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Unmasking the Real Obama Doctrine

After six years of a presidency riddled with one foreign policy blunder after another, Barack Obama sought to defend his record on the international stage in an “arranged” interview last week with administration apologist Thomas Friedman of The New York Times.

“You asked about an Obama doctrine. The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities,” Obama explained.

That formulation is woefully vague and fails to distinguish Obama in any way from any past American president, which is what a “doctrine” should do. It certainly lacks the distinct resonance of Teddy Roosevelt’s “speak softly and carry a big stick.” Yet it is consistent with a defining statement Obama made to the foes of freedom in first inaugural speech: “[W]e will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Even so, six years in and we are still trying to figure out where President Obama is trying to steer the course of world affairs. The reset with Russia, the shunning of Europe, the anticipated pivot to Asia – where have they taken us? Does he really have a clear direction? Or are we witnessing a hopelessly random series of events that has left the world twisting in the wind, with the Middle East in particular caught in an utter free fall.

Obama’s regional score card is one of unmatched ineptitude. His withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan were predictably premature, risking all the American capital and blood invested there. Libya was liberated from a ruthless dictator only to descend into tribal and jihadi chaos. He has overlooked every anti-Western antic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, while bullying Israel and berating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at every turn.

In Egypt, he threw loyal ally president Hosni Mubarak under the bus in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood, and then cut off aid to Cairo when the masses demanded the overthrow of his successor, Mohamed Morsi.

The Saudis watched in shock and are looking for support elsewhere. In Syria, he has dithered between toppling President Bashar Assad for using chemical agents against his own people and preserving his regime as a bulwark against the brutalities of Islamic State (IS). He boasted of Yemen as a model for fighting terror only to see it overrun by a radical proxy militia of Iran. And he has bent over backwards to placate Tehran in pursuit of an elusive deal that is most assuredly setting off a nuclear arms race in a Middle East already in flames.

In short, Obama has alienated allies and coddled enemies all the while chasing some goal that has yet to be clearly identified.

Were these deliberate steps that unwittingly led to anarchy? Or is it a case of unprecedented incompetence? Some analysts say this folly flows from his leftist ideology, which views Western societies as still tainted by the evils of colonialism.

Others focus on his apparent desire to achieve an historic American rapprochement with Iran following the disastrous breach of 1979. These are valid points, yet they fail to adequately explain why Obama has been willing to appease the ayatollahs with their apocalyptic dreams, while estranging and even endangering traditional American allies in the region. There has to be something deeper driving him.

My own take is that Obama is indeed motivated in part by a leftist worldview but also by a religious outlook that is best described as Chrislam. This is an emerging theological viewpoint which sees both Christianity and Islam as equal paths to God and equally valid sources of moral precepts, and Obama has developed his own unique brand of it.

Obama professes to be a Christian and I accept that. But one cannot ignore the fact that he also grew up in an Islamic culture and that it is still part of what shapes his identity and mindset. As a result, he has demonstrated more concern as president for defending Islam than any of his predecessors in office.

Sure, president George W. Bush was quick to proclaim Islam a “religion of peace,” but that was a pragmatic policy statement aimed at pacifying the Muslim world during times of immense global tensions.

In contrast, Obama has gone well beyond any prior administrations, even stating in his Cairo speech in 2009 that: “I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

So not just a policy but a presidential duty to defend Islam! And in carrying out this new duty, Obama not only has repeatedly defended Islam as a morally equal faith but also has used those occasions to point out flaws in Christianity. And while past Christian generations did err in brandishing the sword in the Crusades and in using the New Testament to try to justify the enslavement of black Africans, this president has gone so far as to actually question the moral integrity of certain Christian scriptures. In doing so, he has crossed a line that no Christian should countenance.

Obama’s inclination to shield Islam from criticism runs so deep, he even feels compelled to pronounce who is a Muslim and who is not. As a Christian, it is not my place to say who is a Muslim; that is for them to decide. And the most basic tenet of Islam, extending to every stream of the faith, holds that if one professes: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah,” then you are a Muslim. I have to accept that and no doubt this is the profession of every wretched warrior fighting today for IS or al-Qaeda or Boko Haram. Yet for some reason, Obama insists otherwise.

So we have an American president saddled with a distinct burden to defend Islam even at the expense of Christianity, not to mention long-defined American interests abroad.

That is more closely what I would define as the Obama doctrine, thus distinguishing him from past presidents.

Arriving at the heart of his real agenda, I would submit that Obama’s enduring cultural identity with Islam and concern for its perception and welfare has motivated him even to hope for the healing of its deepest rift – the centuries-old bitter schism between Sunni and Shi’ite Islam.

This would mean that Obama saw his rise to the Oval Office as a unique opportunity to try to set into motion a process which would lead to a repair of the historic breach between Sunni and Shi’ite Islam, largely as a means to stabilize the notoriously volatile Middle East.

His chosen Sunni partner for this venture was the Muslim Brotherhood and his Shi’ite partner was none other than Iran. If successful, the two sides would have mutually defined their respective spheres of influence and worked toward a more peaceful regional configuration. It is just that events have overtaken him, Obama’s strategy is in shambles, and he has been taking a lot of his frustrations out on Israel, and especially Benjamin Netanyahu.

Setting his sights on Iran as his Shi’ite partner was a given, as there was no other suitable alternative. But why bank on reaching such a polarizing nuclear deal requiring major compromises with such an untrustworthy regime? In one of his last public appearances before his recent passing, Yehuda Avner – the esteemed adviser to five Israeli prime ministers – offered up a valuable insight into Obama straight out of one of his biographies.

In one chapter, Obama recalls his days as a community organizer in south Chicago and his tactics for resolving violent flare-ups on the streets. He first sought to identify the worst thug among the various gang leaders and go to him first in a bid to bring him over to the good side. You threaten him a little, you massage his ego, you offer him something, and you slowly restore calm, all the while ignoring the other parties involved.

This insight alone goes a long way towards explaining Obama’s six years of careful engagement with Iran and his benign neglect of those regional allies most threatened by Tehran’s renegade nuclear program.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood was Obama’s preferred Sunni partner because it was:

1) An organized, ascending political force with a broad regional network of national chapters and authentic Islamic credentials.

2) Not overtly anti-Western in its rhetoric; its leaders were more patient about achieving their long-term goals and could dress up in suits and ties and go to American and European universities to understand us better, but never to assimilate.

3) Not overtly tied to the Western powers and therefore untainted by their colonial baggage, unlike Mubarak or the Saudi royals; such US-backed oppressive regimes were now out of vogue.

4) More open to reconciliation with Shi’ite Islam than other potential Sunni partners, such as the Saudi monarchy or Egyptian generals, and certainly more so than such radical Sunni groups as al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

On this last point, the spiritual guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, has a record of hostile pronouncements toward Shi’ite Muslims, but he also signed on to the Amman Statement of 2005 which was a major declaration by leading Sunni and Shi’ite clerics that recognized the Shi’ite scholars in Qom as one of the eight accepted “schools” of Islamic jurisprudence. In other words, Qaradawi signaled his willing to consider Shi’ites as fellow Muslims, paving the way for a possible historic reconciliation.

President Obama, in turn, signaled his desire to partner with the Muslim Brotherhood during his famous Cairo speech – an overture not so much grounded in what he said there but in the “optics” surrounding that ground-breaking event.

Although Arabists in the US State Department had been cultivating a relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood for years, they never openly displayed it in a way that challenged Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, who considered them mortal rivals. But Obama changed that by instructing his team to seat the movement’s leaders on the front row of the auditorium at Cairo University, an unusual site for the speech in the first place as it normally should have been delivered in the Egyptian parliament.

Offended, Mubarak begged out of attending the speech, citing the death of his grandson two weeks earlier.

