December 18/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor
Romans 13/01-07: "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 17-18/17
Accountability Is The Solution/Elias Bejjani/December 16/17
Banishing foreign militants and putting Lebanese sovereignty first/Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/December 17/2017
The Global Economy Is Partying Like It’s 2008/Desmond Lachman/The New York Times/December 17/2017
How China is buying its way to the top/Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/December 17/17
GCC agrees further integration at annual summit/Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg/Arab News/December 18/2017
Americans’ world view being shaped by political allegiances/Kerry Boyd Anderson/Arab News/December 18/2017
Opinion The Israeli Military First Took His Legs, Then His Life/Gideon Levy/Haaretz/December 17/17
Christians "Slaughtered Like Chicken"/Muslim Persecution of Christians, July 2017/Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/December 17/2017
Austria: New Government to Resist "Islamization"/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/December 17/2017

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on December 17-18/17
Accountability Is The Solution
Reports: British Woman Found Dead in Northern Metn
Karam Slams FPMers 'Sowing Discord' between LF, Mustaqbal
Kanaan Says FPM, LF May Restore 'Alliance' Anytime
Riachi, Khoury in 'Near-Daily Communication' to Mend LF-Mustaqbal Ties
FPM-Marada 'Reconciliation' Expected in Early 2018
Bassil Says Oil Production ‘Protects Lebanon, Leads to Stability’
Shorter: The Embassy is deeply shocked and saddened by the news of the death of a British woman in Beirut
Bassil from Tripoli: For working together in politics so Tripoli can become Lebanon's second capital once again
Bassil inaugurates FPM Office in Tripoli
Sami Gemayel in Paris to meet with French officials, Kataeb partisans
Zeaiter confers with Iraqi Counterpart on ways of promoting bilateral cooperation
Rahi: Middle East will not know peace unless international legitimacy finds just, lasting, comprehensive solution to Palestinian issue
Kanaan: Agreement with Lebanese Forces is constant
Shamsi, Ambassador of Peace
Banishing foreign militants and putting Lebanese sovereignty first

Titles For
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 17-18/17
Pakistan Church Attacked by 2 Suicide Bombers
IS Claims Pre-Christmas Suicide Bombing of Pakistan Church, 8 Dead
Thousands Protest in Indonesia against Trump’s Jerusalem Move
Dozens Killed in Philippine Tropical Storm
Kuwaiti Newspaper: Israel Attacked Iranian Military Factories In Syria
Report: Four Iranian Christian Converts Arrested Weeks Before Christmas
Israel Arrests Palestinian with Explosive Device
Gabon Arrests Dozens after Knife Attack that Injured 2 Danes
Libya Strongman Says U.N.-Backed Govt.'s Mandate Expired
Erdogan Hopes Turkey to Soon Open 'Embassy to Palestine in Jerusalem'
Palestinian Protests Called against Pence Visit to Jerusalem
In Jordan, Iraqi Christians Dream of Fresh Start Abroad
Former Israeli Minister Starts Jail Sentence for Fraud

Latest Lebanese Related News published on December 16-17/17
Accountability Is The Solution
Elias Bejjani/December 16/17
As long as the Lebanese politicians are not made fully accountable for their acts being good or bad, and as long they have sheep-wise blind followers who see in them Gods, there will be no change in the Lebanese political rotten arena except for the worst

Reports: British Woman Found Dead in Northern Metn
Naharnet/December 17/17/A dead body found Saturday morning on the side of the Fast Metn Highway has been identified as that of a British woman, media reports said on Sunday. "The body belongs to a British embassy employee and it carries clear marks of rape," MTV quoted Internal Security Forces sources as saying. A British embassy spokesman confirmed to MTV "the death of a British woman" in Lebanon, noting that the embassy is closely cooperating with Lebanese authorities while offering full support for the woman's family. MTV said the woman had spent her night at the Gemmayze nightlife area in Beirut.LBCI television and al-Jadeed TV identified the woman as Rebecca Dykes, 30.

Karam Slams FPMers 'Sowing Discord' between LF, Mustaqbal

Naharnet/December 17/17/MP Fadi Karam of the Lebanese Forces on Sunday accused some Free Patriotic Movement officials of “sowing discord” between the LF and Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s al-Mustaqbal Movement. “At a time the LF is seeking to build its alliances upon principles, some FPM instigators are seeking to build their alliances on the basis of sowing discord between the LF and al-Mustaqbal,” Karam lamented in a tweet. Hariri had on Wednesday described his relation with the Lebanese Forces as “good” while noting that it needs “some clarifications.”“The press is blowing things out of proportion,” he noted. The premier had sparked a storm of speculation on Monday when he said that certain “political parties” had stabbed him in the back during the political crisis of his surprise resignation announcement from Riyadh.

Kanaan Says FPM, LF May Restore 'Alliance' Anytime

Naharnet/December 17/17/The Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces may restore their political alliance anytime despite the current disputes, Change and Reform bloc secretary MP Ibrahim Kanaan said on Sunday. “In the FPM-LF relation, there should be differentiation between the historic reconciliation that turned the page on a bloody past and any political disagreement in which we would compete democratically,” Kanaan said in an interview with Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3). “That’s why I tell everybody to be reassured that there will be no turning back in the FPM-LF relation, which sometimes might witness disagreements,” the MP added. “But these disagreements might turn into an alliance at any moment under different circumstances,” he went on to say. The lawmaker added: “The FPM-LF agreement is firm, the Declaration of Intent is eternal, and I call for mutual frankness in order to interpret it to know what has been implemented and what has not so that we continue the process.”

Riachi, Khoury in 'Near-Daily Communication' to Mend LF-Mustaqbal Ties
Naharnet/December 17/17/There is “near-daily communication” between Information Minister Melhem Riachi and Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury with the aim of mending ties between the Lebanese Forces and al-Mustaqbal Movement, according to a Mustaqbal source. “The LF is dismayed by (Prime Minister Saad) Hariri’s alliance with President Michel Aoun, while the problem (of the LF) is not with al-Mustaqbal’s leader in this regard but rather with the Free Patriotic Movement, due to the dispute over administrative appointments that was reflected by LF’s ministers during cabinet sessions,” the source told al-Hayat newspaper in remarks published Sunday, noting that the LF and the FPM have also started to compete over Christian votes in connection with the upcoming parliamentary polls. “Some of the bickering is related to very premature calculations regarding the (2022) presidential race,” the source added, stressing that “Mustaqbal has nothing to do with the proper implementation of the Maarab agreement between the two parties.”Hariri had on Wesnesday described his relation with the Lebanese Forces as “good” while noting that it needs “some clarifications.”
“The press is blowing things out of proportion,” he noted. The premier had sparked a storm of speculation on Monday when he said that certain “political parties” had stabbed him in the back during the political crisis of his surprise resignation announcement from Riyadh. “There are political parties that tried to find a place for them in this crisis by stabbing me in the back and I will deal with these cases, case by case, but I do not hold grudge against anyone,” Hariri said.

FPM-Marada 'Reconciliation' Expected in Early 2018
Naharnet/December 17/17/A reconciliation between former Christian allies Free Patriotic Movement and Marada Movement is expected to take place in early 2018. “The first weeks of the year might witnesses important and expected reconciliations, whose indications have started to loom on the horizon,” a ministerial source told An Nahar newspaper in remarks published Sunday. The reconciliations “include one between former allies Marada and FPM, whose relation had deteriorated prior to the latest presidential settlement, specifically after Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh declared his nomination for the presidency against President Michel Aoun,” the source said. “If it is true that Prime Minister Saad Hariri is involved in pushing for this reconciliation, it would be because he was the main culprit behind the rift between the two movements, especially that it was him who first nominated Franjieh for the presidency before switching his support for Aoun’s nomination,” the source added. “Through his mediation, Hariri perhaps wants to send a clear message to his former allies in the Lebanese Forces, especially after the latest flaws in their relation that reached the extent of launching backstabbing accusations after Hariri rescinded his resignation,” the source went on to say. Hariri had on Wednesday described his relation with the Lebanese Forces as “good” while noting that it needs “some clarifications.”“The press is blowing things out of proportion,” he noted. The premier had sparked a storm of speculation on Monday when he said that certain “political parties” had stabbed him in the back during the political crisis of his surprise resignation announcement from Riyadh. “There are political parties that tried to find a place for them in this crisis by stabbing me in the back and I will deal with these cases, case by case, but I do not hold grudge against anyone,” Hariri said.

Bassil Says Oil Production ‘Protects Lebanon, Leads to Stability’
Naharnet/December 17/17/Foreign Minister and Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil has announced that oil production in Lebanon will “protect” the country. “The move we have made regarding oil will protect Lebanon and lead to stability,” Bassil said. Lebanon on Thursday approved a first bid from an international consortium including France's Total, Italy's ENI and Russia's Novatek to explore for oil and gas off the country's Mediterranean coast. The group was the only one to respond to a call for bids by the authorities in Beirut, with Lebanon's attempts to begin offshore energy exploration in recent years hampered by political instability. The government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri has made finding progress on the oil and gas prospects a priority since its formation in 2016 as Lebanon looks to tap potential reserves after major offshore gas discoveries by neighboring Israel and Cyprus. "The cabinet has approved the granting of exploration permits... in blocks 4 and 9," Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil announced. The successful bid from the consortium covers only two of five blocks that were offered by the Lebanese government. Khalil said the next step would be for the government to sign an official agreement with the group and that explorations would not start before the beginning of 2019. Lebanon is hoping the discovery of energy resources off its coast will provide a much-needed boost for its battered national coffers. Hariri insisted the offer from the consortium was "good" and marked an important step forward after lengthy delays. "After five years of discussions on this question, the government will be in a position to sign the first oil and gas exploration deal," the premier said. Analyst Diana Kaissy, who heads the Lebanese Oil and Gas Initiative think-tank, said it was "impossible to know" the extent of the accessible reserves before exploration operations begin. But she said "preliminary evaluations" showed the five blocks offered by the government were the "most promising," with block nine bordering a sector disputed by Israel. Lebanon is wracked by severe electricity shortages due to the woeful state of its infrastructure and widespread corruption.

Shorter: The Embassy is deeply shocked and saddened by the news of the death of a British woman in Beirut

Sun 17 Dec 2017/NNA - In an issued statement by the British Embassy on Sunday following news reports on the death of a British woman in Beirut, British Ambassador Hugo Shorter said: "The whole embassy is deeply shocked and saddened by this news. Our thoughts are with Becky's family, friends and colleagues for their tragic loss. We are providing consular support to Becky's family and working very closely with the Lebanese local authorities who are conducting the police investigation." News reports have indicated that the body which was found yesterday on the Metn Expressway belongs to British national, Rebecca Dykes.

Bassil from Tripoli: For working together in politics so Tripoli can become Lebanon's second capital once again

Sun 17 Dec 2017/NNA - Free Patriotic Movement Head, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, stressed Sunday on working together politically so that Tripoli can return, once again, to being the second capital of Lebanon, and not for the sake of gaining electoral votes. Bassil's words came before a crowd of citizens and supporters who gathered in Tripoli's Port region to welcome his visit, in the presence of Environment Minister Tarek Khatib, Economy Minister Raed Khoury and various prominent North officials. "God willing, we can work together for this city so that its people can be relieved, and to re-launch the economy so that people can find jobs," said Bassil. "If we implement the projects promised to Tripoli, this alone will revive the city and restore its role as the capital of the North in the near future," he added.

Bassil inaugurates FPM Office in Tripoli
Sun 17 Dec 2017/NNA - Free Patriotic Movement Head, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gibran Bassil, inaugurated Sunday an office for the FPM in the city of Tripoli, northern Lebanon, in the presence of Environment Minister, Tarek Khatib. During the inauguration, Bassil said that FPM's offices will open in all Lebanese regions, noting that there will be no forbidden region in this respect.

