Wednesday 19 October 2011

The tell-tale signs of abuse

Yesterday, I drew attention to the thin, pale Gilad Shalit and the well-fed appearance of the freed terrorists.

BICOM today draws attention to the physical state of Gilad:

There were some concerns regarding the state of health of Gilad Shalit, who appeared to be very gaunt - belying claims by his Hamas captors that he had been better treated than Palestinian prisoners in Israel while in captivity.

Obliged to give an interview to the Egyptian media before crossing the border into Israel (a move which has led to anger and criticism in Israel of the Egyptian authorities), Shalit appeared also to have difficulty answering questions. Israeli officials later said that he showed signs of malnutrition. According to reports, Shalit also has Vitamin D deficiency, caused by lack of exposure to sunlight.

In an impromptu press conference outside his Mitzpeh Hila home last night, Noam Shalit, father of Gilad, said that Gilad was also still suffering the effects of wounds sustained during his kidnap, which had been insufficiently treated, and also from the effects of being deprived of sunlight. Noam Shalit likened receiving Gilad from captivity to experiencing the birth of his son anew.

As I look at these pictures, I'm finding it hard not to describe Shalit's captors and all their sympathisers with an expletive that has not passed my lips in the forty-odd years since I became a Christian!

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Mercy, Compassion and Revulsion

The UK’s foremost evangelical critic of Israel today expressed pleasure at the release of Gilad Shalit (pictured embracing his father Noam today).

However, he was also glad that Israel was releasing 1,027 Palestinian ‘political prisoners’.

The release of Gilad Shalit is indeed a cause for joy but not unmixed joy. Among the ‘political prisoners’ exchanged for Shalit is Ahlam Tamimi, the unrepentant female terrorist who allegedly smiled when she learned children had been among 15 killed and 130 wounded as a result of her bomb attack on a Jerusalem pizzeria in 2001.

Also on the list is Khalil Muhammad Abu Ulbah, who in 2001 used his Egged passenger bus to kill eight people. So are the terrorists who opened fire on a bus stop in 2005, killing Kinneret Mandel, Matat Rosenfeld-Edler and 14 year-old Oz Ben-Meir. And the terrorist sniper who killed Erez Rund in 2002.

Abed Alaziz Salaha, who become infamous in 2002 as the young dude photographed while joyfully waving his blood soaked hands after brutally lynching two Israelis is also walking free.

These people are a few of the hundreds of ‘political prisoners’ our evangelical friend if glad to see released.

Michael Ben-Ari lamented the decision and the precedent it sets, telling The Jerusalem Post:

Today every Arab child knows they can murder 20 or 30 Jews and tomorrow they will go free. Israel is sending the message that killing Jews is permissible.

Meir Indor of the Almagor Terror victims’ Organization urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to take part in any celebratory events, since for many Israelis today is a day of happiness for the Shalit family mixed with their own despair.

In a letter to Netanyahu, Indor wrote:

For many Israelis this is a second day of mourning and some see it as a day of submission … There is no victory here.

In Gaza and the Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, celebrations are underway to welcome the killers home.

Our evangelical critic talks of Gilad Shalit as a 'prisoner of war' when, in fact, he was kidnapped during a time of ‘peace’.

In an unusual phrase, he says:

Not withstanding the provisions of the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war, and Islamic teaching on the treatment of prisoners of war, I wish Hamas had released Shalit unconditionally when first captured to provoke Israel into doing the same…

‘Not withstanding the provisions of the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war...’ makes it sound as though the Geneva Conventions are on the side of Hamas and that the terrorist group should have risen above the constraints of the conventions of the civilised nations and been ‘magnanimous’!

The evangelical writer claims that a spokesman for Hezbollah, no less, consulted him as to what Hezbollah should do. His advice was: ‘Release the Israeli captives. Show them compassion and mercy. Show them you are magnanimous.’

You display mercy to undeserving wretches. The only people showing mercy and magnanimity today are the Israelis.

Take a look at the well fed faces of the released terrorists and compare them with the thin, pale former captive of Hamas.

Ignoring the fact that the evangelical blogger could have told Hezbollah to call a halt to killing Israeli citizens and stop sacrificing their own children as suicide bombers, what does it say about Hezbollah that they ignored his advice? That's right: Hezbollah is uncompassionate, merciless and totally lacking in magnanimity.

For anyone to draw a moral equivalence between the release of Gilad Shalit and the release of over 1,000 unprincipled, cold-blooded, murderous barbarians is chilling. But when an evangelical minister does so, it leaves me with a feeling of dread and revulsion in the pit of my stomach.

