The Christian Post / Eric Metaxas
Fertility rites and child sacrifice were the hallmarks of Canaanite worship — and yet they appealed to many Israelites. Should we be shocked, or look in the mirror?
In the most recent issue of Biblical Archaeological Review, archaeologist Itzhaq Shai of Israel’s Ariel University described what he characterized as “extraordinary finds that provided insights into the Canaanites and their religious world.”
The finds, which Shai suspects may be the biblical Libnah mentioned in Joshua, Second Kings and Isaiah, include a “large public building,” possibly a temple, ceremonial masks, and figurines, like idols of a nude female figure nursing two infants.
Shai’s goal is to better understand Canaanite religion for academic reasons. But a better understanding of Canaanite religion isn’t only for academics. By understanding what Israel’s pagan neighbors believed and how they put those beliefs into practice, we see just how radically different — and even unique — the biblical worldview truly is.
Reading the Old Testament, it becomes clear that Canaanite religion was attractive to many of the children of Israel. When Joshua told the people to choose whom they would serve, he was acknowledging that fact.
When he told them “put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel,” it was because some, perhaps many of them, had embraced these gods despite everything that the Lord had done for them and for their ancestors.
Why? Well, part of the answer lies in the nature of Canaanite religion. While the term “Canaanite” covers a multitude of peoples and cults, they all shared some important things in common. They were polytheists who worshipped many gods, each of whom specialized in some aspect of life.
It’s hard for those of us raised in cultures shaped by biblical monotheism to appreciate how radical the idea of one omnipotent and sovereign God was to the ancient mind. What’s more, this God was not only invisible, He absolutely forbade any representation of Himself.
Part of the reason why lies in the way Canaanites and other pagan religions used representations as a way to manipulate their gods into doing what they wanted. This was especially the case when it came to fertility. Worshippers of Baal and his consort Asherah engaged in symbolic sexual acts in order to ensure a good harvest.
This is in stark contrast to YHWH, who in addition to absolute loyalty, made ethical and moral demands of His worshippers. He was a God who was to be obeyed, not manipulated.
To see just how far pagans would go to manipulate a deity, look at the Phoenicians, who were basically Canaanites with boats. Archaeological excavations of at least nine Phoenician settlements have found evidence of tophets, the biblical term for places where child sacrifice, usually by burning, was practiced.
As the Bible tells us, the practice spread to ancient Judah. We’re told that Josiah destroyed the tophets in Judah along with other sites of pagan worship.
This kind of barbarism is unimaginable today. Or is it?
As Mother Theresa famously said, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”
What is the so-called “right to choose” if not the sacrifice of children to the gods of personal autonomy and self-fulfillment?
As the Bible shows, Israel struggled, usually unsuccessfully, with the temptation to compromise or blend her own faith with other religions. The allure of Canaanite practices was too powerful at times. It took exile to cure Israel of that tendency.
If we’re honest, we have to admit the appeal of contemporary alternatives to Christian truth. They’re less demanding and promise us that we can have our religious cake and eat it, too. The question is: will it take exile to cure us as well?
Christian Post / Samuel Smith
The head of a Christian humanitarian organization reports that the Islamic State terrorist organization has turned captured church buildings into torture chambers that are being used to coerce Iraqi Christians into renouncing Christ and converting to IS’ brand of radical Islam.
Christian Freedom International, a Virginia-based aid organization that provides necessities to Christians living in nations that are the most hostile toward Christianity, has released a new video that reveals alarming statistics showing the number of Christians throughout the world who are being persecuted or killed for their faith.
The video, released ahead of the organization’s day of prayer on Nov. 8, explains that there are over 200 million followers of Christ who face some form of persecution in 105 of the world’s 196 countries.
The video also provides an even more staggering statistic by stating that one Christian is martyred every 5 minutes because of their faith. CFI also estimates that more Christians have been martyred in the 20th and 21st centuries than in the previous 19 centuries combined.
Since the summer of 2014, the Islamic State terrorist group has taken over large territories throughout Iraq and Syria, including many predominantly Christian towns. The group has become notorious for brutally killing anyone who does not agree ideologically with the group, or refuses to renounce their religion and follow IS’ extremist brand of Islam.
As hundreds of thousands of Christians in Iraq and Syria have fled their homes and villages in order to spare themselves from IS’ brutality, CFI President Jim Jacobson told Breitbart London that some captured Christians in Iraq have been tortured into converting to Islam inside of buildings that used to be churches.
