April 28/15

Bible Quotation For Today/And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm
Luke 08/22-25: "One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they put out, and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A gale swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger.They went to him and woke him up, shouting, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?’"

Bible Quotation For Today/We speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.
First Letter to the Thessalonians 02/01-12: "You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully maltreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us. You remember our labour and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was towards you believers. As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you should lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 27-28/15
A high stakes covert battle in the North could erupt into an overt clash/J.Post/April 27/15
With a score to settle, Hezbollah will not give up/Ron Ben-Yishai/Ynetnews /April 27/15

As Iran meddles, will the GCC-U.S. summit strengthen ties/Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi/Al Arabiya/April 27/15
The Islamic Genocide of Christians: Past and Present/Raymond Ibrahim/April 27/15
Enduring Misguided Western Policies . . . Again/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/April 27/15
It is the Saudis and the Lebanese This Time/ Diana Moukalled/Asharq Al Awsat/April 27/15
Racism is patriotism’s first enemy/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/April 27/15

Lebanese Related News published on April 27-28/15
Salma Hayek Launches 'The Prophet' in Lebanon

Israel warns against attacks from Golan Heights
Hezbollah keeps quiet about border airstrike 
Israel intensifies movement along Lebanon border after Golan strike

Health Ministry warns three butcher shops over violations 
Salam Urges Politicians to be Wise, Rejects Parliamentary Boycott
Berri, Salam express boycott fears, criticize Aoun 
Paralysis Further Grips State as Christian Blocs Refuse to Legislate
3 domestic workers found dead across Lebanon 
Jumblat on Anniversary of Syrian Withdrawal: We Look forward to Army that Controls War, Peace Decisions
Five Lebanese closely escape death in Nepal 
Two Lebanese Arrested near Sidon for Forming Terror Cell
Abou Faour Says Unified Prescription Form to Be Implemented June 1

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 27-28/15
Death toll in Nepal quake rises to more than 4,000
Druse brothers killed by IAF had moved from Israel to Syria
Israel 'not behind' new attack on Syria border
Iran slams Israel, nuclear powers at UN atomic treaty meeting
Kerry, Zarif to meet at UN nuclear conference
As Iran meddles, will the GCC-U.S. summit strengthen ties?
Israel's secret cooperation with Hamas
UN inquiry finds wrongdoings on both sides in summer Gaza war

ISIS video claims ‘we’ve arrived’ in Yemen
Islamic State kills five journalists working for Libyan TV station: army official
U.S., allies conduct 31 air strikes in Syria, Iraq: U.S. military
Enough blunders by de Mistura 
UN envoy: Parties in Yemen had been 'very close' to deal
Yemen’s government to present “evidence” to UN of ex-president Saleh’s involvement with Al-Qaeda
Palestinian operatives helped free Syria hostages: official
Israel invites bids for 77 E. Jerusalem settler homes: NGO
Concern grows as Australian doctor appears in ISIS video
Key Syrian domestic opposition activist flees to Spain
Syrian regime air raids on market kill 40 
France probes Rifaat al-Assad, for amassing $98 mln
Week of fighting in Iraq’s Ramadi kills 30 police: officer
Sudan’s Bashir reelected with 94.5% of vote: organizers
Pakistan ‘mini-cyclone’ death toll rises to 44
Mohammad Mursi, Bassem Sabry and April in Egypt
New Zealand PM: Saudi visit ‘well and truly overdue’
Gunman shouting Allahu akbar in Bosnia storms police station
Turkey rebukes newly-elected Turkish Cypriot leader

Jihad Watch Latest News
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard commander: Saudi Arabia “following in the footsteps of Israel and the Zionists”
Raymond Ibrahim: The Islamic Genocide of Christians: Past and Present
Radio Iran: Islamic State’s caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead of injuries from airstrike Pentagon denies hit him
UK’s Guardian: Islamic State’s caliph still alive, but paralyzed from spinal injury in airstrike Pentagon denies hit him
Photo of newborn with gun and grenade features Islamic State’s first official birth certificate
Malaysia Mufti: “No such thing as rape in marriage,” wives must give husbands sex even on the back of a camel
Six PEN members protest award to Charlie Hebdo
Islamic State jihad suicide bomber kills Iraqi General, three officers

Salma Hayek Launches 'The Prophet' in Lebanon
Naharnet/Associated Press. April 27/15
Hollywood star Salma Hayek, in her ancestral homeland Lebanon for the first time, launched the global premiere of her animated adaptation of Kahlil Gibran's celebrated novel "The Prophet" on Monday. The Mexican actress and director described the movie version of the Lebanese author's spiritually-uplifting book as a "love letter to my heritage." She said the adaptation, which features an all-star cast, was a "personal film" because her Lebanese grandfather loved The Prophet. "Through this book, I got to know my grandfather. Through this book, I had my grandfather teaching me about life," said the star, who has been in Lebanon since Friday. The Prophet, now in its 163rd edition, is widely considered the second most-read book in the world, after the Bible. The movie adaptation, screened in Beirut on Monday evening, features the voices of Hayek, along with actors Liam Neeson, Alfred Molina and Frank Langella.
A collection of poems and prose, originally written in English, The Prophet has been translated into more than 40 languages since its first publication in 1923. It tells the story of Almustafa, who before returning to his homeland, speaks to residents of the city of Orphalese about different aspects of life -- love, work, children, friendship and death. The movie is entirely animated, with dream-like fantasy sequences as Almustafa -- called simply Mustafa in the film -- shares his wisdom before being expelled by authorities because of his rebellious poetry. Divided into 26 chapters, verses from "The Prophet" are often quoted at births, weddings and funerals around the world. "Your children are not your children, they come through you but not from you," one popular line reads.
"When love beckons to you, follow him, though his ways are hard and steep," reads another, a regular at weddings. Gibran wrote most of his books in the United States, where he headed the New York Pen League, the first Arab-American literary society, although he was born in Lebanon under Ottoman rule.
- Realizing 'old dream' -
Hayek said visiting Lebanon had allowed her to realize an "old dream" of visiting the birthplace of Gibran, the country's most famous writer. She said she hoped her adaptation of the book would demonstrate "to the world that there is an Arabic writer who wrote philosophy and poetry, who brought all religions and all the world together, and has sold more than 100 million copies around the world for many generations." "We wanted to do (him) justice, we want the world to remember" him. Despite his popularity among readers, Gibran's most famous work received a lukewarm reception at the time of writing from American critics, who criticized it as simplistic and moralizing. Hayek's adaptation, first screened at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival, is an international effort involving 10 directors and nine producers from Canada, France, Lebanon, Qatar and the United States. It will begin screening publicly in Lebanon from April 30, and in the United States during the summer.  Hayek said the adaptation was animated in a bid to better convey Gibran's message to a younger generation, with the script produced by Roger Allers, who directed Disney's "The Lion King."The film is scored by French-Lebanese composer Gabriel Yared, who worked on "The English Patient."Hayek also acknowledged the region's ongoing political turmoil during her visit to Lebanon, meeting with some of the nearly 1.2 million Syrian refugees living in the country. "I was very moved by many of the stories. There was a girl, for example, because of the traumas she was paralyzed, and she was able to walk with me yesterday thanks to the psychological aid," she told AFP. "I was deeply moved by their courage and their hope." Hayek said the whole trip to Lebanon had been full of emotion. "There are too many things that are emotional, from reconnecting with my roots and being able to see the house of my family... to the love of the people, to the refugee camp, to the kids with cancer that I went to see today, to the reaction of the people after seeing the movie," she said. In tribute to Gibran, her visit also included a stop in his hometown of Bsharre, where the writer was buried after he died in 1931, aged just 48, of tuberculosis.