I recommend the insightful blog by Calvin Smith, Principal and Tutor of Theology
at King's Evangelical Divinity School

Wednesday 12 October 2011

One Israeli is worth a thousand terrorists.

The news that Gilad Shalit is to be released, which broke yesterday, is a cause for rejoicing and comes appropriately the day before the Jewish ‘season of joy’ Tabernacles.

But the release is long overdue. Shalit was kidnapped on 25 June 2006 and has spent five soul-destroying years as a prisoner of Hamas. During Shalit’s 63 months of imprisonment, Hamas has refused to allow the International Red Cross to visit Shalit. Human rights organisations have stated that the terms and conditions of the young soldier’s confinement are contrary to international humanitarian law and since his kidnapping, the only contact between Shalit and the outside world has been three letters, an audio tape, and a DVD that Israel received in return for releasing 20 female Palestinian prisoners.

The price Israel is paying for the release of Shalit is 1000 Palestinian prisoners, almost half of them serving long sentences for some of the worst terrorist atrocities in the Israel’s history. Do not imagine for one nano-second that any of those merchants of terror will have learned the errors of their ways in prison. They will walk free, ready for action once again.

Politics is a difficult business but Hamas, Hezbullah and the PLO have learned once again that terror and kidnapping pay, while the international media will continue to draw an equivalence between the release of one young IDF soldier and a hundreds of terrorists. Releasing 1000 terrorists back to Gaza and the West Bank makes it more likely that Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon too will redouble their efforts to kidnap yet more Israeli soldiers.

In a book published in 1995 BinyaminNetanyahu wrote that prisoner exchanges were
‘a mistake that Israel made over and over again’ and that refusing to release terrorists from prison was ‘among the most important policies that must be adopted in the face of terrorism.’

‘The release of convicted terrorists before they have served their full sentences seems like an easy and tempting way of defusing blackmailed situations in which innocent people may lose their lives, but its utility is momentary at best.

‘Prisoner releases only embolden terrorists by giving them the feeling that even if they are caught, their punishment will be brief. Worse, by leading terrorists to think such demands are likely to be met, they encourage precisely the terrorist blackmail they are supposed to defuse.’

On the other hand, as Melanie Philips perceptively observes, ‘once Shalit comes home the Hamas in Gaza will have lost their most valuable human shield of all.’

‘For five years,’ writes Miss Phillips, ‘they have used their young Israeli captive -- whose fate has been the focus of such public agony within Israel -- to tie the Israelis' military hands. Now, it would seem, all such bets will be off.’

Monday 10 October 2011

From Antisemite to Zionist

If I had it in my power, I would make it compulsory to have this article by Kasim Hafeez from this week's Jewish Chronicle printed on the front page of every newspaper in the UK.

In 2003, Pakistan's then President Pervez Musharaff sought to re-examine his country's relationship, or lack thereof, with Israel. He asked: 'Do we have to be more Palestinian than the Palestinians themselves?'

With their new 'Liberation' campaign, it seems that the Union Of Jewish Students has decided to answer that question with a resounding 'yes'.

Rather than being a brave move forwards for UJS, it is a hollow and cynical campaign that smacks of extreme cowardice.

The reality is that there is real anti-Israel and antisemitic feeling on British university campuses. How do I know this? Because until recently I was antisemitic and anti-Israel. Until recently, I was the one doing the hating. It wasn't the evil Zionist Israel that I had been told about.

Growing up in a Muslim community in the UK I was exposed to materials condemning Israel, painting Jews as usurpers and murderers. My views were reinforced when I attended Nakba Day rallies where speakers predicted Israel's demise.

My hate for Israel and for the Jews was fuelled by images of death and destruction, set to the backdrop of Arabic melodies about Jihad and speeches of Hizbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah or Osama Bin Laden.

There was also constant, casual antisemitism around me. My father would boast of how Adolf Hitler was a hero, his only failing being that he didn't kill enough Jews. Even the most moderate clerics I came across refused to condemn terrorism against Israel as unjustified.

What changed?

In Waterstones one day I found myself in the Israel and Palestine section. To this day I don't know why I actually pulled it off the shelf, but I picked up a copy of Alan Dershowitz's The Case for Israel.

In my world view the Jews and the Americans controlled the media, so after a brief look at the back, I scoffed thinking 'vile Zionist propaganda'.

But I decided to buy it, eagerly awaiting the chance to deconstruct it so I could show why Israel had no case and claim my findings as a personal victory for the Palestinian cause.

