Hamas’ imaginary victory in Gaza war
By: Isaac Ben-Israel/Ynetnews
Op-ed: The military balance in the recent round is so clearly in favor of Israel, that it cannot be concealed by any ‘victory image.’ Throughout almost the entire history of mankind, most people lived in an imaginary world filled with demons, spirits and gods. Only from the start of the modern era (around the 15th century in Western Europe), man began paying attention to “real” data. Even today, the modern perception is not shared by the majority of humanity. Is there any wonder that there are areas in the world where imagination plays an immensely greater part than the real facts of reality? One of these areas is the Middle East, where imagination (or, if you will, “fantasy”) has a leading role in life: Millions of people live in an imaginary world, in which any connection to reality is purely coincidental. Gaza’s residents who support Hamas are mostly offspring of War of Independence refugees. When they talk about the “occupation,” they are referring to the occupation of 1948.
The terror striking Israel from Gaza is as old as the state. In the 1950s it was performed by cells of “infiltrators” who opened fire at vehicles in central Israel and planted explosive devices under houses on the outskirts of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, in the 1990s it was done through suicide bombers, and today it is done through rockets. Technology has changed, but the motivation and terror remain unchanged. Most of the people living in Gaza are not refugees, but the children and grandchildren of refugees. After World War II, tens of millions of refugees were scattered around the world, and they eventually settled and built a new life in a different place. The offspring of the Palestinian refugees are, in this sense, a unique group: They have been waiting to return to their original homes for almost 70 years.
They live in an imaginary world, which has absolutely no connection to reality. But in the Middle East it’s possible. In a place where a “victory image” can replace a “victory” – it’s permissible.
That’s the reason why from the first day of Operation Protective Edge, there were people here who argued that “Hamas cannot be defeated.” Not because it’s a stronger organization than the IDF, or because it has unusual abilities. On the contrary, within several days it turned out that the thousands of rockets it had accumulated (of which some 3,000 were fired) are incapable of killing civilians (thanks to technology in general and the Iron Dome system in particular). The antitank missiles, which hit many tanks during the Second Lebanon War and inflicted loses on us at the time, turned out to be useless versus the Active Trophy armored shield protection. And even the jewel of the crown – the “offensive tunnels” – in which a huge amount of money and a decade-long effort were invested, were neutralized and detonated without succeeding in stopping or changing the course of the operation.
But, it was argued, Hamas can’t be beaten because if it survives (and it will clearly survive, because we have no intention of killing thousands or tens of thousands of people), it will be able to claim victory.
The imaginary victory in the Hamas leaders’ minds is enough. Victory, according to those who hold this opinion, is not measures in realistic terms but in “feelings.” And if they “feel” and claim they won – that must be the case. It’s time to state the simple truth: The Palestinian dream (which is mistakenly called “the right of return”) is unrealistic. The military (and diplomatic) balance in the recent round (Protective Edge) is so clearly in favor of Israel, that it cannot be concealed by any “victory image.”
And one word about us: Part of the Israeli public, from the right and from the left, lives in an imaginary world too. Slogans like “the terror infrastructures must be destroyed once and for all” or “we must reach an understanding with Hamas about coexisting side by side” are nothing more than (alarming) signs of our integration in the Middle East. Here too, imagination has suddenly become more important than reality. Israel’s security leadership – the prime minister, the defense minister and the chief of staff – has managed the crisis sensibly so far. Let’s hope it continues that way.
Dr. Geagea Says Hizbullah Involved Lebanon in Syria Conflict
Lebanese Force leader Samir Geagea rejected any armed presence for Syrians on Lebanese territories, considering that the situation in the northeastern town of Arsal will deteriorate as long as the conflict in neighboring country Syria is ongoing and Hizbullah is engaged in the war. Geagea wondered in an interview with Free Lebanon radio why the army doesn’t prevent Hizbullah fighters from entering Syria. “Hizbullah said that it’s involved in the war in Syria to prevent ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) from expanding to Lebanon but the results were different.” Asked about reports saying that the Arsal gunmen, who took hostage of around 35 security personnel, aim at swapping them with Islamist prisoners in Roumieh prison, Geagea rejected the matter. “This would undermine the authority of the state,” the Christian leader told his interviewer. He accused Hizbullah of “widely opening the door” before the extremist organization to infiltrate Lebanon.