Berri, Salam express boycott fears, criticize Aoun
The Daily Star/Apr. 27, 2015
BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Tammam Salam have criticized MP Michel Aoun over his boycott of parliamentary sessions, warning that the move will have devastating effects on Lebanon. “Christian blocs’ position on boycotting Parliament is dangerous and we must find a solution to it,” Salam said in remarks published Monday by local daily As-Safir. “The same thing goes for the draft budget and the salary increase and all other outstanding issues concerning the interests of the people and the country [that need to be resolved before approval] by the Cabinet and Parliament,” he said. Berri also blasted Aoun, saying he is surprised that the Free Patriotic Movement is boycotting parliamentary sessions. “The surprise came when the party, the Free Patriotic Movement, that was with [the passing of] legislation backed down,” he moaned. “The boycotting behavior and [ongoing] disruption [of Parliament] leads to the destruction of the country,” he warned. Berri said it was “ironic” that the same parties responsible for hindering legislation under the pretext of the absence of a president are those who are boycotting parliamentary sessions to elect a new head of state. “That’s why I have urge them to go to Parliament and elect a president so we can get out of this whirlpool,” he said. Berri also criticized Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai without explicity naming him, accusing him of not putting enough effort to end the presidential deadlock. “Some heads of sects and others tour countries abroad and lament the inability to elect a president,” he said. “Perhaps it would have been better if those had made an effort with their own [Maronite] sect toward reconciliation between the parties in order to elect a president.” Last week, the parliament speaker warned he will dissolve Parliament if lawmakers continued to boycott sessions, expressing frustration at the institution's paralysis as pressing issues await approval. March 14 lawmakers have refused to attend legislative sessions in the absence of a president, arguing that Parliament should only convene to discuss urgent matters. Similarly, lawmakers from Aoun’s bloc, Hezbollah’s bloc and its March 8 allies have boycotted parliamentary sessions to elect a president, demanding an agreement beforehand with their March 14 rivals on a consensus candidate. The presidential deadlock has paralyzed legislation in Parliament, which has been unable to meet over a lack of quorum since former President Michel Sleiman’s six-year term ended on May 25.

Salam Urges Politicians to be Wise, Rejects Parliamentary Boycott
Naharnet /Prime Minister Tammam Salam has expressed concern over the rising dispute between the country's different factions, which could paralyze the government. In remarks to As Safir daily published on Monday, Salam urged all parties to be “wise and confront the difficult situation that the country is living.”Disputes “could lead to more unwanted clashes,” he said. The prime minister hoped that the dialogue between different parties would help limit the tension. Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal Movement have been holding talks under Speaker Nabih Berri's sponsorship since December to limit the strain between the country's Sunni and Shiite sects. But their officials have been recently exchanging accusations mainly linked to the Saudi-led coalition's airstrikes against Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen. “The growing sectarian rhetoric between Sunnis and Shiites is worrying,” Salam told As Safir. Officials from the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces have also been holding talks to set the stage for a meeting between the two parties' leaders MP Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea. On the Christian blocs' stance from a parliamentary session that Speaker Nabih Berri intends to call for, Salam described their boycott threat as “dangerous,” saying a solution should be found to it. Berri is setting the stage for a session under the excuse of “necessary legislation.”But the Christian MPs have threatened to boycott the session, some claiming that parliament should only meet to elect a president, while others wanting to add more draft-laws to the agenda. Baabda Palace has been vacant since President Michel Suleiman's term ended in May 2014. The vacuum at the presidential palace has had crippling effects on the parliament and the cabinet.

 Paralysis Further Grips State as Christian Blocs Refuse to Legislate
Naharnet/The fate of a controversial parliamentary session that Speaker Nabih Berri insists on calling for is facing further obstacles as Christian lawmakers are holding onto their decision to boycott it. Berri warned in comments published in local newspapers that boycotting the session would lead to chaos in the country, accusing “those who are obstructing legislation on the pretext of presidential vacuum are also boycotting the elections sessions.”
MPs failed on several occasions to elect a new head of state over lack of quorum. President Michel Suleiman's term ended in May without the election of a successor.
Hizbullah and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun's Change and Reform bloc have been boycotting electoral sessions due to a disagreement with the March 14 camp over a compromise presidential candidate.
Berri called on them to head to the parliament and elect a new head of state to end the “vortex.”
The speaker also lashed out at “those who are touring foreign countries, religious figures and others, and crying over the presidential vacuum,” in hints to Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi.
“It would be better if those people seek consensus among the rivals of the sect to facilitate the election of a president.”
Berri stressed that the “parliament and the cabinet are not responsible for the presidential vacuum... they cause diseases and we're seeking the remedy... this is the truth.”
The speaker reiterated that he will not carry out further contacts with the political arch-foes to convince them to attend the “urgent session.”
The speaker has been recently angered with the Christian parliamentary blocs' decision to boycott a session that he intends to call for to approve urgent issues, including the wage scale for the public sector and the food safety draft-law.
The Lebanese Forces and its old-time rival the FPM will boycott the session over the agenda. The LF is calling for the adoption of a new electoral law, while the FPM wants the amendment of the defense law. On the other hand, the Kataeb party rejects to attend the session as the “parliament should be only considered as an electoral body and not a legislature” in the absence of a president.
For his part, Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat threw his weight behind Berri, stressing that the presidential vacuum is caused by Christians as some leaders “don't realize the importance of reaching a consensual candidate.”“We were only facing a presidential crisis and now it's a legislating crisis... the whole country is threatened with paralysis,” the PSP chief said.
Change and Reform bloc MP Ibrahim Kanaan, who is loyal to Aoun, said that the party insists on boycotting the session as it lacks “urgent draft-laws.”“Accusations that we are paralyzing the parliament are false.”Kanaan said that the FPM “was the first to agree on the urgent legislation term since the presidential vacuum hit the state... Speaker Berri previously knows our stance and we didn't back down.”
“The presidential crisis is not between Christians... we are working on resolving all crises,” the MP added.