Sami Gemayel in Paris to meet with French officials, Kataeb partisans
Sun 17 Dec 2017/NNA - Kataeb Party Head, MP Sami Gemayel, began Sunday a visit to Paris where he will hold talks with senior French officials and leaders, which are to kick-off tomorrow by his meeting with French House Speaker François de Rouge. In an issued statement by his media office, it indicated that "Gemayel's talks in the French capital come at a delicate moment in Lebanon and the region, whereby he will be stressing during his encounters on boosting the historic friendship ties linking between Lebanon and France, and the need to protect Lebanon from the repercussions of events in the region." "The Kataeb Head, in addition to his talks with French officials, will be meeting with partisans in the French capital to brief them on the prevailing atmosphere in the country, and to urge Lebanese expatiates to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections," the statement added.

Zeaiter confers with Iraqi Counterpart on ways of promoting bilateral cooperation
Sun 17 Dec 2017/NNA - Agriculture Minister Ghazi Zeaiter, currently on a visit to Iraq, met Sunday with Iraqi Agriculture Minister Fallah Hassan Zeidan Al-Lahibi, with talks centering on widening the horizons of cooperation between Lebanon and Iraq, particularly in the agriculture field. Zeaiter expressed optimism towards the fruitful meeting with his Iraqi counterpart, and joy for Iraq's liberation from terrorist groups, hoping for further progress and victories for Mesopotamia. "The stability of Lebanon is an interest of Iraq, and the stability of Iraq is an interest for Lebanon as well, and for all brotherly Arab countries fighting against terrorist attacks," said Zeaiter. He disclosed that discussions with the Iraqi Minister touched on bilateral relations, noting that a memorandum of understanding and cooperation will be signed between both the Lebanese and Iraqi Agriculture Ministries after completing the necessary measures. "Our meeting today signals the start of exchanging expertise and the flow of agricultural commodities between Lebanon and brotherly Iraq," Zeaiter added. "Iraq has always stood by Lebanon in all matters, which will also be evident in the implementation of the understanding agreement within two weeks as promised by the Iraqi Agriculture Minister," he asserted.

Rahi: Middle East will not know peace unless international legitimacy finds just, lasting, comprehensive solution to Palestinian issue
Sun 17 Dec 2017/NNA - Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Butros al-Rahi deemed Sunday that there could be no peace in the Middle East unless the international legitimacy works to find a just, lasting and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue. "The Middle East will not know peace unless the international legitimacy finds a just, lasting and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian cause that guarantees the Palestinian people's legitimate right to have their own state on the land where they have lived for centuries," stressed al-Rahi. The Patriarch's words came as he presided over Sunday Mass at the Transfiguration Church in the border town of Rmeish following its inauguration. "Being here on the Southern borders, we cannot but recall our connection to Jerusalem, the holy city on whose land redemption occurred...Jerusalem is a holy city for both the Jewish religion and Islam as well, in which all believers in God of the three religions are invited, by divine providence, to live together in peace, building God's peace in the world," added al-Rahi. "Hence, we cannot accept the Judaization of Jerusalem," asserted the Patriarch, referring to US President Trump's decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Al-Rahi called, herein, for adhering to the Apostolic Chair's stance in this respect, namely that "Jerusalem would have a special international status that protects all the holy sites belonging to each of the three religions," and that "Jerusalem would be a universal symbol of brotherhood and peace, based on its stable peace."

Kanaan: Agreement with Lebanese Forces is constant
Sun 17 Dec 2017/NNA - "Change and Reform" Parliamentary Bloc Secretary, MP Ibrahim Kanaan, said Sunday that the agreement between the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces was constant.
Kanaan, whose position came during an interview to "Voice of Lebanon" Radio Station, added that he was proud of the inter-Christian reconciliation achievement held between both parties. On a different note, the lawmaker said that his political party was in favor of the adoption of waste incineration plants, not landfills, to solve the solid waste crisis in Lebanon. He called for keeping the waste file away from politics, deeming that the health of the Lebanese citizens was not part of a bidding war. Kanaan finally indicated that the financing of waste incineration plants was ready, ensured by the European Union.

Shamsi, Ambassador of Peace
Sun 17 Dec 2017/NNA - President of the Universal Peace Federation, Thomas Welch, named the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Lebanon, Hamad Shamsi, as the "Ambassador of Peace" during a conference held at the Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut, in the presence of Arab and European parliamentarians. This tribute is paid to personalities who dedicate their lives in service of others, especially in humanitarian and development fields, in order to preserve global values and family life and to strengthen the role of the media in promoting the culture of peace.

Banishing foreign militants and putting Lebanese sovereignty first
Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/December 17/2017
“If we didn’t speak to Iraqi politicians with blood on their hands, we’d have nobody to talk to,” one Baghdad-based diplomat recently explained to me. Yet one Iraqi paramilitary leader in particular has such a toxic reputation that Western diplomats take extreme care to distance themselves: He is Qais Al-Khazali.
As well as kidnapping and murdering coalition soldiers, Al-Khazali is also complicit in sectarian massacres against Baghdad’s Sunnis since 2005. His militia force, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, has such an appalling reputation for war crimes that even fellow militants express disgust at its worst abuses and distance themselves from Al-Khazali’s anti-Sunni hate speech, including thinly veiled calls for sectarian cleansing. For example, in Mosul Al-Khazali urged “vengeance against the slayers of [the Shiite Imam] Hussain.”
It is thus clear why Al-Khazali’s Hezbollah-sponsored visit to southern Lebanon at a time of heightened tensions was blatantly provocative. Al-Khazali and his subordinates were treated to a VIP tour of a closed military zone without a permit and without official permission to enter Lebanon or clearance from UN peacekeepers. This flies in the face of Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701 on Lebanon, prohibiting “foreign fighters” and demanding demobilization of all militia entities — Hezbollah included.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri condemned Al-Khazali’s visit as “illegal,” but why no stronger measures in response to this subversive challenge to Hariri’s authority and Lebanon’s sovereignty? Hariri’s government recently declared an official policy of “disassociation” from regional confrontations. So how can Hezbollah, which sits in this same government, be offering sponsored visits to notorious foreign terrorists? Hariri also had to rebuke Hezbollah’s deputy leader, Naim Qassem, who hurled abuse at Saudi Arabia during a recent conference in Tehran.
If a Jordanian or Saudi general had strolled uninvited into Lebanon and declared his intention to use Lebanese territory as the frontline for a new war against Israel, there would rightly have been uproar. When Hezbollah’s allies engage in such behavior, everybody shrugs their shoulders.
This highlights how Hezbollah’s actions actively subvert the nation’s sovereignty, dragging Lebanon kicking and screaming toward becoming a mere protectorate of Iran, and a party to a war that nobody wants. So much for Hariri’s disassociation pledge.
Within Lebanon’s plural society — including Christians, Sunnis, Druze and others — there is a sub-segment of the Shiite community that is fiercely loyal to Hezbollah. This loyalty has been partially undermined after more than 2,000 of their sons returned from Syria in body bags; although large increases in aid from Tehran have made Hezbollah less dependent on grassroots support. Even among this pro-Hezbollah demographic, citizens are primarily loyal to Lebanon and feel intense disquiet at the prospect of Lebanese sovereignty being undermined by Iran or any other party. These same Shiite communities bore the brunt of the 2006 war and desperately don’t want, yet again, to lose their homes and loved ones in a futile conflict.
Israel is feverishly awaiting an opportunity to cut Hezbollah down to size. Hence Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz’s recent promise to “return Lebanon to the stone age,” adding that “what happened in 2006 would be a picnic in nature compared to what we can do.” With good reason, most Lebanese fervently detest Israel for repeatedly destroying their country — but this gives them even greater reason to be repelled by the prospect of renewed conflict.
In a speech earlier this year, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened to invite Shiite fighters from across the region to participate in an epic confrontation with Israel. Iraqi paramilitary leaders welcome such a transnational role that helps justify their continued existence following Daesh’s downfall. Iraqi militants affiliated to Al-Khazali have amassed close to the Israel-Syria border, while Al-Khazali’s former deputy, Akram Al-Kaabi, even established a Golan Liberation Brigade, whose name gives away their intended aim.
Hezbollah’s actions actively subvert the nation’s sovereignty, dragging Lebanon kicking and screaming toward becoming a mere protectorate of Iran and a party to a war that nobody wants.
During an inflammatory video documenting his Lebanon visit, Al-Khazali pledges “our full preparedness to stand united... against the Israeli occupier.” Al-Khazali even grandiosely proclaimed his vision for a new sectarian “Islamic state” on Lebanese soil and under Iranian tutelage: “The whole country together with Hezbollah is ready to fight, as a prelude to the Islamic state, which is ruled by the awaited Mahdi.” Presumably, this “Islamic state” would come into being after Lebanon as we know it had ceased to exist.
Nasrallah knows that, in the event of conflict, while his leadership hides deep underground, Hezbollah would lose hundreds of foot soldiers and see tens of thousands of Lebanese citizens slaughtered. Yet Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stands ready to replenish Hezbollah’s armories, and such a confrontation would fuel a radicalized climate in which thousands more young Shiites would swell Hezbollah’s ranks to replace those “martyrs.”
By expanding the conflict into the Golan and drawing in thousands of transnational Shiite fighters, Tehran hopes to regionalize the conflict. As Al-Khazali previously declared: “The Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq and the Houthis are working hard to make the ground fertile for the Imam Al-Mahdi… We’ll continue to work toward our project of a Shiite full moon, not a Shiite crescent as our enemies say.” The UN’s ongoing investigation into the Iranian rockets fired from Yemen into Riyadh illustrates the degree to which Tehran believes itself to be waging a regional conflict.
Israel and Iran are sworn enemies, yet both profit immensely from their symbiotic coexistence. Benjamin Netanyahu spent a decade blocking initiatives for peace with the Palestinians because “Iran is the priority threat.” Meanwhile, Iran dresses up its expansion across Arab lands within the rhetoric of confronting Israel. By fighting each other on Lebanese soil, using proxy fighters or long-range military technology, both sides indirectly engage in a virtual war and come out strengthened and emboldened over the smoking ruins of Arab lands.
Israel will do Iran’s work for it by blasting Lebanon and Syria “back to the stone age,” creating a blank slate upon which Iran can establish territories under its permanent hegemonic control.
Lebanese citizens often feel bullied into acting as if Hezbollah’s state-within-a-state is the only force which matters in the domestic political arena. This is untrue. When Hezbollah acts as a proxy for Iran and seeks to provoke an immensely destructive war, it will find few Lebanese willing to follow it down this futile path.
Few people disagreed when Hariri recently declared that the problem of Hezbollah’s attempts to “hijack” the Lebanese state and undermine its neighbors had become bigger than Lebanon. Following the debacle over Hariri’s canceled resignation, there must not be a humiliating retreat back to the failed policy of appeasing Hezbollah and hoping that Nasrallah will be satiated when given everything his voracious appetite demands.
Such an approach never worked during the years after Hezbollah murdered Saad’s father, Rafik Hariri. In the current climate, it is even less likely that such compromises to Lebanon’s sovereignty and statehood would prevent Hezbollah from ripping the nation limb from limb with Israel and Iran’s enthusiastic assistance.
Now is the moment to look the devil in the eye and take a tough stand against Hezbollah and Iran’s violations of Lebanese sovereignty. The government’s decision to dissociate itself from the conflicts buffeting the region is absolutely correct during these troubled times. However, the leadership must have the courage of their convictions in enforcing this aspiration.
If they do act rigorously and decisively, Lebanon’s leaders will find massive domestic support for this most noble of objectives: Putting Lebanese sovereignty first.
• Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on December 17-18/17
Pakistan Church Attacked by 2 Suicide Bombers
New York Times/December 17/17/ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Two suicide bombers attacked a church packed with worshipers on Sunday in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least eight people and injuring at least 30 others, several critically, officials said. The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, claimed responsibility for the attack in Quetta, the capital of the restive Baluchistan Province, in the country’s southwest. The group’s Amaq News Agency posted a statement online Sunday that said attackers had stormed a church in Quetta, but gave no further details. The assault raised concerns about the security of religious minorities, especially Christians, in a country with a dismal record when it comes to the treatment and protection of religious minorities, analysts say. Pakistani officials denied that ISIS had an organized presence in the country, however, even though the terrorist group has claimed responsibility for several other attacks in Baluchistan in recent years.
“Law enforcement agencies have badly failed in protecting common citizens, and minorities in particular,” said Shamaun Alfred Gill, a Christian political and social activist based in Islamabad. “December is a month of Christian religious rituals,” Mr. Gill said. “We had demanded the government beef up security for churches all over the country. But they have failed to do so.” Christians make up at least 2 percent of the country’s population of about 198 million. Most of them are marginalized and perform menial jobs. The attack, a week before the Christmas holiday, unfolded in the early morning hours at Bethel Memorial Methodist Church. About 400 people had gathered for Sunday service when an assailant detonated his explosives-laden vest near the door to the church’s main hall. Another attacker failed to detonate his suicide jacket and was shot by security forces after an intense firefight, officials said.
Sarfraz Bugti, the provincial home minister, said the death toll could have been higher had the attacker managed to reach the main hall of the church, which is on one of the busiest roads in the city and near several important public buildings. Security forces at the site of the attack, which raised questions about Pakistan’s ability to protect religious minorities. Credit Naseer Ahmed/Reuters. Local television networks broadcast images of terrified worshipers running out of the church as the attack was underway. Several young girls, wearing white frocks and holding red bags, could be seen fleeing the compound. Witnesses told local news outlets that people, panicked and frightened, had rushed out after hearing a loud explosion, followed by the sound of gunfire outside. As security forces moved inside the main hall after the attack, they were confronted by a scene of bloody destruction. Several benches and chairs were overturned. Musical instruments were turned upside down.
A Christmas tree with decorative lights stood at one corner, and a pool of blood lay outside the door where the suicide bomber had detonated explosives. Two women were among the dead, and 10 women and seven children were among the injured, hospital officials said. Most of the injured were taken to the Civil Hospital nearby. Quetta has been the scene of violent terrorist attacks recently, and a large number of military and paramilitary troops, apart from the police, have been deployed to maintain security. About 400 people had gathered for Sunday service when a bomber detonated explosives, sending worshipers fleeing. Credit Banaras.  Officials have repeatedly claimed that they have reduced violence in Baluchistan, a rugged and resource-rich province bordering Afghanistan and Iran. But the ease with which the attackers managed to carry out their assault on Sunday seemed to belie those claims.
“The army repeatedly claims that it has broken the backbone of terrorism in the country,” Mr. Gill said. “But terrorism is still very much present and destroying the lives of common people.”An insurgency by Baluch separatists has long simmered in the province, and the Taliban and other militants maintain a presence in the region. Some officials were quick to shift blame toward Afghanistan, pointing to the presence of havens there for militants. “The terrorists have safe sanctuaries across the border in Afghanistan,” said Anwar-ul Haq Kakar, a spokesman for the Baluchistan government. “They have become a major source of terrorism inside Baluchistan.”Many minority leaders, however, stressed that there was a bigger need to look inward to ensure security for religious minorities, especially Christians.
“This attack is a serious breach of security,” Mr. Gill said. Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud contributed reporting.

