Melanie Phillips: The UN theatre of hatred
Many people are understandably baffled by the recent UN vote condemning President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Since such a vote has zero practical effect, they ask, what was the point of it?
Well indeed. As the American ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said in her barnstorming response, America will still be moving its embassy to Jerusalem regardless of the UN’s opinion.
The resolution didn’t need to have any practical import. It was merely part of the UN’s theatre of hatred, the malevolent campaign it has waged for decades against Israel and Israel alone as a result of the preponderance of tyrannies, dictatorships, kleptocracies and genocidal antisemitic regimes that make up what’s called called the UN’s “non-aligned block” and which are united in their desire that Israel should be wiped off the map.
So egregious is this hypocrisy in singling out Israel, the sole democracy and upholder of human rights in the region while ignoring the brutal and murderous record of those tyrannies, dictatorships, kleptocracies and genocidal antisemitic regimes, that even a CNN correspondent has been moved to call this out. Jake Tapper tweeted: “Among the 128 countries that voted in favor of the UN resolution condemning the US decision to move the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem were “some countries with some rather questionable records of their own”.
You don’t say. The shocking thing is that so many democratic nations voted alongside these tyrannies: nations such as Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, most disappointingly India and, most sickening (to me, anyway), the UK.
Britain, the historic cradle of liberty and democracy and which once fought to defend freedom, has now made common cause with China, Iran, Libya, North Korea and Russia in their joint aim of denying the right of the Jewish people to declare, in accordance with law and history, the capital city of their own country, a right the UK and these other states would deny to no other people or state. What a disgrace.
JPost Editorial: Bye UNESCO
Israel will join the United States in removing itself and its funding from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
It’s about time.
The decision by the US was precipitated by UNESCO’s decision in 2011 to accept “Palestine” as a full-fledged member, even though there is no such thing as a Palestinian state, only a failed, quasi-political entity that is split between an Islamist enclave ruled by Hamas in Gaza and a corrupt fiefdom controlled by Fatah on the West Bank.
A 1990s-era law prohibits US funding for any UN agencies that recognize Palestine as a state. Former US president Barack Obama failed to convince Congress to change the law and restore funding. The Trump administration, meanwhile, is following through on the spirit of the law.
But the American and Israeli decisions are not just about the acceptance of “Palestine.” Like other UN institutions, UNESCO has in recent years proven to be an organization hijacked by an anti-American, antisemitic agenda that completely disregards concern for individual rights.
The US footed a large portion of UNESCO’s budget – most of which went to the payment of salaries and workers’ expenses – that did nothing to endear America to UNESCO’s functionaries.
Even within the rogues’ gallery that is the U.N. human rights Council, today’s council panel attacking Western democracies for imposing sanctions on dictatorships was the mother of all rogues’ galleries.
1. Lead panelist was UN expert Idriss Jazairy, who described Putin’s Russia as a human rights victim. Coincidentally, as UN Watch revealed today, Jazairy received $50,000 from the Russian government. As Algerian ambassador to UN, he once said “antisemitism targets Arabs”; and, most famously, he led a major effort to muzzle UN human rights experts. And then he became a UN human rights expert himself.
2. Alena Douhan, a Belarus academic with a soft spot for Russia, whose doctorate was on the principle of “non-interference” in countries’ “internal affairs.”
3. Alfred de Zayas, the Cuban-appointed expert for a “democratic and equitable international order.” Zayas has defended Iran’s right to nuclear weapons, and writes books claiming Germany suffered a “genocide” in 1945. Zayas is a hero to Holocaust deniers.
4. Jean Ziegler, co-founder & 2002 recipient of the Qaddafi Human Rights Prize. In his presentation, Ziegler actually defended the murderous Maduro regime of Venezuela, which he said was being victimized by a U.S. “economic war.”
5. Panel Chair: the ambassador of Venezuela’s Maduro regime, Jorge Romero. He effusively thanked Ziegler for his kind words.
6. Peggy Hicks, a top official in the office of UN high commissioner Zeid, delivered the opening statement. A former Human Rights Watch official, we hoped she would provide a dissenting voice. Instead, she echoed the same line. And when Ziegler spouted pro-Maduro propaganda, Hicks was silent.