This undermining of Mubarak occurred several years before the upheavals of the Arab Spring reached Tahrir Square and finally toppled him. But it legitimized and energized the Muslim Brotherhood and helped pave their way to power. With Mohamed Morsi ruling over Egypt and Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Muslim Brotherhood regime ensconced in Turkey, two of the major Sunni states were set up for Obama’s grand vision of rapprochement with Iran, and more could be expected to follow. During his lone year in office, Morsi even hosted senior Iranian officials in Cairo – breaking the 30-year diplomatic freeze imposed by Egypt since it blamed Iran for playing a role in the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981.

But then the wheels started coming off.

The shockwaves of the Arab Spring rolled through Cairo once more and the generals were back in power. Other nations were rocked by its turbulence – Syria, Iraq and now Yemen. The Muslim Brotherhood has been left with Ankara and Gaza. And Obama is left holding a very suspect deal with an exultant Iran.

The problem with this plan was not only its enormous risks for a far-fetched reward, but the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood – while not openly anti-West – is still endemically anti-Semitic and anti-Israel, and it ultimately aspires to a global caliphate.

These are traits that it shares with Iran, as well as with IS. So why Obama should have been considered it a palatable partner will now be up to history to judge.

 

Republished with permission by The Jerusalem Post; www.jpost.com


David Parsons serves as Media Director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. He is an attorney, minister and Middle East specialist who was also a contributing editor for ‘The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition’ for seven years. He lives with his wife and son in Jerusalem.

What Framework Agreement?

The first thing to note about the framework agreement is that there is no framework agreement. Though an announcement was made at the end of recent talks in Lausanne that a so-called framework agreement had been reached with Iran over its renegade nuclear program, nothing was signed by the negotiating parties. This amounts to a verbal agreement – one might call it a gentleman’s agreement were there any trust to be shared between the parties. The fact is that stark differences have emerged between Iran and the US over their respective interpretations of what was supposedly agreed.

Furthermore, Iran has since gone so far as to openly contradict key elements of the US fact sheet as being nothing more than “lies” and “deceptions”. While claiming that there will be no restrictions on either enrichment activities or on research and development, Iran is also stating that all sanctions relief will be immediate, and there will be no inspections of any military sites.

Obama’s wish list

The framework agreement now appears to be not much more than a wish list of what US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry hope to convince the Iranians to sign on to before June 30. What was celebrated by team Obama as a major diplomatic achievement has quickly descended into a face-saving game of political spin, with the Americans and Iranians attempting to convince their national constituencies that their respective version of the framework is the real one.

Worth noting is that while Obama and Kerry have defended the Iranian backlash as nothing more than political posturing due to Iran’s national “pride”, Ayatollah Khameini has gone so far as to accuse the Americans of being “deceptive” and having “devilish” intentions.

Why was it issued?

One might rightly question why the Obama administration issued such a patently flawed framework agreement where apparently no agreement existed? None of the other P5+1 parties to the negotiations, or Iran for that matter, saw the March 31 deadline for a framework agreement as one that could not simply be rolled into the June 30 deadline for a final deal. The Russian Foreign Minister even left Lausanne before negotiations were completed.

What is clear though is that Obama was facing significant pressure from the US Congress in the form of new sanctions bills on Iran should no progress be shown at the negotiating table by the 31st of March. Obama managed to persuade top congressional leaders to hold off on any voting until after the Lausanne talks concluded.

Amazingly, instead of Iran facing the pressure of new sanctions, Obama’s negotiating team then lost all leverage and it was Iran which gained the upper hand as the US team desperately pressed for an agreement to show Congress some progress had been made.

Is this really a choice between war and peace?

Obama and Kerry have even admitted that the framework agreement is not the basis for a “good” deal, since it clearly doesn’t achieve the objective of dismantling Iran’s nuclear program. All it does is attempt to put the entire program on hold for 10 years, leaving inspections to do the job of ensuring Iran does not break out to a nuclear bomb long before that.

The mantra repeated by the Obama administration in defense of their approach is that this all comes down to a simple choice between war and peace. We are told that critics of the framework deal like Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and key Members of Congress only see war as the sole alternative to resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis, while people of goodwill like the Obama administration are presenting the only viable alternative, which is the framework agreement.

Meantime, Netanyahu has made clear that his preferred alternative is more pressure on the ayatollahs in order to reach a “better deal” with Iran.

While it is true that Israel itself does not have much leverage to change Iran’s nuclear ambitions other than the threat of military action, the international community as a whole does have the ability to bring Iran to heel. In this regard, Iran only came to the negotiating table once the world, through the United Nations Security Council, adopted a series of six unanimous resolutions placing sanctions on Iran and demanding that it totally dismantle its nuclear program. Unfortunately, the Obama administration is squandering the advantage these resolutions gave to the P5+1 powers in the talks with Iran.

Sanctions are the one peaceful option that Obama has opposed, then accepted, and now opposed again. And in his latest opposition to tighter limits on Iran, Obama turned the threat of new sanctions from Congress in Tehran’s favour.

The final irony is that without the real threat of renewed sanctions, all the West is left with is the threat of force against Iran if they do not acquiesce. As if to hit home this point, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced on April 11 that the US had successfully developed a whole new generation of bunker busters for use on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Worst case scenarios

Should Iran actually agree to a comprehensive deal by the June 30th deadline which reflects the US version of the framework agreement, the Obama administration would assuredly hail this as an historic achievement. The problem is that such a deal would leave the West with little option other than military strikes should Iran go rogue again. With Obama admitting that over the course of the deal Iran’s breakout time will be reduced to months, that would not leave enough time for the international community to take concerted, effective multilateral steps to block Iran from going nuclear.

Where to now?

Netanyahu has consistently rejected the notion that there is no alternative to a bad deal with Iran. A solid majority in Congress, many Democrats included, seems for the most part to agree with him.

Iran's intransigence and rejection of the US version of the framework agreement might actually be presenting an opportunity for the West to do a reset. Rather than working in opposition to Congress and Israel, the Obama administration should come to an agreed strategy with them and with its allies abroad on what the goals are with Iran and how to get there now. This revised strategy will likely require the threat of more sanctions and isolation of Iran with a firm timetable for them to agree to dismantle their nuclear program.

A good deal is achievable. Iran’s nuclear program can be dismantled, and yes, it can be done so peacefully. But, it all depends on the next move of Western leaders.
 


Daryl Hedding serves as Strategic Development Director for Jerusalem and Deputy Director for the US Branch of the ICEJ. He has been involved in the ministry since 1998 when he started a 3 1/2 year tenure at the ICEJ's headquarters in Jerusalem. Since then, he has served in a number of capacities and currently resides in Murfreesboro, TN, with his wife and two childen..

The War Against the Jews

"The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in the twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?” - Mark Twain

The war against the Jews has been waged from the dawn of history and is relentless until this very day. It is a saga of great proportions and significance though many fail to see it or appreciate it. It has one goal in mind and that is the liquidation of the Jewish people and the Jewish state. The world wants a new world order that is “Juden rein” (free of Jews). The attempt to murder the Jews has taken many forms including open hostility and wickedness as we witnessed in the Second World War; although, unable to achieve this end by conventional war, in recent years this attack against the Jews has been political and very often couched in the language of peace and political intrigue. It is waged according to a narrative that is inaccurate and pure myth but one that is accepted in most circles as truth. Just the idea, for instance, of Israeli occupation of Arab lands is totally untrue but accepted everywhere. The Palestinians never ever had a state in history and the ground they claim for a state was in fact occupied for centuries by the Ottoman Turkish Empire and then illegally by the Jordanians from 1948 to 1967. Before that from 1917 onwards it was mandated to the British Empire as a consequence of the First World War. Indeed the restoration of the Jewish state in 1948 came into existence by the will of the international community expressed through the United Nations but previously ratified by the San Remo Agreement of 1922. Of course these facts mean nothing to those who seek only the destruction of the Jews and Israel.

