March 27/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Jesus Cures a man lived among the tombs and was possessed with unclean a spirit Legion
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 05/01-20/:"They came to the other side of the lake, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’ For he had said to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many.’He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, ‘Send us into the swine; let us enter them.’ So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and were drowned in the lake. The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighbourhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him.But Jesus refused, and said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.’And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed."

Fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints
Letter to the Ephesians 05/03-13/:"But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be associated with them. For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,".

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On March 26-27/17
The Healing Miracle of the Paralyzed/Elias Bejjani/ March 26/17
Defending Damascus and Beirut’s southern suburb/Ahmed Ayash/Al Arabiya/March 26/17
Hezbollah and the Shia in Lebanon: Panic signs/Mohamed Kawas/The Arab Weekly/March 26/17
Wage increases, new taxes trigger protests in Lebanon/Abdel-Rahman Ayas/The Arab Weekly/March 26/17
Saida, Lebanon’s authentic city/Samar Kadi/The Arab Weekly/March 26/17
Israel-Lebanon maritime dispute heats up/Ynetnews/Amir Ben David/March 26/17
A kill list targeting Shiite intellectuals/Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/March 26/17
Saudi training and internship programs need a boost/Samar Fatany/Al Arabiya/March 26/17
Islamists taking the banner of a civil state/Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/March 26/17
Islam, Not Christianity, is Saturating Europe/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/March 26/17
Japan: The Grateful Generation/Amir George/Gatestone Institute/March 26/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 26-27/17
The Healing Miracle of the Paralyzed
Fighting Puts Syria IS-Held Dam at Risk of Dangerous Water Levels
PSP: We're Open to All Electoral Law Formats but We Won't Accept to be Marginalized
Bassil: No to 1960 Law, No to Extension, No to Vacuum
Al-Rahi Urges Politicians to 'Rise Above Private Interests'
Ahmed Hariri: We're against Any 'Veiled Orthodox Law'
Kanaan Says FPM Practiced Real Opposition, Defends LF, Hizbullah Agreements
Moussawi: We'll Seek to Impose Taxes on Capitalists, Bank Profits
Defending Damascus and Beirut’s southern suburb
Bassil windsup his SidonZahrani region tour by visiting Abra
Teymour Jumblatt, Marwan Hamadeh visit Archbishops Haddad and Ammar in Sidon
Johannes Han visits Lebanon upcoming Tuesday and Wednesday
Fneish: Proportionality law is pathway to reform, stability
Anwar Khalil: We hope to reach positive results in the election law, otherwise we will face a complex stage nationally and constitutionally
Kabbara meets Saudi Chargé d'Affaires
680 young graduates in project to support Lebanese host societies
Riachy calls for rectifying Christian representation in new electoral law
Bassil from Sidon: We should stop polemics, work for election law that ensures stability
Hezbollah and the Shia in Lebanon: Panic signs
Wage increases, new taxes trigger protests in Lebanon
Saida, Lebanon’s authentic city
Israel-Lebanon maritime dispute heats up

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 26-27/17
One Killed, 15 Wounded in Ohio Nightclub Shooting
Air Strike Kills 16 Civilians near Damascus
Syria U.S.-Backed Fighters Enter IS-Held Airport
Saudi Shura Council Member Ibrahim Al-Buleihi Criticizes Arab Society: All We Want Today Is To Regress Further
Iran sanctions 15 US companies for support of Israel
61 bodies pulled from collapsed Mosul site boobytrapped by ISIS
Egyptian court jails 56 over migrant boat shipwreck
Hamas shuts Gaza crossing, blames Israel for assassination
Erdogan says Turkey may hold Brexit-like referendum
US strike kills senior al-Qaeda leader behind deadly attacks

Links From Jihad Watch Site for 
March 26-27/17
Obama loyalists replaced “radical Islamic terrorism” with “violent extremism” in Trump’s immigration executive order
Germany: “Mentally ill” Muslim migrant smashes cyclist’s head with hammer
Why Never-Trump Politics Is Bad For Jews
400 Islamic State jihadis have returned to UK, only 54 have been prosecuted
UK: Four teens plow car into pedestrians, flee on foot, knives found, cops say not terror-related
German officials were warned about Berlin truck jihad murderer nine months before massacre
UK police on London jihadi: “There is a possibility we will never understand why he did this”
Canada: Imam quotes Muhammad, complaint lodged with police

Links From Christian Today Site For March 26-27/17
Voters blame everybody but Trump for Obamacare repeal failure
Iraqi military says 61 bodies pulled from collapsed Mosul site
Thousands join London march demonstrating against leaving the EU
Republicans in disarray as Trump fails to repeal Obamacare
Religious people are less afraid of death, say researchers – but so are atheists
Archbishop of Canterbury: 'Christ's love and self-sacrifice will triumph over evil and despair'
Fortune's 50 greatest leaders: Who is the one religious figure?
Westminster terror attack: Injury toll climbs to 50 as police appeal for information
Does religion make you stupid? Study says religious societies do worse at maths and science

Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 26-27/17
The Healing Miracle of the Paralyzed
Elias Bejjani/ March 26/17
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11/28-30)
The practice of praying for others in any manner or pattern is a desirable religious conduct, especially when the prayers are for the sake of those who are sick, persecuted, oppressed, poor, lonely and distressed, or have fallen prey to evil temptations.
Praying for others whether they are parents, relatives, strangers, acquaintances, enemies, or friends, and for countries, is an act that exhibits the faith, caring, love, and hope of those who offer the prayers. Almighty God, Who is a loving, forgiving, passionate, and merciful Father listens to these prayers and always answers them in His own wisdom and mercy that mostly we are unable to grasp because of our limited human understanding. "All things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21/22)
On the fifth Lenten Sunday the Catholic Maronites cite and recall with great reverence [ ] the Gospel of Saint Mark ( 02/1-12): "The Healing Miracle of the Paralytic": "When he entered again into Capernaum after some days, it was heard that he was in the house. Immediately many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even around the door; and he spoke the word to them. Four people came, carrying a paralytic to him. When they could not come near to him for the crowd, they removed the roof where he was. When they had broken it up, they let down the mat that the paralytic was lying on. Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” But there were some of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak blasphemies like that? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you reason these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to tell the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven;’ or to say, ‘Arise, and take up your bed, and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”— He said to the paralytic— “I tell you, arise, take up your mat, and go to your house.” He arose, and immediately took up the mat, and went out in front of them all; so that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
This great miracle in its theological essence and core demonstrates beyond doubt that intercessions, prayers and supplications for the benefit of others are acceptable faith rituals that Almighty God attentively hears and definitely answers.
It is interesting to learn that the paralytic man as stated in the Gospel of St. Mark, didn't personally call on Jesus to cure him, nor he asked Him for forgiveness, mercy or help, although as many theologians believe Jesus used to visit Capernaum, where the man lives, and preach in its Synagogue frequently. Apparently this crippled man was lacking faith, hope, distancing himself from God and total ignoring the Gospel's teaching. He did not believe that the Lord can cure him.
What also makes this miracle remarkable and distinguishable lies in the fact that the paralytic's relatives and friends, or perhaps some of Jesus' disciples were adamant that the Lord is able to heal this sick man who has been totally crippled for 38 years if He just touches him. This strong faith and hope made four of them carry the paralytic on his mat and rush to the house where Jesus was preaching. When they could not break through the crowd to inter the house they climbed with the paralytic to the roof, made a hole in it and let down the mat that the paralytic was lying on in front of Jesus and begged for his cure. Jesus was taken by their strong faith and fulfilled their request.
Jesus forgave the paralytic his sins first (“Son, your sins are forgiven you) and after that cured his body: "Arise, and take up your bed, and walk". Like the scribes many nowadays still question the reason and rationale that made Jesus give priority to the man's sins. Jesus' wisdom illustrates that sin is the actual death and the cause for eternal anguish in Hell. He absolved his sins first because sin cripples those who fall in its traps, annihilates their hopes, faith, morals and values, kills their human feelings, inflicts numbness on their consciences and keeps them far away from Almighty God. Jesus wanted to save the man's soul before He cures his earthy body. "For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life?" (Mark 08:/36 & 37).
Our Gracious God does not disappoint any person when he seek His help with faith and confidence. With great interest and parental love, He listens to worshipers' prayers and requests and definitely respond to them in His own way, wisdom, time and manner. "Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened". (Matthew 07/07 &08)
In this loving and forgiving context, prayers for others, alive or dead, loved ones or enemies, relatives or strangers, are religiously desirable. God hears and responds because He never abandons His children no matter what they do or say, provided that they turn to Him with faith and repentance and ask for His mercy and forgiveness either for themselves or for others. "Is any among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praises. 5:14 Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, 5:15 and the prayer of faith will heal him who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up". (James 05:13)
There are numerous biblical parables and miracles in which Almighty God shows clearly that He accepts and responds to prayers for the sake of others, e.g.
Jesus cured the centurion's servant on the request of the Centurion and not the servant himself. (Matthew 08/05-33 )
Jesus revived and brought back to life Lazarus on the request of his sisters Mary and Martha. (John 11/01-44)
In conclusion: Almighty God is always waiting for us, we, His Children to come to Him and ask for His help and mercy either for ourselves or for others. He never leaves us alone. Meanwhile it is a Godly faith obligation to extend our hand and pull up those who are falling and unable to pray for themselves especially the mentally sick, the unconscious, and the paralyzed. In this realm of faith, love and care for others comes our prayers to Virgin Mary and to all Saints whom we do not worship, but ask for their intercessions and blessings.
O, Lord, endow us with graces of faith, hope, wisdom, and patience. Help us to be loving, caring, humble and meek. Show us the just paths. Help us to be on your right with the righteous on the Judgment Day.
God sees and hears us all the time, let us all fear Him in all what we think, do and say.

Fighting Puts Syria IS-Held Dam at Risk of Dangerous Water Levels
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 26/17/Fighting at a dam held by the Islamic State jihadist group in northern Syria put it out of service Sunday, risking dangerous rising water levels, a technical source told AFP. A Kurdish-Arab alliance known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is battling to take Tabqa dam and nearby Tabqa town from IS before advancing on the jihadist group's de facto Syrian capital Raqa. But a source at the dam told AFP that the fighting had damaged its power station, forcing a halt to operations on Sunday. "Shelling on the area... that supplies that dam with electricity has put it out of service," the source said. "The work needed to fix the problem is not possible because there is not sufficient staff available as a result of the intensive shelling in the area of the dam," he added. "If the problem is not fixed, it will begin to pose a danger to the dam."The source could not confirm what kind of shelling damaged the power station, but there has been heavy fighting nearby as well as air raids by the U.S.-led coalition against IS in support of SDF fighters in the area. SDF spokesman Talal Sello insisted there was no imminent danger to the dam, which is Syria's largest and sits on the Euphrates river. "There have been no air strikes on the dam," he told AFP.SDF forces were helicoptered behind IS lines last week by U.S. forces to begin their assault on the dam, which is around 35 miles (55 kilometers) west of Raqa. "We carried out this operation to land there to avoid shelling or damage to the dam," Sello said. SDF fighters reached one of the entrances of the dam on Friday, battling IS in clashes in which jihadists had been killed and wounded. But the dam remains under IS control, with SDF progress being hampered by the exposed nature of the terrain, which is also heavily mined, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said. IS issued warnings through its propaganda agency Amaq warning the dam "is threatened with collapse at any moment because of American strikes and a large rise in water levels."But the source at the dam told AFP there had not yet been significant water level increases, though he acknowledged levels would rise if the facility remained out of service. Earlier this month, the U.N.'s humanitarian coordination agency OCHA said water levels in the Euphrates had risen 10 meters (33 feet) since late January, in part from heavy rainfall and snow. But it warned that damage to the dam "could lead to massive scale flooding across Raqa and as far away as Deir Ezzor" province to the southeast. Any further rises in the water level or damage to the Tabqa dam "would have catastrophic humanitarian implications in all areas downstream," the U.N. warned. More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since its conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

PSP: We're Open to All Electoral Law Formats but We Won't Accept to be Marginalized
Naharnet/March 26/17/The Progressive Socialist Party on Sunday announced that it is “open” to all electoral law formats while stressing that it will not accept to be “marginalized.”“Through dialogue and partnership we can overcome all obstacles towards a future that we want it to be prosperous and built on national reconciliation,” Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh said after visiting Greek Catholic Bishop of Sidon and Deir al-Qamar Elie Haddad along with Taimur Jumblat and a PSP delegation. “As for the electoral law, as (PSP chief) Walid Beik (Jumblat) said and as Mr. Taimur is negotiating directly and indirectly about this law, we are open to all formats and we're discussing all formats. We want everyone to be represented correctly and we won't accept to be marginalized,” Hamadeh added. “What we care for more than parliamentary seats, and we're not seeking any shares, is the reconciliation of Mount Lebanon – this main cornerstone and this coexistence that is present in Mount Lebanon and entire Lebanon,” the minister went on to say. Asked about the proportional representation electoral system, Hamadeh said: “We are following up on the formats and together with Walid Beik we are discussing the matter with the PSP officials who are in charge of this issue, but so far we have not received a final proposal in order to take a decision.” “Until the moment, we have not issued a final response but the approach is openness and dialogue with all parties,” Hamadeh added. Hizbullah has repeatedly called for an electoral law fully based on proportional representation but al-Mustaqbal Movement and Jumblat have both voiced reservations. Mustaqbal has argued that Hizbullah's arms would prevent serious competition in the party's strongholds while Jumblat has warned that such an electoral system would “marginalize” the minority Druze community whose presence is concentrated in the Chouf and Aley areas. The political parties are meanwhile discussing a so-called hybrid electoral law that mixes proportional representation with the winner-takes-all system.

