Tag Archives: West Bank

RUSSIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST

putin

While US media has been focussed on alleged Russian hacking of the US electoral process, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has strengthened its role in the Middle East.

The morning that America suffered a major setback in the Middle East, American news networks led on two deaths – those of actresses Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds.   Tragic though these deaths were, developments in the Middle East put America where Great Britain was exactly six decades ago.

Before World War Two, the British Empire was the dominant power in the region.   Britain withdrew from Israel in May of 1948. Immediately, the Jewish nation was invaded by five neighboring Arab nations.   Miraculously, Israel survived. In those early days, it was not helped by the United States.

In 1952, as a direct consequence of defeat against Israel, Egypt’s King Farouk was overthrown by the military.   The new leaders soon seized the Anglo-French Suez Canal.   Together with Israel, these countries invaded Egypt but were soon stopped by US President Eisenhower.   This single event led directly to the dismantling of the British Empire.   In 1958 the pro-British King of Iraq was overthrown.   Britain was losing its remaining influence in the area. The country fought a war against rebels in Aden, withdrawing from the protectorate in 1967.

It was a gradual decline, with one setback after another.   Now, the UK does not play any major role in the Middle East.

Since Britain, America has been the dominant power in the region. During the time of the Soviet Union, the US and the USSR were rivals in the area, with Moscow backing Egypt and Syria.   Later, Egypt switched sides and allied itself with the United States, but Moscow retained its influence in Syria.   Iran was in the US sphere of influence until the Shah was overthrown in 1979.

The region has seen never-ending turmoil since the fall of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire after World War One.   That turmoil shows no sign of ending.

The recent war in Iraq has left a big mess in the region.   At its root is the almost 1,400 year sectarian conflict between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam. Until the US invasion of Iraq, the country was dominated by Sunni Muslims, even though the majority of people were Shia Muslims (the reverse is the case in Syria).   Following the US backed election in Iraq, the majority Shia now rule the country. This development has altered the religious balance in the region and is causing repercussions everywhere.   ISIS was formed to protect Sunni Muslims from the now dominant Shia.

In Syria, Sunnis have been trying to overthrow the Alawite (Shia) minority regime of President Assad for five years.   Enter Moscow. Russia’s backing of the Syrian president has enabled Assad to win. The US showed a great deal of weakness, refusing to get involved even when the Syrian government crossed the line and used chemical weapons on its own citizens.   Now, after months of fighting in Aleppo, the biggest city of the country, Assad is firmly in power and Russia is sponsoring “peace talks” with the rebel factions in the country.   The US is not invited to the peace talks. Russia now controls Syria.   To accomplish this, the country needs Turkey’s help. The two are pushing for peace in the country. Turkey, the second most powerful military power in NATO, is now working with the Russians to bring peace to the Middle East.

That’s two set-backs for Washington in just a few days.

A third set-back is in Israel.   The outgoing administration in Washington did not veto the latest UN vote against Israel, condemning the country for building new settlements for Jewish settlers in the West Bank.   Friction between the US and the only western style democracy in the region is unsettling, to say the least. This set-back may only be temporary as a new President takes over in the US in just three weeks, but that gives a few days for further negative developments.   Even the British have criticized America’s condemnation of Israel.   The State Department seems set on causing rifts with US allies in the final days of the current Administration.

Keep in mind, too, that Syria borders Israel on the Golan Heights.   What happens in Syria may affect Israel.   Perhaps that’s why Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to Moscow in June, the fourth time in a year that he sat down with President Putin to discuss the situation in the Middle East.

The tables have been turned once again in the region.   Over sixty years ago, the UK was the dominant power in the region; since then, it’s been the US.   But now Russia is arguably the dominant power in the area.   The Russians are in alliance with the Shi-ite Muslims in Iran and Syria; they are also working with Sunni Turkey, which ruled the whole area prior to 1919.   At the same time, it seems that Israel’s prime minister is more comfortable with Putin than with Obama, with whom he’s had a serious exchange of heated words in recent days.