As I read Dershowitz's systematic deconstruction of the lies I had been told, I felt a real crisis of conscience. I couldn't disprove his arguments or find facts to respond to them with. I didn't know what to believe. I'd blindly followed for so long, yet here I was questioning whether I had been wrong?

I decided to visit Israel to find the truth. I was confronted by synagogues, mosques and churches, by Jews and Arabs living together, by minorities playing huge parts in all areas of Israeli life, from the military to the judiciary. It was shocking and eye-opening. This wasn't the evil Zionist Israel that I had been told about.

After much soul searching, I knew what I had once believed was wrong. I had to stand with Israel, with this tiny nation, free, democratic, making huge strides in medicine, research and development, yet the victim of the same lies and hatred that nearly consumed me.

As an outsider, I ask why so many in the Jewish community are closing their eyes to the constant stream of anti-Israel hated spewed out from all facets of British society.

And while pro-Palestinian organisations burn Israeli flags, urge boycotts of Israel and protest against appearances by Israeli politicians or artists, UJS's response is shameful. It is not the time for UJS or any other group to engage in hollow flag-waving to show their 'progressiveness'. Let Israel's democratic history speak for itself.

Instead of meekly trying to avoid coming across as too pro-Israeli or too Zionist, it is time to make the facts known, to defend Israel against delegitimisation. It is time to stem the tide of Israel bashing before it becomes even more mainstream and consumes even more people like me.

Kasim Hafeez is a British Muslim and the founder of the website

Friday 7 October 2011


Pray for the Jewish people tonight as the most solemn day in their calendar commences. Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year began at sunset on 28 September and, according to the rabbis and sages of Israel:

Three ledgers are opened on Rosh Hashanah: one for those who are entirely wicked, one for those who are entirely righteous, and one for those who are in the middle. The entirely righteous are immediately inscribed and sealed to live. The entirely wicked are immediately inscribed and sealed to die. The fate of those in the middle is held in balance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

According to Jewish tradition, therefore, Rosh Hashanah is the Day of Judgement when God weighs the sins of all men: “On Rosh Hashanah all of mankind pass before Him like sheep – they pass by Him one by one, one after the other, yet He scrutinizes them all with a single glance.’

The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have come to be known as Yomim Noraim, the ‘Days of Awe’ or the ‘Days of Repentance’.

In the hope of swinging the balances in heaven in their favour, during the Days of Awe Jewish people do acts of kindness and charity. The mediaeval Jewish philosopher and rabbi, Moses Maimonides wrote:

It is the custom of the entire Jewish community to give greater amounts to charity, and [do more acts of] good deeds, and to be concerned with fulfilment of commandments from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, than the rest of the year. It is the custom to arise in the night during these ten days to pray ... until the day dawns. (Laws of Repentance 3:4)

Tashlich is a ritual traditionally performed on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. The word means ‘casting off’ in Hebrew and involves symbolically casting off the sins of previous year by throwing pieces of bread or other food into rivers, ponds or the sea, while reciting Micah 7:18-20:

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.

At the heart of the rituals for the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16 are two goats. One was sacrificed and its blood spattered on the Ark of the Covenant to make atonement for sin. The other was kept alive so the High Priest, by the laying of his hands on its head, could symbolically transfer the sins of the people to it. The goat would then symbolically carry the sins of the people into the wilderness. After the temple was destroyed in AD 70, Jewish people were taught that God requires only repentance.

Though Jewish people deny that God requires the shedding of blood to atone for sins, it is customary for some Eastern European Jews to take a cock (pictured)and whirl it about their heads three times, and intone a solemn prayer:

This is my substitute, my vicarious offering, my atonement; this cock shall meet death, but I shall find a long and pleasant life of peace.

The bird is than delivered to the ritual slaughterer to be killed and donated to the poor.

The concept of vicarious sacrifice is indelibly imprinted on the Jewish psyche. In an old version of the Mahzor, the prayer book for the Day of Atonement, is a strange prayer. Jewish people do not use this prayer any more but they used to.

He hath borne the yoke of our iniquities and our transgression, and is wounded because of our transgression. He beareth our sins on his shoulder, that we may find pardon for our iniquities. We shall be healed by His wound…

Our righteous anointed [Messiah] is departed from us: horror hath seized us, and we have non to justify us. He hath borne the yoke of our iniquities, and our transgression, and is wounded because of our transgression. He beareth our sins on his shoulder, that he may find pardon for our iniquities. We shall be healed by his wound, at the time that the Eternal will create him (the Messiah) as a new creature. O bring him up from the circle of the earth. Raise him up from Seir, to assemble us the second time on Mount Lebanon, by the hand of Yinnon.

