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Stand Up to Erdogan, Protect Ethnic and Religious Minorities in Syria

Turkey’s latest incursion into the Kurdish- held territory of Afrin, located in northwest Syria, is yet another provocative and illegal act by the fascist Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Afrin has historically been a predominately Kurdish region. Afrin survived the brutal Assad regime, al-Qaida affiliate groups and Islamic State (ISIS), and now Erdogan has opened a new offensive against the indigenous people in this small region.

Afrin has sheltered nearly 400,000 internally displaced peoples (IDPs) who have fled both Assad and ISIS in Adlib, Aleppo and surrounding areas. In addition to the IDPs, Afrin is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious enclave, unlike anywhere else in Syria.

Kurdish forces have valiantly defended the world against ISIS, all while Erdogan’s troops silently watched from a hilltop on the Turkish- Syrian border. It was Erdogan who aided ISIS, after realizing it was failing to defeat the Kurds. Erdogan took it upon himself to finally “bury” and “strangle” the Kurds.

“Operation Olive Branch,” the name given to Erdogan’s invasion of Afrin, only prolongs the Syrian civil war. This benefits jihadists and Islamic regimes like Iran and Turkey, all while disturbing civilians and those truly aiming for peace.

The Kurdish force, the Peoples Protection Units (YPG), has successfully thwarted any attempts at infiltration into the region since the civil war began. Isolated from the rest of the Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria, Afrin is surrounded by the Turkish military, Free Syria Army (FSA), Assad forces and a handful of terrorist organizations prepared to shake the stability of the small enclave.

Erdogan’s aim is clear: to remove Kurds from their historical lands and replace them with Turkmans. If that doesn’t work, his next step is to flood the area with Arab Syrian refugees from inside Turkey. Publicly calling for ethnic cleansing against a peaceful people seems to be the new norm for American’s NATO ally.

Just as the international community failed to protect Jews persecuted under Adolf Hitler’s brutal Nazi regime, the world is once again turning a blind eye, this time to Islamo- fascist aggression against the Kurdish nation.

The muddled US response has emboldened Erdogan’s harsh rhetoric, paving the way for continuous hostility. The Kurds look to the West, especially the US, to use its leverage with its hostile NATO partner. The Kurds in Afrin have never provoked or threatened Turks or Turkish territory, yet it is the Kurds that are being labeled “terrorists” by the Erdogan regime.

If the Kurds in Afrin truly are terrorists, would they have protected Yazidi minority persecuted by ISIS in Iraq? Would terrorists have protected Christians in the Middle East, whose numbers have dramatically decreased?

The Kurds have even taken upon themselves to defend religious minorities fearing jihadist backlash. Christian Syrian officials who have aligned with the Kurds in Afrin have stated that many Muslims have converted to Christianity inside the Kurdish regions and have not suffered any repercussions from the Kurds.

This pluralistic ideal is how the Kurds wish to govern their territories. They do not wish to enforce an Islamic-like system of government which threatens the existence of a diverse Middle East.

It is long overdue that the world finally stand up to Erdogan, protect ethnic and religious minorities in Syria, and keep the promise made to the Kurds, who have courageously fought ISIS.

Having been betrayed on many occasions throughout history by the West, the Kurds have a saying: “no friends but the mountains.”

Kurds are more than just great fighters; they desire peace and yearn for democracy in a stable, secure region with neighbors who share the same values. Unfortunately, Erdogan is the Kurds’ neighbor, and he will not rest until they are eradicated from their historical lands.

Originally published at: http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Stand-up-to-Erdogan-protect-ethnic-and-religious-minorities-in-Syria-542974
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The Reasons Why America Needs to Stop Supporting UNRWA

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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Turkey is Coming for the Kurds

Photo by: SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images

“Operation Olive Branch” is an ironic name for the aggressive military campaign carried out by Turkey against the Kurds in Afrin, Syria.

Situated in northwest Syria, Afrin has survived both the Syrian civil war and attacks from the Islamic State (IS); but when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vows to remove the “terrorists” from the region, he is referring to the Kurds — the same Kurds who have heroically fought IS and who have been allies with the U.S. in Syria; the same Kurds who have protected ethnic and religious minorities inside the war-torn country.

Afrin is home to nearly 400,000 internally displaced peoples (IDPs) who have fled the nearby provinces of Idlib and Aleppo to escape from both the Assad regime and from IS. The air and ground invasion by Turkey has also created 5,000 new IDPs since the advance began on the Jan. 20.