There’s even a fourth development that puts Russia ahead. Following the hacking scandal, President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the US; President Putin made it clear that he will not expel any Americans. This is a triumph for Putin in the propaganda war with America.

What lies ahead?   Remember that the Middle East is the primary focus of Bible prophecy with Jerusalem at the epicenter.

In the nineteenth century, there was no indication that the Jews were about to become an independent nation again.  Their period of self-rule ended with the Romans before the time of Christ.  Their rebellion against the Romans in the first century AD led to the Diaspora, a dispersion that scattered the Jewish people throughout the Roman Empire and left them scattered until fairly recently.   Bible prophecy showed that the Jewish nation would be restored and that happened in 1948.

Exactly a century ago, British and Australian forces entered Jerusalem in the continuing war with the Ottoman Turks.   At this point in time, a Jewish nation became possible.   The British were given a mandate to administer Palestine by the League of Nations.   This was an impossible task as Palestinians and Jews clashed repeatedly.   Eventually, the League’s successor, the United Nations, divided the territory up between Jews and Palestinians, the latter never accepting their loss of land.

 

 

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THE NEW HEART OF DARKNESS

Pope in CAR

Bangui is the capital of the Central African Republic, one of the worst failed states on a continent of failed states!   Most world leaders are not likely to even think about going there. But Pope Francis has just been there for two days.

It’s one of those African countries that is on the fault-line between Christianity and Islam, a fault-line that runs west to east across the continent, dividing the Islamic world to the north and the Christian world to the south.

After spending Sunday in the Christian half, today the pope ventured into the volatile Muslim half of the capital.  He delivered a message of reconciliation to the city’s main mosque and observed that Christians and Muslims have long lived peacefully together.  He described Christians and Muslims as “brothers.”

Unfortunately, it’s not really true, not in the CAR or anywhere else for that matter.

In point of fact, the opposite is the case.   For 1400 years, since the birth of the Islamic religion, the two dominant religions in the world have been in conflict.   Occasionally, those conflicts have exploded into major warfare between the two.   It looks like we are heading in that direction again!

Marco Rubio, one of the people running for President of the United States at this time, referred a couple of weeks ago to “the clash of civilizations” that has developed between radical Islam and the Christian West.   His comment has been much maligned.   One newspaper dismissed the whole concept of a clash of civilizations by pointing out that ISIS is not civilized, so it doesn’t qualify.

But that’s just the point.   ISIS has a view of the world, which is totally at variance with the view in the West.  We may consider them barbaric, but that does not make it any easier to defeat them, thereby heralding a new kumbaya world order!

Besides, ISIS isn’t the problem so much as Islam.   ISIS is relatively new.   It simply exploits a hatred that’s already there, the hatred of Muslims toward all other religions.   The intellectual elite are fond of saying that all religions are religions of peace, but where is the evidence of this, particularly when it comes to Islam?

Islam means “submission” – the very word is antithetical to what the West stands for.   Salman Rushdie warned more than a decade ago that when a Muslim moves to the West (he said “Detroit”), he is not looking to take advantage of our way of life to better himself; rather, he sees himself as part of the advance guard to spread Islam to his new country.   This is why migrants want “sharia” law, rather than to live under the legal system of their new country.

The Hungarian prime minister made a profound comment last week, when he observed, that “not all migrants are terrorists, but all terrorists are migrants.”   That comment was immediately condemned, with people pointing out that many of the terrorists in Europe are home grown.   Yes, but the home-grown terrorists are Muslims.   Some are first generation, some were raised in Europe by migrant parents. The prime minister is right – the Paris attacks and the threat of further attacks stem from a seismic shift in demographics across the continent – whereas six decades ago there were very few Muslims, now there are tens of millions.   This simple equation changes everything.

So long as Europeans and westerners in general see Islam as a peaceful religion comparable to Christianity, it will not be possible to deal with the problem we now face.