Collaborating with Evil

Today Hamas, Hezbollah, Fatah and all their fellow travelers are fully committed to the liquidation of Israel. This fact is not hearsay or rumor, no it is enshrined in their charters and confirmed by their statements; made frequently in the Arabic speaking press. The school books and TV programs for children in the Palestinian Authority and in Gaza, and indeed all over the Arab world, constantly demonize the Jewish people and Israel and thereby incite their impressionable minds to hatred. In addition, all over the Muslim world the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” are routinely printed and distributed and regarded as fact even though this work has been discredited as a forgery and sadly the most read book on contemporary political history is Hitler’s, “ Mein Kamph.”This too is on public record and all of this can be verified by a visit to the website of Palestinian Media Watch, MEMRI and Amazon books. It’s all out in the open for all to see. The Jews are likened to pigs and apes and suicide attacks against them are glorified as the ultimate goal in life! Those who carry out this goal are honored by having streets and squares named after them in Palestinian towns and cities and it is believed that they have instant access to paradise accompanied by erotic pleasures.

This same radical Islamic menace collaborated with Hitler in the hope that his triumph would also bring about the complete annihilation of all Jews. He came close but thank God was defeated and yet today the world community expects Israel to sit down and make peace with “Hitler!” That is, with people who fully embrace his vision and seek to complete it. Hamas and Fatah now have a unity agreement that, according to the Hamas leadership must go further by pursuing the total destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews everywhere.

All of this is the backdrop to the awful events unfolding in Europe today and as we have now witnessed especially in France in terms of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the hostage taking and slaughter of Jews at the Hyper Cacher super-market. Intimidated by their large Muslim communities the Europeans have tolerated attacks against Jews for years but because liberal politicians deny the sinister goals of the Islamists they have largely turned a blind eye until now.

The events in France have now awakened the appeasing Europeans to the fact that they too are the target of Jihad and in the end, like the Jews, are just infidels that have to be subdued or killed! The warning signs were always there and yet these were ignored because they came for the Jews first and no one really cared but now they are coming for everyone and I fear that it could be too late for Europe. The Jews, however, have a homeland to go to that is thriving and secure; in spite of the rough neighborhood in which it is situated. The State of Israel is their refuge and now the 11th Aliyah is about to take place. Hundreds of thousands of Jews will leave Europe and even England and go home to their ancestral dwelling place; the hills plains and valleys of Zion.

Just seventy odd years after the Holocaust the Europeans have again betrayed the Jews. This is sobering indeed and the events now unfolding in the Ukraine are just as troubling. Jews are being targeted for the misfortunes of the Ukrainians as that country is progressively being invaded and conquered by Russia. Will the west stand up and stop this aggression? The answer is no. So, the Jews will leave and go home. Thank God!

Sadly, a world without a moral compass and unable to identify evil is therefore pressurizing Israel to make what would be a suicide pact with a new version of Nazism! Many of the nations pushing for this would not do it themselves but somehow it is good enough for the Jews! One has to wonder why all this is happening? Are these people stupid, just ignorant or is there another agenda being followed? Or, maybe still there is a spiritual reality behind the War against the Jews!

The God of Israel

Given that the very essence of sin is rebellion against God, not only in terms of where He is and what He is but also who He is, it is therefore not surprising that anything that reminds a rebellious world of God will also be attacked. This is the nature of sin that lurks in the heart of every human being.

If then this God calls into existence a people to reflect His character and take His name one can expect this people to be the target of rebellion or evil. From the very day of Israel’s calling and close association with the only true God this war began and it has never stopped. It separates and divides the world and as long as the Jew exists it will rage. It is a desperate war and, if it were not for the faithfulness of God, the Jews would have vanished a long time ago.

This is the answer to Mark Twain’s question in the quote above. The war against the Jews is in fact a war against God Himself!

Note the first four verses of Psalm 83:

“Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold your peace, and do not be still, O God! For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; And those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones. They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from Being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no More.”

It is to be noted that the enemies of God strike out against Him by making War Against the Jews! This war will then not stop until the evil in the human heart has been overcome by redeeming love or destroyed by judgment! Needless to say, the honour and existence of the only true God is at stake in this war and thus Israel will never be destroyed because God Himself, the God of the Bible, has vouched safe her existence! This is the promise of His word.

We, however, are invited to “show our colors” by standing with and praying for Israel. In this we don’t work for God but with Him against those who, from generation to generation, pursue the “War Against the Jews.” Like Corrie Ten Boom, Raoul Wallenberg, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and many others of the Second World War era, we will help the Jews go home by supporting the “Great Return” or Aliyah of the Jews to Israel. We may be few in number as they were but we are on the right side of history as they also turned out to be.

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is well placed to meet this challenge as it has through the decades. Its very dynamic Aliyah Director, Howard Flower, is in the forefront of this great endeavor and he needs all the financial assistance he can get to help the Jews of France and Europe go home to Israel. He is certainly the ICEJ’s spear-head in the war against anti-Semitism and you can join him.

 

 


Rev. Malcolm Hedding is a spokesman for the ICEJ and also serves on its the international board. He was executive director of the ministry from 2000- 2011.

Hope In The Land of Giants!

The story of the Jewish people is unlike any other history of a people group known on the earth. First, their very birth was a miracle, because both Abraham and Sarah were well past child-bearing years when the promised son, Isaac, was conceived.

Their survival through 4,000 years of enslavement, wanderings, exiles, and attempts at annihilation is also miraculous. None of the other small people groups from the Genesis story exist today because one exile alone is enough to wipe out a people group.

The Jewish people not only survived, but have now returned to their ancient homeland after 2,000 years of exile. “Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? … shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, She gave birth to her children” (Isaiah 66:8).

Only God could have written this story! He promised all of this thousands of years ago, and today He is fulfilling His promises to the smallest detail. The outcasts have returned to their homeland, the desert is blooming, and children are once again playing in the streets and speaking the ancient tongue of the prophets—Hebrew.

Miracles Don’t Come Easy

Israel’s return to her land, of course, has not been easy. It was literally out of the ashes of the Holocaust and the sand of the desert that the Jewish State was formed. Victims of the Holocaust arriving in Israel were sent straight to the frontlines of war with five Arab armies. They were completely outnumbered and under-armed. Most of them could not even speak Hebrew. Only God could have brought about the victory of Israel in the 1948 Independence War.

Israel has now survived an average of one war for every decade of statehood. Despite the drain this has put on the economy, Israel is now leading the world in innovation, technology, medicine, science, and agriculture!

While we love hearing these stories, and being reminded of the miraculous, the truth of the matter is Israelis are getting very tired of the ongoing saga of war that they and their children have to live. The summer of 2014 was a particularly sobering one.

Sobering Summer

Israelis just want to be left alone and to live in peace. For this reason, many of them had become proponents of withdrawing from the West Bank and establishing a Palestinian state there. The pressure had been so strong in that direction that even the right-wing Prime Minister, Netanyahu, had to voice support for the Two State Solution due to its popularity with the American Administration as with the Israeli public.

But Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s incursion into Gaza this past summer, has changed all of that. The Israeli left has realized that Israel must maintain security control over the West Bank for the foreseeable future. The previous withdrawal from Gaza did not result in peace but rather, a state governed by a terrorist organization, ongoing threats of missile attacks, and the occasional need for Israeli incursions into Gaza to destroy missile launchers and foil plans for major terrorist attacks inside Israel.

They now admit that a withdrawal from the West Bank would not only be more of the same, but a situation that is far worse than containing the little Gaza Strip.

Shocking Levels of Anti-Semitism

This summer also brought about another sobering awakening. The Israeli people were shocked at just how strong anti-Semitism is in many places. During the Gaza war one of the most popular Twitter hashtags was #HitlerWasRight.

Anti-Israel demonstrations were marked by racist and genocidal rhetoric, some of it indistinguishable from Nazi slogans. Synagogues were attacked and individual Jews were threatened and physically assaulted.