Bassil: No to 1960 Law, No to Extension, No to Vacuum

Naharnet/March 26/17/Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil on Sunday noted that the political parties are discussing the proportional representation portion of the electoral law, renewing his rejection of parliamentary vacuum, another extension of parliament's term, and the controversial 1960 law. “The first task and the first real change that the new presidential term is demanded to do is the electoral law, which is the real tool that allows the Lebanese to be represented and to govern through their own will,” Bassil added from the southern town of Maghdouche. “People have the right to ask us to honor our promises but it is our right to be granted the (parliamentary) majority by people,” he said. “One civil law, civil marriage, one inheritance law and the personal status law are the basis of our existence as citizens in the same sphere,” Bassil went on to say.He confirmed that the ongoing debate in the country nowadays is about “the proportional representation aspect of the electoral law and the number of districts.”“No to the 1960 law, no to extension and no to vacuum. Yes to a new electoral law,” he added. “Those who don't want the 1960 law or an extension of parliament's term must choose from the other existent laws,” Bassil went on to say.

Al-Rahi Urges Politicians to 'Rise Above Private Interests'
Naharnet/March 26/17/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Sunday noted that “all politicians in Lebanon will not be able to make any initiative unless they rise above their private interests that are being fulfilled at the expense of public welfare and the state's treasury.”“We urge the officials of the Lebanese state -- in parliament, government, ministries, public administrations and judiciary – to rescue our Lebanese people from their suffering, poverty, unemployment, lack of jobs, starvation, meager living, the burdens of education, hospitalization and housing, and the woes of deprivation, injustice, the violation of rights, the oppression of the influential figures, and extortion,” the patriarch added in his Sunday Mass sermon. “Should all the segments of the Lebanese people continue to stage demos, sit-ins and strikes to no avail?” al-Rahi wondered. He added: “Unless the political officials rise above their private interests, the parliament and the government will continue to fail to pass a fair and comprehensive electoral law that conforms to the National Pact, or to approve a state budget and a new wage scale.”

Ahmed Hariri: We're against Any 'Veiled Orthodox Law'
Naharnet/March 26/17/Al-Mustaqbal Movement Secretary-General has stressed that his movement is against any sectarian electoral law under which each sect would elect its own MPs, noting that “those who came up with a solution for the presidential void crisis are capable of finding a solution for the electoral law.”“We are with an electoral law that corrects Christian representation, preserves coexistence, and addresses the concerns and particularities of everyone,” Hariri said during a tour of West Bekaa and Rashaya, emphasizing that Mustaqbal is “against any veiled Orthodox (Gathering electoral) law.”He was referring to a controversial law proposed by the Orthodox Gathering under which each sect would elect its own MPs. Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil has recently proposed a hybrid electoral law under which 64 MPs would be elected according to the proportional representation system and 64 others would be elected by their respective sects under a winner-takes-all system. “Any law format that harms the Document of National Accord would affect civil peace and disrupt balance,” Hariri warned. “Prime Minister Saad Hariri's stance is clear: we are with a modern new electoral law that appeals to the young generation, but this law should not come solely at al-Mustaqbal Movement's expense and everyone must offer sacrifices to reach it,” he added.

Kanaan Says FPM Practiced Real Opposition, Defends LF, Hizbullah Agreements

Naharnet/March 26/17/Change and Reform bloc secretary MP Ibrahim Kanaan has stressed that the country is headed for “a new electoral law through which all components will be represented,” noting that the Free Patriotic Movement has practiced real “opposition” throughout its history. “The FPM was born from the womb of the opposition, but it proved that opposition should not be artificial and it consolidated stability through reaching the toughest agreements,” Kanaan said, referring to the FPM's rapprochement agreements with Hizbullah and the Lebanese Forces. “There will be a new electoral law that secures correct representation for all components and we have always withstood campaigns and lies and triumphed for the sake of partnership and national interest,” Kanaan added. “The FPM practiced a tough opposition reflected in opposing the Syrian occupation until liberation and opposing the absence of the State and the 2005 distribution of shares. We gained the confidence of 70% of Christians and we won 21 parliamentary seats in the face of the four-party alliance that was formed against us, and we represented the first line of defense for the usurped rights,” he went on to say. The MP also noted that President “Michel Aoun did not go to the presidential seat but rather the presidential seat came to him due to his presence, strength, role and ability to establish bridges of communication among the Lebanese.”

Moussawi: We'll Seek to Impose Taxes on Capitalists, Bank Profits

Naharnet/March 26/17/MP Nawwaf al-Moussawi of Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance bloc announced Sunday that his party will seek to impose taxes on bank profits and the country's business tycoons. “We in the resistance are on the side of the poor and the deprived, seeing as the vast majority of our jihadist fighters and the martyrs of the resistance of all affiliations belong to the poor and deprived class. Here we should address capitalists, banks and major companies and ask them about their sense of patriotism towards the poor of Lebanon who have offered their blood in order to liberate their country, and are still offering their blood to defend Lebanon,” Moussawi said. “Had it not been for their blood, these people would not have owned firms or banks. They owe their presence and continuity to the poor who have paid the highest tax, which is the tax of blood,” he added.
“Why are banks trying through several ways to prevent parliament from passing a law that taxes the profits that the banks are earning and not the interests of depositors, knowing that they themselves had acknowledged in 2014 that they had earned $1.7 billion, and maybe a lot more in 2016,” Moussawi went on to say. “What prevents them then from shouldering their national responsibility towards those who have offered their blood? What prevents them from cutting funds from their gains to finance the new wage scale that benefits at least a million Lebanese? Why should taxes always be on the poor?” the MP asked.
He noted that Hizbullah “has not accepted this, confronting it in Cabinet through its ministers and in parliament through its MPs.”“We will maintain our stance effectively and seriously, in order to foil the attempts at slapping taxes on the poor and the deprived. This was confirmed in the latest legislative session, when we managed to impose a production and not a consumption tax on cement companies. We will also seek to impose taxes on capitalists, major firms and the profits of banks,” Moussawi promised. “Enough with the legendary profits that banks and major companies are making, seeing as no bank in the world earns profits like Lebanese banks do, and there are no interests in the world similar to those imposed by Lebanese banks,” the lawmaker went on to say. The Syndical Coordination Committee, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, has been pushing for the approval of the new wage scale for several years now and has organized numerous street protests and strikes to this end. The members of the armed forces would also benefit from the new wage scale.