Donald Trump is another presidential candidate who has come in for a lot of criticism, especially for claiming that, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, he saw Muslims celebrating in New Jersey.   I have to say that I do not remember that.   What I do remember is a brief video of people on the West Bank (Palestinians) celebrating.   I also know that we were not shown that a second time.   In an interview a few weeks later, the chief of the CNN News Bureau that day, was asked why it was only shown briefly.   Her response was that she knew the celebrants were only a few people, that the majority couldn’t possibly feel that way, so she wouldn’t show it again.

Now the video has been recovered from the archives to expose Mr. Trump as a “liar.”   How convenient!   How typical of the liberal media.

Yesterday, one of the Sunday morning news programs interviewed Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who were in Baghdad. Both were advocating 20,000 US troops be sent to Syria to fight ISIS.   The same morning, a one-hour documentary produced by Fareed Zakaria, interviewed the German journalist who is the only known westerner to have spent time in ISIS territory.   He said that ISIS wants US troops in Syria, that’s what they have been hoping for. Once they have western troops in Syria, their home turf, they will have a fulfillment of their long held dream, the apocalyptic battle between Islam and the West, the clash of civilizations liberals deny.

Amongst other things, western forces will boost the number of ISIS volunteers.   Before the US invasion of Iraq, there was no ISIS or al-Qaeda in either Iraq or Syria.   It’s impossible to predict the outcome in the region of western coalition “boots on the ground.”

It’s not just US politicians who do not know how to deal with ISIS.   In Paris today leaders from around the world are gathered to discuss climate change.   Rather than agree a plan to defeat the immediate threat of terrorism, they are talking about the long-term threat from climate change.   They have even tried to link the two, when there is no link.

A century ago, Africa was often referred to as the “Heart of Darkness,” after a novel of that name published in 1899.   Although the story was set in Africa, it wasn’t just Africa that had a heart of darkness; the white hero Kurtz, representing imperialism at its height, was also guilty.   Today, Islam is the heart of darkness, with ISIS, a fundamentalist resurgence of primitive Islam, threatening the peace and prosperity of the world.

But Islam does not have the exclusive patent on violence.

The other major religion in the news with the pope’s visit, is Roman Catholicism. Pope Francis is currently reaching out to Muslims, claiming that Christians and Muslims are brothers.   But that approach could suddenly change.

In 1095, faced with violent attacks on Christians by Muslims, Pope Urban II called on the nations of western Europe to launch a “crusade” to free the holy places from Islamic rule.   The crusades that followed lasted two hundred years.

Far from being ancient history, the Islamic world sees today’s western nations as “crusader states” and Israel as a revival of the twelfth century Kingdom of Jerusalem.   Their medieval mindset has not moved on from that struggle.

It was the Catholic Church that galvanized the nations of western Europe to fight militant Islam.   Jesus Christ warned His followers that “false Christs” would appear before His second coming:

“Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be?  And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”  And Jesus answered and said to them:   “Take heed that no one deceives you.  For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” (Matt 24:3-5).

In Revelation 6 we see false religion as the first of the four horsemen that bring destruction upon the earth.

The medieval Christian church could be just as barbaric as ISIS.   Beheadings and burnings were common punishments for dissent.

It’s well to remember these lessons of history in the hope that we can avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

RELIGIOUS DISPUTES DOMINATE THE NEWS

 

ben-carson-donald-trump-large-169

Religion is very much in the news these days.

Donald Trump, the leading contender for the Republican nomination in the US, made a somewhat disparaging remark about Dr. Ben Carson’s religious affiliation.   Carson is the closest rival to Trump. Whereas Trump is a mainstream Presbyterian, Carson is a Seventh Day Adventist.   Mr. Trump said he knew nothing about the SDA’s, but said it in such a way that it made the church and its members decidedly odd.

For the record the Seventh Day Adventists share many beliefs in common with the Presbyterians and other mainstream Christian denominations.   The difference between them is that the SDA’s worship on the seventh day (Saturday) as Jesus did.