Israelis felt fear, anger, and despair. The only glimmer of hope came from the messages of support by Christians from around the world. For this reason, the ICEJ organized and participated in rallies in a number of countries to be a voice of hope and encouragement to the Jewish people.

Strategy for Facing Giants

As Joshua and the Israelites prepared to take possession of the land of Canaan, God spoke to Joshua and told him to do two things. One was to meditate on the Law and to observe it, because then his way would be prosperous and he would have success.

Secondly, He reminded Joshua: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

The God of Israel knew it would not be easy then, and He knows it is not easy now. He knew that Joshua needed encouragement then, just as the people of Israel need it now. This is why He has raised up the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem to be that voice of hope and encouragement they so desperately need.

The Giants in 2015

The people of Israel are facing numerous serious threats in 2015. An Israeli NGO recently released an independent report on poverty in Israel that shows a growing number of Israeli households are under threat from food insecurity and other poverty related issues. Approximately 31.6% of Israel’s population, including almost one million children, is poor. Many of these children do not get sufficient food to eat and sometimes go without receiving proper medical treatment.

Another serious threat facing Israel is the loss of its close cooperation with the United States. At one of her most critical moments in history, Israel cannot count on America to “have her back” and coordinate international pressure to stop the Iranian nuclear program. It is looking more and more like Israel will stand alone against a nuclear Iran.

Meanwhile, Iran is also accelerating the arming of Hezbollah and Hamas with rockets and missiles, in an attempt to circle Israel from the north, south, and east. In addition, the Islamic State (ISIS) has gained a presence near the border with Israel on the Golan Heights and has declared that their flag will fly over Jerusalem as well as Mecca and Medina.

Giving Hope and Strength to Israel

When we look at this situation we feel much like Joshua did as he undoubtedly thought about the giants in the land God had told him to enter. The people of Israel need their friends to stand up and be counted. Now is not the time to shrink back in fear but to realize that we, like Israel, need to be obedient, strong, and courageous.

This is the hour when the ministry and voice of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is needed. Israel’s Christian friends can help confront the giants of poverty, anti-Semitism, and western apathy. It will require donations, activism, and informing others. Most importantly, it will take persistent prayer that never gives up, and gives Him no rest until His work is done and He has established Jerusalem as a praise in all the earth (Isaiah 62:6-7).

 


Susan Michael serves as the US Director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

Is Israel Facing a Third Intifada?

The recent tensions and troubles in and around Jerusalem escalated this week with the brutal massacre of four Jewish rabbis during their morning prayers in a synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood of the capital city.

Armed with a pistol, an axe and a meat cleaver, two Arab terrorists from eastern Jerusalem assaulted a minyan of Jewish men at prayer early on Tuesday (18/11) in the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue, located in a quiet ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood on the western edge of the city. The killing spree claimed the lives of four Torah scholars from local yeshivas, while another 18 people were wounded in the bloody frenzy of violence. An Israeli Druze policeman was also shot dead as he rushed to the scene of the attack.

The Druze officer was part of a beefed-up Israeli security presence in the city in response to a recent series of riots, stonings, stabbings, vehicular assaults and other terror attacks in Jerusalem, including the near-fatal shooting of Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick three weeks ago.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed the on-going wave of violence and terror on incitement issuing forth from not only Hamas but also Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. Under heavy American pressure, Abbas condemned the synagogue attack but in the same breath continued to falsely accuse Israel of "aggression" against the al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount, as well as of burning mosques and churches.

The levels of Palestinian violence and incitement are no doubt on the rise. During the past month, eleven Israelis have been killed in terrorist attacks, more than all those killed during the past two years.

As a result, many Israeli analysts are now questioning whether these are just ‘lone wolf’ terrorists carrying out copycat attacks or is it part of a broader popular uprising against Israel – that is, a dreaded third Palestinian intifada.

Now for the families victimized by the recent wave of terror, the ‘third intifada’ debate is a meaningless academic exercise. They are in real grieving over lost loved ones and clinging to hope for injured and maimed relatives to recover.

But for the nation’s leaders, this is a serious inquiry into whether the Palestinian factions are deliberately seeking to stir up another prolonged, bloody uprising against the Jewish state, and especially in its very heart of Jerusalem.

The first point to note is that there always seems to a bizarre competition between the various Palestinian factions to see who can stir up the most hostility towards Israel. No one wants to be outdone, and especially when it comes to ‘defending al-Aqsa.’ So when one faction starts agitating over the Temple Mount, everyone has to join the game.

The al-Aqsa blood libel is decades old and is the easiest way to heat up the conflict with Israel. This Palestinian fabrication claims that Israel is planning to undermine or topple the al-Aqsa mosque and rebuild the Third Temple. It has been invoked repeatedly to foment violence and bloodshed, including its notorious use in 1929 by Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, which led to dozens of Jewish deaths in Hebron and the forced expulsion of its ancient Jewish community.

Whether he instigated it this time or just joined the fray, Abbas has indeed been peddling the al-Aqsa canard of late. When Israel closed the Temple Mount to all visitors for one day last month, following weeks of well-organized stone-throwing incidents on Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall below, Abbas denounced the Israeli security measure as a “declaration of war” against Islam.

The Palestinian Authority’s official media organs also glorified the recent perpetrators of terror attacks as heroes and martyrs.

When the Obama administration finally urged Abbas to cool the rhetoric, he still called for “days of rage” to protest Israel’s efforts to restore calm, which was then followed by the carnage in the Har Nof synagogue.

Yet Abbas is not really interested in a full-blown intifada at present. Given the upheavals of the Arab Spring, he fears that unleashing too much chaos on the Palestinian street could lead to his own downfall – which is a very legitimate concern.

So the Palestinian leader has sought a controlled uprising, focused on enflaming tensions in Jerusalem while maintaining quiet in Ramallah.

It appears the Palestinian public is not so interested in another intifada as well. While they are cheering on those carrying out the recent attacks, there does not seem to be broad popular support for a mass uprising at this time, knowing the price they would have to pay in travel restrictions, economic losses and the like.

Still, the Palestinians are playing with fire. In a region already riven with conflict and upheaval, to stoke the flames of a religious fight over the al-Aqsa mosque is a truly dangerous game.

Meanwhile, Jerusalem is slowly being divided by the security measures which Israel is having to implement to restore calm and a sense of security to its residents. Roadblocks are being set up in Arab neighborhoods and some Arabs are being released from their places of work in west Jerusalem. So the current wave of incitement and violence will ultimately harm the daily lives of Jerusalem’s Arabs the most.
 


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This article first appeared in the ICEJ's Word from Jerusalem magazine.

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Has Hamas been Humbled?

After 50 days of hostilities and a dozen failed truces, there was something different about ceasefire number 13. As Gazans flooded the streets to set off fireworks and celebrate 'victory' in this summer's war with Israel, uniformed Hamas gunmen also came out of hiding to fire their weapons into the air.

This sight had been missing in all the earlier pauses in fighting. From day one of this third Hamas rocket war with Israel in the past six years, Hamas fighters had mysteriously disappeared from view. Many hunkered away in the vast honeycomb of terror tunnels underneath Gaza's urban sprawl, while others shed their fatigues to blend in with the civilian population, all to avoid detection by the dozens of Israeli 'eyes' hovering overhead.

As an uneasy calm settled over the land in late August, both sides claimed to have come out on top. But it may take some time to figure out who really won - if anyone.

After getting drawn into eerily similar conflicts with Hamas in 2009 and 2012, Israeli leaders faced a stark choice this time. They could either launch another limited incursion into Gaza and perhaps face yet another escalation of rocket fire a couple years down the road - referred to in the IDF as the 'mowing the grass' option. Or the Israeli army could retake Gaza and forcibly uproot the terror infrastructure like in the West Bank in 2002, but at unbearably high human and diplomatic costs.