Defending Damascus and Beirut’s southern suburb
Ahmed Ayash/Al Arabiya/March 26/17
No one was expecting that the heart of Damascus will turn into a battlefield between the Syrian regime and its allies and some opposition factions which have been categorized as not included in the peace talks in Geneva. When talking about a battle, we are referring to a security incident that is much more than explosions and suicide operations. It is enough for armed men to take to the streets in the Syrian capital and clash with regime forces and the latter’s allies to know that the city’s security is not under the regime’s full control yet. Those who visited Damascus before the recent confrontations said they were stopped at several checkpoints as they walked merely few hundred meters in the capital at night. So why hasn’t the regime continued to adopt these measures in the past few days?
Message to UN
The Syrian foreign ministry sent two messages to the UN and the UN Security Council saying “it’s been proven that Turkish, Saudi and Qatari intelligence apparatuses” are involved in the Damascus confrontations. This time, they did not mention Israel which is often mentioned as it is their favorite when they want to shift attention. Israel was left out although the past few days were full of analyses and stances following the Israeli air strike near the city of Palmyra nine days ago. Some analysis stipulated that Israel directed a clear message in the field to remind Russia of its vows to limit the influence of Iran and its most important wing, Hezbollah, in Syria. It seems that Moscow was embarrassed and it covered this by summoning the Israeli ambassador in Moscow. After these developments were no longer in the limelight, some reports claimed there was an American-Russian rapprochement regarding Syria.
Time will reveal what happened following the air strike near Palmyra – although this strike was not the last according to a report by the Iranian Tasnim news agency which said that the Israeli i24 television channel “claimed that the Zionist regime carried out an air strike against Mount Qasioun but attributed the report to Syrian media outlets.”
Security plan
Meanwhile, other media reports said a security plan was launched from Beirut’s southern suburb and Beqaa – Hezbollah’s strongholds – to confront chaos. This is not the first time we hear of security plans in these two areas. According to some sources, Hezbollah is still very interested in the fate of businessman Qassem Tajeddine who was detained in Morocco. These sources say Tajeddine is one of Hezbollah’s vital financial resources – a resource that is worth a few billion dollars. However, before judging this new plan, we must address the recent circumstances which may have resulted in these security measures. According to some sources, Hezbollah is still very interested in the fate of businessman Qassem Tajeddine who was detained in Morocco. These sources say Tajeddine is one of Hezbollah’s vital financial resources – a resource that is worth a few billion dollars. Therefore, they are on the lookout for the repercussions of this development on Lebanon and outside it. Detaining Tajeddine came around the same time Israeli Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot spoke about the death of Hezbollah official Mustafa Badreddine in Syria last year. There is noticeable activity from Damascus to Beirut’s southern suburb. So will anything follow the final fall of ISIS soon? All eyes are now on Raqqa. This was first published in An Nahar newspaper on March 26, 2017.

Bassil windsup his SidonZahrani region tour by visiting Abra
Sun 26 Mar 2017/NNA - Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister, Gebran Bassil, ended his tour of Sidon and al-Zahrani region, on Sunday, by visiting the ancient town of Abra, east of Sidon, where he was welcomed by a huge crowd of citizens, accompanied by Environment Minister Tarek Khatib and MPs Amal Abu Zeid and Ziad Aswad. "This visit has many meanings, because this town has witnessed displacement, terror and its defeat, giving the example of a typical self-risen Lebanese town," said Bassil, speaking to his welcoming audience. "We gather power and lessons from you, for Abra is the lesson," added Bassil. "I know that Abra is not a place for terrorism, nor is Sidon nor Ain al-Hilweh nor Lebanon as a whole," he went on. "I know that this phenomenon is transitory, since our society is one which rejects and opposes terrorism," Bassil underscored. "Therefore, we have the audacity to ask for a quick trial of the detained Islamists in Abra, Tripoli or anywhere in Lebanon for justice," added Bassil. It is to note that Minister Bassil's tour of Sidon and Zahrani region included stop-over's in the towns of Maghdouche, Qrayeh, Jensnaya, Ghaziyeh and Darb el-Sim. Bassil was warmly welcomed by crowds of citizens who gathered to express support and hospitality to the visiting delegation in their respective towns. In his addresses before the gathering crowds, Bassil touched on various issues of concern prevailing in the country. Over the election law, Bassil stressed that "if we cannot complete a new electoral law, we cannot live together," vowing to "struggle to come out with an election law through which citizens feel the value of their vote." On displacement, Bassil considered that "we cannot continue the policy of appeasing the outside over the issue of displacement." Regarding various pending matters on the local scene, Bassil considered that "our responsibility lies in building our State on the basis of reform rather than corruption. This requires consensus, so we are working on it. We are working on consensus with all political forces to create a wave of reform in the country."However, Bassil noted that the different dossiers of electricity, oil, budget, social security, widening roads, improving communication or stopping waste expenditure in customs and ports cannot be tackled in one day. Bassil stressed that "priority today is to the election law, for there is no reform of political life without an election law, and we cannot build anything in the country without an electoral law."

Teymour Jumblatt, Marwan Hamadeh visit Archbishops Haddad and Ammar in Sidon
Sun 26 Mar 2017/NNA - Democratic Gathering Head, Walid Jumblatt's son, Teymour, visited, on Sunday, Sidon and Deir el-Qamar Roman Catholic Archbishop Elie Haddad at Saint Nicolas Church in Sidon, accompanied by Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh and MPs Nehmeh Tohme, Elie Aoun, Alaeddine Terro and Mohamed Hajjar. The visit was a chance to review various hour issues prevailing on the Lebanese scene, most prominently the election law. Following the encounter, Archbishop Haddad welcomed his valued visitors, considering their initiative as "proof of the historically existing and everlasting bridge between Christian and Druze citizens of Sidon and the Shouf, preserved by the continuous gestures of kindness and partnership between the Archdiocese and al-Mukhtara.""Of course, Lebanon is going through a difficult phase today, especially in finding logical solutions to the electoral law," said Haddad. "We have confidence in all parties that are in quest of dialogue to reach an electoral law, and fear of other parties that do not want dialogue. This dialogue must result in a positive outcome," he asserted. "All Lebanese are inspired by your visit today," added Haddad, wishing that "If only all of Lebanon would extend hands to one another until we build the bridge of peace." In turn, Minister Hamadeh expressed gratitude to Archbishop Haddad, on behalf of MP Jumblatt and his son, Teymour, and the whole delegation. "We consider this Archdiocese to be a fundamental reference to our common history and existence," Hamadeh underscored. He reiterated the Archbishop's words that "by dialogue and partnership all obstacles can be overcome, and also through a bright future based on the fundamental principle of national reconciliation."Over the election law, Hamadeh stressed that "we are open to all formats and formulas. Of course, we want everyone to be represented properly and we do not accept marginalization in this issue, but what matters to us more than parliamentary seats and more than any quotas is the reconciliation of the Mountain. This is the basic pillar of coexistence in the Lebanese Mountain and in all of Lebanon." The delegation's next stop-over was at Saint Elias Maronite Church in Sidon, where they were received by Sidon and Deir el-Qamar Maronite Archbishop, Maroun Ammar, and a number of priests. Ammar welcomed the delegation, praising the historical ties with MP Jumblatt and al-Mukhtara and hoping for "continued coexistence amongst the Lebanese, working hand-in-hand together in this nation through goodness, blessings and peace."