IS Claims Pre-Christmas Suicide Bombing of Pakistan Church, 8 Dead
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 17/17/A suicide bomb attack on a Pakistan church claimed by the Islamic State group killed at least eight people and wounded 30 during a service on Sunday, just over a week before Christmas. Two women were among the dead at a Methodist church in the restive southwestern city of Quetta in Balochistan province, said provincial Home Secretary Akbar Harifal.Several of the wounded were in serious condition, police added. Officials said police intercepted and shot dead one attacker outside the church before he could detonate his bomb. But the second managed to reach the church's main door, where he blew himself up. "Police were quick to react and stop the attackers from entering into the main hall," provincial police chief Moazzam Jah told AFP. Each attacker was carrying 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of explosive plus grenades, said civil defence official Aslam Tareen. IS, in a brief statement on its Amaq news agency, claimed responsibility. Balochistan provincial home minister Sarfraz Bugti said around 250 people normally attend the church on Sundays, but the congregation had swelled to around 400 because it was close to Christmas. "God forbid, if the terrorists had succeeded in their plans more than 400 precious lives would have been at stake," tweeted the home minister. An AFP reporter at the scene saw shattered pews, shoes and broken musical instruments littered across the blood-smeared floor of the church.
Liaqat Masih, a member of the congregation, said he was heartbroken by the violence and feared for his life as the firefight erupted between one attacker and police, who were later reinforced by paramilitaries and regular troops. "I am devastated to see many of our dear ones dead and wounded today here in front of me," said Masih, 35. Hours after the attack reports surfaced that a total of four attackers had been involved, with two escaping. Senior police official Abdul Razzaq Cheema said investigators were analysing CCTV footage to check the claim and had launched a search for any further suspects. Christians make up an estimated 1.6 percent of Pakistan's 200 million people and have long faced discrimination -- sidelined into lowly paid jobs and sometimes the target of trumped-up blasphemy charges. Along with other religious minorities, the community has also been hit by Islamic militants over the years. Following the latest attack, dozens of Christians protested in the northwestern city of Peshawar and called on officials to protect religious minorities. In 2013 82 people were killed when suicide bombers targeted a church in the city. And last year Lahore suffered one of Pakistan's deadliest attacks during the Easter season -- a suicide bomb in a park that killed more than 70 people including many children. The bombing was later claimed by the Jamaat ul Ahrar faction of the Pakistani Taliban. Police and troops have been battling Islamist and nationalist insurgencies in mineral-rich Balochistan for more than a decade. Balochistan, bordering Iran and Afghanistan, is the largest of the country's four provinces but its roughly seven million people have long argued they do not get a fair share of its vast gas and mineral wealth. Efforts to promote peace and development have reduced the violence considerably in recent years.The push includes continuing work on a mammoth Chinese infrastructure project -- the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor -- which will provide Beijing with a modern-day Silk Road to the Arabian Sea through Balochistan's deep-sea port of Gwadar.

Thousands Protest in Indonesia against Trump’s Jerusalem Move
Tens of thousands of Indonesians took to the streets of the capital Jakarta on Sunday to protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Wearing white robes and carrying banners reading "Indonesia unites for Palestine" and "Save our Palestine," an estimated 80,000 people rallied in the capital of the world's largest Muslim nation in the 10th straight day of protests. Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono said the protesters marched peacefully about 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from the National Monument Park to the US Embassy. Some local media reported the number of the demonstrators was double the police estimate. A police spokesman said 20,000 police and members of the military were deployed to ensure security. “We urge all countries to reject the unilateral and illegal decision of President Donald Trump to make Jerusalem Israel’s capital,” Anwar Abbas, the secretary general of the Indonesian Ulema Council, told the crowd. “We call on all Indonesian people to boycott US and Israel products in this country” if Trump does not revoke his action, Abbas said, reading from a petition due to be handed to the US ambassador in Indonesia. Previous anti-American protests have unsuccessfully lobbied for a boycott of US goods. The petition also demanded nations not follow the US in moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and urged the UN Security Council to hold an emergency session to discuss Trump's declaration. Sunday’s rally the biggest protest in Indonesia since Trump’s controversial move earlier this month to reverse decades of US policy. Police estimated the number attending the rally, organized by various Muslim groups, at about 80,000. Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has strongly condemned Trump's move as a violation of UN resolutions. Indonesia does not have diplomatic ties with Israel and has long been a strong supporter of Palestinian aspirations for a statehood. The status of Jerusalem, a city holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians, is one of the biggest barriers to a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace. Jerusalem’s eastern sector was captured by Israel in a 1967war and annexed in a move not recognized internationally.Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for the capital of an independent state that they seek, while Israel maintains that all of Jerusalem is its capital.

Dozens Killed in Philippine Tropical Storm
Asharq Al-Awsat/December 17/17 /At least 26 people were killed in the Philippines in landslides triggered by Tropical Storm Kai-Tak, authorities said on Sunday.
Some 23 were missing in the eastern Philippines a day after the storm pounded the archipelago nation. Kai-Tak tore across the major islands of Samar and Leyte on Saturday, toppling power lines in 39 towns or cities and damaging roads and bridges, the national disaster agency said. "There is a total of 26 people dead from landslides in four towns of Biliran. We have recovered the bodies," Sofronio Dacillo, provincial disaster risk reduction and management officer, told AFP. Gerardo Espina, governor of the island province just east of Leyte, gave the same figure for deaths in an interview on ABS-CBN television. He said 23 people were missing. The national disaster risk reduction agency could not immediately confirm if the 26 deaths in Biliran included the initial three fatalities it reported on Saturday. Kai-Tak weakened on Sunday afternoon, with gusts of up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) an hour, and was reclassified as a tropical depression, state weather forecasters said. But disaster officials warned that more floods and landslides were possible and said 15,500 passengers were stranded because ferry services remained suspended in parts of the region.  "I've been stranded for three days, sleeping in the bus, and I just want to get home to my family for Christmas," Eliaquin Pilapil, a 55-year-old farmer, told AFP from a port in the town of Matnog in the eastern province of Sorsogon. The Christmas holidays are a busy travel season in the mainly Catholic Philippines, with people heading home to the provinces. The nation is battered by about 20 major storms each year. Samar and Leyte bore the brunt in 2013 of Super Typhoon Haiyan which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing. In the Leyte city of Tacloban, Saturday's storm brought flash floods of up to 1.5 meters (five feet) and strong winds that left the city without power and water, according to its disaster office chief. "The storm moved so slowly that it brought so much rain to our city. The floods resulted from four days of rain," Ildebrando Bernadas, head of Tacloban's disaster risk reduction office, told AFP. Bernadas said 82 percent of Tacloban's districts were flooded. Heavy rains and large waves have stranded at least 11,000 people in various ports in the region, according to the Philippine Coast Guard. More than 10,000 people have fled to evacuation centers, local media reported. Several provinces were placed under storm warning signals, where heavy rains may persist, the weather bureau said.