“Islamic State militants in Iraq are using Christian churches as torture chambers where they force Christians to either convert to Islam or die,” Jacobson said.
Not only is IS trying to cleanse the region of Christianity and any other religions that are not its own brand of Islam, the militant group has also destroyed ancient Christian monasteries and holy sites.
Jacobson also explained that IS is selling ancient Christian artifacts to help fund its jihad.
“Islamic State militants are also stripping the former places of Christian worship of ancient relics which in turn are smuggled to Western collectors to help fund their terrorist activities,” Jacobson said.
The CFI video states that the organization’s goal is to “reach the part of the persecuted Church that is the most repressed, most at risk and most isolated. In parts of the Middle East and Africa, CFI provides emergency aid, security, education, Bibles and other necessary supplies to Christians living in slavery and suffering persecution at the hands of the Islamic extremists.”
The ‘religion of peace’ strikes again! While the main stream media and government insist “they are killing more Muslims than those of other faiths”. And focus on Yazidis, because nobody in the West had ever heard of them. That way Western Christians won’t realise the fact that Islam is a clear and present danger to them, and that the Islamic attacks on Western civilisation are going to get worse, and more frequent if action to roll back the Islamic tide isn’t taken.
Abortion, a highly publicized debate topic recently, affects hundreds of thousands. America’s Middle East policy, another debate topic, affects millions. Those strange questions about one candidate’s comment about another candidate’s appearance affect almost no one, but still get attention.
But a debate shaping up for Friday night about the end times will affect, in one way or another, well, everyone.
That’s when Thomas Ice of the Pre-Trib Research Center will be debating Alan Kurschner of Eschatos Ministries on the question of whether the Christian church will face the Antichrist.
The event will be at The Hope Center in Plano, Texas, at 7 p.m.
For the Christian church, the topic long as been subject to debate, and recently, there appears to have been a surge in those who believe the end times’ Antichrist will rise to power while the Christian church still remains.
Traditionally, many American Christians have believed in what is called the “Pre-Tribulation,” which holds faithful Christians will be raptured before the Great Tribulation, thus avoiding the Antichrist and the most severe persecutions of the period. Proponents of this view include Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye. This school of thought also received a great deal of exposure in popular culture through the “Left Behind” books and films.
Ice will be defending this position as part of his role as the executive director of the Pre-Trib Research Center. The center’s purpose, in its own words, is to “research, teach and defend the pretribulational rapture and related Bible prophecy doctrines.”
However, biblical teacher Joel Richardson, the New York Times bestselling author of “The Islamic Antichrist” and the new book “When a Jew Rules the World,” argues a seminal shift is underway.
“Over the past 20 years, numerous thoughtful believers who formerly embraced the Pre-Tribulation Rapture have left that doctrine,” he said. “However, because the majority of the publishing houses and seminaries that place any emphasis on the Rapture hold to the ‘Pre-Trib’ position, it’s been very difficult for this growing number of believers to have any voice in the public forum.”
For that reason, Richardson believes the upcoming debate is very important.
“This will finally give many of those were on the fence the opportunity to weigh the Scriptural basis for these two opposing views,” he said.
Kurschner, the host of the weekly Bible Prophecy Program podcast and the author of “Antichrist: Before the Day of the Lord,” will be representing the “Pre-Wrath” position.
This school of thought holds Christians will experience the beginning of the Tribulation. While Christians will be raptured to escape God’s wrath during what some Christians call the Day of the Lord, this interpretation means even believing Christians will experience the reign of the Antichrist.
Kurschner describes himself as someone “dedicated to teaching biblical prophecy from a futurist, premillennial, Pre-Wrath perspective” and told WND the implications of his position are crucial for Christians because Jesus Himself considered them very important.
“In His teaching, He conveyed to the disciples that it is important they should know the events surrounding His return. He spends more time discussing the warnings of understanding and heeding the events surrounding His return than He does the actual events themselves,” he said.
Kurschner believes salvation may be at stake for many Christians because during the Tribulation, they will be tested by being asked to accept the Mark of the Beast. According to the Book of Revelation, those who accept the Mark “shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God.”
According to Kurschner, the Pre-Trib position tells Christians they will be spared the Tribulation and persecution. And that, he warns, is nothing less than “dangerous.”