Johannes Han visits Lebanon upcoming Tuesday and Wednesday
Sun 26 Mar 2017/NNA - European Commissioner for the European Neighborhood Policy, Johannes Han, is expected to arrive in Beirut upcoming Tuesday for a 2-day visit. The first day will include a tour of the Bekaa, where he will visit the EU-financed Bar Elias waste sorting plant. He will then meet with Syrian volunteers in the area of education who are working on tutoring children of refugees in Taanayel. The European Official will also visit the Primary Health Care Center in Taanayel, which is supervised by the Ministry of Public Health. A joint press conference will be held with the Ministry's Department of Social and Health Services Head, Randa Hamadeh, representing Public Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani.The press conference will be attended by representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Public Health, as well as various mayors and dignitaries from the region.

Fneish: Proportionality law is pathway to reform, stability
Sun 26 Mar 2017/NNA - Minister of Sports and Youth, Mohammad Fneish, said during a sporting event on Sunday that the proportionality law was the only path toward reforms and consolidation of the country's stability. Minister Fneish added that the proportionality law ensured equity in representation. Fneish praised the complementary relation between the army and the Resistance in facing terrorism, calling for commitment to the resistance's approach and project.
He also considered that the joint efforts made by the resistance and the army contributed in establishing security and stability in the country.

Anwar Khalil: We hope to reach positive results in the election law, otherwise we will face a complex stage nationally and constitutionally
Sun 26 Mar 2017/NNA - Member of the "Development and Liberation" Parliamentary Bloc, MP Anwar el-Khalil, hoped that positive results will be reached regarding the electoral law issue; otherwise we will be faced with a complex period, both at the national and constitutional levels. "Exceptional efforts are being exerted by political forces in order to bridge the gap between various notions with regards to the content and form of the election law," said Khalil. "What we aspire for is a law that faithfully reflects the Constitution's provisions, in terms of adopting wider districts to ensure and strengthen coexistence, a law that ensures proper and correct representation of all political forces and minorities, in general," he asserted. Khalil's words came before popular delegations from the villages of Hasbaya, Marj'Ayoun and Nabatiyeh region, who visited him at his Zaghla residence in the Southern town of Hasbaya on Sunday.

Kabbara meets Saudi Chargé d'Affaires
Sun 26 Mar 2017/NNA - Labor Minister Mohamed Kabbara met at his residence in Tripoli on Sunday, Saudi Charge d'Affaires Walid al-Bukhari, in the presence of MP Samir al-Jisr, Advisor to PM Saad Hariri for North Affairs Abdul-Ghani Kabbara, and Tripoli Port Municipality Head, Abdul-Kader Alameddine. The visit was a chance to dwell on the general situation and various developments at the northern and national levels.

680 young graduates in project to support Lebanese host societies
Sun 26 Mar 2017/NNA - A graduation ceremony was held on Sunday at Platea Complex in Jounieh for 680 young men and women from Bekaa, North, South and Mount Lebanon as part of the project to support Lebanese host societies between the Ministry of Social Affairs and UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). British Ambassador to Lebanon, Hugo Shorter, UNDP Resident Representative, Philippe Lazzarini, as well as Minister of Social Affairs advisor, Mario Abou Zeid, attended the ceremony. In the framework of the project, young graduates participated in technical training sessions and traineeships in small and medium-sized enterprises.

Riachy calls for rectifying Christian representation in new electoral law
Sun 26 Mar 2017/NNA - Minister of Information, Melhem Riachy, called on Sunday for an electoral law that fixes the Christian representation at the Parliament. Minister Riachy, who was representing President of the Republic Michel Aoun and Lebanese forces leader Samir Geagea during the annual dinner of the International Catholic Press Union, announced that a new law would soon be set up for the Information sector. Riachy said that ever since he took office at the Ministry of Information, he launched a large-scale workshop with a legal dimension at the ministry. He added that he would submit several draft laws during the next cabinet session to approve exemptions related to taxation on the media, "a measure aiming to support the media and the press."As for the electoral law, he called for a law that ensured fair representation of Christians, without prejudice to other Lebanese.

Bassil from Sidon: We should stop polemics, work for election law that ensures stability
Sun 26 Mar 2017/NNA - Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister, Gebran Bassil, said on Sunday during a tour in South Lebanon that there will be no political or economic stability without the approval of an election law. "We need a political agreement on the electoral law to reassure each other and give each party the right to political representation," Minister Bassil said, calling for an end to controversies in favor of a political agreement. The municipality of Sidon organized a popular reception to the Minister, in the presence of the city's notables and two members of "Change and Reform" bloc MPs Ziad Assouad and Amal Abou Zeid. Expressing his satisfaction for his presence in the capital of South Lebanon, which he believes has a greater social, economic and popular burden on its resources in the context of the Palestinian cause and the presence of a large number of Palestinian refugees in camps, Bassil said: "It is not the responsibility of Sidon or our Palestinian brothers, but rather the responsibility of the international community that caused the exodus of Palestinians from their land without finding a solution for them to return." He concluded by wishing the approval of an law on administrative decentralization

Hezbollah and the Shia in Lebanon: Panic signs
Mohamed Kawas/The Arab Weekly/March 26/17
During the decades that followed its birth at the beginning of the 1980s, Lebanese Hezbollah succeeded in tying the fate of the country’s Shia population to that of the political regime in Iran. Two aspects of the situation are unique to Lebanon. The first is that a Shia armed force serving an Iranian agenda exists in Leba­non. The second is that Hezbollah survives there amid a mosaic of other sects, making the fate of Shia in the country even more closely tied to that of Hezbollah in case a profound change occurs in Iran or internationally. The emergence of the Green Movement in Iran following the 2009 presidential elections is proof that Shia Iranian citizens no longer trust the religious regime in Teh­ran and will always try to escape the grip of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s power model but this genuinely Iranian movement also annoyed other Shia populations in the region, particularly those in Lebanon.
They are allergic not only to changes in the regime but towards any purely internal dialogue between political currents in Iran. The Iranian people are divided between a conservative current and a moderate reformist one headed by a panoply of figures, some of whom are in jail or under house ar­rest but the multitude in Lebanon recognises only the movement of Iran’s supreme leader and is highly suspicious of the reformists there.
Hezbollah considers itself part of Iran’s military apparatus. It does, however, know that ultimately it is not Iranian and no state will recognise it as part of the state of Iran. So, in case the world starts looking for new balances with Iran, Iran’s proxy militias in the region will not be directly affected by the same rules.
Hezbollah must have also noticed that, while the Obama administra­tion was very keen on reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran, the United States sought to isolate the group worldwide. Washing­ton tracked Hezbollah’s network, insisted on blacklisting it as a ter­rorist organisation and closely scru­tinised its international finances to a point that it affected the Lebanese banking system.
Hezbollah could not also have missed that the Shia armed groups in Iraq were not subjected to the same harassment even though they were considered agents of Iran in Iraq. It looks like the Trump ad­ministration will not make any distinctions between Iran and its proxy militias in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen. The United States has espoused the objective of putting an end to Iran’s interferences in the entire region. The Arab countries and the Gulf countries in particular have long sought that objective. As the Iraqis prepare for a new American age in Iraq, the US mili­tary presence in northern Syria is contingent on the success of the safe-zones project. The presence of Iran-backed militias in the region, including Hezbollah, has become jeopardised. The eventual US-Russian agreement about Syria will most likely not allow the presence of Hezbollah and its sister groups in the country.
Fully aware of these dire pros­pects, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah played the card that had made him wildly popular: Fighting Israel. Hezbollah has since 2006 observed the terms of the ceasefire with Israel on the south­ern borders. For years now, the real enemy was in Al-Qusayr or Homs or Aleppo, etc. Today, the party leader decides it is time to bring out the old “enemy”.The debates engulfing the Leba­nese Shia are sometimes surreal. The resistance multitude is proud of the additional striking force Hezbollah affords Lebanon when it comes to standing up to the Israeli threat. It does, however, overlook the fact that this same group might end up being part of the striking force of the Syrian regime. At the same time, this multitude is nerv­ous about any changes in the Syrian scene and regarding what I see as the eventual American coup d’état against Iran.
By resorting to escalation, Hez­bollah wishes to be seen as defend­ing Lebanon. In other words, it wants the world to place it within the context of securing the safety of Israel rather than within the context of restraining Iran’s expansionism.
Whatever the changes coming to the region, Hezbollah is behaving like a potential loser. All we need to do is look at its attempts to impose electoral laws that suit it irrespec­tive of what the other political parties think of them, its bloody adventure in Syria, which in the end will benefit Russia, and its total rejection by the non-Shia communi­ties in Lebanon and elsewhere.
**Mohamed Kawas is a Lebanese writer.