Coincidentally, the new President of Fiji is a Seventh Day Adventist. His role is largely a ceremonial role, similar to that played by Queen Elizabeth, who was Fiji’s Head of State until 1987.

Four years ago, in the United States, Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, was a factor in the election.   It was not to his favor.

It’s a pity leaders do not heed the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:12 to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”   Each individual needs to work on his own relationship with God. Christians should be careful not to judge others who may hold to a different Christian tradition.

It’s not just Christian beliefs that have come up in this election. Earlier in the current election campaign the issue of a Muslim president came up.   Neither of the two leading contenders was in favor, but the issue gave the media an opportunity to once again portray both men in a negative light.

Meanwhile, across the pond, the Hungarian Prime Minister has again expressed the fear that the flood of immigrants arriving in Europe will destroy the continent’s Christian (i.e. Catholic) roots.

Europe certainly does have Christian roots, but there is little evidence of those roots these days, as most people have embraced secular humanism.   Only Russia’s leader seems to hold any serious Christian beliefs.   Fortunately, he seems set on saving Christians in the Middle East from Islamic extremism.

In today’s USA Today, an article carries the headline, “Under ISIL’s brutal rule, Iraqis are in constant fear,” written by Kiran Nazish.     A schoolteacher who escaped last month is quoted as observing:   “In more than one year, the Islamic State has created a society where it’s normal for children to watch their elders being murdered by them.”

If you didn’t get it the first time, be sure to read that sentence again.   What it’s saying is that children are watching other children murder adults.  Other articles in recent months have claimed that children not only shoot adults, they are even being trained to behead them. This is the kind of world we now live in.

Fearful of Islam and those refugees from Islamic lands crossing their borders, Poles voted yesterday for a more conservative government.  This is likely to be a trend across Europe as people put security at the top of their concerns.

By far the worst and most serious religious conflict has flared up again in Jerusalem, where Palestinians have been waging a renewed intifada against Israel.   The first intifada was in 1987.   They are trying to drive the Jews out of the West Bank.   If they succeed, it would be a prelude to driving them into the sea.

Palestinians have been angry over the Israelis not allowing young men on to the Temple Mount, which they call Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary).   It’s also a part of the general frustration they feel after seventy years of the nation of Israel.

Meanwhile, an old issue has resurfaced – the role of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem during World War II.

“Philadelphia, PA – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has drawn criticism for comments about the role of al-Hajj Amin al-Husaini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, in conceiving and perpetrating the Holocaust.   Indeed, leading Nazi aides testified that al-Husaini was one of the instigators of the genocide.  In his 1999 autobiography, a senior Nazi official admitted how he advised Hitler and other leading Nazis, and that he acquired full knowledge of the ongoing mass murder.

Middle East Forum scholar, historian, and author Wolfgang G. Schwanitz added, “It is a historical fact that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem al-Hajj Amin al-Husaini was an accomplice whose collaboration with Adolf Hitler played an important role in the Holocaust.   He was the foremost extra-European adviser in the process to destroy the Jews of Europe.”  (“Mufti Advised Hitler on Holocaust”, Middle East Forum, October 21st.)

The Mufti’s successor, Sheikh Muhammed Ahmad Hussein, is now saying that the Temple Mount never housed a Jewish Temple and that the al-Aqsa mosque has been there “since the creation of the world” (Times of Israel, Monday).

If these words were intended to be the last word on the most disputed piece of real estate in the world, he may be surprised at the reaction.

The latest uprising by Palestinian youth has led to the murder of Jews on the streets of Jerusalem.   The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now allowing Palestinian youths on to the Temple Mount, even though it poses a security risk.

There are increasing calls from religious and regional leaders for international supervision of the Temple Mount.

To think that fifty years ago, when I was a teenager, it was widely thought that religion and religious conflict were things of the past!

 

 

PEACE IN OUR TIME

obama+chamberlain

President Obama’s peace deal with Iran brings to mind Neville Chamberlain’s visit to Munich in 1938.   That was when he met with “Herr Hitler” and came back waving a piece of paper, proudly proclaiming “peace in our time.”   One year later he had to declare war on Hitler.   A broken man, he died a few months after that.

