About the author  ⁄ Sarah Stern

The government of Syrian President Bashir Assad launched a chemical attack on Saturday on the rebel-held town of Douma, Syria, killing at least 42 people and injuring some 500 more. Once again, our computer screens were replete with helpless children, some lifeless and limp, some foaming at the mouth and flinching, some with oxygen masks strapped across their tiny faces.

This attack was the final blow for the last remaining rebels in this Damascus suburb.

This came within a week of President Trump’s pronouncement that “we’re knocking the hell out of ISIS. We’ll be coming out of Syria, like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.”

This brings us to the first lesson: Whether or not America wants to enter into a period of isolationism, when we withdraw from the picture the world becomes an infinitely more dangerous place. Nature abhors a vacuum, and when America retreats, all of the moral cockroaches—like Tehran’s mullahs, Syria’s Assad, Russia’s Putin and Turkey’s Erdoğan—immediately swoop in to fill the void.

Akin to the period between the two world wars, the American people might say they have no appetite for further military engagement, yet there is something in America’s moral fabric that simply cannot allow atrocities like these to go unanswered. As Winston Churchill once said: “America always does the right thing. After it has exhausted all other possibilities.”

Over the last seven years of the protracted Syrian civil war, the country has been on a slow and steady path towards total implosion. Initially, an alphabet soup of terrorist groups have used this empty playing field, including, but not limited to, Jabat Al Nusra, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Ahrar al Sham, the IRGC, the Al Quds Force and Hezbollah—many of them proxies for bigger regional players.

Now the big boys are entering the scene, and Syria promises to be the theater in which America and the West might quite soon form a coalition against the regional forces of oppression and their Russian enablers.

The next lesson, therefore, is: If we do not engage ourselves in smaller wars, America might well find itself dragged into a much larger war.

The second major event was the attack on the T-4 air base early Monday morning. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied their involvement, as is characteristic, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made his red lines very clear.

On Feb. 10, when Israel shot down an Iranian drone launched from the identical Syrian air base and flown over Israeli territory, he said: “Our policy is very clear. Israel will defend itself against any attack and any attempt to harm our sovereignty.” He then added that “Iran seeks to use Syrian territory with the expressed goal of destroying Israel.”

Since the singing of the nuclear-trade deal, Iran has used its vastly enriched coffers to empower, embolden and enable its terrorist proxies within the widening Shiite crescent, and has used Syria as part of its ever-widening land bridge stretching from Tehran to Beirut.

This has been enabled by Russia military support. Russia under Putin wants to re-emerge as a world power and has just asked Iran permission to use its air bases in Iran as refueling stations. They have also just vetoed the U.N. Security Council resolution to investigate the Syrian chemical attack in Douma.

Which brings us to the final lesson of these recent Syrian events: In 1992, Francis Fukuyama, famously wrote a book titled, The End of History and the Last Man. In it, he argues that with the end of the Cold War, we are passing through a period of post-war history, and that we have reached the height of the ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the apex and final form of government.

Democracy might be the best form of government devised, but Russia, though the use of its proxies, has shown that it might want to regress to a period of Cold War alliances. And unfortunately, because sometimes the only way to eradicate pure evil—such as was on display this weekend in Douma—is through the use of military force, we are quite far from a post-war epoch.

Photo: SANA/Handout via Reuters

Originally Published: https://www.jns.org/opinion/syria-gets-us-farther-from-a-post-war-epoch/

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On March 30, coinciding with the start of Passover, the former and current Hamas prime ministers in Gaza, Ismael Haniya and Yahya Sinwar, organized what they called the “March of Return.” Although this had been dubbed by many news outlets throughout the world as a peaceful demonstration, these two Hamas leaders told their followers to “infiltrate the border,” that doing so will “mark the beginning of the liberation of all of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea,” i.e., all of Israel.

This was not intended, as many media outlets had described it, “to eliminate the economic suffering in the Gaza Strip,” but rather to eliminate the sheer existence of the Jewish state.

At least 30,000 protestors, many known terrorists of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Qassam Brigades, came to the border with Israel with explicit instructions to penetrate the fence and thereby create a security and demographic nightmare for the Jewish state. The objective was to remain there until May 15, the English anniversary of Israel’s Independence Day, which the Palestinians and many in the Arab World dub “al nakba,” “the Day of the Catastrophe.” May 15 is also, not coincidentally, the day that President Trump and his team have designated for the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

This “march” was not a peaceful demonstration reminiscent of the sit-ins of Selma, Ala. The protestors sought to storm the border with lethal intent, hurling firebombs, rocks and burning tires at Israeli soldiers. In at least two cases, they fired bullets directly at troops on the other side. And unfortunately, it resulted in the fatalities of 17 Palestinians, who have consistently been manipulated by their leaders to despise the state of Israel.