Wage increases, new taxes trigger protests in Lebanon
Abdel-Rahman Ayas/The Arab Weekly/March 26/17
Beirut - Lebanon’s leaders are looking into ways to produce the country’s first budget in more than a decade and ap­prove pending salary increases for the public sector’s civil and military personnel. The cabinet has so far failed to formulate a budget for 2017 because of disagreement over how to clear public expenditures. Parlia­ment, in the meantime, has stopped debating the pay rises, which have been dragging on for four years, after citizens took to the streets to protest the taxes proposed to fi­nance them. Although political disputes, which hindered the production of a budget since 2005, seem to have eased with the election of Presi­dent Michel Aoun and appoint­ment of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the cabinet is still finding it hard to sort some things out, a government source said. “All ministers agree that spending since 2005 should be cleared before a new budget is sent to parliament, according to laws governing public spending, but the whole thing is a mess that needs time to be cleaned up,” the source noted.
The parliament’s term, extended twice into a full four-year tenure due to politicians’ failure to agree to a new election law, will expire in June.“The cabinet and later parliament need to get busy preparing a new election law that is acceptable to all influential parties, and if prepa­rations for a new election law are under way, it is possible that both the budget and the raises are put on hold,” the source said. “The raises will most likely be included in the budget to make decisions concern­ing revenues and expenditures easier.”Approving the budget before clearing government expenditures made without a budget “is like sell­ing the bear’s skin before killing it”, said Amin Saleh, an independent economist. “Clearance, which is necessary to tell how much the gov­ernment spent before it plans future expenditures, is not merely techni­cal; it also has political, constitu­tional and legal dimensions.”
Some parties, including Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, call for re­vising clearances since 1992, when Hariri’s late father, Rafiq, assumed the prime ministry and launched his costly postwar reconstruction plans.
Saleh suggested including the pay increases in the budget.
According to Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil’s, Lebanon’s banks once suggested contributing $1 bil­lion to the treasury instead of pay­ing higher taxes. The banks denied the claim, which Saleh said would amount to an attempt to bribe the government if true. Parliament stopped debating the public sector’s rises when protest­ers against proposed tax hikes took to the streets. Demonstrators in central Beirut hurled empty water bottles at Hariri when he tried to calm people rallying against pro­posed tax hikes. Carrying placards and banners, about 2,000 people flooded Riad Al Solh Square to pro­test against tax hikes that parlia­ment is considering to fund public sector pay rises. “The road will be long… and we will be by your side and will fight corruption,” Hariri vowed. But protesters shouted “thief” and threw plastic bottles at the premier, who left soon after. Saleh said protesters were justi­fied in calling for investigations into reported government corrup­tion, but urged them to come up with specific proposals on how to finance the pay increases without more taxes. “The same applies to public school teachers who threaten to strike if they do not get the raises they want,” Saleh said. “Where are the tangible proposals of unions of teachers and other public sector employees with grievances?”
Rayya Hassan, a former finance minister and politburo member of Hariri’s Future Movement, believes that both the cabinet and parlia­ment are back to the drawing board on how to manage the budget and salaries. “The protesters made a big gain: A promise to reconsider the pro­posed taxes,” she said about Hariri’s statement in the square. “Person­ally, I do not believe in any public spending without enough revenues and curbing corruption… If the rais­es are passed outside the budget, we will get into a vicious circle. We need a fair and balanced taxation policy inside the budget.”Anger at Lebanon’s government has fueled repeated protests in cen­tral Beirut over the last two years, particularly in the summer of 2015, when politicians failed to agree on a solution to a trash disposal crisis. Piles of garbage festered in the streets, prompting an unprec­edented stream of independently mobilised protests. Previously, all major protests had been organised through the big sectarian parties that dominate Lebanese politics.
**Abdel-Rahman Ayas is a Beirut-based business writer.