When hearing assurances of peace in our time, I am not only reminded of Neville Chamberlain.  I also remember the words of the Apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 5:3.  “For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman.   And they shall not escape.”

Whether or not this verse is applicable specifically to the Iran peace treaty remains to be seen.  The Middle East is a very volatile region and the West seems unable to keep its collective nose out of it, so further conflicts are inevitable.

However, involvement by the West is not an essential component of any Mideast conflict.  Regional powers are quite capable of warring amongst themselves.

A root cause of conflict in the region is the Sunni-Shia divide within Islam.  Iran is the leader of the Shi’ite camp, fighting ISIS in Iraq, which is now ruled by Shia Muslims, thanks to western intervention in the country.   Syria’s Assad is another proxy of Iran. Tehran is also supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen against the Saudi backed Sunni Muslims.

The fear of Iran amongst the Sunnis is palpable.   Fear of an Iranian nuclear bomb is inevitably going to lead to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey trying to acquire the same.   Turning to al-Qaeda for help against ISIS is another.  Yes, that’s right – these three countries, allies of the US, are now backing al-Qaeda against the Islamic State! The British  Spectator  magazine has a really good article on this latest development in the current issue.   (“The enemy’s enemy:  how Arab states have turned to al-Qa’eda” by Ahmed Rashid, 18th July).

The other major conflict in the Middle East is the more familiar one between the Jews and the Palestinians.   In modern history this predates Israel’s independence in May, 1948.   The never-ending conflict saw its latest flare up last year when Hamas (supported by Iran) lobbed thousands of missiles at Israeli settlements.   When Israel retaliated to defend itself, world opinion inevitably turned against Israel.

The dispute is not over.  It will flare up again.   As will problems with Lebanese based Hizbollah (also Iranian backed) and the Palestinians on the West Bank.

This can also escalate into a religious dispute.   According to the Israeli Video Network, the Israeli Minister of Housing and Construction, Uri Ariel, called on Friday for the construction of a Third Temple in place of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which sits on the Temple Mount.

“The first Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE, the second Temple in 70 CE, and ever since the Jewish People have been mourning its loss.”

“‘He then went on to say “Al-Aqsa Mosque is currently in place of the temple, despite the temple being much holier than it.   Al-Aqsa Mosque is only the third most holy mosque in Islam.”   “Now that Israel has once again become a Jewish sovereign state, the desire to rebuild the Temple is growing stronger and stronger”, he added.”

Excavations under the Al-Aqsa led to violent demonstrations by Palestinians a few years ago.  Any attempt to replace the Al-Aqsa with a new Temple building would likely provoke World War III!

This does not mean to say that nothing will happen.   As Mr. Ariel said, “the desire to rebuild the Temple is growing stronger and stronger.”

Jerusalem has been fought over more than any other city.   It’s not over yet.   ”When you shall see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that it’s desolation is near” (Luke 21:20).   Jesus said this in response to His disciples asking about future events that would precede His second coming.

These two disputes go back centuries.  Nothing we do today is going to resolve them.   Between them, they daily threaten Mideast peace. If both flare-up at the same time, the whole world could be engulfed in a never-ending conflagration.

A further potential conflict, made more likely by the peace deal with Iran, is a war between Israel and Iran.  Israel’s prime minister has reacted very negatively to the peace treaty.  He is now working on the US Congress to try to get that body to reject the peace treaty.  If that fails, his last option will be to bomb Iran.  An alternative to that is to wait until Iran actually has the bomb and can then attack Israel.

In addition to the three major conflicts that can quickly escalate, there are “minor” conflicts like the civil war in Syria, continuing anarchy in Libya and the possibility of war between Turks and Kurds.

World leaders should be careful proclaiming “peace and safety” (“peace in our time”), lest “sudden destruction “ should come upon them.