Considering the inflammatory potential of the situation, the IDF has got to be commended for training their young men and women to act with such amazing discipline and restraint.

It is also important to remember that Gaza is not under Israeli occupation. In 2005, in a heart-wrenching, politically divisive move, the Israeli government decided to uproot any remnant of a Jewish presence in Gaza and withdrew to the pre-1967 lines, giving the Palestinian people there total independence. Jewish philanthropists actually bought the greenhouses to give to this “nascent Palestinian state.” Some rabbis wanted to leave the synagogues in Gaza, arguing, “After all, we all pray to the same God.”

Many of my friends who were for the Gaza withdrawal explained to me, “This will finally prove to the world just how far Israel is willing to go for peace.” Do you think the world remembers any of this today?

As soon as the blue and white flag was lowered, and the IDF closed the gate, those greenhouses and synagogues, as well as any other vestige of Jewish life, were all destroyed in a heightened display of hate-infested anarchy and mayhem.

And then in 2007, after a bitter internecine war between Fatah and Hamas, Hamas, an organization that was created specifically to achieve the imminent destruction of the State of Israel, took over Gaza.

The result of the magnanimous gesture of the Gaza withdrawal was that more than 10,000 missiles raining down on Israel, provoking Israel to fight three wars: Cast Lead in 2008, Pillar of Defense in 2012, and Operation Protective Edge in 2014. With each successive war the range of the rockets was extended. By now, the Palestinians in Gaza have missiles that can reach all of Israel’s main population centers.

And just in case the missiles do not do the trick, those living in Gaza have been assiduously digging underground tunnels.

Yet there are many powerful voices in Washington who have not learned the lessons of the Gaza withdrawal. They want a precipitous withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, and try to delude themselves into thinking that that will solve the problem.

They are looking at today’s impasse with the Palestinians and want to seize upon a solution, any solution, not realizing the lessons of the Gaza withdrawal.

These people choose to willfully blind themselves to what Palestinian leaders say to their own people in Arabic, and prefer not to entertain the notion that in today’s volatile Middle East, power changes hands very quickly.

The recent actions of Hamas, which could step in for the Palestinian Authority at any moment, should provide a wakeup call to everyone.

Photo: Amir Cohen/Reuters

Originally Published: http://washingtonjewishweek.com/45435/march-of-return-nothing-more-than-terrorists-plaything/editorial-opinion/voices/

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For a quarter of a century, the Palestinian Authority has cynically wrapped itself inside a fig leaf dubbed as the “Peace Process.” The naked truth, however, is that it has been using every means available to incite for, incentivize and reward terrorism. With Friday’s passage of the Taylor Force Act, which aims to deduct payments to Palestinian prisoners and martyrs, fissures are finally emerging in its iron wall of deception.

The phrase “Peace Process” served as an ingenious linguistic sedative, lulling the international community into the dream of a peaceful P.A. The harsh reality is that the objective of the P.A. has never been peace, but the gradual, staged elimination of the State of Israel. The P.A. has been consistently teaching their children that Jews and Israelis are odious, detestable creatures, and their final elimination would be of huge benefit to the Palestinian people, the Arab world and all of humanity.

The Palestinian National Covenant was adopted on May 28, 1963, in which most of the 33 articles invoke an “armed struggle” until “the Zionist entity is totally wiped out and Palestine is liberated.”

Note that this happened four years before the 1967 Six-Day War, so it had nothing to do with the disputed territories that followed that war, and everything to do with the 1948 War of Independence and the sheer existence of Israel.

In April 1996, amid the euphoria of the signing of the Oslo Accords and under much political pressure from the Clinton administration, the Palestinian National Council had a well-publicized vote to discuss whether to “revoke the covenant.” Despite the fanfare, they voted simply to extend the period of time to decide on what to do.

P.A. spokesperson Marwan Kanfani emerged from the meeting, saying: “This is not an amendment. It is a license to start a new, to found a new resolution, a new charter. This is really a vote to form a committee to look into it.”

The committee never was formed; the members never appointed; no meetings were subsequently announced.

Yet the international media was ablaze with headlines of how the P.A. had renounced the charter. Peter Jennings, the anchor of “World News Tonight” began his broadcast with: “They said it couldn’t be done. The P.A. has revoked its charter calling for the destruction of Israel.”

The PNC didn’t convene until 2009, in which Fatah spokesman Nabil Shaath said that “the covenant cannot be changed.” Azaam al Ahmed, another P.A. spokesman said “it [the covenant] will remain as is. It won’t be subject to change. We have the right to practice all forms of national struggle.”

Nevertheless, for decades the world convinced themselves that the P.A. was actually a peaceful entity, the moderate alternative to Hamas.