“The only solution is to build a strong state,” Geagea said. The seizure of Arsal over the weekend marked the first time that Islamic extremists from Syria carried out a large-scale incursion into Lebanon and raised fears of a further spillover of the conflict across the porous border. The militants took with them around 35 captives from the army and Internal Security Forces who were in the town’s outskirts when the attack was launched last Saturday. Concerning proposals to extend the mission of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon to include the country’s eastern border, Geagea described the rejection voiced by some parties as a “scandal.” “The Lebanese army should be able to control the border and prevent gunmen from moving in and out without any discrimination,” the LF leader told the radio station.
The March 14 alliance continuously called on the state to allow the UNIFIL to deploy along the the Lebanese-Syrian border in accordance with resolution 1701.
Geagea refused to engage in dialogue with the Syrian regime regarding the border chaos, saying: “(President) Bashar Assad’s regime is the origin of the problem… We will not begin dialogue with a criminal authority that is bombing its people.”Asked if the Arsal battle would lead to the election of Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji as a president, the presidential hopeful said that he will not back any constitutional amendment to elect a new head of state.“The Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces represent the majority of Christians and it’s natural for the leaders of the two parties to run for presidency,” the March 14 official said. Geagea called on the March 8 rivals, in particular Hizbullah and the FPM, to attend presidential parliamentary sessions and end the standoff.
Lebanon has been plunged into a leadership vacuum after Michel Suleiman’s presidential term ended on May 25 with rival political blocs still divided over a new leader. The parliament convened nine times to try to elect a successor to Suleiman but failed during the last eight sessions due to a lack of quorum. Another session is expected to be held on Tuesday.
Ex-PM Hariri back in Lebanon after three years abroad
By Tom Perry and Oliver Holmes | Reuters
Friday, 8 August 2014
Former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri arrived back in Lebanon on Friday for the first time in three years, a visit seen as reasserting his leadership over the Sunni community after a deadly incursion by Islamist militants in the northeast. With no prior announcement, Hariri arrived at the government’s headquarters in Beirut, where he met Prime Minister Tammam Salam, footage broadcast by local television stations showed. Hariri, Lebanon’s most influential Sunni politician, has been in self-imposed exile between France and Saudi Arabia since 2011. He left the country after his government was toppled by a coalition including the Iranian-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah. The Saudi-backed politician arrived in a Mercedes with blacked out windows to the central courtyard of the Grand Serail, the government headquarters in central Beirut. He grinned widely as he walked into the Serail. His visit follows a deadly incursion by Islamist militants who crossed from Syria and seized the Sunni town of Arsal in the northeast last Saturday. The gunmen withdrew from the town on Wednesday after five days of battles with the army. The incursion by militants, including fighters affiliated to Islamic State which has seized large areas of Iraq and Syria, marked the most serious spillover to date of the three-year-old Syrian civil war. Hariri earlier this week announced that Saudi Arabia would donate $1 billion in military aid to the Lebanese security forces to help them in the fight against extremists. “There has been, in the last three years, a vacuum that has formed in the Sunni community. This was becoming increasingly dangerous because this community was becoming more and more radicalized,” said Michael Young, a political commentator. Last Update: Friday, 8 August 2014
Lebanon: Evening Lull Violated in Arsal after Accord Reached on Withdrawal of Gunmen, Release of Soldiers in Captivity
Naharnet/An agreement was reached on Tuesday evening in the northeastern border region of Arsal after the Muslim Scholars Committee mediated to release all soldiers held captive by extremists militants, and to assure the withdrawal of foreign armed groups from the Bekaa area.
However, hours after the accord was sealed, armed groups violated the truce and attacked army posts in Arsal’s Wadi al-Raayan and Wadi Ata regions.
MTV also reported that around 3,000 armed men who were not involved in the fighting expressed readiness to withdraw from Arsal, but noted that gunfire exchange halted their plans.
And the state-run National News Agency said some leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant erected checkpoints late in the evening inside the Bekaa region and prevented residents from leaving the areas despite the “truce.”
The agreement to lull was reached in the evening after the Committee’s delegation came under fire in the Bekaa town and it also followed the release of three troops in the afternoon.