Saida, Lebanon’s authentic city

Samar Kadi/The Arab Weekly/March 26/17
Old part of the city remains largely well preserved with its typical urban fab­ric and its social and cultural tradi­tions. Saida - Named Sidon by the Phoenicians, Saida by the Arabs and Sagette by the Crusaders, the so-called capital of south­ern Lebanon has existed through numerous eras that forged its iden­tity. Its Phoenician and Roman ar­chaeological sites, iconic Crusader Sea Fort, old churches, mosques and caravanserais testify to Saida’s rich and diverse history. Only a 30-minute drive from the Lebanese capital Beirut, Saida bears the scars of the brutal mutations of 20th-century urbanisation and the 1975-90 civil war. However, the old part of the city remains largely well preserved with its typical urban fab­ric and its social and cultural tradi­tions.
Visitors approaching the city from the north are greeted from afar by the Sea Fort standing on a small rocky island 80 metres from the coast. Built by the Crusaders in 1227 to protect a thriving port, the citadel has become the emblem of the city. Sitting on the edge of the old city adjacent to the port, Khan al-Franj, or French caravanserai, is the best example of the restoration works in old Saida. Heavily damaged by squatters and the 1982 Israeli in­vasion of Lebanon, the khan was restored to its former glory by the Hariri Foundation. The institution, which was set up by late Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, a native of Saida, rented the place from the French in 1992. “The Khan was built by Emir Fakhreddine II at the beginning of the 17th century. The ground floor used to be a warehouse for stock­ing merchandise, while merchants stayed in bedrooms on the first floor. It remained a centre of trad­ing activity until the end of the 19th century,” said Khan’s director Ta­hani Santina.
With its rectangular inner court and vaulted galleries, the historic building has been used as a French consular residence, a Franciscan convent and school and an orphan­age. Today it serves as a centre for heritage and cultural activities. The khan has six rooms converted into an auberge, part of the international youth hostels network, with prices ranging from $15 to $35 a night, de­pending on the season. Visitors, especially foreign tour­ists, however, have become rare due to regional instability. The place once attracted more than 40,000 visitors a year but in recent years the figure has been 12,000, mostly students. Saida is also renowned for its thematic souks, a maze of paved narrow alleys lined with old stone buildings where items from cloth to kitchenware and shoes are on dis­play. In their small vaulted shops, artisans practise old crafts and trades, including sweet-making and carpentry.
“My family has been in this souk for 150 years. I learned the trade from my father and forefathers but today our merchandise is rotting in the sun. Too much competition by Chinese products… I fear our trade is becoming extinct,” said Ahmad, a carpenter. A small door in the middle of the souk leads to Saida’s Saint Nicholas Cathedral, which dates from the eighth century, and a shrine where the apostles Peter and Paul are said to have met in 58AD. “The church records say that Pe­ter and Paul met in this room. While being taken to Rome as a prisoner, Paul asked the commander of the ship, Julius, for permission to visit friends in Sidon. He came here where he encountered Peter by chance,” said Greek Orthodox priest Nicolas Bassil.
The cathedral was partitioned with a stone wall following a schism in the Orthodox Church. “In 1818 and after a long battle in court, the Ottoman wali decided to divide the church in two parts, a Greek Ortho­dox and a Greek Catholic,” Bassil said. Another landmark of the old city is the Soap Museum, previously a soap factory, which relates the his­tory of handmade soap. Built in the middle of the 17th century, the factory operated until the civil war started in 1975. After the war, the owners, the Audi family, turned the site into a museum. “We inform visitors about the way soap was being manufactured in the past, the traditional way. It takes around 50 days to produce the soap,” said a museum guide, as she showed old stone sinks where sodium-enriched water was filtered before being mixed and boiled with olive oil in big containers and then perfumed and dyed.With the slowdown of tourism, foreign visitors in Saida such as Ju­lia Borovitch from the Czech Repub­lic are rare. “I reside in Beirut and it is the third time I come here,” said Boro­vitch. “Every time I have visiting friends and family I bring them to Saida. It is a nice place. There is a lot to see and the people are very friendly and hospitable.”
**Samar Kadi is the Arab Weekly society and travel section editor.

Israel-Lebanon maritime dispute heats up
Ynetnews/Amir Ben David/March 26/17
/In response to news of Israeli legislation concerning maritime demarcation between the two enemy states, Lebanon's Speaker of Parliament warns that such a bill is 'a declaration of war.' Nabih Berri, Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, called Israel's proposed legislation to annex a section of disputed maritime territory a "declaration of war." In an interview with Lebanese media, Berri said, "This will be the Shebaa Farms conflict at sea, which will open a situation with many dangerous possibilities."Last week, Yedioth Ahronoth learned that the Israeli government is planning to pass the Maritime Areas Bill, which will define Israel's economic waters and include the disputed maritime territory between Lebanon and Israel. The disputed territory is an 800 square-kilometer triangular section of the sea beginning near Rosh HaNikra (marked in the map above as sections 1-3). Both states claim ownership and the right to search for and harvest natural gas, oil or other natural resources. The application of the law has been delayed for years while the United States and UN attempted to mediate the dispute.While Israel has included the territory on maps delineating resource search zones, it has for years refrained from taking tenders on the disputed territory. However, for the first time, Lebanon has included the disputed territory in tenders for search licenses. In response, Israel formally protested the Lebanese decision at the UN and decided to promote the aforementioned bill. "This is a new attack by Israel on Lebanese sovereignty. What was exposed in the Israeli press is not a casual move, but rather the way Israel is trying to take control of gas and oil in our economic territory," said Berri. Israel's Ministry of Energy issued a statement saying, "The Maritime Areas Bill is intended to clearly define the various maritime areas according to international law, and Israeli law will apply to them. Regarding the disputed area with Lebanon, Israel did not include it in the tender process and is open to all dialogue for solutions while safeguarding the Israeli interest."
(Translated and edited by Fred Goldberg)

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 26-27/17
One Killed, 15 Wounded in Ohio Nightclub Shooting
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 26/17/One person was killed and at least 15 others injured early Sunday in a shooting at a nightclub in Cincinnati, Ohio, local media reported. "We are in the middle of a very horrific situation that occurred at the nightclub with multiple victims," assistant police chief Paul Neudigate said, WLWT5 News reported. He said hundreds were in the Cameo nightclub when shots broke out, causing many to flee the scene in panic. The television news station put the toll at one dead and at least 15 injured. Nobody has been taken into custody, Sergeant Eric Franz told ABC News, describing the aftermath as a "large and complicated homicide scene."He said police were interviewing multiple witnesses to the shooting, which occurred at around 1 am (0500 GMT).

Air Strike Kills 16 Civilians near Damascus
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 26/17/At least 16 civilians were killed and dozens wounded on Saturday in an air strike on a rebel-held area outside Syria's capital Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said. It said it was not immediately clear who was responsible for the strike on the town Hammuriyeh in the opposition bastion of Eastern Ghouta. "Sixteen civilians, including a child, were killed and around 50 others wounded in an air strike on the main street in the town of Hammuriyeh," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said. It was not immediately clear if all the wounded were civilians or if some were rebel fighters, he said, adding that the death toll could rise further because a number of the injured were in serious condition. The Eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus has been under a devastating government siege since 2012, and is also the regular target of regime air strikes and artillery fire. It is the last remaining opposition stronghold near Damascus, where a string of local "reconciliation deals" have seen villages and towns brought back under the control of President Bashar al-Assad's government. More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests. Government ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey brokered a nationwide truce in December, but violence has continued across the country.