A senior advisor of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas ridiculed US President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Abbas’ advisor on Religious and Islamic Affairs, condemned the US move as an attack on Muslims and Christians around the world. He added that it will have no impact, claiming it is “rubbish” and worth less than the urine of one Jerusalem child:
“The victory in Jerusalem is coming, it is coming. And Jerusalem is Palestine’s capital forever, forever. And the rubbish of the American president isn’t worth – I say again – isn’t worth the urine of one Jerusalem child.”
[Official PA TV, Dec. 22, 2017]
Al-Habbash’s words ridiculing Trump were said during this past Friday’s official PA TV sermon.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Monday hailed the “true friendship” between Guatemala and Israel after the Central American country said it would move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Guatemala became the first nation to pledge to move their mission to Jerusalem, since US President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of the city as Israel’s capital and instructions to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv. The Czech republic has also since recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“Thank you Guatemala for your important decision to move your Embassy to Jerusalem!” wrote ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon on Twitter. “Wonderful news and true friendship!!”
“Long live the friendship between Guatemala and Israel,” he added in Spanish.
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said on his official Facebook account on Sunday that after talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he decided to instruct his foreign ministry to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“We spoke about the excellent relations that we have had as nations since Guatemala supported the creation of the state of Israel,” Morales wrote. “One of the most important topics [of the conversation] was the return of the embassy of Guatemala to Jerusalem. So I inform you that I have instructed the chancellor to initiate the respective coordination so that it may happen.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday hailed Guatemala’s decision to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem, saying other countries will soon follow suit.
“God bless you, my friend, President Jimmy Morales. God bless both our countries, Israel and Guatemala,” said Netanyahu at the weekly Likud faction meeting in the Knesset.
Guatemala became the first nation to pledge to move its mission to Jerusalem since US President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of the city as Israel’s capital and instructions to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv.
The Czech Republic has also since recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“I told you recently there would be other countries that will recognize Jerusalem and move their embassies,” Netanyahu said, after reading out Morales’s official announcement to Likud MKs and reporters. “I repeat: There will be more, this is just the beginning.”
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki on Monday slammed the Guatemalan president’s “shameful and illegal” decision to move his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Guatemala became the first nation to pledge to move its mission to Jerusalem since December 6, when US President Donald Trump publicly recognized the city as Israel’s capital and issued instructions to move the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv.
“It is a step that reflects President [Jimmy] Morales’ insistence on dragging his country to the wrong side of history, in a blatant violation of international law, Security Council resolutions and General Assembly resolutions, including the most recent resolution [condemning the US move],” said Malki, in statements carried by the PA’s official news site Wafa.
“It’s a shameful and illegal act that goes totally against the wishes of church leaders in Jerusalem,” he added.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi also weighed in on the Guatemalan decision, calling it “absurd.”
Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt are incensed at Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas over his reaction to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, according to Israeli media reports.
Israel Hayom quoted a Jordanian official as saying, “The Palestinians’ efforts to sway public opinion have been a complete failure, and as a result, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has created a rift between us [the Arab world] and Trump. We are once again left with the demagogic, hollow and inflammatory rhetoric of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”
Officials also expressed dismay at Abbas’ attempts to punish the US on the international stage. Referring to the recent UN General Assembly attempt to annul the recognition move and declare it illegal, the Jordanian source stated, “Washington has made its views clear and said it would take action against those nations that voted against it at the UN General Assembly last week. Now, when it is clear Trump is indeed going to punish those that voted against the US, most countries are trying to cut their losses.”
The official added that Palestinian declarations that the US will no longer be part of the peace process and is not an honest broker, as well as attempts to internationalize the issue, have added to the Arab states’ frustration with Abbas, especially on the part of Jordan. He also pointed to the lackluster protests from Palestinians despite daily incitement from the PA.
Is the US embassy in Israel planning on moving to a Jerusalem hotel in 2020?