“My opponents will say all these warnings about not taking the mark are warnings to ‘Tribulation saints,’ those who become saved during the Tribulation period after the rapture,” Kurschner told WND. “And so they’ll say, for us today, these are not warnings. And my response is, when the Antichrist does arrive and you’ve been teaching Christians you’re supposed to be raptured out of here before he came, you’re setting yourselves up to be very vulnerable to the deception of the Antichrist. And their faith is going to be very vulnerable.”
Kurschner’s position encourages Christians to prepare for persecution and even martyrdom. The prospect of facing the Antichrist is ominous, and Kurschner describes the grim nature of his teaching as an obstacle to the Pre-Wrath position ever being completely accepted by most American Christians.
“I think for many American Christians, the idea that they will have to suffer, and perhaps even suffer martyrdom in their lifetime, is just so foreign to them,” commented Kurschner. “I don’t see it becoming the most popular view out there just because of that psyche. Of course, with God all things are possible. And when the Great Tribulation does come, no one is going to be on the fence in this issue.”
Still, though Kurschner concedes the Pre-Trib position is a “juggernaut,” he agrees with Joel Richardson and believes many more Christians are moving to the Pre-Wrath position.
“There’s a point where a school of thought really spikes, and it seems like it really spiked in the last year,” said Kurschner. “Even in the last six months, I’m constantly being sent sermons and emails of people who were Pre-Trib and are moving over to a different view. I think pastors are just recently getting alarmed at this.”
Kurschner believes many Pre-Trib pastors and thinkers simply “don’t want to hear anything else” and credits Ice with being an exception in his willingness to engage. One of the most important reasons why this reluctance exists, he believes, is because Kurschner’s warning of the church encountering the Tribulation robs people of what is commonly called the “Blessed Hope.”
Kurschner says that is not true.
“Our Blessed Hope is our new life with Jesus, not the Rapture itself,” Kurschner explains. “To those that say, ‘I’m looking for a Jesus Christ, not an Antichrist,’ the problem is it’s not either-or. Part of watching for Christ is watching for that generation in which the Antichrist will arise.”
For its part, the Pre-Trib Research Center argues its position leads to three positive implications in daily life.
“The first implication of pretribulationism is that it leads to godly living in an unholy age. Next, this New Testament teaching promotes a strong emphasis upon evangelism of the lost. Finally when believers come to understand this eternal perspective, it leads to a zeal for worldwide missions.”
But Kurschner says his own position has the effect of forcing Christians to be more dedicated in their faith.
“The fundamental mistake the opposition takes is they think the Great Tribulation and The Day of the Lord’s Wrath is the same thing. And that’s something I’m really going to be pushing at in the debate, along with other issues of course,” he said.
He continued, “That’s important because when you recognize there’s a biblical distinction between those two things, you’re going to understand the church is going to suffer persecution. And this is nothing new, the church has been suffering persecution for thousands of years. If you relegate these warnings to other people, because the church is going to be raptured out of here, then you are not setting up believers to be overcomers. And the book of Revelation is about overcoming.”
Indeed, Kurschner believes the debate ultimately centers on the larger question of “what does it really mean to be a Christian?”
“The world can do nothing to us,” he says. “But God may call us to experience the events of the Tribulation. He’s certainly going to call the Last Generation to experience these events so we might just get into the proper mindset now.”
Richardson also called for Christian unity, despite specific disagreements.
“We must remember of course that this is not an issue the Christians should divide over, rather we are all called to be Bereans and examine all things,” Richardson told WND.
One of the mistakes made by those who believe the Church will experience The Tribulation is their misunderstanding of what the Tribulation is.
It is the punishment of God on Israel for its apostasy.
Leviticus says, if the people did not do what God required during the period of punishment he would multiply the punishment by seven times over.
But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, then I will do this to you: … “`If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. …”`If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve…”`If in spite of these things you do not accept my correction but continue to be hostile toward me, I myself will be hostile toward you and will afflict you for your sins seven times over… “`If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. …Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it.
This prophecy clearly takes us right through the time span given in Daniel 9:24. Including the final seven years (The Tribulation). We see the initial 70 years of Babylonian captivity multiplied by 7, making the 490 prophesied by the angel.
Seventy weeks (of years = 490 years) are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
They are all against Israel. And they are all God’s judgement/punishment.