This prayer bears a striking resemblance to the 53rd chapter of Isaiah; a portion of Scripture which, according to many of our ancient sages, describes the Messiah:

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed … and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. (Isaiah 53:5,10)

If this is the provision afforded by the Almighty, according to the Hebrew Scriptures, then the sacrifice of Messiah is sufficient to make atonement for us all.

Pray that tonight and tomorrow Jewish people will recognise that their repentance and good deeds are inadequate for finding atonement and forgiveness, and pray that they may look to the one spoken of by the Torah and the prophets.

Boycotts, Divestments, Sanctions ... and Jew hatred

Last night, I experienced a little of what it is like to be a Jew in the UK. In central London, in front of several police, some people loudly accused me of being a Nazi and a War Criminal. One particularly articulate lady wished I would rot in hell. When I smiled and wished her God’s blessing, she became incandescent with rage. She had no desire to be blessed by my God, she yelled; she had a god of her own. The insults were, of course, liberally spiced with the ‘F’ word.

These were not the worst counter-compliments I have ever received, I must confess, but they left a particularly bad taste in my mouth because the people concerned spat their venom at me because I was standing with Jews and, for that reason, they thought I was a Jew.

I was in London yesterday for a meeting with leaders of Jewish missions and also for a prayer meeting for the salvation of the Jewish people at Westminster Central Hall. I received an email early in the morning informing me that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign was holding a demonstration outside Downing Street to call for the arrest of Tzipi Livni, the Leader of the Opposition in the Knesset. The Zionist Federation was holding a counter-demo to express support for Israel.

A number of the people who attended the prayer meeting accompanied me to Downing Street and, for the first twenty minutes or so, apart from the organisers, a counter-demonstration consisted entirely of Christians.

Livni was in the UK to discuss Israeli-British relations and building support for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. Two months ago such a visit would have been impossible. The universal jurisdiction law had prevented many high-ranking Israelis travelling to the UK because under that legislation they would have been arrested on charges of war crimes. An amendment to the law last month prevented pro-Palestinian organisations from applying for a warrant for Livni's arrest.

Despite the amended law, pro-Palestinian lawyers had issued a request to the Crown Prosecution Service to have Livni arrested when she arrived in London. The Foreign Secretary William Hague, intervened by issuing a certificate which designated Livni's visit a 'special mission.'

So there I was, just standing with an Israeli flag in my hand, when a lady I had never seen before informed me in no uncertain words that I was a Nazi.

What became clear over the next couple of hours was that the pro-Palestinians were not there to support the Palestinians so much as to denounce Israel. Their hatred was palpable.

As the Palestine Solidarity Campaign logo (pictured) eloquently demonstrates, the organisation does not wish to see a two-state solution to the present crisis in the Middle East (an issue that was being addressed by Livni and Hague).

The logo features what is currently Israel, Gaza and the Palestinian Authority as a single area. The PSC wants a single-state solution; a Jew-free Palestine. Nowhere on its website or on its printed publicity can I find any mention of ‘peace’. The PSC is committed to boycotts, divestment and sanctions. This is a call for destruction, not peace.

But of course the boycotts, divestments and sanctions are all selective. All the boycotters had mobile phones (available only because of technology developed in Israel) and you can bet your bottom shekel they all have laptops and/or PCs with ‘Intel Inside’ (perhaps that should be ‘Israel Inside’). And should these Israel haters become sick, it’s for certain they won’t boycott the numerous medicines available through breakthroughs in Israel. But then, anti-Semites were never all that hot on consistency.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Syria: 'Stay back or Israel gets it!'

A report from British Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM)today says:

Syrian President Bashar Assad has threatened to carry out an attack on Israel in the event of foreign intervention against his regime, according to the Iranian FARS news agency.

The agency quoted Assad as telling Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu that he would transfer rockets and missiles to the Golan Heights and fire them at Israel, and that Hezbollah would also attack Israel, if NATO forces intervened in Syria.

The FARS report has not been confirmed by other sources. However, the nature of Assad's alleged threat mirrors similar remarks made by pro-regime figures to Syrian opposition sources, regarding the regime's likely course of action in the event of an attack on it by international forces.

Syria analysts have long noted the major difference between the situation in Syria and that in Libya. Whereas Gaddafi was isolated in the region, Assad possesses a network of dangerous allies across the Middle East, most importantly Iran and its client in Lebanon Hezbollah. If the remarks attributed to Assad are correct, they reflect the invocation of this network as a threat. This, in turn, may itself be confirmation of the beleaguered situation of the Assad regime.