Kuwaiti Newspaper: Israel Attacked Iranian Military Factories In Syria
Jerusalem Post/December 17/17/According to the report, the majority of sites allegedly targeted have one common feature.
Over the past several months, Israel struck Iranian military factories in Syria, including factories located within civilian industrial areas, according to a report published Saturday by Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida. The newspaper cited intelligence sources and military experts to shed light on attacks attributed to the Israeli Air Force in Syria in recent months. Syria and other involved parties have declined to detail the nature of targeted sites. According to the report, the majority of sites allegedly targeted — including in Hisya, near Homs, Jamariya, west of Damascus, the Damascus neighborhood of Al-Kiswah and Masyaf — have one common feature. They're all seemingly civilian industrial sites but, in reality, are Iranian military factories built since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011.
The report referred to the Jamariya site that included a scientific center, destroyed at the start of the Syrian crisis by Israel, and nearby security and intelligence centers that were transformed into military bases in Mount Qasioun, overlooking Damascus, that have been attacked multiple times.
The site and its surroundings also included radar bases which Israel believes are used to disrupt fighter jet abilities, in addition to factories producing surface-to-air missiles developed by Iran under the supervision of Hezbollah.  According to Al-Jarida sources, Israel has taken action across Syria in order to "blind Syrian defensive capabilities" ahead of a major Israeli military operation in cooperation with the US, resulting from Israel's perception of an Iranian military presence in Syria, in addition to Lebanon, as a tangible threat. The Al-Kiswah base contained Iranian facilities and Hezbollah bases in addition to weaponry depots and a factory for the construction of advanced missiles. According to the report, Tehran has been building weaponry depots and factories in different areas of Syria and has transferred missile parts to the site, where they are constructed according to needs on the ground.
In other words, Iran has not been constructing its missiles in a single location due to its fear of the site being attacked. New information relating to Hisya, near Homs, was also published. According to foreign reports, Israel attacked the site in November 2017. The base, located 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of Homs, was used for the production of Iranian precision missiles. The missiles were produced in a factory owned by a Lebanese businessman linked to Hezbollah, Abd Al Nur Shalan, who was blacklisted by the US Treasury Department in 2015 due to his connections with the military activity of Hezbollah. According to the information, Shalan is acting under the alias Yasser Muhmad. Another Lebanese businessman, Abd Al-Kareem Ali, was also mentioned in the report due to his connections to Iranian military industry and cooperation with Hezbollah on Syrian soil.
Unlike other bases allegedly struck by Israel, the Hisya facility is located within a civilian industrial area. Military experts told the Kuwaiti newspaper the facility proves that Tehran has started to hide its military activity in Syria, as it does in Iran itself, and is developing Syrian weaponry in civilian facilities, such as centers for agricultural and technological research, as it did in Lebanon. There, Iran set up factories and bases for Hezbollah in industrial areas located between Lebanese cities and towns.

Report: Four Iranian Christian Converts Arrested Weeks Before Christmas
Jerusalem Post/December 17/17/The Iranian government's official news agency referred to them as members of a "devious Christian cult." Four Iranian converts to Christianity were arrested last Tuesday in the city of Karaj, about an hour drive from Tehran, according to Persian media reports. Two weeks before Christmas, Iranian security forces raided six houses the converts used as home churches, detained four and dragged them away. Milad Goudarzi, Amin Khaki, Alireza Nour-Mohammadi and Shehabuddin Shahi were engaged in a "Christian ceremony" prior to the arrest, according to Radio Farda, the Iranian branch of the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty external broadcast service. Furthermore, Radio Farda reported, security forces raided two shops belonging to two of the converts and confiscated some of their merchandise. One of the shops was sealed off for “overcharging,” “profiteering” and “breaking guild regulations.” IRNA, the Iranian government's official news agency, defended the arrests. “Elements of a devious Christian cult who were promoting it and attempting to disrupt the market and economic order have been arrested,” it claimed Tuesday. Iran claims to allow freedom of religion, and has historically reserved five seats in its 290-member parliament for recognized religious minorities — one for a Jew, two for Christians and two for Zoroastrians — even since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

Israel Arrests Palestinian with Explosive Device
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 17/17/Israeli police on Sunday arrested a Palestinian carrying an explosive device as he approached a military court in the occupied West Bank, security officials said. Specialists examined the device, which did not explode, the Israeli police said, without providing further details. Local media said the military court was located in the Nablus area in the north of the occupied Palestinian territory. Israeli public radio said the Palestinian hailed from the Jenin refuge camp further north in the West Bank. A second explosive device was discovered inside his coat, the radio added, but there was no confirmation of this from the Israeli police. Tensions have been high in the Palestinian territories since U.S. President Donald Trump on December 6 recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital. On Saturday, thousands of Palestinians took part in funerals for four men killed Friday in clashes with Israeli forces during protests against the decision in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction has called for massive protests on Wednesday against a visit to Jerusalem by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. The status of Jerusalem is one of the most controversial issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel seized control of the eastern part of the city in the 1967 Middle East war and sees the whole of Jerusalem as its undivided capital. The Palestinians view the east as the capital of their future state.

Gabon Arrests Dozens after Knife Attack that Injured 2 Danes
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 17/17/Police in Gabon arrested dozens of people on Sunday over a knife attack in the capital apparently committed in retribution for "U.S. attacks against Muslims", officials said. The men detained were mostly traders and sellers in the popular market in Libreville where the attack occurred on Saturday -- and all are from west Africa, according to an AFP correspondent. They were taken to police headquarters were they are due to be questioned, an official said. "Operations are ongoing," government spokesman Alain-Claude Bilie By Nze told AFP. "We are not commenting at this stage."Two Danish nationals working for the National Geographic channel were wounded in the attack, he said. Police said the assailant is a 53-year-old Nigerian man who, according to witnesses, shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest) during the attack. The man, who has lived in Gabon for 19 years, said in his first statements that he "acted in retaliation for U.S. attacks against Muslims and America's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital," Defence Minister Etienne Massard said Saturday. Residents said the man was from the Muslim Hausa/Fulani community of northern Nigeria and sold smoked meat from a cart in the city and in the market. "We are still gathering information," Bilie By Nze said. The market in Libreville, popular with tourists, was shut down after the incident and remained closed on Sunday, with security forces manning the gates. Authorities have said the attack appeared to be politically motivated, but have not publicly classified it as terrorism. Gabon, a small French-speaking former colony with 1.8 million inhabitants, has so far been spared the Islamist-inspired attacks that have taken place in some neighbouring countries.

Libya Strongman Says U.N.-Backed Govt.'s Mandate Expired

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 17/17/Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar insisted Sunday that the mandate of the country's U.N.-backed government has run out after what he said was the expiration of a tattered 2015 political deal. The U.N.-brokered agreement signed in Morocco on December 17, 2015 established Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) for a one-year period, renewable only once. Despite that deal, Libya has remained divided between the GNA government in Tripoli led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and a rival administration backed by Haftar in the east. In a televised speech Haftar, who has never recognized the GNA's authority, said the "expiry of the Libyan political accord" marked a "historic and dangerous turning point.""All bodies resulting from this agreement automatically lose their legitimacy, which has been contested from the first day they took office," he said. The United Nations Security Council on Thursday insisted the 2015 deal remains the "only viable framework" to prepare for elections next year. The U.N. in September launched a fresh push to agree a new accord aimed at bringing stability to Libya, which has been in chaos since the 2011 ouster of long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi. One of the main stumbling blocks is the inclusion in any potential government of Haftar, whose Libyan National Army dominates the country's east. In a statement on Sunday the U.N.'s special representative to Libya Ghassan Salame said Libyans were "fed up with violence" and hoped "for a political solution, for reconciliation and for harmony." "I urge all parties to heed their voices and refrain from any actions that could undermine the political process," the statement said.

Erdogan Hopes Turkey to Soon Open 'Embassy to Palestine in Jerusalem'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 17/17/President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed hope on Sunday that Turkey would soon be able to open an embassy to a Palestinian state in East Jerusalem, as he again denounced Donald Trump's recognition of the city as the Israeli capital. Erdogan has sought to lead Islamic condemnation of his U.S. counterpart's move, calling a summit of the leaders of Muslim nations last week in Istanbul who urged the world to recognize East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel after it seized control of the area in the 1967 war, in a move never recognized by the international community. "Because it is under occupation we can't just go there and open an embassy," Erdogan said in a speech to his ruling party in the city of Karaman. "But, inshallah (God willing) those days are near and... we will officially open our embassy there," he said, without giving any precise timescale. Turkey currently has a general consulate in Jerusalem. Ankara has full diplomatic ties with Israel, and like all other nations, its embassy is in Tel Aviv. Erdogan again slammed his U.S. counterpart's decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel and move the U.S. embassy in Israel to the city, saying it smacked of a "Zionist and evangelist logic and understanding." He said Jews had no right to "appropriate" Jerusalem which was the the "capital of Muslims."
"Please stop where you are and don't attempt any Zionist operation," he said. "If you try, then the price is going to be high." Erdogan hailed the outcome of the December 13 summit which he said showed the "world a vote of unity."
However the meeting was shadowed by the level of attendance from close U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who sent lower-level officials rather than leaders. In a speech on the eve of the summit, Erdogan had warned Muslims against "internecine warfare" and "attacks to bring down Muslims from within" saying fighting with each other "only helps terror states like Israel." Israel has reacted relatively coolly to Erdogan's repeated broadsides over the last days, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was "not impressed" by statements made at the summit.

Palestinian Protests Called against Pence Visit to Jerusalem
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 17/17/Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction on Saturday called for a massive demonstration next week to protest against a visit to Jerusalem by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, after Washington said it would recognize the holy city as Israel's capital. Breaking with decades of U.S. policy, President Donald Trump also said on December 6 that he would move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In New York, Egypt on Saturday circulated a draft resolution that would affirm that any change to the status of Jerusalem has no legal effect and must be rescinded.Diplomats said the council could vote on the proposal as early as Monday, with the United States expected to use its veto power to block it but with most, if not all, of the 14 other council members backing the measure.
Trump's declaration has stirred global condemnation and sparked angry protests across Arab and Muslim countries, as well as deadly clashes in the occupied territories between Palestinians and Israeli forces. It also prompted Abbas to cancel a meeting with Pence, who arrives Wednesday in Jerusalem, and warn that Washington no longer had a role to play in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. "We call for angry protests at the entrances to Jerusalem and in its Old City to coincide with the visit on Wednesday of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and to protest against Trump's decision," Fatah said in a statement. The status of Jerusalem is one of the most controversial issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel seized control of the eastern part of the city in the 1967 Middle East war and sees the whole of Jerusalem as its undivided capital. The Palestinians view the east as the capital of their future state. The call to protest came as thousands of Palestinians took part in funerals for four men killed Friday in clashes with Israeli forces during protests in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. Mourners chanted anti-Trump slogans and masked men fired into the air during one of the ceremonies in the village of Beit Ula in the occupied West Bank.Funerals were also held for the two other Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, where the enclave's Islamist Hamas rulers had on Friday called for a "day of rage".One of those killed was Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh, a Palestinian who lost his legs in an Israeli attack a decade ago. With his wheelchair, he was a regular feature at protests along Gaza's border with Israel. Hamas chief Ismail Haniya attended Abu Thurayeh's funeral in a refugee camp west of Gaza City. Friday's deaths brought to eight the number of Palestinians killed in violence or air strikes since Trump's Jerusalem move, and hundreds have been wounded.
Western Wall row
Pence will no longer see Palestinian officials during his visit to the region after they -- as well as Egyptian Muslim and Christian religious leaders -- canceled meetings in protest at the embassy move. "We understand that the Palestinians may need a bit of a cooling off period, that's fine," a senior White House official said Friday. "We will be ready when the Palestinians are ready to re-engage." Pence is expected to try to push the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward after he lands in Jerusalem on Wednesday, U.S. administration officials have said. They also suggested that the Western Wall -- in largely Palestinian east Jerusalem -- would almost certainly be part of Israel under any deal, sparking Palestinian condemnation. "We will not accept any changes to the 1967 border of east Jerusalem," Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for the Palestinian president, said Saturday. "This American position proves once again that the current U.S. administration is completely out of the peace process," he said. A U.S. administration official said Friday: "We cannot envision any situation under which the Western Wall would not be part of Israel." Another added: "We cannot imagine Israel would sign a peace agreement that didn't include the Western Wall."The Western Wall is the holiest site where Jews are permitted to pray, at the foot of the Haram al-Sharif compound housing the Al-Aqsa mosque and the golden-topped Dome of the Rock, the third holiest site in Islam.