Sheikh Salem al-Rafei, a member of the Committee, was safely evacuated from the area after being wounded by gunmen overnight.
The Lebanese Red Cross announced that al-Rafei was taken to a hospital in the Bekaa, adding that he was in good health despite his injury.
Meanwhile, two Internal Security Force members and a soldier were released by the gunmen after being held captive by al-Nusra Front gunmen over the weekend. Two of the released men were identified as Mtanious Mrad and Khaled Solh.
The three-member Muslim Scholars Committee delegation arrived in Arsal on Monday and reportedly sustained gunshot wounds after their convoy came under fire at night.Media reports said that al-Rafei was injured in his foot while Sheikhs Nabil al-Halabi and Jalal Kalash sustained minor wounds. The Muslim Scholars Committee later said that there is no conclusive evidence on the group that targeted the convoy of the delegation.
“We will go on with our initiative no matter what,” the committee said. It pointed out that al-Rafei needs a surgery after sustaining a severe injury.
LBCI television said that despite targeting the scholars’ delegation with fire, negotiations continued in Arsal and al-Rafei listened to militants’ demands.
The gunmen expressed their willingness to withdraw from the Bekaa region, and noted that a group of militants had “committed a mistake and was followed by all other factions,” LBCI reported.
Later on, al-Halabi shared the truce initiative with officials at the Grand Serail and contacted army chief General Jean Qahwaji over the same matter.
According to him, the initiative includes the withdrawal of all gunmen on Tuesday evening from Arsal, and releasing the all soldiers and security forces held captive by the extremist groups.
It also includes gunmen handing over their posts in Arsal to the region’s figures who will then place them under the army and other legal bodies’ authorities.
The Muslim Scholars Committee expressed fear that the developments in Arsal would impact Lebanon “negatively.”“We are seeking to force gunmen to withdraw from Arsal and the return of Lebanese armed men to Lebanon,” the committee added.
“They are seeking to reach a permanent ceasefire in the area,” Muslim Scholars Committee member Sheikh Ihab al-Banna told LBCI. Clashes intensified overnight in Arsal with the army mounting a major onslaught against Islamist militants to smother them and force them to withdraw outside Lebanese territories. Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji stressed that the army will not abide by any truce or ceasefire before knowing the fate of the kidnapped security personnel and civilians.
“The army is determined to free Arsal from the occupation imposed by takfiris and it will not cease to open fire until they withdraw,” Qahwaji was quoted as saying by his visitors.
LBCI reported that the army fortified its presence in the area overnight.
The army announced on Monday that 14 troops were killed and 86 wounded, while 22 are missing in the Arsal fighting. While Sheikh Mustafa al-Hujairi, a resident of Arsal, said that the 16 ISF members and 19 soldiers “are safe and being held inside Lebanon, not Syria.” Emile Hokayem, a senior fellow for regional security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said in comments to Agence France Presse that the situation in Arsal was an inevitable “spillover” from the Syrian conflict.
“As much as the Lebanese like to think that Syria’s problems are coming to Lebanon, the reality is that Lebanon sent fighters for and against Assad to Syria… so we shouldn’t be surprised that it’s coming here.”He said the situation in Arsal could be contained in the short-term, but warned an aggressive army response or the involvement of Hizbullah would anger Lebanon’s Sunnis.
The clashes began at the weekend after the arrest of a Syrian man accused of belonging to al-Qaida’s Syrian branch Al-Nusra Front.
Following his arrest, gunmen surrounded army posts before opening fire, sparking the clashes.
Arsal is majority Sunni Muslim and broadly sympathetic to the Sunni-dominated uprising next door against Syria’s Bashar Assad.
Question: “Is gluttony a sin? What does the Bible say about overeating?”