Hezbollah keeps quiet about border airstrike
The Daily Star/Apr. 27, 2015
BEIRUT: Hezbollah refused to comment Sunday on reports that Israel targeted its interests on the Syria-Lebanon border over the weekend. News outlets reported Saturday that Israeli fighter jets hit Syrian and Hezbollah targets on the Syria-Lebanon border overnight Friday. When contacted by The Daily Star, a Hezbollah spokesman refused to confirm or deny the reports. According to sources quoted by Al-Jazeera, the attack in the Syrian region of Qalamoun targeted the 155th and 65th Brigades of the Syrian Army, which deal with strategic weapons and long-range missiles. The sources reported several explosions in the Syrian towns of Al-Qutayfa, Yabroud and Qara on the outskirts of Damascus. Al-Arabiya news channel reported that the attack targeted Syrian weapons depots, and that Wednesday Israel allegedly attacked two weapons convoys, reportedly killing one person. Sources confirmed to Lebanese news site Elnashra Saturday that Israel had attacked Syrian posts near Qara.  The Israeli Army declined to respond to the reports. Syrian regime-affiliated media and Hezbollah-affiliated media have not reported the attack so far. Sources told Israel’s Ynet that the Israeli air force has carried out several raids against targets in Syria, including depots storing weapons meant for Hezbollah, since the conflict there started over four years ago. Israel last attacked Hezbollah in January, when an Israeli helicopter struck in Syria’s Golan Heights, killing top Hezbollah commander Mohammad Issa, along with Iranian commander Mohammad Allahdadi, and Jihad Mughniyeh and four other Hezbollah fighters. Although Israel has never confirmed that it carried out the strikes, it has been vocal about its policy of preventing the transfer of arms to Hezbollah. Separately, a Hezbollah MP dismissed a media report claiming that the party possesses an airstrip in northeast Lebanon used to land its arsenal of drones. “The defined area does not contain any airstrip. If there was an airstrip or works to build one, all the residents of the Baalbek valley would have seen it with their own eyes,” Loyalty to Resistance bloc MP Walid Sukkarieh said in comments published Saturday. The comments came after an article in Jane’s Defense Weekly said it had discovered what it believed to be an airstrip near the Bekaa Valley town of Hermel, built by Hezbollah to fly its drones.
It published satellite images taken from Google of the site. “The location mentioned by the magazine, which is 10 kilometers south of Hermel and 18 kilometers west of the Lebanese-Syrian border, contains my own village, al-Fakiha,” Sukkarieh said, describing the area in question as agricultural land. The report Thursday had suggested that the location contained an airstrip that Hezbollah built for its drones between Feb. 27, 2013, and June 19, 2014.

Israel warns against attacks from Golan Heights
Ian Deitch| Associated Press/Apr. 27, 2015
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the soldiers involved in the airstrike on the border with Syria after the military said it spotted militants carrying a bomb in the Israeli-held Golan Heights. The Israeli military said it carried out the strike after troops saw "a group of armed terrorists" approach the border with an explosive intended to target Israeli troops. It said that Israeli aircraft "targeted the squad, preventing the attack." It did not offer any casualty figure for the strike. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four Syrian soldiers were killed by a missile fired from Israeli-occupied territory in the Golan. Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman said it was not clear whether the missile was fired by a plane or from a vehicle. On Twitter, Netanyahu sent messages commending the soldiers involved in the strike. "Any attempt to harm our soldiers and civilians will be met with a determined response like the military action tonight that thwarted a terror attack," Netanyahu said. No one immediately claimed responsibility of the attack launched from inside Syria, which has been in the grips of a civil war since 2011. Syrian state media did not immediately report on the strike. Israel has tried to stay out of the war in Syria, but it has spilled into the country before. In September, the Israeli military shot down a Syrian fighter jet in airspace over the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed in a move that has never been internationally recognized. In August, Israel shot down a drone that came into the same airspace from Syria. Israeli troops also have responded to occasional mortar fire from Syria. Israel says some of the attacks may have been accidental spillover, while others have been intentionally aimed at Israeli civilians and soldiers. It has always held Syria responsible for any cross-border fire. Israel and Syria are bitter enemies. While relations are hostile, the ruling Assad family in Syria has kept the border area with Israel quiet for most of the past 40 years. Israel is concerned that the possible ouster of embattled President Bashir Assad's ouster could push the country into the hands of Islamic State extremists or Al-Qaeda linked militants, or plunge the region further into sectarian warfare. It also repeatedly has threatened to take military action to prevent Syria from transferring advanced weapons to its ally, Hezbollah. Israel is believed to have carried out several airstrikes in Syria in recent years that have targeted sophisticated weapons systems, including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles. There were reports in Arab media last week that Israel had carried out another attack on such weapons in Syria. Israeli officials have not commented. But just hours before the border strike Sunday night, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon warned Syria and Iran against arming Hezbollah with such weapons. "We will not allow the transfer of quality weapons to terror groups led by Hezbollah and we know how to reach them and those that dispatch them at any time," Yaalon said. He added that Iran is continuously trying to find ways to arm Hezbollah with the weapons.

Israel intensifies movement along Lebanon border after Golan strike
Mohammed Zaatari/ The Daily Star/Apr. 27, 2015
MARJAYOUN, Lebanon: Israeli units patrolled the border with Lebanon and carried out a military exercise in the Shebaa Farms Monday, security sources told The Daily Star. The sources said that Israeli vehicles were seen moving near the Lebanese border in the occupied farms, while residents of Kfarshuba said they heard loud explosions and a jet hovering around dawn. Armored Israeli vehicles patrolled along the Blue Line from the military base of Al-Abbas to that of Mtolleh on the southeastern Lebanese border.
Some troops were also seen combing nearby orchards. From the Lebanese side, UNIFIL and Lebanese Army troops observed the Israeli movements that another security source described as “just another routine patrolling operation.”Meanwhile, Israeli media said the Jewish state’s army was mobilizing along the northern border after the recent escalation in the Golan Heights. On Sunday, Israeli jets targeted militants allegedly carrying a bomb in the Israeli-held Golan Heights. Israel said it carried out the strike after troops saw “a group of armed terrorists” approach the border with an explosive intended to target Israeli troops. It said that Israeli aircraft “targeted the squad, preventing the attack.”It did not offer any casualty figure for the strike, while a security source told AFP that four people were killed in the attack, which took place near the town of Majdal Shams. Israeli jets also reportedly hit Syrian and Hezbollah targets on the Syria-Lebanon border overnight Friday, according to a sources quoted by Al-Jazeera. The attack in Syrian region of Qalamoun allegedly targeted the 155th and 65th Brigades of the Syrian Army, which deal with strategic weapons and long-range missiles.