With the Iron Dome system once again neutralizing the rocket threat on Israel's civilian heartland, Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu did send troops into Gaza but with a narrow mission - to destroy the newly-uncovered network of attack tunnels running under the border to threaten nearby Israeli communities. Even though IDF casualties began mounting, the country was still solidly behind the security cabinet's moves in 'Operation Protective Edge' up to this point.

Yet when these ground forces finished the task and were quickly withdrawn, Hamas rocket fire persisted for another month and the broad Israeli support for Netanyahu steadily evaporated. By the end, many Israelis left-and-right questioned whether the prolonged and inconclusive battle with Hamas had damaged Israel's deterrence against even greater regional foes.

On the Palestinian side, most Gazans at first also supported the rocket campaign against Israel, despite their heavy losses. But they too eventually lost faith in Hamas, and especially in its ability to gain anything through the endless truce talks.

Nonetheless, senior Hamas figure Ismail Haniyeh emerged from hiding in Gaza to boast that a Palestinian militia had stood toe-to-toe with Israel for seven weeks and "crushed the myth" that its vaunted military was invincible. But Hamas also came out looking soundly defeated.

As many as 1,000 Palestinian militiamen were among the estimated 2,100 casualties in Gaza, with another 10,000 people wounded. Over 5,000 homes and buildings linked to Hamas were destroyed, while up to 100,000 Gazans were left homeless. The destruction inside the crowded strip of land is said to be far worse than any previous war. Hamas also wasted much time and resources on digging miles of terror tunnels that are now all collapsed. Plus its arsenal of rockets is severely depleted.

On the Israeli side, the death toll included 66 soldiers and six civilians. And although the damage was limited, Hamas did manage to launch nearly 4,000 rockets and mortars into Israel despite the IDF's vigilant efforts to suppress the missile fire. Meanwhile, life became intolerable for those living closer to Gaza, while Israelis nationwide will need time to regain their sense of security.

Still, the tally sheet from this war will not be complete until the truce talks resume back in Cairo to discuss all the issues left unresolved by the conflict. For Israel, the game plan now will be to deny Hamas victory by not conceding any diplomatic gains going forward.

From the very start, Hamas and Israel exchanged blows while also engaging in indirect talks to end the fighting through Egyptian mediation. Hamas initially tabled a list of steep demands to halt the rocket fire, such as a lifting of the blockade on Gaza and the free flow of goods, release of Hamas operatives re-arrested by Israel recently, allowing an airport and seaport in Gaza, and paying the salaries of Hamas employees. Israel countered by calling for an unconditional halt to the rocket barrages and the disarming of Gaza.

In a new twist, Egypt sided with Israel, prompting Hamas to bring in its allies Turkey and Qatar. In an even odder twist, the Obama administration sought to include these pro-Muslim Brotherhood regimes in the negotiations, straining Washington's relations with Jerusalem and Cairo.

The US apparently assumed that Turkey and Qatar were more able to control Hamas. But after the Islamist terror militia either rejected or breached 12 ceasefires over the course of the conflict, it was clear they answer to no one and cannot be trusted. Even the Palestinian Authority, which signed a unity pact with Hamas just months ago, learned that all the while its main rival was plotting Fatah's overthrow in the West Bank.

Yet Hamas eventually relented, basically agreeing to Egypt's original ceasefire offer, which puts off talks on its list of demands for a later day. For some Israeli leaders, this signalled capitulation. But more likely it just meant Hamas was getting low on rockets.

Meantime, Israelis come out of this war frustrated that the world does not treat Hamas the same as al-Qaeda and the ruthless Islamic State in Iraq. The foreign media in particular gave Hamas 'equal time' and often slanted coverage once again, which they would never do with these other radical Muslim terrorists despite the fact they all have little regard for human life and violently seek a global caliphate.

But there is also reason for optimism in that Egypt and Saudi Arabia have shown a willingness to cooperate with Israel in standing against both the Iranian threat and the Sunni jihadist militias. Netanyahu seems to have held back some on Hamas, thereby avoiding even greater Palestinian casualties in Gaza, in order to cement this new regional alignment in hopes it will pay higher dividends in future.

The first order of business will be teaming with Cairo to prevent Hamas from rearming. Achieve that and Israel will indeed have won the third Gaza war.

 


This article first appeared in the September-October 2014 edition of the ICEJ's Word from Jerusalem magazine.

Read the latest Word from Jerusalem

A House Divided

The biggest revelation from the recent conflict in Gaza was not the extent of the Hamas tunnels into Israel, nor the willingness of Hamas to sacrifice their own people, but the deep rift running through the Arab world today – which could portend major changes in the region.

 

Israel’s new allies

Until recently, the Arab world presented itself as a united bloc, particularly when condemning Israel for Palestinian suffering and even for Arab misery in general.

However, this large bloc is disintegrating with surprising speed. Regional powers like Turkey, Qatar and Sudan continue to bash Israel, but Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and especially Egypt have shown a new cooperative spirit with Israel.

A recent study by Khaled Abu Toameh for the Gatestone Institute noted many Arabic press reports voiced support for Israel’s military operation against Hamas. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sami Shukri squarely blamed Hamas for the mounting Palestinian casualties after it rejected Cairo’s original truce terms. A leading Egyptian commentator concurred that Hamas was responsible for Palestinian losses.

Others described Hamas rocket attacks on Israel as “idiotic” while criticising Hamas leaders in Doha for living in luxury as their people suffered. Another commentator, Azza Sami, wrote in Al-Ahram: “Thank you Netanyahu and may God give us more people like you to destroy Hamas.”

It is true that the historic rift between Sunni and Shi’a Islam has often led to conflict. But their common hatred of Israel unified the Arabs. Yet today, Israeli officials are surprised by the realignment with Jerusalem of Arab rulers opposed to radical Islamists – whether Sunni or Shi’ite.

“Who would have ever thought that Saudi Arabia and Egypt would be our allies in our struggle with Hamas,” a senior Israeli official recently told me.

Arab Spring revisited

This realignment can be seen on other fronts. Syria and Iraq are being torn apart by rival rebel groups fighting the regimes and one another. The most notorious is ISIS, which is slaughtering countless Christians as well as fellow Muslims who do not share their repressive ideology.

In many ways, the major reshuffle underway in the Middle East was triggered by the Arab Spring ignited in Tunisia in late 2010. Yet this hopeful ‘Spring’ quickly turned into an ‘Arab Winter’ when Egypt voted into power the radical Muslim Brotherhood. Then two years later, an estimated 15 million people (some claim 30 million) took to the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities to demand the end of Brotherhood rule. It is considered the largest political protest in human history.

This prompted not only a turn towards more moderate government in Egypt but it also had a ripple effect across the Arab world. Just a few weeks ago, a prominent Saudi commentator wrote that these Egyptian protestors rejecting radical Islam spoke not only for Egypt “but they represent the entire Arab world”.

The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the atrocities by ISIS in Syria and Iraq have triggered something which 9/11 and other acts of Islamic terrorism abroad could never achieve – an Arab backlash against radical Islam.

After the mass terror attacks in Manhattan, Madrid and London, most Arabs were silent regarding these violent acts against the ‘decadent’ West. But the sceptre of the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS and al-Qaida has more and more Muslims today realising that Islamic extremists cannot offer any hope to the Arab world.

The Financial Times recently observed the Arab world is starting to shake off its “long state of denial”, and religious scholars and ordinary people now ask: “What is wrong with us?”

It is a fact that the Arab bloc is one of the most underdeveloped regions in our world today. Four consecutive UN development reports on the Arab states found they have the highest rates of illiteracy and greatest lack of basic rights and freedoms worldwide. For decades, the incredible Arab oil wealth did not go into education, science, research or development, but instead produced a society of consumerism reliant on Western imports.

The Arab millennials

In addition, today’s youth have become a significant force in Arab affairs. In his book “The New Arabs”, journalist Juan Cole describes how the millennial generation is changing the Middle East. These youths have greater access to information than their parents. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are used to recruit new jihadists for ISIS, but they also give Arab Millennials a window into the free world as never before. They helped ignite the Arab Spring four years ago, and later unseated the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo.

