stereotyped as the enemy nor caricatured as terrorists but rather to be lived with in peace and engaged with in dialogue.
5.4.2 Our message to the Jews tells them: Even though we have fought one another in the recent past and still struggle today, we are able to love and live together. We can organize our political life, with all its complexity, according to the logic of this love and its power, after ending the occupation and establishing justice.
5.4.3 The word of faith says to anyone engaged in political activity: human beings were not made for hatred. It is not permitted to hate, neither is it permitted to kill or to be killed. The culture of love is the culture of accepting the other. Through it we perfect ourselves and the foundations of society are established.
6. Our word to the Churches of the world
6.1 Our word to the Churches of the world is firstly a word of gratitude for the solidarity you have shown toward us in word, deed and presence among us. It is a word of praise for the many Churches and Christians who support the right of the Palestinian people for self determination. It is a message of solidarity with those Christians and Churches who have suffered because of their advocacy for law and justice.
However, it is also a call to repentance; to revisit fundamentalist theological positions that support certain unjust political options with regard to the Palestinian people. It is a call to stand alongside the oppressed and preserve the word of God as good news for all rather than to turn it into a weapon with which to slay the oppressed. The word of God is a word of love for all His creation. God is not the ally of one against the other, nor the opponent of one in the face of the other. God is the Lord of all and loves all, demanding justice from all and issuing to all of us the same commandments. We ask our sister Churches not to offer a theological cover-up for the injustice we suffer, for the sin of the occupation imposed upon us. Our question to our brothers and sisters in the Churches today is: Are you able to help us get our freedom back, for this is the only way you can help the two peoples attain justice, peace, security and love?
6.2 In order to understand our reality, we say to the Churches: Come and see. We will fulfill our role to make known to you the truth of our reality, receiving you as pilgrims coming to us to pray, carrying a message of peace, love and reconciliation. You will know the facts and the people of this land, Palestinians and Israelis alike.
6.3 We condemn all forms of racism, whether religious or ethnic, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and we call on you to condemn it and oppose it in all its manifestations. At the same time we call on you to say a word of truth and to take a position of truth with regard to Israel's occupation of Palestinian land. As we have already said, we see boycott and disinvestment as tools of non violence for justice, peace and security for all.
7. Our word to the international community
7. Our word to the international community is to stop the principle of "double standards" and insist on the international resolutions regarding the Palestinian problem with regard to all parties. Selective application of international law threatens to leave us vulnerable to a law of the jungle. It legitimizes the claims by certain armed groups and states that the international community only understands the logic of force. Therefore, we call for a response to what the civil and religious institutions have proposed, as mentioned earlier: the beginning of a system of economic sanctions and boycott to be applied against Israel. We repeat once again that this is not revenge but rather a serious action in order to reach a just and definitive peace that will put an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories and will guarantee security and peace for all.
8. Jewish and Muslim religious leaders
8. Finally, we address an appeal to the religious and spiritual leaders, Jewish and Muslim, with whom we share the same vision that every human being is created by God and has been given equal dignity. Hence the obligation for each of us to defend the oppressed and the dignity God has bestowed on them. Let us together try to rise up above the political positions that have failed so far and continue to lead us on the path of failure and suffering.
9. A call to our Palestinian people and to the Israelis
9.1 This is a call to see the face of God in each one of God's creatures and overcome the barriers of fear or race in order to establish a constructive dialogue and not remain within the cycle of never-ending manoeuvres that aim to keep the situation as it is. Our appeal is to reach a common vision, built on equality and sharing, not on superiority, negation of the other or aggression, using the pretext of fear and security. We say that love is possible and mutual trust is possible. Thus, peace is possible and definitive reconciliation also. Thus, justice and security will be attained for all.
9.2 Education is important. Educational programs must help us to get to know the other as he or she is rather than through the prism of conflict, hostility or religious fanaticism. The educational programs in place today are infected with this hostility. The time has come to begin a new education that allows one to see the face of God in the other and declares that we are capable of loving each other and building our future together in peace and security.
9.3 Trying to make the state a religious state, Jewish or Islamic, suffocates the state, confines it within narrow limits, and transforms it into a state that practices discrimination and exclusion, preferring one citizen over another. We appeal to both religious Jews and Muslims: let the state be a state for all its citizens, with a vision constructed on respect for religion but also equality, justice, liberty and respect for pluralism and not on domination by a religion or a numerical majority.
9.4 To the leaders of Palestine we say that current divisions weaken all of us and cause more sufferings. Nothing can justify these divisions. For the good of the people, which must outweigh that of the political parties, an end must be put to division. We appeal to the international community to lend its support towards this union and to respect the will of the Palestinian people as expressed freely.
9.5 Jerusalem is the foundation of our vision and our entire life. She is the city to which God gave a particular importance in the history of humanity. She is the city towards which all people are in movement – and where they will meet in friendship and love in the presence of the One Unique God, according to the vision of the prophet Isaiah: "In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it (...) He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Is. 2: 2-5). Today, the city is inhabited by two peoples of three religions; and it is on this prophetic vision and on the international resolutions concerning the totality of Jerusalem that any political solution must be based. This is the first issue that should be negotiated because the recognition of Jerusalem's sanctity and its message will be a source of inspiration towards finding a solution to the entire problem, which is largely a problem of mutual trust and ability to set in place a new land in this land of God.
10. Hope and faith in God
10. In the absence of all hope, we cry out our cry of hope. We believe in God, good and just. We believe that God's goodness will finally triumph over the evil of hate and of death that still persist in our land. We will see here "a new land" and "a new human being", capable of rising up in the spirit to love each one of his or her brothers and sisters.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.