With a score to settle, Hezbollah will not give up
Ron Ben-Yishai/Ynetnews /Published: 04.27.15/Israel Opinion
An attempt to plant explosives on Israeli side of Syria border fence shows an attempt to carry out an attack that leaves no Syrian fingerprints. The attempted across Israel's border with Syria on Sunday night would not be the first time that the Lebanon-based Hezbollah organization has tried place explosives beyond the border fence, in Israeli territory. The aim was to place explosives so that the shrapnel would wound IDF patrols on the Israeli side of the border, leaving no Syrian fingerprints that could give Israel grounds to attack Damascus. In the aftermath of the attack it is still unclear if Hezbollah was responsible. But it is certainly highly likely, using its own fighters and locals who work in its name. The area where the explosives were planted is close to Syrian army fronts and is controlled by the Syrian regime, unlike the central and southern Golan Heights, which are under control of the rebels. An almost identical type of attack occurred in March 2014, when an explosive was placed beyond the border fence, on the Israeli side, hitting an officer and soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade. The attack was similar to several others on the Lebanon border, with Hezbollah taking advantage of the fact that Israel built the border fence slightly to the west, several feet from the cease-fire line, so that it would be in a better topographical position to block infiltrations and shooting. The intention was to hurt the IDF, and the reason is clear. According to foreign reports, Israel on Friday night attacked an arms shipment headed to Hezbollah, and Hezbollah, which has adapted a new "zero-tolerance" policy, responded immediately.  The fact that the attack attributed to the IAF killed Hezbollah operatives and Syrian soldiers most likely made the response by the group even more pressing. No one, therefore, should be surprised by the attack, and the skill of the IDF combat battalion that tracked the cell and was able to dispatch an IAF jet should be appreciated. It should be noted that it was not necessarily members of Hezbollah who placed the explosives or were wounded in the mission. But it is clear that those who placed the explosives were in the pay of the organization, as has been true in the past. For example, previous operations have involved Palestinians from Ahmed Jibril's organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, which is loyal to the Syrian regime.
Stopping the attempted attack has reopened an account that Hezbollah wanted to close, and one can expect similar attempts in the future. In the meantime, the IDF is not taking any special measures, but there is no doubt that that there will be heightened intelligence awareness on the Golan Heights and in the north in general. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah will try to find Israel's weak spot, and he will not give up.

Druse brothers killed by IAF had moved from Israel to Syria
The four terrorists who the Israel Air Force killed on Sunday after crossing into Israel from Syria and planting explosives were Druse from the village of Hader in Syria and they may have been members of Hezbollah according to media reports. Two of the deceased terrorists, the brothers Tair (23) and Venzia (33) Mahmoud, were the sons of Mustapha Mahmoud, who is known to security forces in Israel and was a security prisoner in Israel before returning to Syria where he later died. The Mahmoud family moved from the Golan Heights village of Majdal Shams to Syria in the nineties. The two other terrorists in the operation were named as Youssef Jaber Hason and Samiha Abdallah Badria also from the village of Hader. It was reported that the four were on a "mission of bravery" when the IAF struck and killed them. One Lebanese media report quoted a source close to Hezbollah as saying that the four belonged to the Hezbollah group known as the Martyrs of Quneitra. A separate report said that Hezbollah established the group of four men and trained it for its mission.  The UK's Sky News in Arabic also reported that the four men were Hezbollah members. Thousands arrived to pay their condolences at the home of Sheikh Mustapha Mahmoud in Majdal Shams on Monday whose two grandsons were killed in the IAF strike. The brothers' uncle Afif told Radio Al-Shams that they received information that their relatives were killed. He said that Israel told the family to collect the brothers' bodies, but that the authorities did not provide further details. "We understood that they went to carry out a mission and did not return home," he said. "The bodies are on Syrian land. They should have directed their fire in the air and not at the men," he added.  An Israeli military source on Sunday stressed that although the terrorists infiltrated into Israel, they did not cross the 110-km. border fence, which is within Israeli territory.

Iran slams Israel, nuclear powers at UN atomic treaty meeting
By REUTERS/J.Post/04/27/2015/UNITED NATIONS - Iran on Monday demanded that countries possessing nuclear weapons scrap any plans to modernize or extend the life of their atomic arsenals, while branding Israel a threat to the region due to its presumed nuclear stockpile. Speaking on behalf of the 120-nation Non-Aligned Movement, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told signatories to the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that there should be no limits on the transfer of nuclear technology and know-how to NPT signatories. "We call upon the nuclear-weapon states to immediately cease their plans to further invest in modernizing and extending the life span of their nuclear weapons and related facilities," Zarif said at the start of a month-long review conference taking stock of the NPT, the world's benchmark disarmament treaty. "Reductions in deployments and in operational status cannot substitute for irreversible cuts in, and the total elimination of, nuclear weapons," Zarif said. He added that Iran and the other 117 non-aligned nations that are parties to the NPT are "deeply concerned by military and security doctrines of the nuclear-weapon states as well as that of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization," which he said permits the use, or threat of use, of atomic weapons. The five permanent UN Security Council members signed the NPT as nuclear weapon states though the pact calls on them to negotiate on the reduction and eventual elimination of their arms caches. Non-nuclear weapon states complain that there have been too few steps toward nuclear disarmament. Iran, accused by Western powers of developing a nuclear weapons capability under cover of a civilian program, says its atomic ambitions are entirely peaceful. It is in talks with six world powers to curb sensitive nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief. Zarif said NPT signatories should not limit transfers of nuclear technology or know-how to other treaty states as the pact itself does not ban such transfers. He said non-aligned states viewed Israel's assumed nuclear weapons as "a serious and continuing threat to the security of neighboring and other states, and condemned Israel for continuing to develop and stockpile nuclear arsenals." Israel neither confirms nor denies the widespread assumption that it controls the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal. Like nuclear powers India and Pakistan, which are members of the non-aligned movement, Israel has not signed the NPT. Israel is participating as an observer at this month's NPT conference. North Korea, which signed but later withdrew from the NPT, has tested nuclear devices.
The Jerusalem Post annual NY conference- save your seat now with early bird tickets

As Iran meddles, will the GCC-U.S. summit strengthen ties?
Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi/Al Arabiya
Monday, 27 April 2015
Gulf leaders have high hopes that they will be able to convince U.S. President Barack Obama, at their White House and Camp David meetings in May, of the folly of his current Middle East policy, which many believe threatens the region’s peace and stability.
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations are facing a clear and present danger from Iran. The region’s people believe that the recently agreed nuclear deal will bolster Iran on the economic and political fronts, allowing it to continue its expansionist policies in the region. Even before the lifting of current sanctions, Iran has been able to expand in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
If it were not for Operation Decisive Storm, it would have also taken Yemen. The operation has sent a clear message to Iran that the GCC nations’ preference for political and diplomatic detente is not a weakness and that they are prepared to act if red lines are crossed.
Taking the world by surprise
Decisive Storm was a calculated and planned operation that took many world nations by surprise, and has subsequently been ratified and supported by the U.N. Security Council. The Gulf nations did not wait for Washington or expect them to do the job, in part because the current U.S. administration has diverted from the general direction of its Middle East policies.
While the White House has stated that the summit aims to strengthen security coordination and boost the partnership between the U.S. and GCC countries, there is understandable skepticism here. This is because it comes in the wake of the nuclear deal and it turning a blind eye to Iran’s neo-imperialist machinations in Iraq and Syria.
Obama reportedly said recently that Gulf nations face a greater threat from within their own countries than from Iran. While there are clear domestic challenges for Gulf nations, including modernizing their governance structures, boosting transparency and fighting corruption, he has overstated the case. These are issues that can be dealt with effectively by Gulf leaders, but the U.S. president has conveniently forgotten Iran’s disrespect for the sovereignty of other nations and its support for various anarchist groups, which has pushed the region into further turmoil and chaos.
Economic and political benefits
There are undoubted economic and political benefits from sorting out internal challenges in the Gulf region, but it pales in comparison with the consequences of the U.S. seeking new alliances in the Middle East. Washington has not only undermined the friendship and trust between long-standing allies, it has also given Iran the green light to continue its terror operations. A case in point has been the decision by Russia to allow Iran to buy the S-300 missile defense system, which should have been subject to an agreement on lifting the economic boycott. For all this, including talk that the U.S. would abandon buying Middle East oil because of shale oil production, it would not be correct to say that it is not committed to the region’s peace and stability. The U.S. knows that Middle East energy still plays a critical role in the world economy.
The summit will be a chance for both sides to articulate their positions and draft a strategy to concretize future relations and commitments. Gulf officials would most certainly point out Washington’s mistakes, particularly its inaction over Syria that has seen terrorist groups expand their operations, and in Iraq where the door was opened for Iran.
However, the Gulf nations must ensure that they deliver a joint message to the American president so that there can be no claims later that the GCC itself was not unified in its approach to Middle East political policy. It has already taken a step in this direction, garnering it much respect and credibility by forming a coalition for Operation Decisive Storm.
There is, therefore, every chance that the upcoming meetings will lead to a new chapter in ties between the U.S. and Gulf nations, with a further opportunity to resolve seemingly endless conflicts and ensure much-needed peace and development for the region’s people.
This article was first published in Arab News on April 27, 2015.

