Earl Warren, the Former Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, was quoted, in 1968, as saying that when he reads a newspaper: “I always turn to the sports section first. The sports section records people’s accomplishments; the front page nothing but man’s failures.” And so it continues. During the last two weeks, the headlines sounded the war drums; U.S. President Barack Obama wanted to throw a “war party”, but the guests who were invited to join the “war party” were backing out and the “party boy”, himself, was getting ready to object to the appearance of any unwanted visitor; Israel was getting ready for the fall-out from the “party boy” and his friends and the war of nerves between the so-called superpowers was reaching the straining point. Then the hesitancy began: the decision to move forward against Syria, in response to the claim of the government’s use of chemical weapons against its citizenry, was considered not to be “time sensitive”; the President, although believing that he had the power to decide and to move forward, chose to wait for the Congress to return from its summer break and put the ball in its court. The timing began to take shape: Congress would return on September 9th, the President would address the nation on September 10th, Congress would decide, probably to go ahead, on September 11th, and the 12th anniversary of the Muslim extremist attack upon the United States would, in some small way, be avenged against extremists far from American soil. But, it didn’t work out that way.
The War That Was Put On Hold As Not Being “Time-Sensitive”
America was almost alone among the democratic nations of the world. It was convinced that Assad’s regime needed to punished, but was facing opposition, not only from abroad, but from home as well. So the President stated in his nationally, televised address that Syria “would not be another Iraq or Afghanistan…Any action we take would be limited, both in time and scope – designed to deter the Syrian government from gassing its own people again and degrade its ability to do so … I know that the American people are weary after a decade of war, even as the war in Iraq has ended, and the war in Afghanistan is winding down. That’s why we’re not putting our troops in the middle of somebody else’s war…We are the United States of America. We cannot turn a blind eye to images like the ones we’ve seen out of Syria.” Despite statements from the White House and from Secretary of State John Kerry that a U.S.-led strike would be a “limited and tailored” military attack, various news media indicated that the contemplated strike would be “significantly larger” than what most were anticipating. One U.S. national security official told a certain media outlet that in addition to a barrage of some 200 Tomahawk cruise missiles from U.S. destroyers stationed in the Mediterranean, an aerial attack was to take place that was expected to extend over two days. “This military strike will do more damage to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s forces in 48 hours than the Syrian rebels have done in two years”. Approximately 50 or more major sites were supposedly targeted, to diminish Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons, including chemical weapons locations, air defenses, long-range missiles and rockets. The problem is that the chemical weapons themselves cannot be destroyed by an air assault, but only by ground forces, which Obama said would not happen, as there would not be any American “boots on the ground”.
According to Debka File, the U.S. was also planning to target the Syrian army’s 4th and Republican Guard divisions, who protect Assad’s person and regime. A media blitz went into effect, trying to convince the American public that going forward against Syria’s use of chemical weapons was “the right thing to do”, even if Congress would not agree.
Then, the backlash started and there was more and more opposition expressed to Obama’s desire to initiate military action against the Syrian dictator and his regime. With each passing day of hesitancy, President Obama was “losing face” and dragging American prestige in this region, and in various parts of the world, along with him. He was finding himself out on a limb that was beginning to break, and he was, basically, without a way to get down from it.
Politics has a way of introducing surprises from unlikely sources. Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested a way of helping Obama get off of the limb, but proposed that Assad agree to turn his chemical weapons cache over to international control. This allowed for a “time out” from beating the war drums and gave Obama a ladder from which to step down off of the tree limb – at least for the time being. So, while Assad is presumably in favor of this action, even though he had consistently denied even having chemical weapons, the war has been temporarily “put on hold”, subject to almost immediate reinstatement, based on changing circumstances.
Should the Russian proposal be seriously considered? Can Assad’s word be trusted? Would we consider buying a used car from either of them? I strongly doubt it. Can Israel trust any outside power? Definitely not! Israel’s trust needs to be in her God and not in the arms of the flesh: “O Israel, trust in the LORD; He is their help and their shield” (Ps. 115:9); “Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare in the coastlands afar off, and say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him and keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.” (Jer. 31:10)
I would be extremely wary of any suggestion that comes out of Moscow. It appears that Mr. Putin has decided to help Iran along with its nuclear program and build a new nuclear reactor for the extremist ayatollahs. If that wasn’t enough, Russia will also supply Iran with 5 battalions of S-300VM Antey-2500 system, which is a modified version of the S-300V anti-aircraft system, that it agreed to supply to Syria. Iran was suing Russia for $4 billion for the failure to deliver those systems pursuant to a previous contract. The newer systems will be supplied to Iran in consideration for withdrawing the lawsuit. They have a mutual, tactical interest in keeping the U.S. out of Syria, although they have different strategic agenda for that country. They have common views on a number of matters – Iran has the money, Russia has the technology and equipment. It was a match made in hell. Russia’s strategic interests are not the same as those of the United States and certainly not the same as those of Israel. So, the war in Syria continues, while politicians continue to play out their games for power and influence. We reach a point where we want to yell, “Enough”. Time to leave the headlines.
