Trump and the New Syria Policy

Beyond the Cusp

Trump has a new Syria policy which, except for one major change, which may not even really be any change, looks awfully similar to the Trump old Syria policy. What we witnessed last Friday was the Trump policy on the use of weapons of mass destruction against civilians. It mattered not whether it had been Syria, North Korea, Libya or any other place where such hideous acts might have been carried out. Wherever there would have been any use of chemical, biological, nuclear or any other weapons of mass destruction against civilians; whoever or whichever nation or leader who would have utilized weapons of mass destruction murdering any number large or small of civilians; would have probably been the recipients of an American strike by Tomahawk Cruise Missiles or B-52 long-range heavy bombers or other long arm of United States military reach to send the message that the United States…

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What They Do Not Tell You about Indonesia

My kampong [village] lies in the suburbs of Surabaya, the second biggest city in Indonesia. Densely packed in a narrow alley, it consists of more than forty houses, stacked like logs, with no gaps at all to sneak in between. A handful of residents work for the government or public schools; some run small household shops. Most residents are Muslim, except for three families who are Christian.

A handful of plants provide us with green, but just down the road scattered stores have been soaring: a big franchise department store, a gas station, banks with long rows of automatic teller machines and facilities that make us feel like a small part of growing Indonesia.

When we first moved here, it seemed ideal. There were only twelve families; they got together at events; we felt close. Communal meetings were held each month; the host would prepare snacks and even sometimes meals. If one of us were in the nearby hospital, we would usually drive together in groups to pay a visit after collecting small contributions to give the sick person. Only one lady, a convert to Islam, wore a headscarf; others only wore it when necessary: at public meetings, celebrations, or Independence Day, August 17.

Saturday nights were the long night. People sat outside on paving stones or rough and humble chairs, and discussed many matters, especially before elections. Indonesia was then under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a graduate of America’s Webster University.

Religious days were marked as moments of happiness and joy. People opened wide their hearts; heaven was coming down and moving us. We visited each other after Eid al Fitr‘s early morning prayer. Everyone said, “Minal Aidin Wal Fa Idzin” (“Many happy returns”) and “Mohon Maaf Lahir Batin” (“Please forgive my wrongdoings”). The long-held tradition of Megengan, when families exchange food or snacks — not just Muslims but Christians, Catholics, Hindus and Buddhists — always preceded Ramadan.

On Christmas, the three Christian families would welcome visitors. Visits to our house by our Muslim friends inspired us to see how great our nation was, and of course our religions. Our Muslim friends would say, “Merry Christmas”.

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The Price Demanded

One day, a teenage boy was absolutely over the moon that he had just passed his driving test. Then, just as his father was expecting, the boy approached his dad asking when they’d be able to have a discussion about him using the family car. 
 
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His father said he’d make a deal with his son: “You need to bring your grades up from a C to a B, study the Bible, and get a haircut. Then we’ll talk about the car.’

The boy thought about it for a moment, decided he’d settle for the offer, and they came to an agreement.

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After about six weeks, his father said: “Son, you’ve brought your grades up and I’ve observed that you have been studying the Bible, but I’m disappointed you haven’t cut your hair yet.” 

The boy said: “You know, Dad, I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ve noticed in my studies of the Bible that Samson had long hair, John the Baptist had long hair, Moses had long hair – and there’s even strong evidence that Jesus had long hair!”

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The dad nodded wisely, then leaned over and whispered to his son:

“Did you also notice they walked everywhere?”

An Air Force Chaplain’s Unforgettable Passover, 50 Years Ago

For Rabbi Barry Dov Schwartz, April 1967 was filled with anticipation.

Between running services at the synagogue he founded on Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts, he conscientiously checked his mailbox for the inevitable Temporary Duty Order, which would advise where he’d be spending the upcoming holiday. The prior year’s order appeared only six days before Passover—along with a winter parka, because he was being sent to run the Seder at Goose Bay Air Force Base in northern Canada. Schwartz wound up asking “What Makes This Night Different?” before hundreds of soldiers and military brass in a frozen wasteland where the lone Jewish civilians were the mayor of nearby Happy Valley and his daughter.

In 1967, Schwartz was still hoping for the best (Hawaii) but prepared for the worst (Vietnam). What he did not expect was to receive no orders at all—but that’s precisely what happened: After nearly two years of service and a promotion to first lieutenant, Schwartz would be on leave for a Jewish holiday.

Though home-cooked matzo brei would be waiting less than two hours away in Brookline, Schwartz instead contacted Lt. Col. Rabbi Mordechai Piron, deputy chaplain of the Israel Defense Forces, whom Schwartz had met at a chaplain’s conference a few months earlier in Lakewood, New Jersey. At that conference, Piron had extended an invitation (whether in passing or otherwise) to visit with him in Israel “anytime.” Certainly, thought Schwartz, Passover was “anytime.” The response from Piron was warm and enthusiastic; after all, Schwartz was a decorated officer serving in the military of Israel’s most essential ally. Within a few days, accommodation arrangements were made and Schwartz was scheduled to be Piron’s guest at a massive public Seder for Israeli soldiers. Schwartz would later tell his congregants in Westover that, though he was sorry to leave them, he was honored and thrilled to spend Passover with “modern-day Maccabees.”