Since President Donald Trump’s December 6th announcement that the US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and that the State Department had begun work to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, no timetable has been set for the move, and State Department officials have given mixed signals regarding the timeframe for the relocation.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson initially claimed the embassy move would take roughly two years, but later backtracked and said that plans to complete the move in even three years were “ambitious”.
Now, however, there may be the first concrete signs of progress towards the embassy move – and even evidence of the likely location for the new embassy.
According to Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova, the residents of the Diplomat Hotel in Jerusalem have been informed that their two-year lease will not be renewed, and that they will be required to vacate the building in the next two years.
The hotel, located in the Talpiot neighborhood in southeastern Jerusalem, is adjacent to the US consulate building, and was purchased by the US government in 2014.
A co-founder and leader of the Hamas terror organization has warned US President Donald Trump that once Hamas has “liberated Palestine in its entirety… we will shut down your embassy, and deport all the people of your kind.”
During an interview broadcast on December 17 and translated Monday by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Mahmoud al-Zahar told Al-Jazeera TV that the US would “suffer from the future geopolitical circumstances” because Islam would expand beyond all expectations.
“Right now, you are working for the Jews,” he said. “Trump’s own home is a Jewish home.”
Once Palestine had been taken, “annihilation” would be “the fate not only of the Jews, but also of their helpers and of the people who trusted them, cooperated with them,” he went on.
Hamas Leader Mahmoud Al-Zahhar: We Will Not Relinquish a Single Bullet to the PA; When We Liberate Palestine, We Will Shut Down the U.S. Embassy pic.twitter.com/Pnp9fMifep
— MEMRI (@MEMRIReports) December 25, 2017
The disconnect between the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas and the US administration of President Donald Trump has widened still further, Israeli TV reports claimed Sunday night.
Abbas is said to have told all PA officials that Trump is “a lost cause” and to have ordered the PA to sever all contacts with US diplomatic officials, including those of the US consulate in East Jerusalem responsible for Palestinian affairs.
The US administration, for its part, was reported to have indicated that it is seeking a Palestinian interlocutor other than Abbas with whom it might be able to do business.
The unconfirmed reports, on Israel’s two main television stations, follow Abbas’ declared refusal to have anything further to do with Trump’s peace team in the wake of the American president’s December 6 declaration recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announcing the intended relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.
According to Hadashot TV news, Abbas has made clear to his aides that he is “not merely closing the door” on further dealings with the Trump administration, “but also throwing away the key.”
Malaysia plans to follow in Turkey’s footsteps and open an embassy in eastern Jerusalem to recognize the city as the capital of “Palestine”, its deputy prime minister said, according to the Iranian Mehr news agency.
Speaking to local media, Deputy Malaysian Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the cabinet would, next month, discuss a proposal by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak for Malaysia to open an embassy in eastern Jerusalem.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed last week that his country would open an embassy in eastern Jerusalem, after a coalition of Islamic states recognized portions of the Israeli capital city as the capital of a Palestinian state.
“We have already declared East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state but we haven’t been able to open our embassy there because Jerusalem is currently under occupation,” Erdogan said, adding, “God willing we will open our embassy there.”
According to the Mehr news agency, the Malaysian Prime Minister led thousands of Malaysians in a rally on Friday to show solidarity with Palestinian Arabs following the U.s. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Najib was quoted as having told the crowd that Malaysia will do all it can to “save Jerusalem”.
All those who stand with the State of Israel — and with decency — must stand up and say: “Thank you, Nikki Haley.”
Haley stood with history, logic, truth, heritage and reality, in noting that “America will put our embassy in Jerusalem,” and that “no vote in the United Nations will make any difference on that.”
Although 128 nations voted against President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Ambassador Haley revealed herself as a lioness standing up for the State of Israel. To sit amongst so many people who hate you and speak truth in an unwavering voice isn’t easy. How refreshing it is to see someone with integrity, poise, resolve and a commitment to the truth speak at the United Nations.
As the late Abba Eban, Israel’s legendary ambassador to the United Nations, once said: “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.”
As much as some things change, some stay the same.
But under the Trump administration, Israel is not forced to stand alone. Thank you, President Trump. Thank you, Ambassador Haley.
The US announced Sunday that it will cut $285 million from its funding to the United Nations for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years.