Erdogan has had his sights set on Afrin for quite some time, due to it being an isolated region separate from the rest of the Kurdish-held territories, and due to the lack of an American presence. Afrin is surrounded not only by Turkey, but also by the so-called Free Syrian Army, Al Qaeda affiliate terrorist groups, and the Syrian regime. Erdogan wishes to ethnically cleanse the safe enclave and either replace them with Turks or flood the territory with Arab Syrian refugees from inside Turkey. Furthermore, Erdogan has vowed to advance beyond Afrin into Kurdish-held regions east of the Euphrates River where there are American forces positioned. If Erdogan follows through on his promise, this could harm U.S. soldiers and jeopardize his ties with the U.S., and also be an act of war against a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) partner.

To make matters worse, the outcome of Turkey’s aggression into Syria will give birth to new Islamic State-like groups, extending the almost seven-year-long civil war and ending any possible peace solution available to the war-torn country.

Instead of calling for an end to the ongoing Turkish aggression into Afrin, the international community has turned a blind eye. Seeing and capitalizing on this display of weakness, Erdogan has bolstered his position by threatening anyone who gets in his way, including American and European powers.

The Kurds have vowed to resist Erdogan’s destructive campaign, but are at a disadvantage due to Turkey’s air power. The Kurdish forces fighting under the People’s Protection Units (YPG) also have limited resources and light ammunition, while the Turks have unlimited means and heavy weaponry including German-made Leopard tanks. Kurds are known to be great fighters, but it is hard to determine how much longer they can hold off Turkish aggression, which has failed to penetrate deep into Afrin so far.

Erdogan’s aim is to destabilize a prosperous and stable Kurdish region. Despite the beating war drums surrounding Afrin, the Kurds have been able to put forth an inclusive and pluralistic safe haven in which both men and women are represented, ethnic and religious minorities are given a voice, and two successful rounds of elections have been implemented.

The Kurds are not asking their partners, including the U.S., to put soldiers’ lives on the line, nor are they asking for money or weaponry. The Kurds of Afrin are simply asking for an end to the unprovoked Turkish offensive into a historically Kurdish territory. Responding too late will give the world yet another humanitarian crisis it cannot afford.

Originally published at: http://www.kolhabirah.com/index.php/israel-global/op-ed/1176-turkey-is-coming-for-the-kurds

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Congress Works to Curb Anti-American and Anti-Israel Bias on US Campuses

At the end of 2017, a monumental piece of legislation to curb anti-American and anti-Israel biases on college campuses was passed by the House Committee on Education and Workforce. The Higher Education Act (HEA) — last reauthorized in 2008, and now renamed the “PROSPER Act” — is the primary federal law governing higher education. Within the law is a statute called Title VI, which includes a section that provides grants for international and foreign language studies.

Unfortunately, for many decades, some of these grants have supported a number of professors and programs on university campuses that espouse anti-American, anti-Israel — and at times — antisemitic viewpoints, in violation of federal law. The new language within Title VI of the PROSPER Act, included by the House committee, seeks to remedy these biases.

On January 25, a group of 14 Jewish, educational and civil rights organizations sent a letter to Chairman Lamar Alexander (R, TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D, WA) of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, urging the committee to adopt the new Title VI language that is included within the PROSPER Act.

The original intent of Title VI of HEA was to prepare students to serve the national security needs of the United States, by funding foreign language and area studies programs at universities. These area studies programs, known as National Resource Centers (NRCs), receive millions of US taxpayer dollars each year. However, research shows that these funds are largely misused and abused by their recipients.

Title VI-funded NRCs — currently located at 100 institutions of higher education across the US — are replete with anti-American and anti-Israel biases. Specifically, many Middle East NRCs at prestigious institutions including Columbia University, Georgetown University, Princeton University and Yale University, among others, are teeming with Title VI-supported faculty and programs that advance the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel; whitewash terrorism; and create a false narrative of US foreign policy towards the Middle East.

Also, problematically, under Title VI, NRCs are required to extend their activities by creating programs of “public outreach,” including workshops where K-12 teachers are trained. Many of these workshops, and their lesson plans on the Middle East, are heavily influenced by Saudi money. Some of the training materials have included essays of Islamist radicals who advocate for terrorism, and textbooks painting Israel and the West as colonial powers. As a result, Title VI-funded Middle East studies biases are trickling down to our most vulnerable youth.