The P.A. has been playing a dubious game. It had used all means available to systematically indoctrinate  their people to despise and murder Israelis and Jews, using textbooks, children’s  television shows, sporting and cultural events to demonize Jews, to praise the shahid, (“martyr”) and to encourage their youth to follow in this “glorious path.”

As Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch writes, “P.A. libels claim that Israel conspires to infect Palestinians with AIDS, spread drug addiction, conspired and successfully murdered Arafat, and more. The P.A.’s goal has been to inculcate hatred to the degree that fighting and murdering Jews and Israelis will be glorified as heroic self-defense.”

After so many years of this systematic indoctrination, it’s no wonder that murdering Jews and Israelis is seen as a heroic act in the eyes of many Palestinians, and a regnant value of the P.A. In 2015, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas said: “We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood.”

In defiance of the United States, the P.A. just announced that it will now directly pay the prisoners and the families of “martyrs” to the tune of $355 million a year.

Does this not constitute material support for terrorism?

At least, however, so far as the U.S. Congress is concerned, the gig is finally up.

Photo Credit: Flash90

Originally Published: https://www.jns.org/opinion/the-end-of-the-era-of-palestinian-deception/

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Photo Credit: Alik Keplicz/AP

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was forced last week to deny being a Holocaust revisionist, after suggesting that Jews were complicit in their own genocide.

Referring to a new Polish law making it illegal to say the country has responsibility for the Holocaust, an Israeli journalist and son of Polish survivors asked Morawiecki if he could face prison for recounting how his mother was betrayed by her Polish neighbors.

The Prime Minister replied: “Of course it’s not going to be punishable … to say that there were Polish perpetrators, as there were Jewish perpetrators, as there were Russian perpetrators, as there were Ukrainian, not only German perpetrators.”

Morawiecki’s remarks were a shameful adulteration of history. There were no “Jewish perpetrators” in the Holocaust. They were victims. The Jewish prisoners who participated in the extermination machinery did so under the immediate threat of death.

The new law, which Polish lawmakers chose to push — on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, no less — cannot be understood without an appreciation of the context from which it emerged, nurtured by the rise of nationalism in Poland and the tactic support of the populist government, which views itself as the guardian of Polish historical honor.

A dark trend is once again sweeping across the European continent. In Macerata, a small town in Italy, a neo-fascist admirer of Mussolini recently went on a shooting rampage, wounding five men and one woman of African origin. In Austria, a party with neo-Nazi roots now sits in the coalition government. And from Hungary to the Czech Republic, France and Britain, political parties and their supporters are reviving the old blood libel against Jews. Europe’s grip on its bloody past is far from assured.

Of course, Poland’s history with the Third Reich is complex. If the new law were to clarify that the Polish government had no official role in the Holocaust, it would be an accurate reflection of events. Likewise, Poland is right to object to the flippant use of “Polish death camps” to describe Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor, Majdanek and Chelmno rather than “Nazi death camps inside Poland.”

But in every country under Nazi occupation — Poland is no exception — most of the local population were either silent witnesses to the slaughter or willing participants in the annihilation of Jews.

Take, for example, the role of Polish collaborators. In July of 1941, 1,600 Jews, nearly the entire Jewish population in the village of Jedwabne, were murdered by their Polish neighbors. Some were hunted down and killed with clubs, knives and axes. Most were forced into a barn and burned alive.

The Polish police collaborated with the Germans on many occasions such as in Warsaw, where they remained on duty to control the 50,000 Jews still alive in the ghetto after the liquidation in the summer of 1942.

This is only part of the story. In Poland, complicity and heroism coexist. An important aspect of history that must not be forgotten or minimized is the sacrifice of the Polish Underground State. The organization, which came to the rescue of Polish Jewry, operated from 1939 to 1945 and was subordinated to the Polish government-in-exile.

The Council to Aid Jews codenamed “Zegota,” a unique organization one on a global scale, provided structural and monetary assistance to Jews hiding among the Polish population and those living in ghettos, saving the lives of tens of thousands. Thousands of other Poles sheltered Jews despite the fact they and their entire families faced execution by the Nazis, if they had been caught.

But the selfless act of humanity by a selective group of Poles cannot whitewash the more sinister chapters of Polish history. In Poland, and many other parts of Eastern Europe, historical revisionism is far from a new phenomenon.

The widespread hostility that Jews faced did not die with the defeat of the Nazis. After the closure of World War II, Jewish survivors that returned home were confronted with an anti-Semitism that was terrible in its fury and brutality.

The new communist government in Poland made no mention of the crimes committed against Jews by the Nazis. They, too, were Antisemites. In July 1946, a pogrom occurred in the Polish town of Kielce, resulting in 42 Jews being massacred, an event that Poland’s foreign minister would recognize fifty years later as an “act of Polish anti-Semitism.”