“In addition to these significant cost savings, we reduced the UN’s bloated management and support functions, bolstered support for key US priorities throughout the world, and instilled more discipline and accountability throughout the UN system,” said a statement released by the US Mission to the UN.
The announcement of the budget cut came after the UN General Assembly last week overwhelmingly approved a resolution denouncing President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The 193-member General Assembly voted 128-9, with 35 abstentions, to express “deep regret” over Trump’s Jerusalem policy changes, which also include plans to move the US embassy to that city.
The US budget cut falls in line with one of the Trump administration’s goals of reducing American financial contributions to the world body. The US currently funds 22 percent of the UN’s annual budget with a contribution of around $3.3 billion per year.
United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley praised the reduction in US contributions to the UN, calling it a “big step in the right direction.”
The United States contribution will be reduced by $285 million from that of the last two years, according to a statement from the United States Mission to the United Nations released on Sunday.
“The inefficiency and overspending of the United Nations are well known. We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked,” Haley said.
“This historic reduction in spending – in addition to many other moves toward a more efficient and accountable UN – is a big step in the right direction. While we are pleased with the results of this year’s budget negotiations, you can be sure we’ll continue to look at ways to increase the UN’s efficiency while protecting our interests,” she added.
US President Trump threatens countries voting against the US, December 20, 2017 (Reuters)
The budget announcement comes days after US President Donald Trump threatened to cut aid to UN member states voting to condemn his decision to move the United States embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the disputed holy city as the capital of Israel.
Legendary standup comic Jackie Mason weighed in on the debate about the possibility of defunding the United Nations, calling U.S. financing to the international body “so sick that we do this it is unbelievable.”
“It is like if somebody tells you I hate you. I can’t stand you. I would like you to drop dead by Thursday. And we say to them how much money do you need? How much does it cost us for you to say this?” he exclaimed.
Mason was speaking Sunday night during his regular segment on this reporter’s talk radio program, Aaron Klein Investigative Radio, broadcast on New York’s AM 970 The Answer and NewsTalk 990 AM.
We pay for everything that they need. If they have a flood or any kind of a disaster, a hurricane in any of these countries, we are the ones that come to help them and pay for everything for them. And we protect them in every way. We have what is called foreign aid. Well, foreign aid means even if somebody catches a cold somewhere we send them a few dollars. There is nothing we don’t pay for in those countries. And the truth of the matter is we should have nothing to do with them.
The City of Jerusalem is expected to grant building permits to 300 new housing units in southern Jerusalem Monday, just weeks after President Donald Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city.
The expected approval comes despite prior requests by US officials, including special White House envoy Jason Greenblatt, that Israel hold off on announcing new housing projects in the city following the president’s December 6th declaration on Jerusalem, Hahadashot reported.
But following the backlash by Palestinian Authority officials after Trump’s announcement, the US has appeared to change course on its plan for new Middle East peace talks.
On Sunday, Channel 2 reported that White House officials had claimed that the administration was no longer planning to unveil a much-anticipated roadmap to peace, after PA chief Mahmoud Abbas said he was unwilling to consider new proposals by the Trump administration.
Responding to a congratulatory message from a Muslim politician on Twitter, India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj appeared in an upbeat mood and urged Indian Muslims to vote for the ruling Hindu nationalist party. Muslims constitute roughly 15 percent of the Hindu-majority country’s population and are fiercely opposed to Prime Minister Modi’s right-wing party.
It would be worth mentioning that Minister Swaraj was widely tipped to lead her party in the 2014 general elections before the anti-establishment candidate Modi ‘crashed’ the party. In a conciliatory gesture Modi asked her to join her cabinet.
Leading Indian daily Times of India reported Minister Swaraj’s twitter conversation:
External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj created a flutter on Thursday when she asked All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) leader M Badruddin Ajmal to vote for the BJP after he thanked her for opposing the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Ajmal, a Lok Sabha MP, had reached out to Swaraj on Twitter with the message: “Thanks Government of India for voting in the UN against US decision of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
At this, Swaraj quipped: “Thank you Ajmal Sahib. Now you vote for us.”