In 2008, the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a pro-America and pro-Israel think tank, prompted Congress to amend Title VI to require the need for “diverse perspectives and a wide range of views” within the programs. But despite the new amendment, the US Department of Education, which provides these grants to the universities, as well as the recipients of the grants themselves, have largely ignored their statutory requirements to provide “diverse perspectives.”

In part due to EMET’s educational efforts on the Hill, changes were finally made to attempt to remedy Title VI within the PROSPER Act. The new language creates accountability for universities and Title VI-funded programs — including the NRCs — that fail to comply with the “diverse perspectives” requirement, including the possibility of losing funding. EMET’s work also prompted an amendment within Title VI which states that any Title VI-funded program “shall not promote any biased views that are discriminatory toward any group, religion, or population of people.”

The job is not done, however. The PROSPER Act still needs to be voted on by the entire House, and a companion bill will need to be introduced and passed in the Senate for the president to sign. But once this happens, we might finally see an end to the biased, anti-American and anti-Israel rhetoric espoused by Title VI-funded faculty, centers and programs. And this, in turn, might result in a less hostile learning environment for pro-American and pro-Israel students on college campuses throughout the US. All of this would be a tremendous victory for American college students.

Originally published at: https://www.algemeiner.com/2018/02/01/congress-works-to-curb-anti-american-and-anti-israel-bias-on-us-campuses/

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Trump Right to Declare That Iran Deal Not Untouchable

Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Recently, President Trump again waived key sanctions on Iran, keeping to the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA).

In his statement on his decision, Trump vowed that, “Today, I am waiving the application of certain nuclear sanctions, but only in order to secure our European allies’ agreement to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal. I will not do so again. This is a last chance.”

I hope this happens. As I have argued before, not only is the JCPOA itself not in the national interests of the United States, but, keeping to it despite Iranian cheating and aggression makes the U.S. look weak throughout the world stage. And this weakness invites more belligerence from enemy nations.

But until another four months pass, we have no idea what the president will do.

However, I can say with complete confidence that nothing that happens over the next four months will prompt the former Obama administration foreign policy experts, and “the blob” they fooled, especially the European elites, to reconsider their support for the Iran deal. We know this because of the past two years since the deal was implemented. Time after time, the Iranian regime had violated the JCPOA, or acted in an extremely dangerous and aggressive manner in the Middle East, only to have the foreign policy establishment rush to the barricades to caution against any move that would punish Iran by nixing the JCPOA.

The 2017-2018 demonstrations against the Iranian regime are just the most recent example. Iranian civilians took to the streets, originally to protest their lack of demonstrable economic benefits coming from the JCPOA, but eventually objecting to the brutal Islamist theocracy that governed them as well. So far, at least 25 Iranians are dead; thousands more have been arrested, and hundreds of them may be experiencing torture in the notorious Evin prison.

None of this seems to have prompted any reevaluation of the Iran deal by the foreign policy elites in any nation: “Reviving sanctions on Iran’s main export would allow Tehran to argue that the United States is ultimately the cause of Iran’s economic problems, said Richard Nephew, who worked on sanctions policy at the White House under President Barack Obama,” Reuters reported.

Of course, open Iranian violations of the JCPOA also were excused away. At least twice, the Iranian regime was caught producing excess heavy water at Arak. This breech of the agreement was simply “solved” by allowing Iran to sell this excess heavy water for extra cash currency, which undoubtedly helps to fund more Iranian aggression throughout the Middle East by the IRGC or terror proxies.

So too, it was excused when Iran refused to allow international inspectors to inspect Iranian military sites, despite language to the contrary in the deal. Obviously, the likeliest place for any illegal Iranian nuclear testing to be occurring would be in a military site. But we will never know, since rather than demand access, the international inspectors simply chose not to ask for entry to those facilities.

When it was discovered that Iran is likely violating Section T of the Iran deal, which explicitly bans Iran from “activities which could contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device,” this too was pushed under the rug; even though these violations are directly related to nuclear weapons development. For example, Iran is likely using computer models to simulate a nuclear bomb, and/or designing multi-point, explosive detonation systems.

When Iran was caught sending missiles and weapons to fighters in Syria and Yemen, and some of the missiles sent to Yemen were fired at U.S. ships, in what was possibly an act of war, and clearly a violation of UN Resolution 2231 — which bans Iran from shipping weapons throughout the Middle East — the Iranians were once again given a pass. This was done despite the fact that UN resolution 2231 incorporates the Iran deal.