I did not deal with the threats of the Hizb’allah, nor with the happenings and power-plays in the so-called “Palestinian” community, nor with the chameleon called the “peace process”. Those who continue to pursue it do so with blinders on, ignoring the realities and consequences of trying to stitch up a deep cut, while leaving the developed bacteria and pus under the surface of the skin, only to create another, more serious, disaster afterwards.
Rosh HaShanah and Yom Hakippurim
Last week we celebrated Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish “New Year”. I was hoping to hear the sound of the Heavenly Trumpet, but that didn’t happen. It revealed once again that God’s timing is not ours. As mentioned above, surprises often come from the most unlikely source. Javad Zarif, Iran’s new foreign minister, said last week that Iran does not deny the Holocaust, hinting to the fact that previous denials that emanated from former Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, were expressions of his own, personal opinion. He wished the Jewish people a “Happy Rosh Hahshanah”. His comments came about in an exchange through Twitter with Christine Pelosi, the daughter of U.S. House of Representatives Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, who said that his new year’s greeting “would be even sweeter if you would end Iran’s Holocaust denial, sir”, to which Zaris replied: “Iran never denied it. The man who did is now gone. happy new year.” A similar “tweet” came from Iran’s new President, Hassan Rouhani: “As the sun is about to set here in Tehran I wish all Jews, especially Iranian Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashanah.” Apparently, this quote is said to be only “semi-official”, as the members of Rouhani’s staff run his Twitter account and that he, himself, did not send out the “tweet’. It sounded too good to be true.
Tonight at sundown is the beginning of Yom HaKippurim, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. The nation is to “afflict its soul” as it considers its sins against an all Holy God and repent of its ways. Tradition has called for fasting on this day, which is one way that we come to terms with our own sinfulness and attempts to be cleansed, although that is not the Biblical pronouncement. Nevertheless, if we fast, we should, in any event, pray, as we need the assistance that only God Himself can supply. A good way to pray would be to follow the example of Daniel:
“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans – in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land. Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day -to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against You. Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him; nor have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His teachings which He set before us through His servants the prophets. Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him. Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem. As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Your truth. Therefore the LORD has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the LORD our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice. And now, O Lord our God, who have brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and have made a name for Yourself, as it is this day -we have sinned, we have been wicked. O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us. So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary. O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”(Daniel 9:1-19)
Lest we forget, 40 years ago on this date, the Yom Kippur War began, when Israel was attacked by, among others, Syria. A lot has changed since then, in terms of how warfare is done. But, hatred and evil remain what they were. And the pain of loss remains. Most of Israel will be officially “closed” from sundown tonight until sundown tomorrow night. The vast majority of Israelis will not drive (except some in Arab areas), electricity will not be turned on until after sundown on Saturday night; many will be in the synagogues; many will fast and pray until the long blast of the Shofar is sounded, bringing the Day of Atonement to an end. In Israel, it is a day unlike any other throughout the year.
The Myth of the Moderate Syrian Rebels
Before closing, I am attaching below two articles, the first of which is by Daniel Greenfield, which was just published in frontpagemag.com (see below). It is well-worth the read.
The moderate Syrian rebels, like the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, are a myth; an imaginary character used to tell soothing stories to children. Unfortunately the storytellers think that we’re the children.
The Syrian Civil War is a religious war. It’s not a war over democracy or freedom. It’s a conflict between two totalitarian systems, one loosely based on a mixture of Islam and Socialism, and the other more rigidly based on Islam. Both are brutal and merciless to anyone who doesn’t belong. Both have their death squads and extensive corruption on the inside. Both are evil.
It’s also an ethnic conflict being played out between Iran and the Arab world. And it even has elements of Ottoman revivalism on the Turkish side of the border where its Islamist rulers dream of reclaiming an empire.
None of that is a recipe for moderation. There are no moderates in a religious war. There are no moderates in an ethnic conflict. There are no moderates among those who would start such a war or those who intend to finish it.
Neither side is seeking freedom. Both are seeking absolute supremacy.
The Syrian opposition that we hear about on the evening news and in the columns of newspapers is an elaborate Potemkin village masterminded by the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey and Qatar to convince Americans and Europeans that the rebels have a governmental structure and are ready to take power.
The Syrian National Council (full abbreviation SNCORF) is a bunch of names and letters peopled by ambitious men. It commands less of Syria than it does of Washington and Brussels. If it tried to give anyone an order in Aleppo, there would be laughter. But it keeps getting away with giving orders in D.C.