In Jordan, Iraqi Christians Dream of Fresh Start Abroad
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 17/17/Inside a church in Jordan, a displaced Iraqi Christian mother dreams of a brighter future for her children far from the war-torn country they were forced to flee. She is among thousands of Iraqi Christians from the northern town of Bartalla to have sought refuge in neighbouring Jordan after running for their lives from jihadists. "We've lost everything. Our houses have been pillaged and destroyed. There's nothing left over there to make it worth returning," said Walaa Louis, 40. When the Islamic State group swept across northern Iraq in 2014 they told Christians to convert, pay tax, leave or die. Tens of thousands chose to flee. Baghdad has announced final victory over the extremist group, but Louis says she will not return to a country where she does not feel safe. She, her husband and three children -- now aged 16, 15 and eight -- fled Bartalla in August 2014, trekking for hours in the dead of night to the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Arbil. They endured months of struggle in Arbil, including sleeping rough in parks or inside churches. Iraqi forces retook Bartalla from IS earlier this year, but when Louis returned to her hometown in August she found nothing but a home in cinders. She and her husband decided to head to Jordan, where they filed with the U.N. refugee agency for resettlement "in any safe country" to ensure her children's future. But as Christmas approaches, Louis said her family has received no financial aid and their money is running out. "We've spent everything we had," said Louis, who suffers from a heart condition. "I can't even see a doctor or buy Christmas presents for my children," she said. For now, her youngest son is among some 200 children aged 6 to 14 attending night classes at the Marka Latin Church in the Jordanian capital Amman.
'Right to life'
They are taught by volunteer Iraqi teachers, and receive books, clothes and meals for free. The night classes are all in English, the school's head Sanaa Baki said, as the parents of most Iraqi students have applied for resettlement abroad. She hopes the language skills will help the children better settle in foreign schools if these requests are granted. Some 10,000 Iraqi Christian refugees live in Jordan, according to Father Rifaat Badr, who heads a Catholic research centre. Many of them dream of new lives in Europe, Canada, Australia or in the United States. The church's priest, Khalil Jaar, believes education is also key to the children remembering where they come from. "The saying goes, 'If you want to destroy a people, erase their history and make their children ignorant'," he said. "We need to work to ensure all these children are given their right to education and to life."This month, France's ambassador to Jordan, David Bertolotti, visited the church to announce a 120,000 euro ($140,000) donation for the night classes to continue until the end of the school year. Under a large Christmas tree, children with wooden crosses dangling around their necks sang the Iraqi national anthem at the top of their lungs. Ban Benyamin Yussef, a mother-of-four, was among the parents present. "After Daesh members plundered, destroyed and burned our home and my husband's grocery shop, we decided to pack our bags and seek refuge in Jordan, hoping to start a new life," the 43-year-old said, using an Arabic acronym for IS. It was the last leg of a journey fleeing harassment across Iraq. "When sectarian violence flared in 2006, we received death threats and fled Baghdad for Mosul," a city in northern Iraq, she said. Threatened there too, they escaped to a small village north of the city -- until IS arrived in 2014. But even now that Iraqi forces have claimed victory over the jihadists, Yussef and her family have no intention of returning to Iraq. "We can't go back. Our towns have been destroyed. We've lost everything."

Former Israeli Minister Starts Jail Sentence for Fraud

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 17/17/A former Israeli minister on Sunday started serving a 15-month jail sentence for fraud and breach of trust, judicial sources said. Stas Misezhnikov, who was tourism minister from 2009 to 2013, was sentenced to prison in October for handing one million shekels ($280,000) in financial support to a student festival while securing a job at the event for a woman with whom he had an intimate relationship. Misezhnikov starts serving time as public pressure increases to demand legal action against "corrupt" officials and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself faces two separate graft probes.Misezhnikov is a member of Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman's ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party. In August, Yisrael Beitenu secretary general Faina Kirshenbaum, who was deputy interior minister from 2013 to 2015, was charged with corruption, breach of trust, fraud and money laundering. On Saturday, thousands of Israelis protested for a third week running in Tel Aviv to demand legal action against "corrupt" people in the government and their resignation. The demonstration came a day after Netanyahu was questioned for the seventh time since January 2 in a corruption probe. In one investigation, the prime minister is suspected of illegally receiving gifts from wealthy personalities including Australian billionaire James Packer and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan. In a second case, police suspect Netanyahu sought a secret pact for favourable coverage with the publisher of the top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper. The alleged scheme, not believed to have been finalized, would have seen him receive favourable coverage in return for helping curb Yediot's competitor, the pro-Netanyahu freesheet Israel Hayom. The 68-year-old premier has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and says he is the target of a smear campaign by political opponents.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 17-18/17
The Global Economy Is Partying Like It’s 2008
Desmond Lachman/The New York Times/December 17/2017
In late 2008, at a meeting with academics at the London School of Economics, Queen Elizabeth II asked why no one seemed to have anticipated the world’s worst financial crisis in the postwar period. The so-called Great Recession, which had begun in late 2008 and would run until mid-2009, was set off by the sudden collapse of sky-high prices for housing and other assets — something that is obvious in retrospect but that, nevertheless, no one seemed to see coming.
Are we about to make the same mistake? All too likely, yes. Certainly, the American economy is doing well, and emerging economies are picking up steam. But global asset prices are once again rising rapidly above their underlying value — in other words, they are in a bubble. Considering the virtual silence among economists about the danger they pose, one has to wonder whether in a year or two, when those bubbles eventually burst, the queen will not be asking the same sort of question.
This silence is all the more surprising considering how much more pervasive bubbles are today than they were 10 years ago. While in 2008 bubbles were largely confined to the American housing and credit markets, they are now to be found in almost every corner of the world economy.
As the former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan recently warned, years of highly unorthodox monetary policy by the world’s major central banks has created a global government bond bubble, with long-term interest rates plumbing historically low levels.
He might have added that this bubble has hardly been confined to the sovereign bond market. Indeed, stock values are at lofty heights that have been reached only three times in the last century. At the same time, housing bubbles are all too evident in countries like Australia, Britain, Canada and China, while interest rates have been driven down to unusually low levels for high-yield debt and emerging-market corporate debt.
One reason for fearing that these bubbles might soon start bursting is that the years of low interest rates and avid central bank government bond buying that spawned the bubbles now appear to be drawing to an end.
The Federal Reserve has already started to raise interest rates — on Wednesday it hiked the benchmark rate by a quarter of a percentage point — and has announced a schedule for reducing the mammoth amount of government securities it holds. At the same time, with the European and Japanese economic recoveries picking up pace, both the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan are hinting that they are likely to soon follow the Fed’s lead in tightening monetary policy by raising rates.
Other reasons for fearing that the bubbles might soon start bursting are the fault lines in a number of major economies. Italy has both a serious public debt problem and a shaky banking system. Brazil is experiencing political turmoil while its public finances are on a clearly unsustainable path. China has a housing and credit-market bubble that dwarfs the one in the United States at the start of this century. And both Brazil and Italy will be holding contested parliamentary elections next year.
This is not to mention the economic dislocation that could result from a termination of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or from the accentuation of other protectionist tendencies, whether by the United States or by another big country. Nor is it to mention the risk that events in the Korean Peninsula could spin out of control.
Economic policymakers seem to have lulled themselves into a false sense of security by trusting the stricter bank regulations put in place after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. They seem to be turning a blind eye to the dominant role that so-called shadow banks (hedge funds, private equity funds, large money market funds and pension funds) play in the American financial system now. Unlike the banks that were covered by the Dodd-Frank regulations, these institutions are lightly regulated — but, as we painfully learned in 1998 when the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management had to be bailed out, are subject to deposit runs just like banks.
It is too late for policymakers to do much to prevent bubbles from forming. However, it’s not too early for them to start thinking about how to respond in a manner that might free us from the boom-bust cycles that we seem to be experiencing every 10 years. They could, for example, create a program that in a severe downturn would give every citizen a cash grant to be spent at their discretion, what Milton Friedman called “helicopter money.”
It’s unclear, however, whether the world’s largest economy can take the lead this time. The Trump administration’s budget-busting tax cuts risk overheating markets even further and limiting the government’s ability to respond when the bubbles pop. This heightens the risk that when the bubbles burst, we’ll be forced to rely yet again on artificially low interest rates, which will set us up yet again for another boom-bust cycle.

How China is buying its way to the top
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/December 17/17
On a recent visit to Pakistan I was surprised to find a great deal of infrastructure development going on: new bridges, roads, airports, ports, the works. The amount of economic development was staggering – to say nothing of quite inconsistent with our image of Pakistan as rather backwards and impoverished and chronically corrupt. Inconsistent even with my knowledge of the place which I owe to my family ties to the country. But the mystery is soon elucidated. All the projects have the same brand to them. They are all part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Because of the lack of security, the endemic corruption and the frailty of the rule of law, no one in international capital markets would lend to the country on this scale. Frankly, I would not trust the government in power to have the imagination to try to borrow to invest in their country’s development.
Luckily, Pakistan happens to be just where China needs to build its trade infrastructure towards the West. The price China is willing to pay to avoid having to trade through the treacherous waters of the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca far outweighs even all the problems and costs associated with investing in Pakistan. So far, China has committed $62 billion to the Pakistan section of their New Silk Road, and are likely to invest much more in the future.
Even as we look forward with trepidation to the rise of China and the relative decline of the West, if China achieves their rise entirely by peaceful means, that will still be something we have to respect. The benefits that this investment brings to the people of Pakistan cannot be overstated. They will reap much of the rewards of that investment. And China has shown in the past, for example in Africa, that it is a good partner to local populations, building not only infrastructure and productive facilities where they employ locals, but also schools and other public utility facilities. To underline their ambitions in Pakistan, Chinese academic Prof Yiwei Wang proposed at the Warsaw Security Summit that China’s investment in the country will make Pakistan fully energy independent by 2020 – this will be a first in the country’s history. The salutary effects of Chinese involvement in the country are such that they are also recognised across the board by almost all the political parties in this fractured, divided country – even the militant religious ones. They, along with the powerful Army and intelligence services are all in agreement that Pakistan’s relationship with China is the most important strategic relationship the country has, and must be preserved and advanced.
New Silk Road
And Pakistan is not the only country where this is true. Myanmar is also edging ever closer to China due to Chinese investment in another branch of the New Silk Road across the country. The central Asian former Soviet republics are also on board. And before long, Russia too will be firmly within China’s sphere of influence, especially when the natural gas pipelines between the two countries open and the Russian state’s revenues will be increasingly dependent on Chinese largesse. All this points towards China’s inexorable rise as the world’s pre-eminent superpower. And if things continue along the current trajectory, it seems like China will be able to achieve this entirely through peaceful means: something no other dominant power has ever achieved in history. Even as we look forward with trepidation to the rise of China and the relative decline of the West, if China achieves their rise entirely by peaceful means, that will still be something we have to respect. Just as we have to respect the fact that, in the words of Prof Wang again, China is having much more success eliminating poverty in the New Silk Road areas than Western-imposed Washington Consensus economics and Western sweatshop investments have done. China’s power grows by winning over hearts and minds: and it is winning them for good reasons.