When Iran uses is monies from the JCPOA, including the sanctions relief that is still given to them each month, for nefarious purposes, this is immaterial to deal defenders. Some of this is being used to fund the Iranian controlled Shia militias in Iraq, the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, which “dominate” Iraq, and whose membership includes terrorists with American blood on their hands.

When Iran went all in to protect its client regime, the vicious Assad government in Syria, to the tune of an estimated $15 billion a year, and waged an ethnic cleansing campaign against Sunni Arabs in Syria, once again funding all of this thanks to the JCPOA, this too was ignored by the elite.

Perhaps most prominently, when the Iranians threatened American Naval ships in the Persian Gulf, and even physically grabbed American sailors, who were intimidated and made to “apologize” to their captors — which the Navy deemed a violation of international law — this was also no big deal. The incident was quickly forgotten, even after Iran bragged that it (illegallyextracted information from the sailors’ confiscated phones and laptops, and made and took humiliating films and pictures of the prisoners.

As we can see, to the foreign policy establishment, the Iran deal is untouchable, no matter what Iran does. And when the facts don’t matter in evaluating a foreign agreement, this means that its proponents believe in it as an article of faith. Faith is most appropriate in shaping one’s religious views; it is not so appropriate when it determines one’s foreign policies.

Originally published at: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/iran-trump-jcpoa-nuclear/2018/01/31/id/840588/#ixzz56FTdmLcF

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Remembering Who Our Friends Are

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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The Kurdish Fight is Humanity’s Fight

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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Education Department nominee Ken Marcus: a case study of the new anti-Semitism

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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No more Nedas: Will Iran’s regime again unleash immense brutality against protesters?

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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Thank You, Nikki Haley

The United Nations was founded on lofty principles in the wake of the atrocities of World War II. Sadly, with two votes last week – the first in the Security Council on Monday and the second in an emergency session of the General Assembly – we witnessed just how far the institution has fallen.

The U.S. is a sovereign, democratic nation that lives by the rule of law. One of those laws, the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act, was passed in 1995, by a solid, bipartisan majority of 93 to 5 in the Senate and 374 to 37 in the House. A sovereign nation has the right to choose where to place its embassies. And yet, on Dec. 6, when U.S. President Donald Trump called for the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the call was met with such hysteria in this venerable institution that one might think he had called for genocide.

These two U.N. votes, condemning Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem, contradict the very foundations on which the U.N. was established. Article 2 (7) of the United Nations Charter specifically states that “nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.” This, however, did not prevent the frenzy against the U.S. for supporting its one democratic ally in the Middle East.

Before Thursday’s vote in the General Assembly, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley valiantly said: “The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in this assembly. We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the U.N., and when other member nations ask Washington to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”

There is nothing in the U.N. Charter that obligates the U.S. to be so generous with its taxpayer dollars. Nothing obligates one country out of 193 member nations to pay 22% of the U.N. budget – billions of dollars more than any other nation.

Judging from the reaction of the international community, one could mistake the world’s nations for a bunch of babies. The largest tantrum came from the paragon of democracy, Turkey, whose president, Recep Tayipp Erdogan, expressed hope that “the United States will be taught a lesson.”

“Mr. Trump, You cannot buy Turkey’s democratic will with dollars. Our decision is clear. I call upon the whole world: Don’t you dare sell your democratic struggle and your will for petty dollars,” Erdogan added.

Erdogan has a very loose definition of the word “democracy.” The Turkish president is a thug, who arbitrarily arrests opposition politicians, journalists, academics and anyone perceived as a threat to his iron rule. He has displaced approximately 400,000 Kurds from their homes. He has accepted billions of euros from the European Union to house Syrian refugees, but none of that money has reached actual refugees. Instead, it is lining his pockets and those of his cronies as he threatens to unleash these refugees and flood the EU with them.

Seeing as 20 of the 26 General Assembly votes in 2016 were directed against Israel – a full 77% – with only three on Syria, and one each on Iran, North Korea and Crimea, it came as no surprise that on Thursday, the General Assembly rejected Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by an overwhelming majority of 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions and 21 no-shows.

The reason for this is the presence within the U.N. of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – the largest body inside the U.N. and a powerful force against Israel. It is beyond ironic that nations with the glorious human rights records of Syria, Yemen, Iran and Saudi Arabia are lecturing the United States on democracy.

Thank you, Nikki Haley for finally putting an end to the notion that nations can continue to insult the U.S. and its single democratic ally in the Middle East and then expect a free ride at the American taxpayers’ expense.

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

Originally Published at: http://www.israelhayom.com/opinions/thank-you-nikki-haley/

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