Jesus Christ paid the price of sin for His church. There is no judgement due against us. Therefore the church will not be put through the Tribulation.
Gatestone Institute / Raymond Ibrahim
The fate of those Iraqi Christians who had fled from the Islamic State only to be incarcerated in the United States has finally been decided by the Obama administration: they are to be thrown back to the lions, where they will likely be persecuted, if not slaughtered, like so many Iraqi Christians before them.
Fifteen of the 27 Iraqi Christians that have been held at a detention center in Otay Mesa, California, for approximately six months, are set to be deported in the coming weeks. Some have already been deported and others are being charged with immigration fraud.
Many of the Iraqi Christian community in San Diego — including U.S. citizen family members vouching for the refugees — had hopes that they would eventually be released. Mark Arabo, a spokesman for the Chaldean community, had argued that “They’ve escaped hell. Let’s allow them to reunite with their families.” One of the detained women had begged to see her ailing mother before she died. The mother died before they could reunite, and now the daughter is to be deported, possibly back to the hell of the Islamic State.
Why are Christian minorities, who are the most to suffer from the chaos engulfing the Middle East, the least wanted in the United States?
The answer is that the Obama administration defines refugees as people “persecuted by their government.” In other words, the only “real” refugees are those made so due to the actions of Syrian President Bashar Assad. As for those who are being raped, slaughtered, and enslaved based on their religious identity by so-called “rebel” forces fighting Assad — including the Islamic State — their status as refugees is evidently considered dubious at best.
As Abraham H. Miller argues in “No room in America for Christian refugees”:
“What difference does it make which army imperils the lives of innocent Christians? Christians are still being slaughtered for being Christian, and their government is incapable of protecting them. Does some group have to come along — as Jewish groups did during the Holocaust — and sardonically guarantee that these are real human beings?”
In fact, from the start of Western meddling in the Middle East in the context of the “Arab Spring,” Christians were demonized for being supportive of secular strongmen like Assad. In a June 4, 2012 article discussing the turmoil in Egypt and Syria, the Independent’s Robert Fisk scoffed at how Egyptian presidential candidate “Ahmed Shafiq, the Mubarak loyalist, has the support of the Christian Copts, and Assad has the support of the Syrian Christians. The Christians support the dictators. Not much of a line, is it?”
More than three years later, the Western-supported “Arab Spring” proved an abysmal failure and the same Christian minorities that Fisk took to task were, as expected, persecuted in ways unprecedented in the modern era.
The Obama administration never seems to miss an opportunity to display its bias for Muslims against Christians. The U.S. State Dept. is in the habit of inviting scores of Muslim representatives but denying visas to solitary Christian representatives. While habitually ignoring the slaughter of Christians at hands of Boko Haram, the administration called for the “human rights” of the jihadi murderers. And when persecuted Egyptian Copts planned on joining the anti-Muslim Brotherhood revolution, Obama said no. Then there is the situation that every Arab nation the Obama administration has meddled in — for example, Libya and Syria — has seen a dramatic nosedive in the human rights of Christian minorities.
The Obama administration’s bias is evident even regarding the Iraqi Christians’ illegal crossing of the U.S.-Mexico border, the occasion on which they were arrested. WND correctly observes: “At the same time the Obama administration is deporting Christians, it has over the years allowed in hundreds of Muslim migrants from Africa and the Middle East who crossed the Southern border the same way the Chaldeans did.”
Meanwhile, as the Obama administration nitpicks at the definition of refugee and uses it against severely persecuted Christian minorities, it turns out that four out of five migrants — or 80 percent — are not even from Syria.
And while Christian minorities pose little threat to the United States — indeed, they actually bring benefits to U.S. security — Muslims all around the U.S. are supporting the Islamic State and Muslim clerics are relying on the refugee influx to conquer Western nations, in the Islamic tradition of Hijrah, or jihad by emigration. As Koran 4:100 puts it:
And whoever emigrates for the cause of Allah will find on the earth many locations and abundance. And whoever leaves his home as an emigrant to Allah and His Messenger and then death overtakes him — his reward has already become incumbent upon Allah.
In Islamic usage, the “cause of Allah” is synonymous with jihad to empower and enforce Allah’s laws on earth, or Sharia. In this context, immigrating into Western lands is a win-win for Muslims: if they die in the process somehow, paradise is theirs; if they do not, the “locations and abundance” of the West are theirs.