GCC agrees further integration at annual summit
Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg/Arab News/December 18/2017
Gulf leaders made significant progress on three key issues during talks at the 38th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit on Dec. 5, ensuring the meeting in Kuwait could be regarded as a great success. The summit adopted measures to speed up GCC integration, approved new approaches to regional issues — including counter-terrorism, Iraq, Yemen and how to deal with Iran — and agreed to give international and regional partnerships top priority. On the dispute between member states, Kuwait had proposed before the summit — and all agreed — that the issue should be treated separately and in isolation of the GCC integration process and its international and regional partnerships. The aim was to immunize the GCC against internal disagreements. At the summit, Bahrain handed over the mantle of the GCC presidency to Kuwait and the emir vowed to continue his mediation efforts, while separately shepherding the GCC’s integration and its relations with the rest of the world. The GCC’s adversaries were betting against the summit taking place and fed the media a steady stream of false news and faulty analysis. Right up to the last minute, some news organizations continued to express doubts about the summit and tried to derail it once it was confirmed. Besides isolating internal disputes from the rest of the GCC’s work, what then were the main conclusions of the summit? I will outline three main outcomes. The first and most important instrument of integration was the instructions directed at all GCC bodies, councils and committees to complete without delay the implementation of King Salman’s vision for the GCC, according to the timetables previously agreed. ​​​​In one important part of this vision, the GCC Unified Military Command will include GCC land, naval and air forces. The existing Peninsula Shield Force, GCC Maritime Coordination Center and GCC air forces will be placed under the new unified command. This process of integration of GCC forces is already underway and is expected to be completed in 2018. For internal security, GCCPol, an intra-GCC police coordination center set up four years ago, has been given a wider mandate to fight terrorism and terrorism financing.
Economic integration was given a boost as recommendations by the Economic Development Commissions, including a measure to complete the GCC Economic Union by 2025, were approved. With the GCC Customs Union launched in 2003 and the Common Market in 2008, the Economic Union aims to complete the process of economic integration envisaged in the GCC Economic Agreement of 2001, including integration of the financial markets and banking systems. Gulf leaders make progress on plans for Unified Military Command, new approaches to crises in region, and improving relations with international partners. Second, the GCC summit approved several measures to deal with regional crises, including those in Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. On Iraq, the summit approved a proposal to launch a “strategic dialogue” with Iraq. It also expressed member states’ decision to participate fully in the Kuwaiti-hosted international donors’ conference, scheduled for February 2018, to mobilize funds and global consensus on the recovery and reconstruction of Iraqi areas liberated from Daesh. The summit further urged Iraqis to unite behind their government as it completes the liberation of all territories from Daesh and embarks on reconciliation between all parties along the lines previously approved, including inclusive governance in all political, administrative and security areas. On Yemen, while condemning the brutal assassination of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh by Houthi militias, the summit nevertheless called for a political solution of the crisis, mediated by UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and based on UN Security Council Resolution 2216, the GCC Initiative and the outcomes of the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference, which included all major Yemeni political groups, including the Houthis.
On Palestine, the summit was briefed on developments in Washington regarding Jerusalem, but the summit concluded a day before President Donald Trump made his announcement. There were attempts during the summit to change the US position and afterwards the leaders vowed to continue their efforts to try to reverse the American decision or change the course of its implementation. They agreed to communicate directly with the US administration to express GCC views on the matter.Third, the summit’s instruction about regional and international partnerships could not be clearer — that they should be deepened and expanded. Immediately after the summit, a large GCC delegation was dispatched to London for three days of intensive discussions to implement previously agreed plans on GCC-UK strategic partnership in fighting terrorism, cybersecurity and cooperation in resolving regional crises. Other engagements with regional and international partners are being planned for 2018. Kuwait’s presidency has expressed its determination to push forward with cementing relations with all GCC partners during its term in 2018.
• The author is a columnist for Arab News. He can be reached by email: Twitter: @abuhamad1

Americans’ world view being shaped by political allegiances
Kerry Boyd Anderson/Arab News/December 18/2017
Several polls of US public attitudes toward global issues reveal that the deep and growing partisan divide in domestic politics is also shaping Americans’ views of the world. It is particularly fascinating that Republican and Democratic positions are shifting — and even flipping — on issues such as Russia and Israel. At the same time, while there are wide gaps on many issues, there is close alignment on the seriousness of the threats posed by North Korea and Daesh.
Americans’ attitudes toward Russia today are affected by whether they identify as Republican or Democrat. Polling data from the Pew Research Center going back several years showed that the parties’ views of Russia were fairly closely aligned; for years, Republicans were more likely to view Russia as a threat to the US, but the gap between Republicans and Democrats was not large. Today, the parties’ views have swapped, and the divide has grown significantly. Pew polling data from late October shows that 61 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of Republicans view Russia as a “major threat.” This is a stunning shift in views from the years prior to 2016.
Polling data by Pew and others traces this sudden switch directly to the 2016 presidential election and accusations that Russia interfered in support of the Republican candidate, Donald Trump. A report by Shibley Telhami at the Brookings Institution, using data from early November, found deep partisan divides over whether Russian interference affected the outcome of the presidential election, with 74 percent of Democrats saying that Russia interfered and its interference affected the outcome — compared to only 8 percent of Republicans who agreed. Interestingly, most Americans believe that Russia interfered in the election; the biggest point of disagreement is regarding whether Moscow’s actions actually helped Trump win. While only 23 percent of Republicans said that Russia did not interfere, 59 percent of Republicans said Russia did interfere but it probably did not affect the election’s outcome.
In both the Pew and Brookings reports, Americans’ views on whether Russia interfered and whether it helped or hurt their party’s candidate are directly related to the shift in whether Republicans or Democrats view Russia as a major threat. The Brookings study found that 55 percent of Democrats view Russia as a foe and only 29 percent of Republicans do — a significant decline from traditional Republican hawkish views of Russia. However, most Republicans have not shifted to viewing Russia as an ally but rather as neither an enemy nor a friend (56 percent). The Brookings report also found that many Democrats and Republicans are willing to work with Russia on areas of mutual interest, such as fighting Daesh.
Another area of US foreign policy that has seen a shift in partisan views is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For decades, both US political parties were very supportive of Israel, but in recent years Americans identifying as Democrats have shifted away from a strongly pro-Israel perspective while Republicans have increasingly embraced pro-Israel positions. Multiple factors have led to this shift, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s clear alignment with the Republicans and the growing influence of pro-Israel evangelical Christians in the Republican party.
Growing partisan divide on key issues is likely to lead to greater swings in US foreign policy based on which party controls the White House.
This trend has led to wide partisan gaps on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. For example, the Brookings report finds that 81 percent of Democrats opposed moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, while a plurality of 49 percent of Republicans supported the move. While members of both parties believe that the Trump administration leans in favor of Israel, they disagree on whether this is a good thing — with a majority of Republicans preferring a pro-Israel approach and a large majority of Democrats saying they prefer a balanced approach that does not favor either side.
Despite large and growing partisan gaps on multiple foreign policy issues, there are some areas of agreement. The recent Pew poll found that 71 percent of Americans take the nuclear threat from North Korea “very seriously” — more so than any other threat in the survey. There is very little partisan difference on that point and related issues, such as whether North Korea’s leadership is willing to use a nuclear weapon against the US. However, when it comes to Americans’ confidence “in Trump’s ability to handle the situation in North Korea,” once again there is a wide partisan divide, with 80 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning Americans expressing some or a lot of confidence in Trump, while only 9 percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning Americans feel the same.
The growing partisan divide on key issues is likely to lead to greater swings in foreign policy based on which party controls the White House. For example, while one US administration might be pro-Russia and pro-Israel, the next might be anti-Russia and less likely to automatically support Israel. Foreign leaders that closely align themselves with one party or the other could benefit when that party is in charge but lose when the other wins. Wise foreign leaders taking long-term perspectives will try to build relationships within both Republican and Democratic parties to try to insulate their interests from future sharp shifts in US policy.
• Kerry Boyd Anderson is a writer and political risk consultant with more than 14 years’ experience as a professional analyst of international security issues and Middle East political and business risks. Her previous positions include deputy director for advisory with Oxford Analytica and managing editor of Arms Control Today. Twitter: @KBAresearch

Opinion The Israeli Military First Took His Legs, Then His Life
Gideon Levy/Haaretz/December 17/17
On Friday, a sharpshooter shot and killed Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, a Gazan double amputee, as he protested from his wheelchair near the Israeli border
The Israeli army sharpshooter couldn’t target the lower part of his victim’s body — Ibrahim Abu Thuraya didn’t have one. The 29-year-old, who worked washing cars and who lived in Gaza City’s Shati refugee camp, lost both legs from the hips down in an Israeli airstrike during Operation Cast Lead in 2008. He used a wheelchair to get around. On Friday the army finished the job: A sharpshooter aimed at his head and shot him dead. The images are horrific: Abu Thuraya in his wheelchair, pushed by friends, calling for protests against the U.S. declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; Abu Thuraya on the ground, crawling toward the fence behind which the Gaza Strip is imprisoned; Abu Thuraya waving a Palestinian flag; Abu Thuraya holding up both arms in the victory sign; Abu Thuraya carried by his friends, bleeding to death; Abu Thuraya’s corpse laid out on a stretcher: The End.
The army sharpshooter couldn’t aim at the lower part of his victim’s body on Friday so he shot him in the head and killed him
It can be assumed that the soldier realized that he was shooting at a person in a wheelchair, unless he was shooting indiscriminately into the crowd of protesters. Abu Thuraya posed no danger to anyone: How much of a danger could a double amputee in a wheelchair, imprisoned behind a fence, constitute? How much evil and insensitivity does it take in order to shoot a handicapped person in a wheelchair? Abu Thuraya was not the first, nor will he be the last, Palestinian with disabilities to be killed by soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces — the most moral soldiers in the world, or not. The killing of the young disabled man passed almost without mention in Israel. He was one of three demonstrators killed Friday, just another humdrum day.
One can easily imagine what would happen if Palestinians had killed an Israeli who used a wheelchair. What a furor would have erupted, with endless ink spilled on their cruelty and barbarism. How many arrests would have resulted, how much blood would have flowed in retaliation. But when soldiers behave barbarically, Israel is silent and shows no interest. No shock, no shame, no pity. An apology or expression of regret or remorse is the stuff of fantasy. The idea of holding those responsible for this criminal killing accountable is also delusional. Abu Thuraya was a dead man once he dared take part in his people’s protest and his killing is of no interest to anyone, since he was a Palestinian
The Gaza Strip has been closed to Israeli journalists for 11 years, so one can only imagine the life of the car-washer from Shati before his death — how he recovered from his injuries in the absence of decent rehabilitation services in the besieged Strip, with no chance of obtaining prosthetic legs; how he rumbled along in an old wheelchair, not an electric one, in the sandy alleys of his camp; how he continued washing cars despite his disability, since there are no other choices in Shati, including for people with disabilities; and how he continued struggling with his friends, despite his disability.
No Israeli could imagine life in that cage, the biggest in the world, the one called the Gaza Strip. It is part of a never-ending mass experiment on human beings. One should see the desperate young people who approached the fence in Friday’s demonstration, armed with stones that couldn’t reach anywhere, throwing them through the cracks in the bars behind which they are trapped. These young people have no hope in their lives, even when they have two legs to walk on. Abu Thuraya had even less hope. There is something pathetic yet dignified in the photo of him raising the Palestinian flag, given his dual confinement — in his wheelchair and in his besieged country. The story of Abu Thuraya is an accurate reflection of the circumstances of his people. Shortly after he was photographed, his tormented life came to an end. When people cry out every week: “Netanyahu to Maasiyahu [prison]” someone should finally also start talking about The Hague.