Meanwhile, yesterday, a European-drafted United Nations Security Council resolution threatening sanctions against the Syrian regime failed to pass, after Russia and China used their veto to ensure its failure. The resolution was tabled because of the ongoing killing by the Syrian regime of peaceful protesters demanding reform.

More than 2,700 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising against the dictatorial rule of Assad began in mid-April. The vote in the UNSC was 9-2, with Russia and China opposed, and India, South Africa, Brazil and Lebanon abstaining.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said after the vote that his country opposed any 'ultimatum' to the regime in Damascus. French Ambassador Gerard Araud, however, said that no veto could give 'carte blanche' to the Syrian authorities.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, meanwhile, expressed US outrage at the use of the veto, and demanded 'tough and targeted sanctions' against Damascus.

On Syria's northern border, as relations continue to deteriorate between neighbours Turkey and Syria, the Turkish armed forces announced yesterday that it would conduct a weeklong series of military exercises in a province along the border. Some Middle East experts interpret the announcement as a warning to Damascus. 'Turkey is sending a signal to Syria,' Lale Kemal, a defence expert and Ankara bureau chief with the Turkish newspaper Taraf, told CNN.

More than 10,000 Syrian refugees have fled across the border to camps in Turkey in recent months, while hundreds of Syrian demonstrators suffering from gunshot wounds have been treated at Turkish hospitals. On Tuesday, Turkey's prime minister stepped up his criticism of Assad. During a state visit to South Africa, Recep Tayyip Erdogan endorsed a Security Council resolution that would demand Syrian security forces immediately suspend their crackdown against anti-government protesters.

'We cannot remain a mere spectator to the developments in Syria,' Erdogan said. 'There are serious deaths against unjustly treated, oppressed and defenseless people. We cannot say "keep going" to this ... we have to fulfill our human task.'

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Cut me in St. Louis

by Chana Ya’ar at Arutz Sheva.

An Iraqi poet who converted from Islam to Christianity, and who expressed pain over the loss of six million Jews in the Nazi Holocaust, has paid the price for his beliefs.

Over a month has passed since Alaa Alsaegh was attacked over his Arabic-language poem, Tears at the Heart of the Holocaust, featured on the Arabs For Israel blog.

The site is run by Arabs and Muslims who believe they can ‘support Israel and still support the Palestinian people.... support the State of Israel and the Jewish religion and still treasure our Arab and Islamic culture.’

But the poem apparently inspired attackers in St. Louis, Missouri to mark the Iraqi immigrant as a target for hate.

On August 14, Alsaegh was trapped by two cars as he was driving in St. Louis, Missouri. One sideswiped and struck his car, forcing him to stop, while the other stopped behind, cutting off contact with anyone else.

The two attackers then quickly hopped out of the cars, jerked open Alsaegh’s door and pointed a gun at the poet, reported FrontPage Magazine.

‘They pushed his upper body down against the steering wheel, stabbed him and pulled off his shirt to expose his back. Then, with a knife, they carved the Star of David on his back while laughing as they recited his pro-Jewish poem,’ the magazine reported.

After the attackers fled Alsaegh was surrounded by witnesses and taken to the local hospital, where his wounds were photographed by a friend, to be given to police and to the media.

Alsaegh told local KMOV TV News 4 last week that he recently posted a poem online expressing support for Jewish people in Israel. He also said that his attackers, who he said may have been Somali Muslims, told him not to publish any more poems.

The FBI has allegedly opened an investigation into the incident, although a spokeswoman for the agency declined to comment. The crime has not been labelled a ‘hate crime,’ though no explanation has been offered. No arrests have been made in the case.

Iranian Christian to be executed for being a 'Zionist'

The international community was furious when it learned that Iran was going to execute a young man for converting to Christianity and wanting to start a church. So Iran on Sunday altered the charges and said it is instead going to execute Youcef Nadarkhani because, among other things, he loves Israel.

Nadarkhani was arrested and convicted in 2010. Legal documents obtained by CNN accused Nadarkhani of "turning his back on Islam, the greatest religion..."

In Iran, the punishment for apostacy is death.

But with pressure mounting for Iran to cease its brutal repression of religious freedom, Gholomali Rezvani, the deputy governor of Nadarkhani's home province, announced that the charges had been changed.

'His crime is not, as some claim, converting others to Christianity. He is guilty of security-related crimes,' Rezvani told the Fars news agency.

And what kind of security-related crimes had Nadarkhani committed? He 'is a Zionist,' declared Rezvani. And just in case, Nadarkhani also had charges of rape and extortion tacked on to his rap sheet. Both CNN and Fox News later pointed out that the original 2010 court ruling did not contain one mention of rape or extortion.

Israel Today