Needless to say, Modi government’s decision angered many within its own right-wing support base. As one commentator noted, many “Modi fans on Twitter and other social media platforms were quick to target Government of India.”
Political insiders within the ruling BJP coalition slammed the UN vote as well. ‘India’s made a huge mistake in voting against US on Jerusalem,’ the prominent BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said. Times of India covered his statement:
BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has again gone against the party line, this time saying India made “a huge mistake” voting in the UN against the US on the Jerusalem issue.
A large number of Indians on Twitter also seems to agree with Swamy, an unscientific perusal shows.
Earlier this month, the US officially declared the divided city of Jerusalem the capital of Israel.(…)
Swamy, a long-time supporter of Israel, said India voted against its national interest, because “Palestine has never supported India on Kashmir question”, while Israel “has stood with India always”.
“India’s UN vote is not the way to win friends,” wrote the leading conservative Indian magazine Swarajya. “India’s misstep at the United Nations might not attract an immediate and specific response, but it will cool enthusiasm for greater trust and trade in sensitive technology and practices.”
Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid said Monday that if he were elected prime minister he would not negotiate over the status of Jerusalem, even if that meant there would never be peace with the Palestinians.
“I am not willing to conduct negotiations over Jerusalem. It’s ours. I don’t want to divide it. And if there’s no peace because of this, let there be no peace because of this,” Lapid told reporters during a lengthy briefing.
In future peace talks, Israel will have to make painful concessions, he added, arguing that in order to retain all of Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs, Israel will need to be ready to give up isolated settlements.
US President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital sparked widespread protests across the Arab and Muslim world and led the Palestinian Authority to declare that the US would no longer be regarded as a broker in any future peace talks, not would it consider any upcoming US-backed peace plan.
Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, said on Sunday that the upcoming meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Central Council will consider declaring areas liberated by Israel in 1967 as “a state under occupation.”
Speaking to Voice of Palestine radio and quoted by the official Palestinian Authority (PA) Wafa news agency, Ahmad said the Central Council is going to meet in Ramallah before the middle of next month and will conduct a comprehensive political review of the peace process and the steps required by Palestinian Arabs.
“It is not possible to continue with the relationship with Israel as long as the latter keeps denying the rights of our people, particularly in Jerusalem,” he was quoted as having said.
Further diplomatic action will take place in the UN General Assembly, the Security Council and even the International Criminal Court as well as other international organizations in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Ahmad warned.
“We are facing a continuous, cumulative and long political, diplomatic and popular battle,” he declared.
Hamas’s latest effort to join a Palestinian unity government is little more than a facade, and the terror group’s top immediate objective is to seize control of Judea and Samaria and turn it into a second Gaza, according to the assessments of defense experts.
After years of failed attempts at reconciliation, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement and Hamas in October announced that they would implement a unity deal, which included the restoration of PA control in Gaza by Dec. 1. But the so-called unification quickly ran into trouble, and was delayed to Dec. 10. Now, the reconciliation agreement is apparently collapsing, and Hamas seems to be in no rush to revive it.
“Hamas is just waiting for Abbas to die, or that he agrees to elections, to try and take over the West Bank,” Dr. Ely Karmon, a senior scholar at Israel’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), told JNS regarding the 82-year-old Palestinian leader. “And Hamas is again talking about close ties with Iran and Hezbollah.”
In her January 6, 2017 column in the Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm, Basma Al-Masri wrote that, as evident from the Talmud and Bible, the Zionist ambition is to destroy the Arab peoples and to establish a Jewish state stretching from the Nile in Egypt to the Euphrates in Iraq. Their efforts have already led to the subjugation of Iraq, the division of Lebanon and the destruction of Syria, she says, and now Jordan and Egypt are in their crosshairs. Al-Masri also implies that the Jews are behind terror organizations like Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and this is why they target Muslims and Christians, but never Jews.