The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire and the Free Syrian Army is neither free, nor Syrian, nor an army. It’s a grab bag of guerrilla fighters, many of them foreign Islamists, who expect to receive American weapons and money and are occasionally willing to play along with the pretense that there is some kind of united army of national liberation for America to aid.
The political structures built up in Turkey and Qatar are fictional. The official leaders lead nothing. General Salim Idris commands nothing. All the organizations with Syria in their name are good for little except fooling Westerners into giving them weapons to funnel to the various rebel brigades, in exchange for promises of future influence and business deals, and plotting to take over the country afterward.
The only commanders who matter are the ones on the ground. And not only are they Islamists, but they are also far less housebroken than Idris. They’re the sort that casually kill prisoners and eat their lungs. They wouldn’t make a very convincing case for democracy and freedom in Washington, D.C.
The actual fighters have few allegiances except to wealth and religion. Some fight for pay, others fight for Jihad. Many for both. None resemble the mythical brigades of free officers fighting for a secular Syria that some senators still believe in.
Even the brigades and their names are smoke on a battlefield. Fighters move from one brigade to another. Brigades move from one association and alliance to another.
The boundaries between the Free Syrian Army and the Al-Nusra Front are not hard and fast. Some Islamist brigades play on both teams. Identifications are a matter of convenience. The vast majority of fighters, whatever associations they may have, are fighting to impose a Sunni Islamist system on Syria.
General Idris originally refused to cut ties with the Al-Nusra Front. After enough pressure and promises from Washington, he went along with the charade, but the actual commanders on the ground didn’t. FSA forces continued conducting joint operations with the Al-Nusra Front and recently four out of five front commanders signed a letter demanding to work with the Al-Qaeda group.
The letter is another attempt to pressure Washington D.C. into providing weapons and air support. The Syrian opposition leaders have insisted that the only possible way that we would be able to “moderate” the rebels and marginalize Al Qaeda was by backing them to the hilt. In reality, the various brigades that are compatible will go on working together regardless of what D.C. does.
And none of them are our friends.
The “Al-Aqsa Islamic Brigades,” an FSA-allied group, was caught sticking a photoshopped image of Washington, D.C. burning at the hands of Syrian rebel fighters on its Facebook page. An analyst was quoted as wondering why a group affiliated with “the generally pro-Western Free Syrian Army” would do such a thing.
“It raises the unfortunate but inescapable fact that not every group within the Free Syrian Army is closely aligned with U.S. interests in the region,” he said.
More accurately, not a single group within the FSA is either pro-American or aligned with US interests.
Why would they be? An Islamic brigade has as its goal the replacement of Western political and judicial systems with Islamic ones through armed force. And the majority of the FSA consists of Islamic brigades. Islamists with that goal tend to think of Western political and judicial systems as idolatry and heresy. To the Salafi, idolaters and heretics have less right to live than sheep in a butcher shop.
As reporters tried to learn more about the “Al-Aqsa Islamic Brigades,” they found a maze of splinter groups and alliances with the Al-Nusra Front that revealed that all the artificial structural overlays imposed by Western experts on bands of Eastern fighters don’t actually matter in the real world.
There is no Free Syrian Army. There is no Syrian opposition. There are just groups of fighters carving out territory, seizing homes, oil depots and bakeries, raping women, killing Christians, and behaving exactly the way that armed gangs with heavy firepower and no law to restrain them do.
There are no moderate Syrian rebels. There isn’t even a Syrian rebellion; only Muslim Brotherhood men in Turkey who act as gatekeepers for Qatari and Turkish weapons flowing to thousands and thousands of fighters, drifting in and out of gangs, killing their way across Syria the way that their distant ancestors might have during the original conquests of Islam.
Islam is their identity. It is a far more significant identity than the names of the brigades and alliances that they occasionally align with. It is their law, in the same way that the Pirate Code was the law of the buccaneers and the Thieves Law was the code of the Russian criminal. It dispenses rough justice and enables them to split the loot while remaining devout men who after every rape bow to Mecca.
What is happening in Syria is not a war between two sides. It’s Afghanistan. It’s Libya. It’s the collapse of a country into warring bands. The only difference is that this collapse has been carefully orchestrated. (my emphasis – Marvin)
Slaughter in Syria will go on with the unrestrained savagery that can only be carried out by men who believe that other men are subhuman. It will go on with knives, with machine guns and with nerve gas. It will go on whether we bomb Assad or write him a sternly worded letter.
It will go on because there are no moderates in a religious war. Only the killers and the killed.
This article can be seen here.
Israel’s Secret Doctors –
“Nobody asks permission to kill. We do not ask permission to save lives.”