In recent years, things have regressed again. A rise in nationalism has always been bad for the Jews.

Matters were not helped when Poland, over the last decade, lost important public intellectuals who reminded their country of the horrors of the Holocaust with first-hand accounts. Among them Marek Edelman, a Jewish leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, and Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, a leading figure in the Zegota underground organization.

The so-called “Holocaust Bill”, the new Polish law, promotes the avoidance of historical responsibility and deflects blame, in an attempt to rewrite history in the name of blind nationalism. But the Holocaust cannot be denied, avoided or played down. We are here to remember, educate and speak truth to power.

Originally published: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/commentary/fl-op-viewpoint-poland-holocaust-history-20180302-story.html

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Over the weekend, a series of extremely significant events happened in the skies over northern Israel and Syria.  An Iranian drone, dispatched from Syria, flew over the Golan Heights, violating Israeli sovereignty and Israeli airspace. Within one minute, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) downed the drone, and immediately embarked on a military campaign that struck at Iranian military sites inside Syria.

The Israeli military’s response was excellent. It was immediate. It was direct. And it was harsh. It struck down 12 military targets within Syria, which included four Syrian defense missile batteries, and four Iranian sites. Unfortunately, one IAF jet was downed and its pilot remains in serious condition.

On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said at a Cabinet meeting, “I have been warning for some time about the dangers of Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria. Iran seeks to use Syrian territory to attack Israel for its professed goal of destroying Israel. This morning, Iran brazenly violated Israel’s sovereignty. They dispatched an Iranian drone from Syrian territory into Israel. This demonstrates that our warnings were 100% correct. Israel holds Iran and its Syrian hosts responsible for today’s aggression. We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect our sovereignty and our security.”

According to Amos Yadlin, the Executive Director of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, who spoke on a conference call for The Israel Project, this recent military action “is perhaps the most serious event since the second Lebanese war or the alleged Israeli attack on the Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007.  It is serious because for the first time we have targeted Iranian sites in Syria, and a lot [of] Iranian bases, which leads Damascus exposed. The rules of the game are not changing. There is a determination by Iran to build a serious military force inside Syria and Lebanon, and we have a serious determination not to allow this to happen.”

Thanks to the disastrous Iranian nuclear deal, the Iranians are using much of their recently acquired wealth to build factories inside Syria and Lebanon.  The Iranian mullahs, Turkey’s Erdogan, and Russia’s Putin are all using what is left of the decimated country of Syria, after its protracted seven year civil war, to flex their muscles.

This is a very dangerous situation.

The Iranians are turning Syria into a Shiite military base and weapons factory. Many of these weapons are being transferred directly into the hands of Hezbollah.

According to MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, the Lebanese, pro-Hezbollah website Dahiya boasted that Hezbollah has 70,000 missiles ready to launch at Israel, and by the end of the year, they will have 500,000.

Unfortunately, much of the Sunni world, who is just as fearful of an Iranian crescent as Israel is, is sitting back and letting Israel do its job (although I am certain they are applauding).

But Israel knows what it has to do to survive in the Middle East. And it has never been easy. Now, thanks to the newly enriched and emboldened Iran, the Levant might become the theater in which the attempt for Shiite hegemony will have to be confronted.

Watch this space.

Originally posted at https://voiceoftruth.fireside.fm/articles/watch-this-space

Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

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Photo Credit: U.N. Photo/Shareef Sarhan.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley made headlines on Jan. 2 by saying that President Donald Trump has decided to stop funding UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency, until the Palestinians agree to come to the negotiating table. On Jan. 16, the president—on the advice of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—agreed to transfer $60 million for now, as opposed to slashing all of the funding overnight. But the other $65 million of this usual installment has been held in reserve. The total amount of money paid to UNRWA by American taxpayers is approximately $370 million per year.

UNRWA was established in the wake of the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 to handle the Palestinian refugee problem, set up to deal with the immediate crisis resulting from the Israeli War of Independence. It has camps in Judea and Samaria, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

The other refugees from World War II were taken under the U.N. High Commission of Refugees, whose mandate calls for immediate resettlement in their host nations. The Arab League, however, rejected that for the Palestinian refugees because they wanted them to be a constant thorn in the side of the newly established Jewish state.

This is the only refugee agency in the world whose mission is not for refugees to be resettled, integrated and re-entered into the workforce of their host countries, but whose mission is to instill in the minds of their population that they will one day return to their grandfathers’—or rather, great-grandfathers’—orchards and vineyards in Haifa and elsewhere.

In the absence of a solution to the refugee problem, UNRWA continues to redefine the word “refugee” to mean anyone who is a descendant of the 1948 war. Thus, from the original 700,000 refugees, UNRWA now claims to service approximately 5 million Palestinian refugees.