GotQuestions.org/Answer: Gluttony seems to be a sin that Christians like to ignore. We are often quick to label smoking and drinking as sins, but for some reason gluttony is accepted or at least tolerated. Many of the arguments used against smoking and drinking, such as health and addiction, apply equally to overeating. Many believers would not even consider having a glass of wine or smoking a cigarette but have no qualms about gorging themselves at the dinner table. This should not be! Proverbs 23:20-21 warns us, “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” Proverbs 28:7 declares, “He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.” Proverbs 23:2 proclaims, “Put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.” Physical appetites are an analogy of our ability to control ourselves. If we are unable to control our eating habits, we are probably also unable to control other habits, such as those of the mind (lust, covetousness, anger) and unable to keep our mouths from gossip or strife. We are not to let our appetites control us, but we are to have control over our appetites. (See Deuteronomy 21:20, Proverbs 23:2, 2 Peter 1:5-7, 2 Timothy 3:1-9, and 2 Corinthians 10:5.) The ability to say “no” to anything in excess—self-control—is one of the fruits of the Spirit common to all believers (Galatians 5:22).God has blessed us by filling the earth with foods that are delicious, nutritious, and pleasurable. We should honor God’s creation by enjoying these foods and by eating them in appropriate quantities. God calls us to control our appetites, rather than allowing them to control us.
All 45 Christian Institutions in Mosul Destroyed or Occupied By ISIS
Assyrian International News Agency
Mar Behnam (St. Behnam) Syriac Catholic monastery in the Ancient Assyrian town of Nimrod is now occupied by ISIS.(AINA) — Since taking over Mosul on June 10, ISIS has destroyed, occupied, converted to mosques, converted to ISIS headquarters or shuttered all 45 Christian institutions in Mosul.
The following is the complete list of the Christian institutions in Mosul, grouped by denomination.
Syriac Catholic Church:
1.Syrian Catholic Diocese – Maidan Neighborhood, Mosul
2.The Old Church of the Immaculate – Maidan Neighborhood, Mosul (The church goes back to the eighth century AD)
3.The New Church of the Immaculate – Maidan Neighborhood
4.Church of Mar (Saint) Toma – Khazraj Neighborhood
5.Museum of Mar (Saint) Toma – Khazraj Neighborhood
6.Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation – Muhandiseen Neighborhood
7.Church of the Virgin of Fatima – Faisaliah Neighborhood
8.Our Lady of Deliverance Chapel – Shifaa Neighborhood
9.The House of the Young Sisters of Jesus – Ras Al-Kour Neighborhood
10.Archbishop’s Palace Chapel – Dawasa Neighborhood
Syriac Orthodox Church:
1.Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese – Shurta Neighborhood
2.The Antiquarian Church of Saint Ahodeeni – Bab AlJadeed Neighborhood
3.Mar (Saint) Toma Church and cemetery, (the old Bishopric) – Khazraj Neighborhood
4.Church of The Immaculate (Castle) – Maidan Neighborhood
5.Church of The Immaculate – Shifaa Neighborhood
6.Mar (Saint) Aprim Church – Shurta Neighborhood
7.St. Joseph Church – The New Mosul Neighborhood
Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East:
1.Diocese of the Assyrian Church of the East – Noor Neighborhood
2.Assyrian Church of the East, Dawasa Neighborhood
3.Church of the Virgin Mary (old rite) – Wihda Neighborhood
Chaldean Church of Babylon:
1.Chaldean Diocese – Shurta Neighborhood
2.Miskinta Church – Mayassa Neighborhood
3.The Antiquarian Church of Shimon alSafa – Mayassa Neighborhood
4.Church of Mar (Saint) Buthyoon – Shahar AlSouq Neighborhood
5.Church of St. Ephrem, Wady AlAin Neighborhood
6.Church of St. Paul – Majmooaa AlThaqafiya District
7.The Old Church of the Immaculate (with the bombed archdiocese)- Shifaa Neighborhood
8.Church of the Holy Spirit – Bakir Neighborhood
9.Church of the Virgin Mary – Drakziliya Neighborhood
10.Ancient Church of Saint Isaiah and Cemetery – Ras AlKour Neighborhood
11.Mother of Aid Church – Dawasa Neighborhood
12.The Antiquarian Church of St. George- Khazraj Neighborhood
13.St. George Monastery with Cemetery – Arab Neighborhood
14.Monastery of AlNasir (Victory) – Arab Neighborhood
15.Convent of the Chaldean Nuns – Mayassa Neighborhood
16.Monastery of St. Michael – Hawi Church Neighborhood
17.The Antiquarian Monastery of St. Elijah – Ghazlany Neighborhood
Armenian Orthodox Church:
1.Armenian Church – Maidan Neighborhood
2.The New Armenian Church – Wihda Neighborhood
Evangelical Presbyterian Church:
1.Evangelical Presbyterian Church – Mayassa Neighborhood
1.Latin Church and Monastery of the Dominican Fathers and Convent of Katrina Siena Nuns – Sa’a Neighborhood
2.Convent of the Dominican Sisters, – Mosul AlJadeed Neighborhood
3.Convent of the Dominican Sisters (AlKilma Monastery) – Majmooaa AlThaqafiya District
4.House of Qasada AlRasouliya (Apostolic Aim) (Institute of St. John the Beloved)
1.Christian Cemetery in the Ekab Valley which contains a small chapel.