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Will the Dutch Protect their ‘Decadence’ from Islamic ‘Redeemers’?

General elections in the Netherlands are over, but now begins a much bigger campaign: who will defend the famous Dutch freedoms?

Only in the Netherlands is it conceivable that a politician such as Geert Wilders, a brave maverick who for 13 years, 24 hours a day, has lived under police protection; held rallies while wearing a bulletproof vest; moved from one secret location to another one and was guarded as if he were an Asian potentate. The country has already had two political assassinations related to Islam: the politician Pim Fortuyn, and the filmmaker, Theo van Gogh. Another Dutch MP at the time, Ayaan Hirsi Ali — whose name, with Wilders’s, was next on the hit-list pinned with a knife to van Gogh’s corpse — ended up fleeing to the United States. Only Wilders’s protection, generously provided by the Dutch government, has so far avoided a third political murder.

In the Netherlands, the philosopher Baruch Spinoza became the prophet of tolerance, Karl Marx investigated capitalism and John Locke penned his “Letter on Tolerance”. The mainstream media has claimed that Wilders’s rise and the new “populist” shift of Prime Minister Mark Rutte (who, in January, told immigrants to “act normal or leave“) has been a betrayal of that Dutch tolerance. Exactly the opposite is true.

It is from this tolerance that hard Dutch liberalism gets the will to fight against intolerance. Tolerating the intolerant does not sound like the way to have tolerance continue. This is how the Dutch multiculturalists turned their great legacy upside-down. The Dutch see themselves as “Enlightenment fundamentalists“, upholding the values of Enlightenment — even in the Islamic world.

The question now is: will the Dutch defend these freedoms or instead gradually dismantle them? Dutch Minister of Justice Piet Donner recently suggesting introducing Islamic sharia law into the Netherlands by democratic means.

The “hard liberal” Dutch tradition goes back to Pim Fortuyn, a homosexual proud of the supposed “decadence” of his country, its tolerance, and the freedoms it offers. As the late British journalist Alexander Chancellor wrote:

“The Muslim fanatics berate the West for its decadence, and many in the west guiltily agree that they have a point, but Fortuyn did not think so. He crusaded on behalf of what many would regard as decadence, and was so concerned for its survival”.

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Radical Iran-led Axis Confronted with U.S. Deterrence for First Time

The conflict in Syria has long ceased being a civil war, becoming instead a clash between coalitions and blocs that divide the entire Middle East.

The Iranian-led axis is the most dangerous and highly armed bloc fighting in Syria. Bashar al-Assad’s regime is not an independent actor, but rather, a component of this wider axis. In many respects, Assad is a junior member of the Iranian coalition set up to fight for him.

Russia joined the Iranian axis in 2015, acting for its own reasons as the pro-Assad coalition’s air force, helping to preserve the Syrian regime.

This coalition enabled the Assad regime to conduct mass murder and ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from Syria, while also using unconventional weapons against civilians in an effort to terrorize rebel organizations into submission.

Feeling confident by its growing control of Syria, Iran also uses its regional coalition to arm, finance, and deploy Shi’ite jihadist agents all over the Middle East, and to attack those who stand in the way of Iranian domination.

The Iranian-led axis has been able to spread violence, terrorism, and Islamic militancy without facing repercussions.

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Raymond Ibrahim: A 1,389 Year-Old ‘Phobia’?

A direct correlation exists between Western ignorance of history and Western ignorance of Islam’s “troublesome” doctrines. It is this connection that allows Islam’s apologists to get away with so many distortions and outright lies meant to shield Islam.

Take Reza Aslan, CNN’s resident “cannibal”: he recently claimed that “Islamophobia” — defined by CAIR and others as “unfounded fear of and hostility towards Islam” — was created by a few “clowns” in 2014.

To be sure, Western fear of Islam is something of a recent phenomenon in modern times. Because the world was a much bigger place a few decades ago, and Islam was oceans away, the average American hardly knew anything about Muhammad’s creed. However, as the world has become smaller — as Muslims have grown in numbers in Western societies, as modern technology has made it possible for the weaker to terrorize the stronger, and then broadcast it for the world to see (via Internet) — so has the Western world been hearing, seeing, and experiencing more and more of Islam.

But Aslan’s lament is not that people were once ignorant but now are wise to Islam. Rather, he accuses a number of writers and activists — the aforementioned “clowns” — of manufacturing a menacing image of Islam, which, in turn, has prompted Western people to develop an “unfounded fear of and hostility towards Islam” — or, in a word, “Islamophobia.”

Such a claim relies on an obscene amount of historical ignorance. The fact is, Western peoples, including some of their luminaries, have portrayed Islam as a hostile and violent force from the very start — often in terms that would make today’s “Islamophobe” blush. And that wasn’t because Europeans were “recasting the other” to “validate their imperial aspirations” (to use the tired terminology of Edward Said that has long dominated academia’s treatment of Western-Muslim interactions). Rather, it was because, from the very start, Islam treated the “infidel” the same way ISIS treats the infidel: atrociously.

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