All the while, the Obama administration is turning away Christian refugees fleeing the same hostile Muslim forces as Muslims — who are being welcomed into America and Europe.
Before dawn on Thursday, Sept. 24, Russian marines went into battle for the first time since their deployment to Syria, debkafile’s military and intelligence sources reveal. Russian Marine Brigade 810 fought with Syrian army and Hizballah special forces in an attack on ISIS forces at the Kweiris airbase, east of Aleppo.
This operation runs contrary to the assurances of President Vladimir Putin to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sept. 21 – just three days ago – that Russian forces in Syria were only there to defend Russian interests and would not engaged in combat with the Syrian army, Hizballah or Iranian troops.
The ISIS force defending the air base is dominated by Chechen fighters under the command of Abu Omar al-Shishani, who is considered one of the terrorist organization’s leading commanders in the last two years. The 27-year-old al-Shishani hails from the Chechen enclave of Pankisi in Georgia, like many others who joined ISIS from 2012.
However, targeting Chechen fighters was not the only reason for the order given by Russian command in Syria to attack the air base. In DEBKA Weekly 678 of September 11, we predicted that the first Russian mission in Syria would be to break the Syrian rebel siege on Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city.
As their first step, the Russians would have to prevent the cutoff of highway 5, running from Aleppo to Damascus, and keep it open for Syrian army reinforcements and military equipment to the city.
The offensive to regain Kweiris airbase that fell to ISIS in mid-June is the first step in the implementation of Russia’s operational plan for the Aleppo area.
Meanwhile, little substance was to be found in the reports appearing, mainly in the United States, suggesting that Putin, disappointed by the Obama administration’s unwillingness to send the US Air Force to collaborate with Russia in the fight against ISIS, would try to talk Obama round if and when they meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on September 28.
According to debkafile’s sources, these reports were spread to cover up the serious crisis in the US war against ISIS.
While Russia poured troops and advanced hardware into Syria, establishing bases and launching offensive action, the US anti-Islamic State effort suffered a heavy blow with the decision of Obama’s ISIS war czar, Gen. John Allen, to step down in early November.
Sources close to the general were quoted as referring to his frustration “with the White House micromanagement of the war and its failure to provide adequate resources.”’
The fact that the Russian forces launched their attack on ISIS shortly after the announcement of Allen’s upcoming resignation shows that Putin is not waiting for US cooperation in the war on the Islamist terrorists. That said, debkafile’s military sources point out that the most ominous aspect for the US and Israel of the Russian attack on the Syrian airbase is that Russian marines were combined with Syrian and Hizballah special forces.
For the first time in 41 years, since the 1974 war of attrition against the IDF on the Golan, Russian troops are fighting alongside Syrian forces. It is also the first time that a world power like Russia is willing to go into battle with an acknowledged terrorist group, such as Hizballah.
Our sources point out that the joint attack was completely counter to the tone and the content of the comments exchanged by Putin and Netanyahu at their summit
And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords:
The prophet Ezekiel spoke of a day when God would draw the armies from the utmost north down to Israel, were He would execute his judgement on Gog, of the land of Magog.
Many Bible scholars believe this Gog to be a spiritual being that rules over the land we know as Russia, and its satellite countries.
Certainly Russia fits the description of a nation that is being drawn back into the Middle Eastern quagmire, after having been excluded during its years of financial bankruptcy.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought: And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of un-walled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.
But before Russia and its allies attack, Israel must be a land of un-walled villages, were the people dwell safely. That requires the elimination of Palestinian, and all other brands of terrorism! Many scholars see that situation created by the fulfilment of the Psalm 83 prophecy.
Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know it? And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army: And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes.
It certainly looks like Gog is returning for his appointment with the God of Israel!
Jerusalem Post/UDI SEGAL
In a white tent set up not far from the border with Jordan – very similar to the tent that hosted the ceremony for the signing of the peace treaty with Jordan 21 years ago in Ein Evrona, the small Arava town just a few kilometers north of Eilat – a number of army officers, environmental experts, and intelligence officials gathered for a meeting that included a surprise stop by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz.
Twenty-one years after the signing of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty, the border between the two countries has proven to be the quietest, albeit the least maintained from a financial standpoint, of any of Israel’s frontiers. Nonetheless, the prime minister was given the latest intelligence data that surveyed possible future threats.