This agency’s conduct, although dressed in the benevolent clothing of a welfare agency, borders on the immoral because it implants within this population an unrealistic expectation that only serves to keeps the conflict alive. Not only does it perpetuate a psychology of victimhood, it entraps those being served into a perpetual state of poverty. Rather than getting on with their lives, they are trapped into perpetually reliving a conflict that happened 70 years ago.

A study of the new UNRWA textbooks, recently published by the Center for Near East Policy Research, found that for decades now, UNRWA has used textbooks that delegitimize and demonize the state of Israel and the presence of Jews there, and advocate for violent struggle as opposed to peaceful coexistence with the Jewish state.

In fact, inside UNRWA schools are pictures of Israel depicted as “Palestine,” posters praising the “brave shahids” (martyrs) who have killed civilians and an educational curriculum consisting of constant brainwashing for a violent jihad to despise and even murder Jews, and to liberate all of “Palestine.”

Pageants involve children as young as 4 years old, dressed in military garb, with rifles in hand. These children are being systematically programed to die for “Al Quds” (Arabic for Jerusalem) or any other part of “Palestine.” They are brainwashing an army of jihadists who keenly await the first opportunity to kill innocent civilians.

This is the worst sort of child abuse and exploitation imaginable. They are condemning these children—and any unfortunate civilian who might cross their paths—an early grave.

This comes in total conflict with the U.N. General Assembly Resolution 54/263’s own “Convention on the Rights of the Child: Optional Protocol on the Prohibition of Children in Armed Conflict,” barring the use of children under the age of 15 in combat.

Yet when it comes to this egregious practice, the United Nations chooses to look the other way.

This directly conflicts with an institution whose very charter speaks about practicing tolerance and living together with one another as good neighbors; reaffirming faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of every human person, and of all nations, great and small; establishing conditions for justice and respect for international treaties; and employing international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.

How these UNRWA camps and their hate-infested educational system can be an agency of the United Nations, with its lofty founding principles, continues to baffle me.

Given the deeply entrenched institutional biases of the United Nations against Israel, we can expect that UNRWA will soon find other donors. But that doesn’t mean that the United States, which had by far been the largest donor nation, has to continuously foot the bill.

The American taxpayer has other priorities than continuing to fund this corrupt and hypocritical agency.

Originally published at: https://www.jns.org/opinion/the-reasons-why-america-needs-to-stop-supporting-unrwa/

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In what has ironically been designated “Operation Olive Branch,” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been trying to put the northwestern Syrian region of Afrin into a stranglehold. Turkey is now in its second week of bombardment over Afrin from the air and heavy tanks are now carrying out a ground offensive into the Kurdish region.

Erdogan is a brute and a thug, who has made a habit of trampling on the human rights of his own people. He used the failed military coup of July, 2016 to arbitrarily arrest and imprison anyone whom he considers to be his opposition, including dissidents, parliamentarians, journalists, and academicians. Many have been languishing in prison since the failed military coup, without right of habeas corpus, and in 2017, Erdogan further strengthened his ironclad grip on the country of Turkey by winning a referendum, so there is no longer a free and independent judiciary or a free and independent legislative branch. A former member of the opposition party in the Turkish Parliament recently told me, “Every Saturday night, my friends and colleagues gather to read the newspaper to see if they are on the list of people to be purged in the coming week.”

The late Soviet dissident, Andre Sakharov, once said, “One can always tell a nation’s foreign policy by the way they treat their internal dissident population.”

Erdogan is sensing that America is in a period of withdrawal and isolation, and his eyes are set in taking over the Afrin region of Syria. But it will not end there.

Erdogan has threatened to go into Manbij, which is an American outpost, and he is just reckless enough to try to take out American lives.

Bullies like Erdogan carefully take America’s temperature, and measure whether or not we have an appetite for further engagement. In periods such as now, when America is exhausted and war weary after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, all the world’s bullies and moral cockroaches come out of the woodwork.

Syria is the perfect battleground for many of those moral cockroaches. The Iranians want to create an uninterrupted land-bridge from Tehran through Bagdad stretching through to Beirut, and a Kurdish region would be an obstruction the road. Erdogan is pounding his chest with war chants, of course Putin, seeing a wide-open playing field, is trying to flex his muscles there, as well.

Syrian Kurds fought valiantly for us against ISIS, and they have never asked anyone to shed a drop of blood for them.

In Iraq, Kurdish forces fought alongside U.S. forces in Kirkuk, and then when America withdrew, where they allowed the Shiite Militia to control the area, and Kurdish flags are being torn down. They have been subjugated to Dhimmi laws and treated like second-class citizens there.

The Syrian Kurds therefore do have every right to remain skeptical of America’s friendship.

Russia controlled the airspace over Afrin, and Putin has given the green light to Erdogan to control the skies there. As I write this, Erdogan is battling to take over a strategic hill, and the Kurdish forces are courageously holding their own, but their losses are great.