Their voice can even be heard in a recent manifesto released by Gazan youths, saying: “We have enough of the bearded men on our streets who want to force us what to think and how to dress.”

The last giant falling

Meanwhile, for the first time in Islam’s 1300 years of dominance in the Middle East we see large numbers of people turning to Christ. While ISIS is spreading terror, Arab pastors report unprecedented growth despite the fierce persecution. A decade before the Arab Spring, “Operation World” already reported historic church growth in almost all Muslim states, a trend that has only increased.

I remember well in the 1980s global leaders like Loren Cunningham and David Pawson came to Germany and prophesied the fall of Communism and reuniting of Germany. Some German pastors ridiculed them, as it was the height of the Cold War. But in 1989 everything changed; Communism fell and Germany soon reunified.

I also remember another message from those meetings: “The last giant which will fall after Communism is the giant of Islam.” I personally believe we are seeing today the slow collapse of the stronghold of Islam, which for centuries kept people from freely choosing their religion. It may not mean the end of Islam altogether, but the release of multitudes from a demonic bondage that held them far too long. Communism did not disappear after 1989 but what was removed was its evil, totalitarian control over people.

A region which for generations seemed impenetrable is becoming a house divided. Jesus declared: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” (Matthew 12:25)

Communism enslaved Eastern Europe for 70 years, while Islam has gripped the Middle East for over 13 centuries. Therefore, change in this region might take longer and be more violent.

Yet the signs of Islam’s decline should not surprise us. For decades, Christians have prayed for revival in the 10/40 window. We need to remind ourselves that we serve a prayer-answering God.

Therefore, let us continue to pray for Israel while also recognising God loves the Arabs and beckons us to pray for them, too. He wants Arabs to be saved!

The origins of the Arab nations go back to Ishmael, son of Abraham and half-brother of Isaac. While God clearly sealed His covenant with the descendants of Isaac, Abraham also pleaded: “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” (Genesis 17:17) And God answered:

“I will establish My covenant with him [Isaac] for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.” (Genesis 17:19–20)

The time of blessing for Ishmael seems closer than ever.

Years ago, Rabbi Benny Elon strongly challenged me: “Jürgen, please tell the churches to send more missionaries into the Islamic world.”

I asked him why, as rabbis normally are not very fond of missionaries. He replied: “If the Arabs believe what you believe, then we will have peace in the Middle East.”

May this day come soon!

 


This article first appeared in the September-October 2014 edition of the ICEJ's Word from Jerusalem magazine.

Read the latest Word from Jerusalem

From Jonah to Jihad

The world has been shocked beyond words by the inhuman carnage and brutality being exhibited by the Islamic State terror militia in Iraq over recent months, especially against the ancient Iraqi Christian community and other minorities.

The ISIS jihadists are carrying out public beheadings, hangings and crucifixions on a daily basis all across northwest Iraq, just like in eastern Syria. In village after village, its militiamen have swept in and executed the men, raped the women, and enslaved the children. These beastly tactics have led some world leaders, despite widespread war fatigue from the prolonged conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, to urge that the West re-engage militarily in Iraq.

Sadly, few of these global statesmen are citing the plight of the embattled Christians of the Middle East as sufficient cause for standing up to the jihadists. They are more worried about terror finding its way to Western shores, as it did in 9/11 or the London Underground bombings. The region's Christians have largely been abandoned, just as they have been for decades.

The rise and retreat of Middle Eastern Christianity

Centuries ago, the Middle East was once the cradle of Christianity, with roughly half its population adhering to the new faith. But this all changed when the Islamic conquest of the seventh century engulfed the Middle East and North Africa, and many Christians were forced to convert, submit, die or flee. Entire Christian communities were decimated, and the remnants forced into dhimmi status and payment of the humiliating jizya head tax for protection.

Nonetheless, many Christians in Arab lands clung to their faith and managed to survive under Muslim dominance. Even as recently as one hundred years ago, they still made up nearly 20% of the overall population of the Middle East. But with the break-up of the Ottoman Empire and the many conflicts plaguing the region ever since, these proud, historic churches have been reduced to tiny remnants.

The outbreak of the Arab Spring accelerated this Christian exodus once again in recent years. As mass uprisings toppled repressive dictators throughout the region, radical Islamists stepped into the power vacuum and unleashed a brutal wave of persecution against vulnerable Christian communities.

Wherever radical Muslims seized power, they burned and bombed churches, provoked pogroms against Christian neighbourhoods, and abducted Christian women to force them into marrying Muslim men.

Several recent studies have confirmed that although Christianity is the largest religion in the world at 2.2 billion adherents, Christians are also the most widely persecuted religious group today, with the worst persecution occurring in Muslim lands. And the most acute situation for Mideast Christians right now is in Syria and Iraq.

Chaldean cauldron

Most Christians in Iraq and Syria belong to the ancient Assyrian or Chaldean churches and trace their spiritual heritage all the way back to the prophet Jonah, whose preaching in Nineveh some 700 years before Christ led to widespread repentance and belief in the God of the Bible. This made them more open to the Gospel when the Apostles Peter and Thomas showed up in the same region in the first century and founded these churches. Before long, the Chaldean bishopric oversaw a vast network of thousands of churches that stretched all the way from Turkey to China.

But much of this huge flock was lost in the upheavals of the Islamic invasion and other conquests of the region down through the centuries. In modern times, the slow, painful destruction of Chaldean Christianity has continued.

When the Great Powers divided up the former Ottoman holdings in Arab lands after World War One, many of the emerging Arab states began persecuting and chasing out the native Christians. According to a doctoral dissertation entitled The Death of a Nation published in 1968, the Christians of Iraq were pushed out into Syria, but Syria did not want them and chased them back into Iraq. Amid the chaos and bloodshed, over 1.5 million Assyrian Christians were killed.

This tragedy began repeating itself when the US-led invasion of Iraq toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. As that conflict morphed into a jihad against the "Crusader West", al-Qaida in Iraq gave Christians a deadline for agreeing to revive the jizya tax. When they refused, al-Qaida simultaneously bombed five churches on one Sunday alone.

The Islamic extremists were quite clear that their goal was to drive all Christians out of Iraq, and indeed the Iraqi Christian population has plummeted from around 1.5 million to as low as 300,000 over the past decade. Many escaped into neighbouring Syria, since they speak the same language, often have family ties and both follow the ancient liturgy and customs of the Assyrian Orthodox and Coptic churches.

But before long the Syrian civil war erupted and many Sunni jihadists joined the uprising against the Assad regime. One of their main targets was the Christian community, which had historically aligned with the minority Alawite rulers against the Sunni Arab majority in Syria. Meanwhile, Assad loyalists also began attacking the Christians for not taking up arms to defend the regime.

Caught between the two warring sides, the Christians inside Syria have faced horrendous conditions over recent years. Many of those who fled Iraq for Syria are now watching the atrocities back in Iraq and wondering where else could they go.

As ISIS forces in Syria have flooded across the porous border into Iraq this summer, they have gobbled up large swaths of the Sunni-dominated provinces in northwest Iraq. One region they targeted in recent weeks was the Nineveh Plain, along the Tigris River above Mosul.

This plateau was the last safe haven for Chaldean Christians left in the country, and the original homeland of this God-fearing people for the past 2,700 years. Yet in only a month's time, all its traditionally Christian towns have been emptied and the last 300,000 Christians left in the region have fled for their lives. Many have sought refuge in the Kurdish autonomous region to the east, while others now languish in refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey.

Enforcing 'pure' Islam

These tragic developments evidence a systematic campaign by the Islamic State and other radical Muslim factions to deliberately cleanse the region of its native Christian population, just as the Jewish minorities were forcibly uprooted following Israel's re-birth in 1948. The reason these Muslim 'purists' are driving out Christians lies in certain uniquely ruthless tenets of Islam they seek to enforce.