The Islamic Genocide of Christians: Past and Present

Raymond Ibrahim /PJ Media
April 26, 2015
Last Friday, April 24, we remembered how exactly 100 years ago the last historic Muslim caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, tried to cleanse its empire of Christian minorities — Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks — even as we stand by watching as the new caliphate, the Islamic State, resumes the genocide.
And in both cases, the atrocities were and are being committed in the name of Islam.
In November, 1914, during WWI, the Ottoman caliphate issued a fatwa, or Islamic decree, proclaiming it a “sacred duty” for all Muslims to “massacre” infidels — specifically naming the “Christian men” of the Triple Entente, “the enemies of Islam” — with promises of great rewards in the afterlife.
The same Koran verses that the Islamic State and other jihadi outfits regularly quote permeated the Ottoman fatwa, including: “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them — seize them, besiege them, and be ready to ambush them” (9:5) and “O you who have believed! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are but friends of each other; and whoever among you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them” (5:51) — and several other verses that form the Islamic doctrine of Loyalty and Enmity.
Many Muslims still invoke this doctrine; it commands Muslims to befriend and aid fellow Muslims, while having enmity for all non-Muslims (one Islamic cleric even teaches that Muslim husbands must hate their non-Muslim wives, while enjoying them sexually).
As happens to this very day, the Muslims of the Ottoman caliphate, not able to reach or defeat the stronger infidel — the “Christian men” of Britain, France, and Russia — satiated their bloodlust on their Christian subjects. And they justified the genocide by projecting the Islamic doctrine of Loyalty and Enmity onto Christians — saying that, because Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks were Christian, they were naturally aiding the other “Christian men” of the West.
As happens to this day under the new caliphate — the Islamic State — the Ottoman caliphate crucified, beheaded, tortured, mutilated, raped, enslaved, and otherwise massacred countless “infidel” Christians. The official number of Armenians killed in the genocide is 1.5 million; hundreds of thousands of Greeks and Assyrians each were also systematically slaughtered (see this document for statistics).
(Although people often speak of the “Armenian Genocide,” often forgotten is that Assyrians and Greeks were also targeted for cleansing by the Ottoman caliphate. The only thing that distinguished Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek subjects of the caliphate from Turkish subjects was that the three former were Christian. As one Armenian studies professor asks, “If it [the Armenian Genocide] was a feud between Turks and Armenians, what explains the genocide carried out by Turkey against the Christian Assyrians at the same time?”)
Henry Morgenthau, the U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire and personal witness of the atrocities, attested that “I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this.” He added that what the Turks were doing was “a carefully planned scheme to thoroughly extinguish the Armenian race.” In 1918, Morgenthau wrote in Red Cross Magazine:
Will the outrageous terrorizing, the cruel torturing, the driving of women into the harems, the debauchery of innocent girls, the sale of many of them at eighty cents each [today the Islamic State sells enslaved Christians and Yazidis for as little as $43], the murdering of hundreds of thousands and the deportation to, and starvation in, the deserts of other hundreds of thousands, the destruction of hundreds of villages and cities, will the willful execution of this whole devilish scheme to annihilate the Armenian, Greek and Syrian [or Assyrian] Christians of Turkey – will all this go unpunished?
Because this genocide of Christians is usually articulated through a singularly secular paradigm — one that recognizes only those factors deemed intelligible from a modern Western point of view, one that never uses the words “Christian” and “Muslim” but rather “Armenian” and “Turk” — few are able to connect these events from a century ago to today.
War, of course, is another factor that clouds the true face of the genocide. Because it occurred during WWI, so the argument goes, it is ultimately a reflection of just that — war, in all its chaos and destruction, and nothing more. This has been the stance of all successive Turkish governments. Turkish President Erdogan, who staunchly denies that his ancestors committed genocide against Christians by arguing that they were just wartime casualties, also absurdly accused China of committing “genocide” in 2009, when less than 100 Muslim Uighurs were killed in clashes with Chinese security.
War was — and, as shall be seen, still is — a pretext to sate jihadi barbarity. Winston Churchill, who described the genocide as an “administrative holocaust,” correctly observed that “the opportunity [of World War I] presented itself for clearing Turkish soil of a Christian race.” Talaat Pasha, one of the Ottoman Empire’s “dictatorial triumvirate” during WWI, pointed out that “Turkey is taking advantage of the war in order to thoroughly liquidate its internal foes, i.e., the indigenous Christians, without being thereby disturbed by foreign intervention.”
A century later, consider how Christian minorities today are still being systematically decapitated, crucified, tortured, raped, and enslaved — also under the pretext of war. In every Arab nation the U.S. has helped oust (secular) autocrats — Iraq, Libya, Syria — indigenous Christian minorities have been massacred by the jihadi elements that were once contained by Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, and Bashar Assad (read here for details).
The Islamic State’s recent slaughter of some 30 Christian Ethiopians in Libya — and two months earlier, 21 Christian Egyptians — is merely the latest serving of Christian persecution in post “Arab Spring” Libya.
Nor is this limited to the Arab world. In Muslim-majority northern Nigeria, Muslims, spearheaded by the Islamic organization Boko Haram, are waging a savage jihad on the Christian minorities in their midst. Boko Haram’s stated goal is to cleanse northern Nigeria of all Christians — a goal that should be reminiscent by now.
But even in non-war-torn nations, from Indonesia in the east to Morocco in the west, from Central Asia in the north, to sub-Sahara Africa — in lands of different races, colors, languages, politics and economics, in lands that share only a Muslim majority — Christians are, to varying degrees, being eradicated. Indeed, in Turkey today, even indigenous Turks who convert to Christianity are regularly persecuted and sometimes slaughtered in the name of Islam. See my book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians, for a comprehensive account of what may eventually culminate into the Genocide of the 21st century.
There is no denying that religion — or in this context, the age-old specter of Muslim persecution of Christian minorities — was fundamental to the genocide of Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians. Even the most cited factor, ethnic identity conflict, while legitimate, must be understood in light of the fact that, historically, religion sometimes accounted more for a person’s identity than language or heritage — certainly it did for Muslims, in context of Loyalty and Enmity. This is daily demonstrated throughout the Islamic world today, where Muslim governments, mobs, and jihadis persecute Christian minorities — minorities who share the same ethnicity, language, and culture as Muslims, but not religion — often in retaliation to the West (just as the Ottomans, as seen, were also “retaliating” to the Triple Entente).
Finally, to understand how the Ottoman Genocide of Christians is representative of the modern-day plight of Christians under Islam in general, the Islamic State in particular, one need only read the following words written in 1918 by President Theodore Roosevelt — but read “Armenian” as “Christian” and “Turkish” as “Islamic”:
The Armenian [Christian] massacre was the greatest crime of the war, and the failure to act against Turkey [the Islamic world] is to condone it… the failure to deal radically with the Turkish [Islamic] horror means that all talk of guaranteeing the future peace of the world is mischievous nonsense.
Indeed, if we “fail to deal radically” with the “horror” currently being visited upon millions of Christians around the Islamic world — which in some areas has reached genocidal proportions according to the United Nations — we “condone it” and had better cease talking “mischievous nonsense” of a utopian world of peace and tolerance.
Put differently, silence is always the ally of those who would commit genocide. In 1939, on the eve of World WWII, Hitler rationalized his genocidal plans against the Jews, when he reportedly asked: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
And who speaks today of the ongoing annihilation of Christians under Islam?