How much longer can the Afrini Kurds hold out before being overrun when they are being attacked by tanks on the ground and bombarded from the skies? Some policy experts have told me that they might be able to hold out for only a week to 10 days.

If Afrin falls to Erdogan it would be tragic. This Kurdish region has offered a safe have to over 400,000 internally displaced persons from the brutal Syrian civil war that has been raging since 2011. These include Sunni Arabs, Assyrian Christians, Yazidis, Armenians, and Kurds from Iblib, and Aleppo and other parts of Syria who have fled to the north.

Earlier this week, all five members of one Sunni Arab family were killed. They now estimate the fatality rate to be around 100 civilians.

What is so refreshing about the Kurds is, with the sole exception of the state of Israel, this is the only region of the Middle East that offers a democratic, pluralistic paradigm for the troubled Middle East. People have actually converted to Christianity there. (Could you imagine what would happen to these people if ISIS were able to get a hold of them?)

Turkey, being a member of NATO, has a powerful military is presenting a formidable force for the Afrini Kurds. However, NATO was created to protect small countries against Russia in the days of the former Soviet Union.

Iran sees theses valiant Kurdish enclaves as obstacles to their hegemonic designs.

It is critically important that we develop some mechanism to dismiss countries from NATO when they have crossed red lines, and Turkey is the paramount example.

In the meantime, we need to send critically needed support to our friends in Afrin, or we will be empowering Erdogan and his Muslim Brotherhood friends, Russia’s Putin, and the mullahs of Iran.

I would like to believe that America is the moral compass of the world. That America is, in the words of John Winthrop “That shining city on the Hill.”

But it begins by remembering who our friends are.

Originally published at: http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2018/02/remembering_who_our_friends_are.html

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Photo Credit: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic

In 1939, when the Nazis rolled into Poland, my aunt, whose name I carry, was forced to strip naked and dig a hole, into which she and the other members of her village were summarily mowed down.

Many in the Western world turned a deaf ear to the cries of my aunt, as well as to those of six million other Jews.

America was exhausted and war weary after having fought World War I, in which approximately 30 million people had been killed, and was in a period of profound isolationism and retreat.

There emerged a charismatic, young, impassioned leader who appealed to his people, stunned by their crushing defeat in WWI, with fiery speeches of reclaiming the pride of the Fatherland.

America heard Hitler’s speeches, and knew they were laced with antisemitism. But Germany was so far away, and the enemy that had been scapegoated was a strange people, with different customs, mere Jews.

This picture is not too dissimilar from what is happening today in northwestern Syria. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is a tyrannical brute, who has made a frequent habit of trampling on the human rights of his own people, with total impunity. Since the failed coup of July 2016, Erdogan continues to conduct arbitrary arrests and purges of academicians, politicians and journalists. Anyone slightly threatening to him is held in prison on trumped-up charges.

As Hitler saw the world’s retreat after WWI as an opportunity to fill the vacuum and flex his muscles on the world stage, Erdogan, together with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and the mullahs of Iran, sees America’s retreat from the Middle East and is swooping in to fill the void.

America, once again, after fighting the exhausting wars in Iraq where we suffered 4,486 fatalities, and Afghanistan, where we suffered 2,345, is once again in a period of profound isolationism and retreat.

As Hitler scapegoated the Jews to rally people behind him, today Erdogan is scapegoating the Kurds, making no distinction between his own internal separatist Kurdish movement, the PKK, and the YPG, the Syrian Kurdish movement.

This weekend, Erdogan gave a heated speech in Kilis, which is on the Turkish-Syrian border, vowing to drive out the Syrian Kurds from their ancestral homeland, and threatening to go into the US-backed Kurdish region east of the Euphrates, starting with the Kurdish-held town of Manbij, to which the crowd passionately chanted, “Hit. Hit. Let it reverberate and let Trump hear.”

Syria’s Kurds have done much of our own dirty work while they courageously fought to eradicate Islamic State (ISIS). They have never asked anyone else to shed a drop of blood in their defense. The region of Afrin has been a safe haven for approximately 400,000 internally displaced Syrians, who are Kurds, Sunni Arabs, Assyrians, Yazidis and others.

In the past week Turkey has been trying to create a stranglehold on the Kurdish region of Afrin in northwestern Syria. Afrin is in a particularly difficult place because it is an isolated Kurdish enclave, separate from where the bulk of US-backed Kurdish forces are.

Russia controls everything west of the Euphrates River, and Russia, which controls the airspace, has given Erdogan the green light to attack Afrin from the air. As I write this, Turkish tanks are penetrating the region, and there are at least 100 Kurds murdered.