Christians "Slaughtered Like Chicken"/Muslim Persecution of Christians, July 2017
المسيحيون يذبحون كالدجاج..إضطهاد للمسيحيين لشهر تموز
Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/December 17/2017
"These draconian [blasphemy] laws are being used as a tool for discrimination and forcible conversion every day and the world stays silent. This poor boy will now face a most daunting court case and will lose most of his life in prison..." — Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman, British Pakistani Christian Association. Pakistan.
The pastor, Amos Lukanula, said, "We cannot allow the Muslims to put up a mosque in place of the church." The congregation first purchased the property in 2004; once they had erected a temporary church, local Muslims pulled it down. Another structure the congregation had spent three years building was again brought down by area Muslims in 2007. When, by 2009, Muslims could not raze the third partially built church —made of stone blocks not easily brought down—they filed a legal complaint prompting a court order to halt construction until the legal dispute could be resolved. The court case has dragged on for over eight years. — Tanzania.
A Muslim man raped a 3-year-old Christian girl, injuring her permanently. "[H]er 10-year-old son, Daud, was looking after his younger sister, a Muslim friend of Altaf, named Muhammed Abbas, came over. The man requested Daud to buy cigarettes for him from a nearby market. When Daud came back from a shop, Abbas kept him waiting outside the house and raped his sister. Abbas finally opened the door for Daud, lit a cigarette and left. When Daud went inside, he found his sister naked, covered in blood and screaming." Police initially refused to investigate the rape until a local lawmaker exerted pressure on the authorities. — Pakistan.
"Christians who refused to renounce their faith were jailed indefinitely without trial. 173 long-term prisoners of faith remain behind bars in brutal conditions. They include many church leaders." — Rev. Dr Berhane Asmelash. Eritrea.
Luc Ravel, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Strasbourg "went against the grain of Church leaders in France who have largely remained politically correct," states a report, because he criticized "the demographic shift in France. Muslims, he said, are having far more children than native French, and slammed the widespread 'promotion' of abortion." "Muslim believers," he continued, "know very well that their birthrate is such that today, they call it ... the Great Replacement, they tell you in a very calm, very positive way that, 'one day all this, it will be ours.'"
Luc Ravel, Archbishop of Strasbourg, recently criticized "the demographic shift in France. Muslims, he said, are having far more children than native French." (Image source: Peter Potrowl/Wikimedia Commons)
Another Christian leader, while discussing Sudan in particular, touched on what Christians throughout the Muslim world are facing, and why. "The government in Sudan wants to Islamize the whole population and they want to finish off Christianity and other faiths in Sudan," said Pastor Strong. "We have to put pressure on the government so that the rights of the people to practice their faith openly will be given to them." To achieve this, he added, they need the support of the "global Church": "They are in the midst of trials, persecution, hunger — a lot of problems. And yet in the midst of all that, they rejoice. They're always ready to die, and they testify their faith in every circumstance. They are willing to serve no matter what they have and what they might lose."
July's roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Pakistan: On July 24, an Islamic suicide-bomber detonated explosives, killing himself in an area heavily populated by Christians. At least 26 people were murdered. According to human rights activist Bruce Allen, "What the mainstream media is not reporting is that this is the second-largest Christian colony in Pakistan where this blast occurred"—only a mile-and-a-half from where "pastors in Pakistan meet on a monthly basis, where they receive their monthly financial support, where they get together for sharing prayer requests and have some ongoing training centers and things like that." After explaining how many suicide terror attacks target Christians, he explained how such ongoing terror "puts the Christians at this heightened state of alert, and they have been for some time. We recall last Easter, a time of great celebration, and there's an attack against Christians in the parks. And that's what they live with constantly.... [W]e talk about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with people in combat. Well, here you have a whole population of people who that's what their life is: combat. And so it has psychological, spiritual, and emotional wearing."
Separately, a Muslim "master" tormented and then murdered his Christian "slave." Javed Masih, 32, the Christian was, according to the report, "repaying a debt that his family had contracted three years ago.... In reality he was a slave." After he was accused of stealing a motor bicycle, "the Christian was repeatedly beaten with sticks and other objects. He was taken to the hospital and died from serious torture." The family sought justice and filed a case with police, but as is usual, the police refused to take the case and the Muslim "master" and his allies threatened the Christian family to withdraw the charge. As the older brother of the slain man explained "We want justice. We are poor and therefore the police refuse to listen to us and record the complaint. Large landowners are threatening serious consequences because we have opposed any compromise. All this is because we are Christians and poor." The murderer said the slain man committed suicide, a claim the family strongly rejects.
Kenya: Muslim militants linked to the jihadi group Al Shabaab hacked 13 non-Muslims, most of whom were Christian, to death with machetes. "They were slaughtered like chicken using knives.... We suspect there are many bodies that haven't been recovered," police said. The incident took place on Sunday, July 9 in a village near Lama. Because the Muslim terrorists were "only targeting male non-Muslims," local Muslims directed them to Christians. "The Christians were asked to recite the Islamic dogmas, which they could not, hence they were killed," a local source explained. Another man explained how the militants "were asking the villagers to produce their identification cards and if you were found to be a Christian you would be shot or slaughtered.... Victims have been evacuated to camps where food and security is provided by [the] government and the Kenya Red Cross," he added. "We are hosting more than 200 people in our church and we expect the number to increase as more families are evacuated from Boni Forest."
Egypt: Another Christian solider was killed by fellow (Muslim) soldiers once they learned he was a Christian. Joseph Reda Helmy had just completed his military training when he was transferred to Al-Salaam ("peace"), a special forces unit, where three officers killed him. He is at least the sixth Christian soldier to be killed for his faith in recent years. According to the slain man's father, "his large, strong son had arrived at the camp at 2 p.m. and was dead by 8 p.m." His cousin, who retrieved the body, said his dead cousin "had bruises on his head, shoulders, neck, back and genitalia, with the worst injuries occurring on his back." He also learned from eyewitnesses that "the three officers began to harass Helmy because of his Christian faith, and that the marks on his body indicate they kicked him with their boots and hit him with heavy instruments." As in all of the previous cases where Christian soldiers were killed by their Islamic counterparts, the Egyptian army told relatives that the slain had died of something else, in this instance, an "epileptic seizure." But even the "doctor who examined the body refused to bow to pressure from those who brought it and reported that the cause of death was not natural."
Also, of the jihadi slaughter of Christians traveling to a desert monastery in late May, 2017, more details emerged. Speaking from her hospital bed, one of the survivors of the massacre, Mariam Adel, a young mother whose husband and nine of her relatives were killed in the attack, said that after the jihadis opened fire on their bus, they went onboard and "ordered them off the bus and told them to convert to Islam." "Renounce our faith? Of course not," Mariam said of the women's collective reaction. "If we had, they might have let us off the bus and treated us well. But we only want Jesus and we are confident he will not leave us." The militants responded by robbing the women of their possessions, which they justified doing as properly earned "spoils of war." A 10-year-old boy whose father was slaughtered said that "They asked my father for identification then told him to recite the Muslim profession of faith. He refused, said he was Christian. They shot him and everyone else with us in the car. Every time they shot someone they would yell 'God is great,'" or, "Allah is greater."
Nigeria: At least one Christian student was killed by an Islamic suicide attacker from Boko Haram. "Ambore Gideon Todi, a 21-year-old student at the University of Maiduguri in Borno state, was staying in the Evangelical Church Winning All's student ministry tent when Boko Haram suicide bombers detonated explosives," according to a report. "It is believed that he was not the only one affected by the bomb blast," a fellow student, said "as there were others involved... in their fellowship program.... The authorities did not say anything about their demise till after nine days. We knew of his death because he is from my state."
Muslim Attacks on Christian Freedom:
Pakistan: Another Christian was arrested for allegedly "blaspheming" against Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. Nadeem Ahmed, a leading figure in the Islamist organization Tehreek e Tahafuz e Islam, filed a complaint against Shahzad Masih, a 16-year-old Christian who worked as a hospital sweeper. The Islamist group then circulated pictures of the youth through their social media platforms with insulting and threatening captions; they also threatened to slaughter him if police were to release him. Police moved the teenager to an unknown location—and even "refused to acknowledge holding the boy, and will not give the family access to him." Local mosques went on to publicize the incident heavily, prompting outrage among Muslims. They threatened his family with death, causing them to flee into hiding. A spokesman for the Islamist group said that "the judicial system should inflict the worst possible punishment on Shahzad Masih [meaning execution] so that no one will dare commit blasphemy again ever." According to Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, "These draconian [blasphemy] laws are being used as a tool for discrimination and forcible conversion every day and the world stays silent. This poor boy will now face a most daunting court case and will lose most of his life in prison; moreover, in the current climate a sentence could lead to his death via judicial or extrajudicial process."
Ethiopia: A gang of Muslims with machetes violently hacked at a Christian, leaving "the 27-year-old man needing life-saving surgery," says a report. A "doctor, believing he would die en route to a bigger hospital, operated on his wounds. Although he is still unwell, the surgery stabilised him enough to be taken elsewhere for more specialised treatment." The Muslim gang that attacked him was reportedly angry at him for publicly evangelizing among Muslims. They first attacked the local church, creating damage to its wall and roof, before traveling to his home where the incident took place.
Iran: Four Muslim converts to Christianity, and accused of promoting it, were sentenced to ten years in prison. The four men were arrested in May during a series of raids on Christian homes by security service agents. The report notes that such harsh sentences are becoming the norm: "Whereas in recent years Christian converts involved in house church activities could expect to receive prison sentences of up to 2 years, sentences of 10 years or more in prison have been handed down in recent cases.... The four men were officially charged with 'acting against national security,' a catch-all charge often used by the Iranian government to punish different types of religious and political dissent. The government often uses it against converts instead of the charge of apostasy, according to freedom of religion advocates, in an attempt to avoid international scrutiny."
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Egypt: After nearly three months of deadly terrorist attacks—including suicide bombing on churches that left nearly 50 Christians dead, followed by the slaughter of nearly 30 Christians traveling to a monastery in the Sinai and ongoing threats and other attacks -- many churches suspended their activities and temporarily shut down for most of July. According to a report, "The Evangelical, Coptic Orthodox, and Catholic churches agreed to halt services, conferences, and any church trips to protect their congregations." Other churches, in Alexandria for instance, remained open, although "with stricter security, including police checks, private church security checks, and metal detectors."
One open church in Alexandria was targeted by a man who stabbed the guard preventing his entry. According to the report, the man, a 24-year-old male graduate from law school, "attacked the 47-year-old guard with a knife on the neck after the latter questioned his reasons for going into Al-Qiddisain Church in Alexandria." Video footage of the incident shows "a man wearing earphones with a bag trying to enter the church when he was called back by a guard who asked to check the bag. The man took out a knife and slashed the face of the guard, who recovered quickly to subdue his attacker with the help of others."
Tanzania: Responding to ongoing and angry Muslim protests, a court ruled that the church building that a Christian congregation had been trying to build for eight years on the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar must abandon the project. According to the report, "Hard-line Muslims outside Zanzibar City have been fighting construction of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God building since 2009, having demolished the partially built structure twice before then. They claim the party that sold the property to the church was not the rightful owner. Christians believe the court on the overwhelmingly Muslim island acted out of religious bias. A previous court ruling allowed construction to go forward." The pastor, Amos Lukanula, said that although the congregation is "frustrated and weary ... We cannot allow the Muslims to put up a mosque in place of the church." The congregation first purchased the property in 2004; once they had erected a temporary church, local Muslims pulled it down. Another structure the congregation had spent three years building was again brought down by area Muslims in 2007. When, by 2009, Muslims could not raze the third partially built church—made of stone blocks not easily brought down—they filed a legal complaint prompting a court order to halt construction until the legal dispute could be resolved. The court case has dragged on for over eight years and costs the congregation approximately $100 month.
Iraq: Due to the significant reduction of the Christian population, eight more churches were closed in Baghdad. According to the report, "After the regional Catholic Church authority visited the churches, the Vatican decided that it was best to close the doors for good. While this makes logistical sense, it represents a symbolic defeat for the Church in the capital of Iraq." "It's important to recognize," the report adds, "that ISIS is not solely responsible for this. Christians have faced various forms of persecution and discrimination from a wide variety of perpetrators throughout the past 15 years."
Muslim Abuse and Rape of Christians
Pakistan: A Muslim man raped a 3-year-old Christian girl, wounding her permanently. According to the report, "One day, when Catherine Bibi [the girl's mother] and her oldest son, Altaf Masih, 21, were at work and her 10-year-old son, Daud, was looking after his younger sister, a Muslim friend of Altaf, named Muhammed Abbas, came over. The man requested Daud to buy cigarettes for him from a nearby market. When Daud came back from a shop, Abbas kept him waiting outside the house and raped his sister. Abbas finally opened the door for Daud, lit a cigarette and left. When Daud went inside, he found his sister naked, covered in blood and screaming." Although the rape took place months ago, Catherine, the girl's mother "says she's emotionally and financially exhausted as she continues to fight for justice for her daughter, who will never be able to bear children due to severe injuries." But the mother is determined: "My daughter is innocent of any crime at such a young and vulnerable age she has been subjected to a most brutal and evil attack, from a man with no morals. (Even) if this evil rapist is jailed it will not remove the vile treatment my daughter suffered. I call on prayers from anyone moved by my daughter's plight. Please pray that she is completely healed and can one day have children which is a natural process designed by God and a real blessing for women." Police initially refused to investigate the rape until a local lawmaker exerted pressure on the authorities.
Another Christian woman "was beaten and gang-raped in front of her five children by a Muslim man seeking to avenge his family's 'honor,' because the woman's sister fell in love and fled with the man's brother," says a separate report. The Muslim brother and some companions went to the home of the Christian woman, Samrah Badal, demanding news on the fled couple. When the woman refused to speak, "she was stripped naked and dragged out on the streets, where she was [gang] raped in front of her five children."
Sudan: The Khartoum government issued an order calling on all church schools to begin operating according to the Muslim work week, which treats Friday (mosque day) and Saturday as the weekend, and Sunday as the start of the work week. One report says this move is part of "an ongoing campaign to rid the country of Christianity." In a letter sent to Christian schools, the Ministry of Education wrote, "In order not to affect the educational process and the ongoing plan, we ask you not to observe Sunday holiday" though Christian schools had been observing it for decades. One Sudanese Christian teacher said, "The government's decision to abolish Sundays for Christian schools is discrimination against Christians in Sudan." He is not alone, as the "move prompted widespread outrage and led many Christians in Sudan and around the world to view it as another means of harassment and discrimination against Sudanese Christians."
Tanzania: Three Christians were arrested for cooking food in the kitchen of their residence during Ramadan. A Christian couple and a female friend were frying fish when police came, informing them that they had "breached the law by cooking food during Ramadan," said a report. Police also "verbally abused them." "Today you will know how to fast," the police told them as they dragged them away. After the intervention of local church leaders, the three were released days later.
Eritrea: In the east African nation considered the tenth worst nation wherein to be Christian, partially because of "Islamic oppression," 200 Christians—including young children and a baby who "could spend their childhood in a prison cell"—were arrested in a series of random house-to-house raids. According to the Rev. Dr Berhane Asmelash, "People used to be arrested for conducting unauthorised meetings, such as Bible studies or prayers. But this is new for us when they go from house to house. They are arresting people for their beliefs, not for their actions. This is getting worse. Many Christians are in hiding." "These latest arrests," continues the report, "have brought fear to the Christian community..... In 2002 Eritrea outlawed many Christian denominations and shut down Evangelical and Pentecostal churches. Christians who refused to renounce their faith were jailed indefinitely without trial. 173 long-term prisoners of faith remain behind bars in brutal conditions. They include many church leaders."
Mali: According to one report: In July, "Three Christian missionaries ... appeared in a video released by coalition of jihadist groups affiliated to Al-Qaeda urging their respective governments to 'do what they can' to negotiate their release." The group, known as Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen—or the "Victory of Islam and Muslims" -- said in the video that "No genuine negotiations have begun to rescue your children." Six foreign hostages, "including three missionaries from Colombia, Switzerland and Australia, are shown begging the international community for help" in the video. One of the hostages is a nun, another an 82-year-old Australian surgeon, Ken Elliott, who said, "This video is to ask various governments, in particular the Australian government and Burkina government, to do what they can to help negotiate my release." Addressing his family, he added: "I just want to say, again, I love you all and I appreciate all your prayers and all your cares. I look forward to one day being reunited." The release of the video coincided with French president Emmanuel Macron's visit to Mali. Macron said "he was pleased that one of his citizens was still alive after being kidnapped by the militant." He added, "These people are nothing. They are terrorists, thugs and assassins. And we will put all of our energies into eradicating them."
About this Series
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by Muslims is growing. The report posits that such Muslim persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.
**Raymond Ibrahim is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (published by Regnery with Gatestone Institute, April 2013).
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Austria: New Government to Resist "Islamization"

Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/December 17/2017
A coalition between the anti-immigration Austrian People's Party and the anti-establishment Austrian Freedom Party, which will be sworn into office on December 18, is poised to catapult Austria to the vanguard of Western Europe's resistance to mass migration from the Muslim world.
The massive demographic and religious shift underway in Austria, traditionally a Roman Catholic country, appears irreversible. Austria has also emerged as a major base for radical Islam.
"We have a lot in common [with Israel]. I always say, if one defines the Judeo-Christian West, then Israel represents a kind of border. If Israel fails, Europe fails. And if Europe fails, Israel fails." — Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the Austrian Freedom Party.
The anti-immigration Austrian People's Party and the anti-establishment Austrian Freedom Party have reached a deal, creating a new coalition to govern Austria for the next five years. The ground-breaking political alliance, which will be sworn into office on December 18, is poised to catapult Austria to the vanguard of Western Europe's resistance to mass migration from the Muslim world.
Chancellor-elect Sebastian Kurz, 31, who won Austria's national election on October 15 after campaigning on a promise to halt illegal immigration, will govern with Heinz-Christian Strache, 48, the Freedom Party leader, who has warned that mass migration is "Islamizing" Austria. Under the agreement, Strache will become the vice-chancellor; the Freedom Party will also take control of the ministries of defense, interior and foreign affairs.
Austrian Chancellor-elect Sebastian Kurz (pictured), who won Austria's national election after campaigning on a promise to halt illegal immigration, will govern with Heinz-Christian Strache, 48, the Freedom Party leader, who has warned that mass migration is "Islamizing" Austria. (Image source: Raul Mee/EU2017EE/Flickr)
Kurz has been a strong critic of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door migration policy, which has allowed more than a million mostly male migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East to enter the country during the past two years.
During his time as foreign minister, Kurz was instrumental in garnering parliamentary approval of a groundbreaking new law that regulates the integration of immigrants. The so-called Integration Law — which bans full-face Muslim veils in public spaces and prohibits Islamic radicals from distributing the Koran — establishes clear rules and responsibilities for recognized asylum seekers and refugees granted legal residence in the country.
The new law requires immigrants from non-EU countries to sign an "integration contract" which obligates them to learn written and spoken German and to enroll in courses about the "basic values of Austria's legal and social order." Immigrants are also required to "acquire knowledge of the democratic order and the basic principles derived from it."
Previously, Kurz was instrumental in reforming Austria's century-old Islam Law (Islamgesetz), governing the status of Muslims in the country. The new law, passed in February 2015, is aimed at integrating Muslims and fighting Islamic radicalism by promoting an "Islam with an Austrian character." It also stresses that Austrian law must take precedence over Islamic Sharia law for Muslims living in the country.
Austria's Muslim population now exceeds 700,000 (or roughly 8% of the total population), up from an estimated 340,000 (or 4.25%) in 2001, and 150,000 (or 2%) in 1990, according to data compiled by the University of Vienna.
The massive demographic and religious shift underway in Austria, traditionally a Roman Catholic country, appears irreversible. In Vienna, where the Muslim population now exceeds 12.5%, Muslim students already outnumber Catholic students at middle and secondary schools. Muslim students are also on the verge of overtaking Catholics in Viennese elementary schools.
At the same time, Austria has emerged as a major base for radical Islam. Austria's Agency for State Protection and Counterterrorism (BVT) has warned of the "exploding radicalization of the Salafist scene in Austria." Salafism is an anti-Western ideology that seeks to impose Islamic Sharia law.
"The immigration seen in recent years is changing our country not in a positive but in a negative way," said Kurz, who campaigned on a "law and order" platform: "Uncontrolled immigration destroys the order in a country."
Strache, a supporter of Israel who has distanced his party from the rhetoric of the Austrian far right, insists that anti-Semitism had no place in his party and has urged a common front against Islamists. He has also pledged "to ensure that boycotts [against Israeli products] get taken off the agenda."
During an April 2016 visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, at the invitation of at the invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, Strache said:
"For us, it's important to act against anti-Semitism, and also against Islamism and terrorism, and to discuss the issues we have in common. Anti-Semitism often emerges anew from Islamism and from the left.
"We have a lot in common [with Israel]. I always say, if one defines the Judeo-Christian West, then Israel represents a kind of border. If Israel fails, Europe fails. And if Europe fails, Israel fails."
Strache has called Merkel "the most dangerous woman in Europe" because of her migration policies, and has repeatedly said that Islam is "not part" of Austria. Strache has also warned that the "uncontrolled influx of migrants who are alien to our culture, who seep into our social welfare system ... makes civil war in the medium-term not unlikely." A Eurosceptic, Strache has called the European Union a "bureaucratic monster" and has said that Britain will "probably be better off after Brexit."
At Strache's insistence, Karin Kneissl, an independent Middle East expert who speaks eight languages, including Arabic and Hebrew, will become Austria's new foreign minister. Kneissl has been a vocal critic of EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, whom she has described as the "Caesar of Brussels." She has also criticized Merkel's migrant policy as "grossly negligent."
Kneissl has said that most of the "refugees" arriving in Europe are overwhelmingly young males between the ages of 20 and 30 who are "economic migrants controlled by testosterone." In an interview on Austrian television, Kneissl said that one of the main reasons for the revolts in the Arab world was "many young Arab men can no longer find a wife because they have neither work nor their own home, and thus cannot achieve the status of a man in a traditional society."
Freedom Party Chairman Herbert Kickl, a speechwriter for the late party leader Jörg Haider and a close confidant of Strache, will become interior minister, a key position for domestic security and border control, while Mario Kunasek, a professional soldier, will run the defense ministry. Of the 16 future government ministers, only Kurz has Cabinet experience.
A 180-page document explains the new government's agenda between now and 2022. It promises to crack down on political Islam; to crack down on illegal immigration; to speed up asylum decisions and to sponsor an EU summit on immigration when Austria holds the EU presidency in the second half of 2018.
The document also pledges to give Austrians more opportunities to vote in referendums — although it explicitly refuses to allow a referendum on the country's continued membership in the European Union.
In addition, the document promises to: require migrants to learn German; require migrant kindergartners who have insufficient German language skills to repeat kindergarten before progressing to the first grade; increase the legal penalties for sexual crimes; strengthen Austrian defense; hire more police officers; reduce the bureaucracy and not raise taxes.
At the same time, however, the document pledges a strong commitment to the European Union: "Only in a strong Europe can there be a strong Austria in which we are able to take advantage of the opportunities of the 21st century."
Some observers have said that Kurz's professed commitment to the European Union was aimed at calming worries in Europe about the Freedom Party's Euroskeptic and anti-Islamization policy objectives. Others have described Kurz as a pragmatist "who is anti-establishment and establishment at the same time."
Kurz has nevertheless pledged to reject the European Union's compulsory migrant quota. "I will work towards changing this erroneous refugee policy," he said. "Without the proper protection of the external borders of the EU, we will not come to grips with the problem of illegal migration."
**Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.