In years past, Hamas operatives from Gaza sought to enter the Sinai Peninsula, from where they would seek to infiltrate Israel in order to carry out attacks. That route was closely watched by Israeli intelligence experts until the completion of the fence along the Egyptian border. The barrier has almost completely sealed Israel off from drug smugglers, African refugees and economic migrants, women traffickers, and, of course, terrorists.
Nowadays, the fence has proven to be a necessity given the fact that some violent Beduin tribes from Sinai have joined Islamic State. It allows Israel to better prepare in dealing with a hostile Islamist element currently fighting the Egyptian authorities in an area that is supposed to be demilitarized as per the terms of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. These elements can just as easily try to do harm to Israel as part of its campaign against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, either in an attempt to undermine the cold peace with Israel or simply out of an Islamist ideology that loathes Jews.
Now that the Gaza-Sinai-Israel path has been blocked off, the terrorists will seek an alternate route. It begins in Gaza, continues into Sinai, and, from there, heads further east into Jordan. Then the route takes a northward turn along the rusty, barbed-wire fence that runs along the frontier with Israel.
Initially, it will be criminals seeking to smuggle in drugs, contraband, and women. Intelligence officials are now warning that terrorists are soon to follow.
This is exactly what Netanyahu wanted to hear – a reason justifying his decision to build a fence. The first section of the fence will stretch from the Red Sea resort town of Eilat to Timna. Initially, the pretext for the fence was to build a barrier that would defend the airport that is expected to be built there. Overall, however, this is the Netanyahu Doctrine – build a high fence to keep the bad neighbors out, or neighbors that could turn bad later on.
Israel is entering a sensitive, problematic situation diplomacy-wise. Everyone knows the real reason behind the building of this fence – the very real fear that Jordan will collapse. This scenario is not far-fetched. In fact, it is Israel’s nightmare.
The Jordanians have protected the border effectively and admirably since 1994. It has proven its worth both from an intelligence standpoint as well as its security capabilities, with no infiltrations by armed terrorists. But given the wave of Islamism in the region, it’s doubtful Jordan can survive as presently constituted. It’s a subject that’s completely taboo, certainly among senior defense and government officials, but it’s the bitter truth (at least, potentially).
Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry’s diplomatic-security branch, spoke of the regional turbulence during a lecture on counterterrorism at a conference hosted by the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. He speculated that the brutality and unscrupulousness of ISIS would drag the United States and the West into a bitter war.
He argued that if ISIS – which is currently operating in Iraq and Syria – were to be forced out of its current positions by the rebels or troops loyal to Bashar Assad, its next move would most likely be to head south toward Jordan. Gilad noted that Jordan currently shares a border with ISIS from the east and al-Qaida from the north. Al-Qaida has taken control of swathes of the Golan Heights, so Israel is also mired in this mess.
Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ “Quds Force,” has spoken recently of opening up an eastern front against Israel from within Jordan. It was also learned recently that the Hashemite kingdom apprehended a number of individuals suspected to have ties with Hezbollah. Add it all up and what we have brewing is a Sunni-Shi’ite showdown right in our own backyard.
On the Israeli Right, there are those who murmur that Jordan is Palestine, but it would be more accurate to say that Jordan may soon become ISIS-stan. That’s why Israel not only needs a fence, but it also needs a quiet, discreet diplomatic initiative that will help King Abdullah gain some much-needed domestic stability.
As has usually been the case, when it comes to defense and security matters, Israel is efficient, active, and productive. But on the diplomatic level, it has failed whenever it has needed to step up to the plate and strengthen the moderate Arab camp.
The fence needs to be complemented by a diplomatic element. There needs to be something positive, something that signals good-neighborliness and partnership, not just fear and isolation. That’s because a fence pegs Jordan as a potential threat, and this message needs to be softened and camouflaged. A joint water pipeline, which was announced earlier this year, is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. Much more.
If Netanyahu’s plans are to be fully realized, then Israel will have to deal with another potential landmine – a fence that will run from the Dead Sea northward until the tripartite border with Jordan and Syria. Not only would this be a fence, but it would also be a clear political and diplomatic statement – Israel is demarcating its eastern border. Period.