First, the Islamic faith is very territorial and divides the world into Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam, or the "House of War" versus the "House of Peace". This doctrine maintains that any territory which Muslims have conquered and subjected to shari'a law must be kept that way for future Muslim generations, while the rest of the world is a place of war (jihad) still to be conquered for Islam.

Secondly, shari'a law demands that Muslims must never befriend Christians or Jews, creating an inherent hostility towards these minority communities. This command comes straight from the Koran and thus can never be compromised.

For centuries, Muslims also were taught that because they followed a superior religion, they were a superior people to Christians and Jews and thus had a natural right to rule over them. In more recent times, it has been hard for many Muslims to give up this claim of superiority in exchange for modern democratic notions of equality and minority rights.

The national rebirth of Israel in 1948 challenged this mind-set of superiority, and did so in an area once subject to shari'a law. For many Muslims, this was a double blow and thus gave rise to a broader Arab rejection of Israel's existence that remains to this day.

Now, radical Muslim groups like ISIS do not want local Christians thinking they can also gain their freedom. To this end, they are being targeted for conversion, subjugation, eviction or eradication. Those are the only options, and they originate with none other than Muhammad himself.

In addition, Islam selectively borrows from biblical apocalyptic writings but adds a deadly twist. The Muslim faith teaches that Jesus indeed will return one day, but his mission will be to eradicate the heresy of Christianity and declare Islam as the one true faith and Muhammad as the true prophet. That is, he will come back as the destroyer of every last vestige of Christian belief.

So radical Islamist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda believe they are just doing Allah's bidding by wiping out any Christian remnants in Muslim lands. They view this as simply part of their long-term battle against Christians, Jews and other non-Muslims in order to cleanse the world of infidels and ensure Islam reigns supreme.

The declaring of a "caliphate" by ISIS leader Imam Abu-bakr al-Baghdadi is an important step in their minds towards reaching their ultimate goal of Muslim domination of the world. Thus their threats to extend the rule of the Islamic State into Lebanon and Jordan must be taken seriously.

The fallacy of silence

One of the toughest questions to answer these days is why Western Christians are not speaking out more forcefully concerning the plight of our brethren in Muslim lands. This is a question often posed by Jews, who learned the hard lessons of remaining silent during the Holocaust.

Some American Jewish leaders actually contended at the time that demanding more action by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt to stop the Nazi genocide might actually make matters worse for European Jews. This proved a false assumption, and should not be repeated in the case of Middle East Christians. Things could not get any worse for them than what they are suffering under ISIS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and many other jihadist movements.

We should listen to our Jewish friends. Silence simply does not work!

We must speak out on their behalf like never before. Please pray for our fellow Christians in the Middle East. And make your voice heard in your own countries that the slaughter and hemorrhaging of these ancient Christian communities must be stopped!

Please consider donating to the ICEJ's relief efforts on behalf of Iraqi Christians:

 

 


This article first appeared in the September-October 2014 edition of the ICEJ's Word from Jerusalem magazine. Read the latest Word from Jerusalem

The Restoration of Israel

Israel today is a remarkable country. Though small and threatened on all sides, it is nonetheless making major contributions to the world in such areas as hi-tech and medical advances.

Israel is also leading the way in agricultural innovations and water conservation. It pioneered drip irrigation and currently recycles over 80 percent of its wastewater, far outstripping any other nation. And, although over half of its land is still arid desert, Israel exports high-quality farm produce in all seasons, even while its neighbors must import food to feed
their populations.

It also would surprise many to learn that the Israeli people are blessed with one of the most nutritious food supplies in the world. In a recent global survey by the Bloomberg news agency of the world's healthiest countries, Israel ranked an impressive sixth, far ahead of the United States at number 33.

Yet the land of Israel was not always so fruitful, and the Jewish people certainly were not known for having a "green thumb." In fact, the land lay desolate for all the centuries of
Jewish exile, and in both Christian and Muslim lands where the Jews were dispersed, they were largely forbidden from owning land. This meant they had basically lost the ability to farm and had to rely on the Gentiles to feed themselves. This was true even up to some 100 years ago when Jews first began to return to Eretz Israel and tried to scratch out a living in the barren fields.

Yet the law and the prophets both had warned the ancient Israelites that this would be their fate if they turned their backs on God. The land itself would "vomit out" those inhabitants who turned to wickedness (Leviticus 18:28), and the fields would lie desolate in their absence (Jeremiah 18:15-17).

Meanwhile, the Jewish people were also told they would be scattered among the nations and would never find a place to rest their feet (Leviticus 26:26-39; Deuteronomy 28:64-67). The sword would follow after them, and they would bear the reproach of famine while in exile (Jeremiah 14; Ezekiel 5).

Still, God also promised that one day He would come and find His people, no matter how far they had been scattered, and return them to the land promised to Abraham and his descendants as an "everlasting possession" (Genesis 17:8). This promise of a future restoration is spoken of by all the Hebrew prophets and is affirmed by all the great covenants of the Bible.

The Process of Restoration

Throughout Scripture, Israel is promised a last-day restoration in the land. This promise rests on the faithful character of God, that He can be trusted to carry out His promises because He cannot lie. This is especially true if it is a covenant promise sworn to by divine oath.

In the Abrahamic Covenant we find the election of both the people and the land of Israel for the purpose of world redemption. The two would merge to become a "great nation" that over time would bless us with all the things we need for salvation (Romans 9:3-5).

In the Mosaic Covenant, the relationship between the land and people of Israel is regulated by their spiritual standing before God, in order to show forth His holy and righteous character. Yet
any separation of the people from the land as a divine corrective measure would always be followed by a return to the land in God's timing (Leviticus 26:40-45; Jeremiah 31:10).

In the Davidic Covenant, we are assured that one day the people and land of Israel will be reunited and restored beyond that which King David had built. In fact, it will be an everlasting kingdom presided over by a promised Messiah, the Son of David, who would rule from Jerusalem over all the earth in righteousness and peace.

Finally in the New Covenant, Jesus proved his Messianic credentials through his perfect obedience even while enduring a cruel death on the Cross (Philippians 2:5-11). He earned the right to sit on the throne of David forever to rule over the earth from a restored Israel. He was already equal with God, but now no one can ever challenge His right to rule as Lucifer once did (see Isaiah 14:9-17).

Now some Christians still question whether Israel is promised a restoration in our day. They contend it was either forfeited or already fulfilled in the earlier returns under Ezra and Nehemiah. Or, they say it is not vouched for in the New Testament and therefore Christians can ignore Israel today as a political accident, or as the result of a 'man-made Zionism' devoid of God's hand.

Yet by the time the New Testament was written the Israelite hope of restoration was such a prevalent idea that the Jews even minted coins in the First Century expressing their longing "For the Return of Zion" or "For the Redemption of Zion." This hope was largely based on
the promises in the Davidic Covenant, beginning with 1 Chronicles 17, that God would establish the throne of David forever and that Israel would one day have eternal rest, in its own land, from all its enemies.

Throughout the Psalms and the prophets, this promised restoration is expounded upon repeatedly and is often expressed in such terms as the Lord will "bring back the captivity of Zion" (Psalm 126:1); "restore the fortunes of Jacob" (Nahum 2:2; Isaiah 49:6); or "show favor to Zion" (Psalm 102:13). It also can be clearly found in such passages as Isaiah 2, Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36.

And finally, this promised end-time "restoration" of Israel is indeed vouched for in the New Testament, such as in the specific words of Jesus in Matthew 19:28 and in the preaching of Peter in Acts 3:21. In Romans 11, the Apostle Paul further assures us of a future ingathering
and acceptance of Israel that ends with all Israel being delivered from their sins.