WHEN I look at the Kurds, I see the history of the Jewish people before the State of Israel. I see the Kurdish people of Afrin as the Jews of Eastern Europe, or as the first settlers in pre-state Israel, who also valiantly defended their land.

I would like to believe that we, in the West, have an obligation to remember who our friends are and have been, and to protect and defend them from moral atrocities such as these.

I would like to believe that the United States can once again assume the mantle of the moral leader of the world; that we can become what president Ronald Reagan once called “the shining city on the hill” that all nations aspire to model themselves after. I would like to believe that the United States, which summoned up the courage to fight the two great evils of the 20th century, Nazism and Communism, can once again summon up the courage, the strength and the will to fight the great evils that are confronting humanity today. The reality is that, whether or not we want to acknowledge it, a new axis of evil has emerged between Turkey, Iran and Russia.

And the reality is also that irrespective of whether or not we are in the mood to acknowledge it, there are brutal tyrants in the world, who are poised to attack our allies when they see that America is exhausted.

No one spoke up for my Aunt Sarah when the Nazis invaded Poland. And that is why I must speak out today while Erdogan is launching this ruthless offensive on the Kurdish region of Afrin. Just as the West harbors a black chapter in our history for looking away from the cries of my aunt, our history will forever be blackened if we now choose to look away from the cries of the Kurds in Afrin. The Kurdish fight is a fight to preserve our humanity.

Originally published at: http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/The-Kurdish-fight-is-humanitys-fight-540261

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Photo: Louis D. Brandeis Center

When I was a child, having been born in the 1950s under the shadow of the Holocaust, I had naively thought anti-Semitism was mostly a thing of the past that vanished in the gas chambers and ovens of Auschwitz. Yet within the past few decades, I have witnessed anti-Semitism blossom into a socially acceptable hatred that has managed to make its way into the corridors of polite society in a fashion that is as overt, obvious and unconcealed as it is alarming.

It has migrated not only into college classrooms and campuses, but actually into the most respectable chambers of the U.S. Senate, in the very committees whose mandate is to authorize and appropriate taxpayer-funded programs to eliminate racism and anti-Semitism as well as other hatreds, and to appoint professionals within those agencies.

Recently, much of this anti-Semitic invective has been directed against a colleague of mine, Ken Marcus, who has been nominated to serve as assistant secretary of education for civil rights within the Department of Education. For reasons I will explain, Marcus has been the victim of an ugly and disgusting smear campaign.

Marcus served in a similar capacity from 2004-2008 under President George W. Bush, as assistant secretary of education for civil rights and later as staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He monitored and investigated complaints against minority groups such as African-Americans, Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities. A firm believer in free speech rights under the First Amendment, Marcus has always expressed the view that hate speech is protected speech under the Constitution, and that the best antidote for hate speech is more speech.

The standard for protected speech within an educational setting, however, is a bit more complex.  When a student is subjected to physical/verbal harassment, vandalism or intimidation to the degree that it interferes with that student’s ability to learn—creating “hostile environment harassment”—it might very well cross the line.

During the past few years, when it comes to Jewish students, it seems that the line has been constantly crossed. A recent report from the Anti-Defamation League indicates that there was an alarming 67-percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents from 2016 to 2017. Most alarmingly, the greatest increase were in our nation’s schools, which saw an increase of 107 percent in anti-Semitic incidents experienced by Jewish students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses, meanwhile, rose 63 percent during that period.

It was precisely because of this trend that in 2012, Marcus founded the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, whose mission is “to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all.” Marcus simply wants Jewish students to enjoy the same civil rights and protections that the law provides to other minorities.

Since Marcus’s institution serves to advance the civil rights of Jewish students, the flood of complaints against his nomination have come in at a frenetic velocity from some predictable sources.

On Jan. 10, Dima Khalidi published a scurrilous piece in The Nation entitled “Students Beware: This Trump Nominee Doesn’t believe in Your Civil Rights.” Notably, Khalidi fails to mention the fact that she heads Palestine Legal, a group that routinely works to undermine efforts to combat anti-Semitism on college and university campuses. She argues that Marcus, as the leader of LDB, “has made a practice through his work at the center of targeting the First Amendment rights of students who are critical of Israeli policies and advocate for Palestinian rights.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout Marcus’s extensive career, he has consistently demonstrated uncompromising and objective support for the civil rights of all minority groups, and unflinching appreciation of everyone’s First Amendment rights.

As Jennifer Braceras—a former head of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, whose service overlapped with Marcus’s time at the agency, wrote in a recent article, “Marcus has never argued that speaking out against Israel is, in and of itself, sufficient to trigger federal civil rights law. To the contrary, he has expressly stated that skepticism of Israel’s ‘status quo’ is often wrongly characterized as anti-Semitic, when it ‘may well reflect only the concern, shared by some in the liberal Jewish American community, that Israel’s current policy toward Palestinian Arabs is unsustainable in light of gathering international pressure.’”