I have often said that sometimes, we need to make the obvious explicit. This is one of those times. Israel is often condemned for her efforts to resist attempts to destroy us. We have been accused of almost everything under the sun and blamed for every evil that exists in today’s world. But, when placed side-by-side with our neighbors and with the behavior of the world as a whole, one thing stands out: Israel does what it can and where it can, to help. We lift the glass and toast “L’chaim” – “to life”. While not intending to cover every aspect of what that means, nevertheless, the following article shows a stark contrast between who “we are” and who the “others are” that were mentioned in Daniel Greenfield’s article. The work referred to in this article was shown on an Israeli news program last week.
To help refugees from the Syrian war, Israeli doctors and aid workers must do their work furtively. When they go into refugee camps in Jordan, they change clothes so that they can fade into the background. They must be smuggled in and out. They don’t tell others where they’re going and when they go home they usually don’t say where they have been. Above all, they don’t want anyone to know the names of their patients.
They move “under the radar,” in the words of a clandestine organization in this field. When they treat Syrians in Israeli hospitals, they make sure no visiting journalist learns details that will identify the patients to authorities back in Syria.
Usually, Israel is glad to announce when it contributes to emergency relief. The case of Syrian aid is different.
Syria does not recognize Israel and forbids its citizens to go there. Israeli doctors are not welcome in Jordan, where their work has been denounced as a violation of Jordanian sovereignty. And Israel is anxious not to be involved in the Syrian civil war. It does nothing, officially, that could make it look like the medical corps of the rebellion.
For Syrians the possibility that their own government will punish them adds to the horror of their situation. This summer, in Nahariya, Israel, near the Golan Heights, scores of patients have been covertly brought across the border from Syria to be treated by Israeli doctors.
For patients’ friends or relatives, Israel becomes a last hope when no Syrian medical help is available. Masad Barhoum, clinical director at Western Galilee Medical Center, recently told an NBC reporter that many patients arrive unconscious. “When they wake up and find that they are in Israel they are anxious and afraid.”
A Syrian woman in the hospital said that she came to Israel because her daughter was hit by a sniper’s bullet. “The hospital in my town was destroyed. They saved her here, but now I am afraid to go back. We will be marked.”
An Israeli organization, iL4Syrians, operates anonymously in Syria and other desperate countries. Providing food and medical supplies for those who need them, it relies on secrecy to protect both its local contacts and its own practitioners. Its web site identifies no directors or staff but carries a defiant slogan: “Nobody asks permission to kill. We do not ask permission to save lives.” (emphasis mine: msk)
They explain that “We focus on countries that lack diplomatic relations with Israel, transcending differences.” They argue that a respect for the sanctity of human life expresses Jewish tradition and culture. As they see it, this applies to Israel’s toughest and cruelest enemies as well as anyone else.
Since all of these efforts are unofficial and unrecorded, no one can say how many Israelis are involved. I was alerted to this phenomenon by one of the regular letters of Tom Gross, an astute British-born commentator on the Middle East.
Gross has a 15-minute film showing a couple of days spent by an aid group visiting refugees. The refugees don’t expect them to arrive and are surprised when they learn that their benefactors are Israelis. That makes some of them nervous but in the film others say in Arabic “May God bless Israel.”
The team takes along a professional clown to perform for the children while food is being handed out; in one camp, however, the adults briefly riot over limited supplies. A journalist asks one of the aid workers, “Do people call you crazy?” She answers: “Not many people know.”
Information about this work has to be pieced together from fragments of journalism, like a paragraph in an Israeli/Arabic paper: “The Arab countries offer condolences but the best role is provided by the Israelis because they are crossing the border to provide assistance to the refugees, risking their lives without a word of thank you.”
These are dark days for much of the world, dreadfully dark for Syrians. Few can even imagine a solution that does not involve even more tragedy for them. W.H. Auden, in his poem “September 1, 1939” described an even darker time and offered the only advice that made sense to him: “Show an affirming flame.”
As Jews celebrate the start of the new year, it’s worth noting that these Israeli humanitarians have found a way to make their flame burn with a brave affirmation.
This article originally appeared in the National Post.
This can be seen here.
And THAT Was The Week That Was…, which will end tomorrow night at sundown. Hopefully, there will not be any major events that will once again shake the silence and the uniqueness of Yom HaKippurim.
“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the LORD. You shall not do any work on this same day, for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the LORD your God. If there is any person who will not humble himself on this same day, he shall be cut off from his people. As for any person who does any work on this same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no work at all. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your sabbath’.”(Leviticus 23:26-32)
Rest, bless, be blessed and be a blessing.
Have a simply great week.
p.s.: In case anyone missed prior updates of The Week That Was, copies of updates that were sent out from the end of January, 2013, until now, can be viewed at: www.twtw.co.il