Date Palms in the Dead Sea Region of Israel

The Process of Restoration

All the prophets also agree that Israel's last-days' restoration would involve a two-phase process. First there would be a physical return to the land, and then second, a spiritual return to God. That is, Israel would return to the land in unbelief for the purpose of coming to belief.

Both Zechariah 1:3 and Malachi 3:7 express this two-step process in very simple terms: "Return to Me and I will return to you."

Hosea 6:1-3 also speaks of Israel's return or tshuva (repentance), leading to God's return to them.

Jeremiah 24:6-7 states: "I will bring them back to this land ... Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart."

In Jeremiah 32 the Lord promises: "Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever... And I will make an everlasting covenant with them... and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul" (Jeremiah 32:37-42).

And in the clearest picture of this two-phase process of restoration, Ezekiel 36 declares: "For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you... I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations" (Ezekiel 36:24-30).

For more than 100 years now, the world has been witnessing the physical restoration of Israel to her land with amazing accuracy. The people are returning to rebuild the waste places
of Judea and to plant vineyards once again on the mountains of Samaria. The land is yielding its fruit once more, the desert is blossoming like a rose, and the people are being restored to
health. Indeed, the "reproach of famine" has been removed from the Jewish people in an incredible way, and Israel has become a land of plenty. Not only does it have one of healthiest
diets in the world today, but every year the nation's farmers are somehow producing greater yields with less water.

Now consider again that even within the past century the land of Israel was still barren and that only 70 years ago Jews under Nazi occupation in Europe faced mass starvation and death.
Thus the transformation of the land and people of Israel in just a few short generations is nothing short of miraculous. And if we see the promise of Israel's physical restoration being
fulfilled, with such remarkable precision, it means we can completely trust God for their spiritual restoration as well.

Jerusalem Shuk

The Partners of Restoration

Another core feature of the promised last-days' restoration of Israel is that it would be marked by Gentile assistance. The same Hebrew prophets who foretold of a time when God would set His hand to finally re-gather the scattered Jewish people back to their land, also foresaw that Gentiles would be involved in this restoration.

 

This is made especially clear by the prophet Isaiah, who repeatedly speaks of God bringing “the wealth of the Gentiles” to a restored Israel. The prophet assures, “The sons of foreigners
shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you” (Isaiah 60:10). He adds that, “the sons of those who afflicted you shall come bowing to you, and all those who despised you
shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet” (Isaiah 60:14).

It is hard to find a more apt description of the modern-day phenomenon of Christians coming in humility to aid and assist a people whom our forbearers in the faith once oppressed.

Isaiah also proclaims: “Behold, I will lift My hand in an oath to the nations, and set up My standard for the peoples; They shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders; Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers; They shall bow down to you with their faces to the earth, and lick up the
dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord, for they shall
not be ashamed who wait for Me” (Isaiah 49:22-23).

This particular passage opens with an unusual Hebrew phrase that has been interpreted in various ways in modern English translations of the Bible, including that God would “beckon” or “wave” or “whistle” to the Gentiles. In other words, it is the sort of visible and audible gestures one makes to flag down a taxi. That is, God has not kept this a little secret that He only shares with a few dear saints in their prayer closets. Instead, He is out on the street corner shouting at the Gentiles to get involved in the restoration of Israel.

Thus we Christians have little excuse when we fail to answer that call in this day and age, when it is so obvious that God Himself is gathering the outcasts of Israel.

And the fact is that Gentile kings and queens have indeed contributed greatly to the Zionist cause. In 1865, for example, Britain’s Queen Victoria gave royal patronage to the founding of
the Palestine Exploration Fund for the purpose of settling Jews back in their ancient homeland. The British crown later endorsed the Zionists' national aspirations in the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

Meanwhile, such American presidents as John Adams, Woodrow Wilson and Harry Truman openly supported Israel's restoration.

Today, Gentile Christians both great and small are still partnering in the great return of the Jewish people back to their land, knowing that it eventually becomes a spiritual return to their
God. Therefore the question is: What are you doing to help with Israel's restoration?

Conclusion

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem offers many ways in which you can be involved in the on-going restoration of Israel. Whether it is through our Aliyah operations, our
assistance to new Jewish immigrants, our various social aid projects throughout the land, our global prayer initiatives, or our many other ministry activities, you can be a part of repairing the breach, healing the historic wounds, and humbly telling the Jewish people they are
home for good.

By David Parsons, ICEJ Media Director


This article first appeared in the April  edition of the ICEJ's Word from Jerusalem magazine. Read the latest Word from Jerusalem

Begin and the Evangelicals

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem co-sponsored a special event in March to honour Menachem Begin for being the first Israeli prime minister to openly embrace Evangelical Christian support for his nation.

The Menachem Begin Heritage Center hosted the gathering as part of their 100th Anniversary observances since Begin's birth. The main address was delivered by Dr. Daniel Gordis of the Shalem College, author of the new biography Menachem Begin: The Struggle for Israel's Soul.

Of all the Israeli prime ministers since 1948, Begin stands out as the first to openly endorse Christian Zionist support and to seek to harness it in defence of the Jewish state. Others before him may have had connections to individual Christian figures, but the story of the Israel-Evangelical partnership as we know it today starts with Begin.

Even from the rise of the modern Zionist movement, there are many examples of personal friendships between Jewish and Christian figures with shared interests in resettling Jews back in the historic Land of Israel.

For instance, when the Jewish philanthropist Moses Montefiore first toured Palestine in 1849 to assess the prospects for setting up Jewish colonies there, he was accompanied by a prominent Christian Zionist named George Gawler.

When Theodor Herzl published his book Der Judenstaat in 1895, he was quickly befriended by Rev. William Hechler, who became a sort of 'foreign minister' for the young Zionist movement.

Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann in turn was befriended by Arthur James Balfour a decade before he became the British foreign secretary and signed the Balfour Declaration.

Israel's founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion also had encounters with Christian Zionists, including Southern Baptist leader Dr. W. A. Criswell.

But Menachem Begin was the first Israeli prime minister to warmly embrace Christian Zionist support in an open manner. He, too, had developed friendships with individual Christian leaders like author Dr. David A. Lewis. But Begin went further by actively seeking Christian support and acknowledging its value in public. There are several reasons why.

First, Begin realised that he shared a certain biblical worldview with Evangelicals. Dr. Gordis noted that Begin looked on the Bible as Israel’s title deed to the land and saw the Jewish return as fulfilment of the vision of the Hebrew prophets, just as many Christians did.

Second, Begin was surrounded by several close advisors who shared his friendly disposition towards pro-Israel Christians. This included Harry Hurwitz, who had been exposed to genuine Christian supporters of Israel in his native South Africa and was the key official within Begin's inner circle who convinced him to approve the founding of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem in 1980.

Finally, Begin's last years in office were marked by several steep challenges to the nation, including the American AWACS sale to Saudi Arabia, the US “reassessment” after the Osirak air raid, and the fallout from the First Lebanon War. To meet these challenges, Begin actively sought Christian support, especially from among prominent American Christian leaders like Jerry Falwell and Ed McAteer.

Yet Begin’s first public embrace of pro-Israel Christians came at the ICEJ's Feast of Tabernacles in September 1981, when he stood before a gathering of several thousand cheering Christians from dozens of nations and told the crowd: "Tonight, I know that we are not alone."

Later, when Begin resigned from office, the Christian Embassy sent him a letter of gratitude for his friendship. In response, Begin wrote back: "Your decision to establish your Embassy in Jerusalem at a time when we are being abandoned because of our faith was an act of courage and a symbol of the closeness between us. Your acts and gestures gave us the feeling that we were not alone."

The partnership between Israel and her Christian friends has grown ever since into what Israeli officials now view as a “strategic asset” for their nation. Current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows this history well and continues to value and nurture Christian support. But this official embrace truly starts with Menachem Begin.


This article first appeared in the May edition of the ICEJ's Word from Jerusalem magazine. Read the latest Word from Jerusalem

 

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