Iran knows better than to jeopardize the nuke talks
Monday, 28 July 2014
By: Camelia Entekhabi-Fard/Al Arabiya
Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, holds one of the heaviest duties in the Islamic Republic – the leading of negotiations over its nuclear program.
In the past year, since he become foreign minister, the difficulties of the talks have given him a lot of troubles – he has even suffered physical ailments evidently caused by the high tension between him and the hardliners in parliament.
In spite of the consequences and the numerous stones in his path of reaching a comprehensive nuclear deal, Zarif tolerates every obstacle with one goal in mind: lifting the sanctions and proving that Iran is a peaceful nation.
Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) extended the talks at their conclusion on July 19 for another four months to continue working on the gaps between them in hopes of reaching a conclusive deal.
While the United States is just one of the players in the talks, it clearly has the strongest position and the most major role on the P5+1’s side of the table.
In Iran, the current government understands that the time to move forward in the country’s future is now
Making any destructive act void and maintaining rational behavior is only a part of the talks. Iranian and U.S. diplomats not only engaged at the discussions in Vienna, but were also busy back home keeping their hardliners at bay in order to keep a positive and constructive atmosphere.
While all parties have agreed to meet in the first week of September, perhaps at the U.N. headquarters in New York City for the next ministerial level of the nuclear talks, in Iran, four journalists – three of them U.S. citizens – were arrested last Tuesday.
Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post Correspondent in Iran and his wife Yeghaneh Salehi who was working with the UAE newspaper The National – along with another photojournalist and her husband – were all arrested in Tehran.
Gholamhossein Esmaili, the director general of Tehran province’s justice department, confirmed on July 25 that the Washington Post correspondent was being held, according to IRNA, Iran’s official news agency.
Speaking to reporters at a public event, Esmaili said that the journalist “has been detained for some questions and after technical investigations, the judiciary will provide details on the issue.”
He added that Iranian security forces are “vigilant towards all kind of enemy activities,” according to IRNA.
The director general of Tehran province hasn’t provided details about the arrest, but knowing three of the detainees are dual citizens could be seen as a rise of new tensions between Iran and the United States, at a time when both countries aim to improve their relations.
The arrest of Rezaian is the first case of an American journalist being detained in Iran since 2009, and surprised many observers in both the U.S. and Iran.
An Iranian diplomat speaking on the condition of anonymity told me that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei may intervene for the group’s release if he comes to believe that the arrest was a campaign to damage the nuclear talks and pressure President Hassan Rowhani and Zarif.
“Ayatollah Khamenei supports the talks but there still are hardliners in the judiciary and other institutions which are against them, and may they act to embarrass the negotiator’s team. If this is the case the supreme leader would fix it,” the diplomat said.
Rezaian was arrested shortly after returning from his last trip to Vienna to cover Iran’s nuclear talks with the P5+1.
The two other Americans detained on Tuesday are a female freelance photojournalist and her husband.
The Washington Post reported that a relative of the photojournalist said the family is working through contacts in Iran to secure their release. He said relatives have asked that their names not be made public.
In Iran, the current government understands that the time to move forward in the country’s future is now and won’t let anything jeopardize the talks.
The nuclear negotiations are an historic opportunity for Iran to demonstrate the true changes they are claiming, and the arrest of the U.S. citizen journalists couldn’t play a destructive role even if some wish for that. The complex and difficult task of resolving a crisis that has lasted more than a decade between the two countries cannot happen overnight – a fact that has been acknowledged by both sides.