Perhaps Khalidi is unaware that Marcus, on behalf of LDB, has sent several letters to university officials decrying racism against Muslims and African-Americans on their campuses. In November 2015, Marcus penned a letter to Dr. Elliot Hirshman, president of San Diego State University (SDSU), expressing concern regarding an attack on a Muslim student. He wrote, “While our organization primarily addresses the rights of Jewish college students, we support the right of all students to be free from invidious discrimination.”

Does this sound like the sentiment of a racist or an Islamophobe?

Yet while I was recently talking about Marcus with a senior policy adviser to the Democratic ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the adviser interrupted me with the response, “We do not care about anti-Semitism in this office.”

If I were an African-American speaking about a black civil rights organization, would the adviser have ever thought to utter similar words?

Perhaps Marcus’s crime is how he has recognized that, along with other minority groups, Jewish students in America need protection. If that is the case, then we have gone a long way from the halcyon days of my youth.

Originally published at: https://www.jns.org/opinion/education-department-nominee-ken-marcus-a-case-study-of-the-new-anti-semitism/

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In 2009, shortly after President Barack Obama entered office, millions of people rose up against the ruling theocratic regime of Iran. The demonstrations began in response to the disputed election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had been favored by the ruling mullahs. The election had taken place on June 12, 2009, and two hours after the polls had closed, the results were announced, causing people to immediately take to the streets. By the next day, the peaceful demonstrators were met with the club-wielding Basij, a pro-government paramilitary group.

By June 19, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the election a “divine assessment” and declared that protests would no longer be tolerated. By June 22, video footage of a beautiful young woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, 26, who had been fatally shot by the Basij while demonstrating, quickly spread throughout the internet and grabbed international attention.

Unfortunately, there were many more anonymous Nedas. The government used this time to purge the opposition party as well as to conduct arbitrary arrests of journalists and human rights activists. The Basij came out on horseback and began to trample on demonstrators. Hospitals were prohibited from reporting the amount of casualties. Many of the demonstrators had been carted off to the notorious Evin Prison to be tortured and raped. Many have never been seen or heard from again.

In the midst of all of this, freedom-loving dissidents throughout Iran were holding up signs saying “down with the dictatorship” and “Obama, where are you?”

The leader of the free world was silent during the initial days of the protests, and when he finally did speak, President Obama’s words were, at best, muted. He said, “It is up to the Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be.”

These people were looking towards the U.S. as the moral leader of the world, and one word from the president might have made a critical difference.

One cannot help but contrast this to the words of President Donald Trump regarding the new anti-regime protests in Iran. On Sunday, he tweeted, “Big protests in Iran. The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!”

One has to marvel at the amazing courage of today’s demonstrators in Iran, who are able to protest despite the known brutality of the regime. Today’s Iranian protesters took to the streets because of government corruption, inflation and lack of economic opportunity. They are puzzled that their regime received $150 billion in unfrozen assets due to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, yet none of this has trickled down to the common man. They are probably disgusted that most of the key sectors of the economy are controlled by the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

We have no way of confirming this, but we are hopeful that the demonstrators might also be  motivated by disgust over the regime’s foreign policy; its aggressive behavior and meddling in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Gaza; and its support for terrorist entities such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

We know that at the time I am writing this, the demonstrations have spread to seven cities, and that they are robust and impressive in size.

There is a lot more, however, that we do not know. We do not know whether or not the regime will once again unleash its immense brutality against the demonstrators. We do not know whether or not these demonstrations might blossom into a genuine threat to the regime.

What we do know is that most of Iran’s current population has been born after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and that more than half of Iranians are younger than 35. Many of them despise the country’s oppressive and brutal theocracy, and would love to experience the beautiful taste of Western liberties.

We hope that just as we used Radio Free Europe to overthrow the chokehold of the former Soviet Union, we are also using Voice of America in Farsi to support the Iranian demonstrators. We hope that the CIA is on the ground doing whatever it can to support the legitimate voice of the opposition. We hope that we are using cyber technology to enable the demonstrators to break through the obstacles that the mullahs are imposing on social media and other methods of communication. We hope that the Iranian regime knows that if the outcome is at all similar to the unfortunate result in 2009, both Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. will not hesitate to come together and impose crippling sanctions against Iran for its human rights violations.

We hope for the stability of the region and the world, but mostly for the Iranian people, that this odious regime can be overthrown. But in the meantime, we hope that there will be no more Nedas.

Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, which describes itself as an unabashedly pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, D.C.

Article originally published at: http://www.jns.org/latest-articles/2018/1/2/no-more-nedas-will-irans-regime-again-unleash-immense-brutality-against-protesters#.Wk0J4t-nHIU=

 

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