Enduring Misguided Western Policies . . . Again
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat
Monday, 27 Apr, 2015
When, in 2003, the US and the UK decided to attack Iraq, bring down its regime, destroy its security and military apparatuses and cleanse its political life of what remained of the Ba’ath Party, their plan was met with reservations from the international community.
The reason wasn’t because non-supportive countries were enamored with Baghdad’s dictatorship, or because they were so keen to maintain sectarian privileges here or there. No, they were simply worried that there were no plans for “the day after.” No plans for the post-Saddam Iraq, or, rather, “future Iraq.”
However, as John Steinbeck beautifully put it, “You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway.”
The Anglo–American conquest, as we all know, went without resistance in the absence of military parity. However, as Iraq began an era of “occupation,” it became clear that the “occupiers” never understood the country and its people, nor did they bother to learn to understand them.
Consequently, everything was changed and overturned, and the country was gifted to Iran which gratefully took it over via its “friends” and petty agents in the form of politicians, mullahs and militiamen. But Iran’s ambitions in Iraq were not limited revenge against Saddam, his regime and political constituency. It had an expansionist regional master-plan that its leadership was in a hurry to implement.
Here the contribution of the Syrian regime came in quite handy. Its task was to facilitate the movement of extremist Sunni terrorists into Iraq in order to attack American and Shi’ite targets, thus achieving two desired objectives:
First, push the Americans to speed up their military withdrawal, leaving Iraq an “Iranian” territory.
Second, enhance Shi’ite sectarian militarism, and provide an excuse for strengthening the might of militias linked to and controlled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
And this is exactly what happened.
The Syrian regime took over the job of recruiting and sponsoring what are today described as “takfirists” and “terrorists” and helped them infiltrate Iraqi borders. In addition to the well-known case of the Abu Qa’qa’ (Mahmoud Kul-Agassi) and the Fatah Al-Islam extremist splinter group, more information is now coming to light about how Damascus has turned a blind eye to the emergence of some extremist organizations, and how it was active in establishing others. The latter were established and sponsored both inside Syria and in Lebanon where they were entrusted to undermine the popularity of the Future Movement by outbidding it with Islamist radical rhetoric within the frustrated Lebanese Sunni population.
Furthermore, quite well-known too are Iran’s strong ties with the extremist “Islamic Jihad” and the radical wing of Hamas in the Palestinian arena. The irony, however, is that while Iran boasts about its relations with the most radical and extremist Palestinian groups, it has, since the Syrian uprising, fueled a confessional civil war in Syria by accusing similar Syrian radicals of being takfirists and pushing its own sectarian militia—like Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iraq’s Al-Abbas Brigades, and the Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq—to fight them.
Still, even the plans of the shrewdest strategists can go wrong, even if one dismisses this as a conspiracy theory, which still makes the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—now occupying vast areas of Iraq and Syria, and threatening Lebanon and other countries—nothing but an Iranian product, a product that Iran uses to blackmail the West, particularly America.
It is now crystal clear that ISIS has nothing to do with the aspirations of the Syrians and Iraqis and their struggle for liberty and dignity. It does not recognize any priorities in its campaign of murder and devastation, and has no definition of who the “enemy” is. In short, for ISIS, anyone who does not fully accept its discourse and slogan is an “enemy.” For this reason it is causing extreme damage to what should have been its natural support base; it is perpetrating unimaginable human tragedies against the Sunnis of the desert rim of the Fertile Crescent.
In the meantime, as Tehran plans to demean, frustrate and push the Sunni Arabs further and further to despair, the international community seems unfazed, ignoring this plan that is most damaging to both Arab and Muslim countries.
With this said, the international community—specifically Washington—is not required to take sides in the ongoing sectarian conflict, but it is important to remind it that despair begets extremism, and extremism provokes counter-extremism.
President Barack Obama recently welcomed Iraqi Premier Haider Al-Abadi to the US, and asked the Baghdad government on more than one occasion to be aware of the negative impact of the sectarian extremism of the Shi’ite pro-government militias in the war against ISIS.
However, Washington’s position has not been decisive enough for obvious reasons: first and foremost being Obama’s keenness not to antagonize Iran, whom he dearly regards as America’s future “partner,” if not regional ally. Realizing this fact, the Iranian leadership is exploiting what remains of Obama’s term in the White House to achieve maximum gains. It is going ahead with expanding its sphere of influence from the Gulf of Aden and the Bab El-Mandeb strait to the shores of the eastern Mediterranean and the Turkish and Israeli borders.
Faced with such a scenario, other players in the Middle East do not feel they have to simply accept Obama’s risky ventures.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel, assured by its traditional support and unhappy about the White House‘s unilateral apportioning of regional influence, has decided to go on the offensive.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey has been expressing its reservations but has so far preferred to adopt maneuvering and indirect messages.
As for the Arabs, they have conveyed their reservations with their traditionally “tactful” Arab diplomacy, but without any illusions; and this time around, without betting on an American administration that seems on its way to making the same mistakes of 2003 by not heeding the advice of its friends.
It is likely that political analysts in Washington feel the current Arab discomfort, and realize that it will not express itself hastily. They also know that Washington may have to pay the price—perhaps not in the distant future—for its miscalculations in the region.
And it could be a heavy price indeed.