Such a move would serve as a pretext for a diplomatic crisis that could perhaps trigger a military confrontation. Israel would then need the support of the United States, or, at least its tacit approval. For that, it needs direct channels of communication, mutual understanding, and a respect for one’s sensibilities. These are elements that are lacking in the relationship between Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama.
The occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue sees Netanyahu – to some extent, justifiably so – as a prophet of doom, an eternal pessimist cowed by fear who has no idea how to generate hope. Netanyahu, for his part, says that everything that has taken place in the region is proof that caution and circumspection come true in the Middle East. He sees Obama as a naive liberal who is afraid of conflict while giving the most dangerous Islamic power in the region an opening to threaten Israel. The statements made this week by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei of Iran served as further confirmation of Netanyahu’s fears.
One of the disadvantages of this “man the barricades” approach is that while Israel is so preoccupied with the Islamist tsunami from beyond its borders, it is not mindful enough of what is taking place right under its nose. Even though his threat to resign sounds ridiculous, Mahmoud Abbas has one foot out the door. If he does quit, he would set a remarkable precedent – never has an Arab leader quit. Never. They either die while in office, or are killed or toppled.
On the one hand, Israel is complacent. Operation Protective Edge, the quiet summer along the southern front, the sense that its deterrent policy is working for the time being, and the well-founded sense that there is a sense of fatigue among those thinking of armed conflict against Israel – all of these factors combine to create a feeling of immunity.
But there’s something bubbling underneath the surface. Now its manifestations are limited to instances of firebombings and stone-throwing. I predict that the tensions that are festering due to the real, justified fear that the situation is stuck and there is no light at the end of the tunnel, combined with the economic distress and the wind of Islamist revolution sweeping through the region – which most Israelis are unaware of – will lead to another complex, perhaps even violent, dilemma.
This is where we need not just a fence, but a clear delineation of what it is that Israel wants and where it wishes to go in this delicate period that is liable to become explosive and bloody.
CBN News/ Gary Lane
Middle East Christians escaping militant Islam had hoped to find a safe refuge in the West.
The massive wave of Muslim migrants into Europe has left some of those Christians wondering if any place is safe, according to a group of Christian migrants in Sodertalje, Sweden.
More than half of the people in Sodertalje are Christian immigrants, most have fled violence and persecution in Iraq and Syria.
Many have come to churches because they want to express themselves freely, to worship freely in the West.
But even in Sweden, they are questioning their safety and their future.
Those attending services at St. Efrem’s are members of the Syriac Orthodox Church – the world’s oldest Christian community. They pray and sing in Aramaic, the ancient language of Jesus.
Some of the Christians are worried about the sudden wave of new migrants and refugees entering Europe.
“If the massive influx of Muslim immigrants come from North African countries and from Middle Eastern countries, they want to impose Sharia law. We are just trying to keep our traditions and our values and our democracy alive,” David Dag, with the Aramean Democratic Organization of Sweden, said.
As thousands pour over borders, will they assimilate and embrace Western culture, or will they attempt to impose their ways on the West? And as they did in Iraq and Syria, will these Muslim refugees extend their war to Europe?
These Christians found a safe haven in Sweden, but now some fear it may eventually be lost.
Amer Georges Behnam, an Iraqi immigrant, worked with the Americans in Iraq. He fled his country because his life was threatened.
“I was an engineer and I wanted to build my country but they wouldn’t let me. They forced me out of my country. I’m afraid these newcomers may want to destroy this peaceful country,” Behnam said.
Some people on social media are questioning the motives of the refugees. A Hungarian police video shows male migrants tossing water onto train tracks. They said they didn’t want food or water, they only wanted to get to Germany.
But why? Are they seeking jobs and a better life, or are some coming to wage war on Europe?
ISIS claims 4,000 of its jihadists have infiltrated the refugee ranks. Bulgarian border guards have already arrested suspected ISIS terrorists posing as refugees.
Aiham Jneidi, a Muslim migrant from Syria. has some advice for the Swedish government.
“Before letting them settle here, the Swedish government should check Facebook and use other means to determine if these refugees were fighters in Syria or Iraq,” Jneidi said.
Some Christian migrants of Sodertalje believe European governments need to do more to protect them and Western culture from a potential armed, or unarmed Islamic invasion.
“They’re trying to be nice, but it doesn’t work,” Dag said. “They should be concerned for the future generations and take their Christianity more seriously and come back to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”