ANGELA MERKEL — THE MOST POWERFUL WOMAN IN THE WORLD

angela-merkel-wladimir-putin

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, is the most powerful woman in the world.

Consider the following:

She has been the prime minister of Germany for almost ten years. Only Putin has led a major power longer. Compared to her, other major leaders lack longevity and experience.

She speaks on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin once or twice a week.   Putin speaks German while Merkel speaks Russian, though not as well as Putin’s German.   She has talked with Putin more than Obama, Cameron, and (French President) Hollande combined. They remain two of the most popular leaders in the world – Putin’s approval rating has been as high as 90%, Merkel’s at 75%.

On June 6th, the seventieth anniversary of D-Day, Merkel met with Obama, Cameron, Hollande and Putin, leaders of the four victorious allies.   The supreme irony is that, almost seven decades after Germany’s defeat, Merkel was the star attraction, clearly leading the others. Everybody wanted to talk with her.

She is able to dictate economic policy to the other 27 member nations of the European Union.

She is deeply committed to European unity, believing that Europe makes Germany bigger. She is sometimes described as the Chancellor of Europe.

Merkel’s refusal even to consider a British proposal to change EU migrant policy was a clear signal that she is willing to let the British go, to leave the EU.

She is deeply committed to Israel.

All except one of the above facts appears in a lengthy and fascinating article on the German Chancellor, “The Quiet German,” by George Packer, in the latest New Yorker magazine (December 1st).

A great deal is changing in Europe and Merkel is at the center of the changes.

Again, consider:

Anti-Americanism in Germany is greater now than it has been for over thirty years.  

Barely half of Germans have a favorable view of the US, the lowest figure in Europe, except for Greece. Germans were deeply offended by revelations that the US was spying on their country, including listening in to the Chancellor’s private mobile phone calls. Additionally, the article reveals that at the height of the eurozone financial crisis, when Merkel repeatedly called the US President, he refused to answer or return the calls.  

Earlier this year, when Putin lied to Merkel, she refused to take his calls the following week, a way of showing her displeasure.   The Russians panicked as Germany is the one country they cannot do without.   Desperate to put things right, they reminded the Germans that if the two countries got together, like in 1939, they would be the greatest power in the world.

Watch out, America – do not take German support for granted.   Germany is in the drivers’ seat of the European Union, the world’s biggest single market. This is a very powerful and influential position to be in.   If Germany distances itself from America, others will follow.

The Book of Revelation shows that the world is going to witness a revived Roman Empire, with ten nations coming together to form the prophesied Beast-power.

REV 17:12 tells us that “the ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.”

The only nation in Europe that is capable of leading these countries is Germany, geographically placed at the heart of the continent and the most powerful economy.

The Old Testament prophetic Book of Daniel also shows us that this revived Roman Empire has a role to play in the nation of Israel, which makes Angela Merkel’s deep commitment to Israel of particular interest. It is doubtful that Merkel will be around long enough to be involved in the fulfillment of these verses, but the groundwork for future events is already being laid.

DAN 9:27 “Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week.” The NKJV marginal note says the “he” here is likely the Antichrist that will appear before Christ’s return. “And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate” is a prophecy about the end-time event that is reminiscent of the abomination carried out by Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century before Christ.   The Expositer’s Bible Commentary adds further insight: “If it was a ruler of the Roman people who was to destroy Jerusalem (in AD 70), then it would be a ruler of the Roman Empire – in its final phase, i.e. the ten-toes phase of ch 2 and the ten-horned beast of ch 7 — who will conclude this covenant.” (page 1389)

Just today, there are rumors that the Obama Administration is going to place sanctions on Israel for its continued building of new homes on the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Relations with Israel have been strained. Those strains are worsening as Israelis turn to the right politically.   An election is due next year.

A reduced American commitment to Israel will leave the latter looking for alternative international backing. Some European countries are in the process of recognizing Palestine as an independent state, which will put further pressure on Israel.

Europe is playing an increasing role in the Middle East.   Look for more European involvement in the region, led by Germany.