It is the Saudis and the Lebanese This Time
 Diana Moukalled/Asharq Al Awsat
Monday, 27 Apr, 2015
In addition to wars and direct confrontations, the Lebanese have grown used to witnessing in the public sphere a spate of verbal confrontations and a state of collective misunderstanding dominated by insults and feelings of hatred and aversion.
This has been the case among Lebanon’s Christians and Muslims, on the one hand, and its Sunnis and Shi’ites on the other.
The Lebanese Civil War, which marked its 40th anniversary a few days ago, has shown us that we Lebanese are still embedded firmly within our own sects and factions and are a mere collection of groupings, constantly confronting and fighting each other and exchanging accusations. Thus, it has become clear to us, before others, that our sectarian makeup directs our feelings, of both hatred and love, towards each other and towards those from other countries—from Israel to Syria and from Iran to Turkey, as well as the Arab and Gulf states.
Arabs have often criticized the Lebanese for their fierce loyalty to the sect, which is true; the Lebanese are indeed simply a group of sects. I am not saying this out of admiration but rather as an admission of reality. The problem is that many Arab states, after 2011, have realized that they too are made up of sects whose relations with each other exploded into civil wars and infighting, something which they have long reproached us for and claimed innocence of.
Lebanon has never been isolated from its surroundings or the world; rather, it has always wide open to outside influences, be they positive or negative. But the country’s sectarian balance has never quite been able to sap the power of division that somehow manifested itself in Lebanese culture, art and politics.
We Lebanese, as groups of sects, used to be more powerful than the state. Therefore, when the state fragmented and weakened, the country did not completely collapse. It remained resistant to complete downfall despite all the factors which might have aided this process. Meanwhile, the situation in neighboring countries—like Iraq and Syria, for example—has shown that the collapse of the state can mean the complete disintegration of a country.
Once again, this is not to praise or express admiration towards Lebanon’s sectarian makeup. It is an admission of fact as a first step towards establishing understanding and calling for a public and frank debate aimed at containing the fires around us and perhaps one day establishing a state based on the concept of citizenship, and not sectarianism. As before, misunderstandings and confrontations are being repeated in Lebanon, whether on a domestic or Arab level. The Lebanese–Palestinian problem is as old as the Lebanese Civil War. There is also the Lebanese–Syrian problem, always renewing itself and still far from coming to an end. Meanwhile, the centenary of the Armenian Genocide committed by Ottoman soldiers has sparked a fresh debate in Lebanon.
The list goes on and on and the crisis in Yemen has added to the tensions—though this time between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
I am not talking about official or partisan positions in both countries but rather a recent trend among Saudi and Lebanese commentators and writers of using the rhetoric of hatred, peppered liberally with sweeping generalizations and seething contempt.
Within the context of exchanging accusations with Iran, one Lebanese commentator attacked the Saudi Bedouin culture, while a Saudi writer respond by making note of the current Lebanese political malaise. Users of Twitter and Facebook have fanned these flames by manipulating and perpetuating the differences between the two countries. This rhetoric has also been frequently employed by several figures in different media outlets. As a Lebanese person who opposes Hezbollah and its domestic and regional roles, as well as its domestic projects, which do not represent my national ambitions, I feel insulted by the broad generalizations directed at the Lebanese. But this is also exactly how I felt when I hear the same vulgar and frankly racist language being directed against the Saudis.
Maybe we should all just take a long, deep breath before we give free rein to our acidic tongues, especially since there seems to be no end in sight to the ongoing regional crises—which will certainly not be solved while we are hurling insults and launching ridiculous, populist attacks against one another. This is not a call to bury our heads in the sand or to avoid pointing out responsibilities and mistakes. But it would be shameful to adopt this low level of rhetoric in a bid to satisfy populist instincts, an approach which aims not to contain or confront current problems so much as to capitalize on them. On the other hand, while gratuitous insults express a crisis on the part of the person who hurls them, unwarranted praise is no less hypocritical and vulgar. I hope one day we will be able to discuss our disputes with each other in a manner free from insults and hypocrisy.

Racism is patriotism’s first enemy
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Monday, 27 April 2015
Although it was a sports related matter, the Saudi king took it upon himself to hold accountable a prince who made racist remarks, and ordered him punished. This is the third message the state has made in the past two weeks against discrimination in society. The first message was due to a tweet by an employee, and the second due to sectarian discrimination in employment. The Saudi state’s law of governance and essence is clearly against sectarianism and racism. However, there are certain practises by individuals or groups that have increased due to media mobilization. This makes the state’s stance essential to protect citizens and residents alike, redirecting the moral compass toward the right path. With this message, King Salman bin Abdulaziz is solidifying basic rules of rights and duties among society’s various components. The king punished a member of the royal family to deliver a frank message against discrimination and racism, and said the kingdom is bigger and more important than all differences. There are no societies void of racism. Unfortunately, the more a society modernizes, the more discrimination appears among its members
The issue is not just related to laws but also to morals, as our society’s piousness and nature reject insulting and abusing others, and shaming one is more influential than government laws. However, these moral standards and ethics have begun to decline with time.
There are no societies void of racism. Unfortunately, the more a society modernizes, the more discrimination appears among its members. This is contrary to what some people think, that modernity disciplines people and their ethics. There are several means to address discrimination - the best is to spread a culture that fights it on all levels, whether tribal, sectarian, gender or nationality-related.
Narrowing differences requires a long-term educational program that entrenches the spirit of patriotism and fights racism on all levels. Such a program also needs a work plan that eliminates and pursues racism in all governmental departments, as well as in media outlets, schools and employment. Many countries resort to a harsher punishment against those who are publicly and deliberately racist or discriminatory. Punishment first targets institutions such as sports clubs and companies, because the violations of its members and audience are considered to be affiliated with them. Therefore, an individual’s violation is considered the entire group’s because the latter would have failed to do enough to eliminate racial impulses among its employees and members.
Not everyone who is racist or discriminatory is from ignorant mobs; we also see this among the educated. This is because such acts have become increasingly habitual, and as time passes, they have become acceptable and social forms of bullying about which people keep silent. Media outlets and social networking websites play a major role in spreading or fighting discrimination. They also have a big role in highlighting such acts and holding accountable those committing mistakes. This will contribute to cleansing society of such defects that divide people and allow attacks on others.
Collective accusations
Racism also includes discrimination against foreigners by making unjust collective accusations against them. Verbally abusing Bengalis, Ethiopians and others due to crimes committed by members of these communities is a flagrant violation against the innocent majority. We are unaware of the extent of the harm caused - either verbally or physically - due to bad propaganda spread by irresponsible media outlets. Generalization is a hateful form of racism. Those of us who have lived in Western countries are aware that these practises are wrong and dangerous, as they incite naïve people against others and persecute society’s weakest and most helpless.