The following are excerpts from her column:
“The Arab states are nothing but pawns in a chess game played by the imperialist countries, the U.S. and Israel. This chess game has been going on for a century, and it will only end when the king – namely the Arab world – is dead. This is all written and set out in what they call the Talmud, which spells out the rules of the game…
“Israel does not have a full constitution [and will not have one] until it finishes [establishing] its state, the Promised Land. Now let us reflect on this. Opening the book of Genesis, we find that it says [in verses 18-21]: ‘On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates – the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”‘ This [promised] land encompasses modern-day Israel, including the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights, as well as [modern-day] Jordan and Lebanon, most of Syria, and parts of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt. In short, the Zionist dream is [to establish a state stretching] from the Nile to the Euphrates, and they have already gained control over large parts of this area. As far as they are concerned, this [Biblical] promise is still valid and they are still the Chosen People – as though Jesus never brought [the message of] Christianity and Muhammad [the message of] Islam – and they are more deserving of this land [than anyone else]. Destroying us has become a religious aspiration for them.
Pope Francis used his Christmas message on Monday to call for a negotiated two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, following US President Donald Trump’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Francis spoke of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other world flashpoints in his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) address, four days after more than 120 countries backed a UN resolution urging America to reverse its decision on Jerusalem.
“Let us pray that the will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful coexistence of two states within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders,” Francis said in his address, delivered from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to tens of thousands of people.
“We see Jesus in the children of the Middle East who continue to suffer because of growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians,” he continued.
It was the second time that the pope has spoken out publicly about Jerusalem since Trump’s announcement on Dec. 6. On that day, Francis called for the city’s “status quo” to be respected, lest new tensions in the Middle East further inflame world conflicts.
Syrian army forces backed by Iranian-backed militias pushed deeper into the last rebel-held enclave near a strategic border area with Israel and Lebanon in a new expansion of Tehran’s influence in the war-torn country.
The army and the Shi’ite forces advanced east and south of the Sunni-rebel held bastion of Beit Jin backed by some of the heaviest aerial bombing and heavy artillery shelling since a major assault began over two months ago to seize the area, rebels said.
The Syrian army said it had encircled the village of Mughr al Meer at the foothills of Mount Hermon as troops moved towards Beit Jin amid fierce clashes.
The enclave is the last rebel bastion left in the south west of Damascus known as the Western Ghouta that had since last year fallen under government control after months of heavy bombing on civilian areas and years of siege tactics that forced rebels to surrender.
A western intelligence source confirmed rebel reports that Iranian-backed militias including the powerful Lebanese Hezbollah Shi’ite group were playing a major role in the ongoing battles.
The army launched a manhunt in the Negev desert on Monday after finding evidence that someone illegally crossed into the area from Jordan, a military official said.
“Earlier today, during a routine search along the Israeli-Jordanian border, footprints indicating an illegal crossing into Israel from Jordan were identified,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.
“The IDF along with the Israel Police and the Shin Bet security service are continuing to search the area. The incident is being investigated,” the statement said.
The army maintains so-called “blurred” paths along the country’s borders, strips of undisturbed dirt that allow trackers to quickly see footprints and other traces of illegal infiltration.
An IDF spokesperson said the army would not elaborate on where exactly the footprints were found along the border, other than to say that it was in the northern portion of the Negev desert.
Brushing off criticism by the Shin Bet security service, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday vowed to advance legislation to impose the death penalty on convicted Palestinian killers of Israeli civilians and soldiers, noting that even “liberal” Boston had sought capital punishment for the 2013 marathon bomber.
At the weekly Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting in the Knesset, attended by representatives of bereaved Israeli families whose relatives were killed in terror attacks, Liberman said the bill would be brought to a preliminary reading on Wednesday.
“Every additional terrorist who enters Israeli prisons alive serves as an incentive to all other terrorists to kidnap Israeli citizens, to kill soldiers, and then to enter negotiations [with Israel] to bargain for the release of other terrorists in prison,” said Liberman.
A group of activists are planning to delay on Monday two buses which arrive at the Nafha Prison from Gaza every week and which carry women from Gaza who visit their sons, who are imprisoned in Israel over terror-related activities.
“We are planning to board the buses and explain to them in Arabic the need for reciprocity. It is inconceivable that they can visit their sons, while the families of our missing persons do not know what is happening with them,” Yoel Marshak, one of the organizers of the activity, told Arutz Sheva on Sunday.