France probes Rifaat al-Assad, for amassing $98 mln
AFP, Paris/Monday, 27 April 2015
The uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is under investigation in France for amassing a 90-million-euro fortune, including a stud farm and luxury apartments, despite being kicked out of Syria “with nothing” 30 years ago. French investigators have provided details to AFP of their year-long probe into the finances of Rifaat al-Assad, the younger brother of late dictator Hafez al-Assad. Rifaat has spent more than 30 luxurious years moving between homes in Paris, London and the southern Spanish city of Marbella since he was forced into exile for trying to seize power from his brother. His family’s assets, outlined by French customs in a May 2014 report, are valued at around 90 million euros ($98 million) -- much of it held through a web of businesses based in Luxembourg. The inventory includes a stud farm near Paris, as well as two mansions, two apartment blocks and a plot of land in the French capital. Rifaat told investigators he "had nothing" when he left Syria, having always given his wages away to the poor, according to a source close to the investigation.
“It was (then French president) Francois Mitterrand who asked me to come to France... he was very kind,” Rifaat said, according to the source. The investigation into Rifaat’s finances was triggered by Sherpa, an activist group representing the victims of financial crime, which claims the fortune was stolen during his time at the heart of the Syrian regime. The family claims it is the result of gifts from wealthy Saudi supporters, including former king Abdullah, with whom Rifaat shared a love of horse-racing.
“The stud farm was given to my father by prince (later king) Abdullah of Saudi Arabia,” Rifaat’s 43-year-old son, Soumar al-Assad, told investigators earlier this year. Rifaat claims he invested these gifts in property, but did not keep a close eye on the details.
“I only occupy myself with politics,” he said, according to the source. “They bring me papers to sign... I don’t know how to pay, even in restaurants.” Other members of the family have given evidence that Saudi backers have supported them ever since their exile in the 1980s. Rifaat “lives principally from the sale of apartments... and from the regular help of Saudi Arabia.”“It is not Syrian money,” said his lawyer Benjamin Grundler. However, Syria expert Fabrice Balanche, of CNRS University in Lyons, told the probe he is highly skeptical about the explanations. “Saudi Arabia has no interest in supporting Rifaat, who doesn’t represent anything,” he told investigators. Rifaat commanded Syria’s notorious internal security forces in the 1970s and early 1980s. Those forces carried out the bloody Hama massacre in 1982, which crushed a small Islamist uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood, killing between 10,000 and 25,000 civilians in the process, according to Amnesty International.

New Zealand PM: Saudi visit ‘well and truly overdue’
Amanda Fisher, Special to Al Arabiya News
Monday, 27 April 2015
On the eve of a historic state visit to Saudi Arabia, New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key has described his trip, the first by any New Zealand head of state, as “well and truly overdue.” Speaking exclusively to Al Arabiya News, Key – who is currently in Dubai and has inaugurated his country’s new Consulate General - described Saudi Arabia as a “very important country.”Answering a question regarding the reasons behind New Zealand’s absence from Saudi Arabia in the past, Key said that this was a result of a diplomatic legacy, though noted his previously scheduled trip in 2010 had to be cancelled due to a military plane crash. “In a lot of ways maybe it’s been that New Zealand had historically focused on more traditional markets and for a very long time, up until pre-1970s, virtually all New Zealand products were sold to the United Kingdom.” Recently, New Zealand has developed strong trade relations with neighbouring Asia, but the GCC now represents the country’s fifth biggest trade market. “I think the need for a visit probably wasn’t as big a priority for previous prime ministers as it is for me. We historically wanted to come sometime earlier but it has just taken some time to re-arrange this visit after we had to cancel…so look it’s well and truly overdue but it’s going to be a wonderful opportunity.”
FTA talks
One important item on Key’s agenda will certainly be attempting to push through a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Saudis. “We are trying to complete the Gulf States-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement. We’ve really got to the point in 2009 where the deal was largely complete but required ratifications that have taken some time.”Key said other countries had been in a similar situation, such as Singapore which implemented an agreement last year. “Our understanding is we’re the next potential country to come out of the blocks and to have a deal completed, so we are hopeful we’ll be able to make some progress on that front.” New Zealand-Saudi Arabia trade is worth about U.S. $1.2 billion annually, with two-thirds of that being New Zealand imports of chiefly hydrocarbons. Eighty per cent of Saudi Arabia’s imports from New Zealand comprise the country’s well-renowned meat and dairy products. New Zealand exports to the GCC have grown about 10 per cent year-on-year over the past decade, underscoring the region’s significance to the small Antipodean country of four million.
Among all GCC nations, the Saudi market is of particular significance to New Zealand. “Saudi is a significant player here in the Gulf, clearly one of the richest of all the nations in the world but also the home of a lot of potentially significant consumers for New Zealand products. We already sell to the wider Gulf region more goods and services than to the United Kingdom, so that gives you a sense of how big the market already is and I think there is a lot more potential.” Key, who was re-elected in a landslide victory for a third term last year, also promised to spend an increasing amount of time in the region. “It’s my intention to try and built deeper markets around the Gulf States once the FTA is concluded and that means spending more time in the region… It is quite clear that we haven’t spent enough time in the region and I expect to come back and spend more time here.”While the talks will seemingly largely be focused on trade, Key has earlier said he would also discuss “the complex security issues facing the Middle East.”New Zealand recently committed to sending 143 troops to Iraq to help train Iraqi security forces in the fight against ISIS. The country also embarked on a two-year United Nations Security Council term in January and is in a position to exert a degree of influence over security affairs in the region.
Key flies to Riyadh before heading to Kuwait.

Analysis: A high stakes covert battle in the North could erupt into an overt clash
By YAAKOV LAPPIN/4/27/2015/J.Post
A high stakes covert war between Israel and Iran-Hezbollah-Syria has the potential to erupt into an overt clash, and the risk of this occurring has risen somewhat in recent days, though all sides have an interest in preventing such a scenario. According to international media reports, the Israel Air Force launched multiple air strikes on strategic missile bases in Syria last week, intercepting an Iranian-Syrian attempt to smuggle advanced missiles, perhaps Scuds, to Hezbollah’s numerous weapons depots in Lebanon. The IDF has officially declined to comment on the reports. Israel’s defense establishment, it is safe to assume, strenuously weighs the risks and benefits of each covert strike before launching it. Such action is part of an ongoing, daily effort to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring high-quality, often precision guided weaponry, that will enable the Shi’ite terrorist organization to pose intolerable threats to Israeli security. Hezbollah has, in recent months, signaled that it is changing the rules of the game, and that it will no longer allow covert strikes to pass without retaliation on its part. This was evident in January, when an air strike that killed 12 senior Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps operatives in southern Syria, as they prepared to set up a terrorism base to target Israel, led Hezbollah to launch a missile ambush on an IDF convoy, killing an officer and a soldier. Had the death toll from Hezbollah’s attack been higher, a more forceful Israeli response could have followed, leading to a potential generalized escalation. Both sides had an interest in keeping the clash under control. As former IDF deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yair Naveh told The Jerusalem Post in March, “Here, both sides danced a precarious ballet, on a floor littered with shreds of glass.” The question is whether this can be repeated again. Hezbollah appears to have attacked Israel on Sunday night, when four terrorists from an Assad regime-controlled area in Syria tried to plant bombs on the border with Israel, before being killed in an IAF strike.If that attack was part of the ongoing covert war, it too underlines how the battle against the ostensible Iranian- Hezbollah weapons network has potential to escalate. Hezbollah may decide that it is not going to leave the score “unsettled” with a failed assault, and could try again soon. Counter-balancing the potential for escalation is the fact that the Assad regime and its Shi’ite allies are facing battlefield defeats across Syria in recent days and weeks, and a second, open front with Israel is surely the last thing Hezbollah, Damascus or Tehran would seek. Yet in the current combustible regional reality, it is impossible to predict where event will lead.