“Naturally, they will be angry at the delay and tell us they have no connection to Hamas, but we hope they will send the message to Hamas,” Marshak explained.
“It is inconceivable that they can visit the terrorists in our prison, while the Shaul, Goldin and Mengistu families cannot,” he continued. “According to the Geneva Convention, we are not obligated to allow them to visit their sons, the Red Cross visits them and that is enough. We demand that these visits stop as long as they do not allow us to visit our prisoners.”
Hamas has been holding the bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul since the 2014 Operation Protective Edge.
In addition, two Israeli civilians who went missing in Gaza – Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed – are believed to be held by Hamas as well.
The Task Force for the Release of Prisoners and Missing Persons on Monday morning blocked two buses from the Gaza Strip to Nafha Prison near Mitzpe Ramon, demanding equality for Israeli prisoners held in Gaza.
Passengers on the buses included including women from Gaza, Judea, and Samaria, wishing to visit their sons, who are convicted terrorists.
MK Oren Hazan (Likud), who accompanied the activists, confronted the families of terrorists.
“As I promised, I approached without fear the Hamas bus, which came to visit the scum they call family,” Hazan said. “In the stormy meeting, I told them that a terrorist’s place is underground. And no, I did not mean tunnels.”
On Sunday, senior Task Force member Yoel Marshak told Arutz Sheva, “We get on the bus and explain to them in Arabic the need for reciprocity. It is inconceivable that they can visit their sons and the families of our missing people do not know what their situation is.”
Iran’s foreign minister encountered an angry response on Sunday when he took to Twitter on Christmas Eve to wish a “happy and peaceful Christmas to all.”
Citing a verse from the Quran, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif – a key architect, with former US Secretary of State John Kerry, of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal – declared: “May Christ’s universal message of peace be embraced in the coming year.”
Dozens of responses to Zarif’s message emphasized Iran’s long record of persecuting Christians. Many of them highlighted the arrest of four Iranian converts to Christianity in the city of Karaj on December 12.
According to Article 18, an organization that advocates on behalf of persecuted Christians in Iran, “Milad Goudarzi, Amin Khaki, Alireza Nour-Mohammadi and Shehabuddin Shahi were all arrested by security forces on Tuesday, December 12, in Karaj.” Six houses used by the converts as a church were also reported to have been raided by the Iranian regime’s security forces.
Iranian Christian news outlet Mohabat News reported in addition that security forces raided two shops belonging to two of the detainees.
The shops were sealed off for “overcharging”, “profiteering” and “breaking guild regulations.” A Bible and a laptop computer were also confiscated.
IRNA, the Iranian regime’s official mouthpiece reported that “elements of a devious Christian cult who were promoting it and attempting to disrupt the market and economic order have been arrested.”
PreOccupiedTerritory: Twitter Monitoring Temperature Of Hell For Sign When To Ban Hamas Account (satire)
New safety rules in place at the social media giant Twitter have the corporation taking a newer, firmer stand against users who incite violence or engage in wanton hate speech, under which it has assigned a new task force to handle the tweets of the terrorist organization Hamas: the new rules will be applied to Hamas and other accounts of genocidal Islamists as soon as Hell freezes over, and the task force is to maintain continual monitoring of the underworld’s average kinetic energy in case that situation arises.
While Nazi accounts and other right-wing users will, under the new policy, find themselves shut down on Twitter if they threaten or harass, the company will continue to exclude Hamas and its ilk from being subject to such enforcement, in keeping with the practice of allowing any and all incitement against Israel, Israelis, and the majority of the world’s Jews, explained a spokesman, until such time as Hell freezes over.
“We will be keeping an eye on the infernal thermometer readings,” promised Jack Kass, a deputy vice president of operations. “Users can be assured of a safe experience thanks to this new policy less tolerant of abuse, which has become unbearable to many. That is, of course, unless you happen to be Israeli or a supporter of Israel, because we have a different, more forgiving set of criteria for disqualification of genocidal Islamists and their enablers. But even Israeli users need not worry too much, because our team is constantly looking at those temperatures. All the time.”
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