Syria U.S.-Backed Fighters Enter IS-Held Airport
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 26/17/Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance on Sunday entered a military airport held by the Islamic State jihadist group in northern Syria, a spokesman said. The advance on Tabqa airbase comes as the alliance prepares an attack on IS' de facto Syrian capital Raqa, seeking to effectively surround the city before launching its assault.SDF forces are also battling for the nearby Tabqa dam, held by IS, which was forced out of service on Sunday after its power station was damaged, a technical source there told AFP. SDF spokesman Talal Sello said clashes were ongoing at Tabqa airbase, which IS captured in 2014."The SDF has taken control of more than 50 percent of Tabqa military airport. Fighting is ongoing inside the airport and its surroundings and full control of the airport is expected within the next few hours," he said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said IS forces had withdrawn from the airbase under heavy artillery fire and U.S.-led coalition air strikes. IS seized the base from government troops in August 2014 and carried out one of its worst massacres there, killing up to 200 government soldiers. With support from the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS in Syria and Iraq, SDF fighters have inched closer to Raqa, taking territory to the north and east. At their closest point, they are just eight kilometers (five miles) from the city, to the northeast. But they are mostly further away, between 18 and 29 kilometers from Raqa. Earlier this week, U.S. forces airlifted SDF fighters behind IS lines to allow them to launch the Tabqa assault, and on Friday the alliance reached one of the dam's entrances.
Tabqa dam faces danger
But the fight for the dam, the biggest in Syria, forced it out of service on Sunday, risking dangerous rising water levels."Shelling on the area... that supplies that dam with electricity has put it out of service," the technical source said. "The work needed to fix the problem is not possible because there is not sufficient staff available as a result of the intensive shelling in the area of the dam," he added. "If the problem is not fixed, it will begin to pose a danger to the dam." The SDF's Sello told AFP there was no imminent danger to the dam, adding it had not been hit in air strikes. The dam remains under IS control, with SDF progress being hampered by the exposed nature of the terrain, which is also heavily mined, the Observatory said. IS issued warnings through its propaganda agency Amaq that the dam "is threatened with collapse at any moment because of American strikes and a large rise in water levels."But the source at the dam told AFP there had not yet been significant water level increases, though he acknowledged levels would rise if the facility remained out of service. Earlier this year, the U.N.'s humanitarian coordination agency OCHA said water levels in the Euphrates had risen 10 meters (33 feet) since late January, in part from heavy rainfall and snow. But it warned that damage to the dam "could lead to massive scale flooding across Raqa and as far away as Deir Ezzor" province to the southeast. Any further rises in the water level or damage to the Tabqa dam "would have catastrophic humanitarian implications in all areas downstream," the U.N. warned. More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since its conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

Saudi Shura Council Member Ibrahim Al-Buleihi Criticizes Arab Society: All We Want Today Is To Regress Further
MEMRI/March 26/17/Saudi Shura Council Member Ibrahim Al-Buleihi said that Arab society has become "even more backward than it used to be." Speaking on Rotana Khalijiyya TV on November 3, 2016, he said: "In the past, we did not create organizations like Al-Qaeda and Taliban. At least we had aspirations and dreams of change."Ibrahim Al-Buleihi: "When I read, in books of European history, about Copernicus, Martin Luther, Galileo, or Descartes, their ideas did not catch on quickly. Instead, wars broke out for the sake of... But no [intellectual thinker] remained alone.
"When we consider Arab society on the other hand--we see that pioneer intellectuals – like Averroes – had no followers.
"On the contrary, he was rejected.
"Look around you. We have been building universities for over two centuries, and we have been filling our cities with intellectuals and doctors, yet we are even more backward than we used to be.
"In the past, we did not create organizations like Al-Qaeda and Taliban. At least we had aspirations and dreams of change, but what is happening today is the opposite. All we want is to become even more backward. We believe that further regression is the right choice."

Iran sanctions 15 US companies for support of Israel
Ynetnews/Associated Press/March 26/17/A Foreign Ministry statement carried by the state-run IRNA news agency Sunday said the companies are barred from any agreements with Iranian firms and that former and current directors will not be eligible for visas. Iran has imposed sanctions on 15 American companies over their alleged support for Israel, terrorism and repression in the region. A Foreign Ministry statement carried by the state-run IRNA news agency Sunday said the companies are barred from any agreements with Iranian firms and that former and current directors will not be eligible for visas.
The move is seen as a response to US sanctions placed on dozens of Iranian entities in February following an Iranian missile test. Iran's sanctions are unlikely to have much impact as none of the targeted US companies are known to do business in Iran.The companies include Bent Tal, United Technologies Products. ITT Corporation, Raytheon, Re/Max Real Estate, Magnum Research Inc., Oshkosh Corporation, Kahr Arms and Elbit Systems. A senior Iranian lawmaker meanwhile said Iran would consider a bill branding the US military and the CIA as terrorist groups if the US Congress passes a bill designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. Such moves could heighten tensions in Iraq and Syria, where Iranian-backed forces and a US-led coalition are battling ISIS. Allaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, was quoted by state TV as saying the move to further sanction the Revolutionary Guard goes against the 2015 nuclear deal Iran reached with the United States and other world powers.

61 bodies pulled from collapsed Mosul site boobytrapped by ISIS
Reuters, Baghdad Sunday, 26 March 2017/Iraqi's military said on Sunday 61 bodies had been recovered from a collapsed building that was boobytrapped by ISIS in Western Mosul, but there was no sign it had been hit by a coalition strike though a large vehicle bomb was discovered nearby. The statement was a response to reports by eyewitnesses and local officials that as many as 200 bodies had been pulled from a collapsed building after a coalition strike last week targeted ISIS militants and equipment in al Jadida district area. The incident remains far from clear and details are difficult to confirm as Iraqi forces battle with ISIS to recapture the densely populated parts of the western half of Mosul, the militant group's last stronghold in Iraq. The US-led coalition on Saturday said it carried out a strike on ISIS militants and equipment in the area of the reported deaths, but it was still investigating. It did not give figures for any casualties or details on targets. The Iraqi military command said eyewitnesses had told troops that the buildings were boobytrapped and militants had forced residents inside basements to use them as human shields. ISIS militants had also fired on troops from those houses, it said. But its figures were lower than other local officials. A local municipal official said on Saturday, 240 bodies had been pulled from the rubble. A local lawmaker and two eyewitnesses say a coalition air strike may have targeted a large truck bomb, triggering a blast that collapsed buildings. The incident has highlighted the complexity of fighting around Western Mosul's Old City, where ISIS are hiding among families and using the narrow streets and alleys to their advantage, forcing Iraqi forces into street fighting.

Egyptian court jails 56 over migrant boat shipwreck
Reuters, Rashid, Egypt Sunday, 26 March 2017/An Egyptian court sentenced 56 people to prison on Sunday over the capsizing of a migrant boat that left over 200 people dead last year. The defendants were sentenced to at least seven years in jail, judicial sources said, with some sentences extending to 13 or 14 years. One woman was acquitted. The boat capsized off the Mediterranean coast on Sept. 21. Rescue workers and fishermen rescued at least 169 people, but at least 202 people died. It was one of deadliest disasters to hit migrants attempting the perilous sea journey from Africa to Europe. Charges against the 57 included causing the accidental death of 202 passengers, not using sufficient rescue equipment, endangering lives, receiving money from the victims, hiding suspects from authorities, and using a vessel without a licence. The boat sank in the Mediterranean off Burg Rashid, a village in Egypt’s northern Beheira province where the sea and the Nile meet. It had been carrying Egyptian, Sudanese, Eritrean and Somali migrants and was believed to be heading for Italy. A record 5,000 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean last year, aid agencies have said. In the worst known incident, around 500 African migrants and their children died when a fishing boat capsized off Egypt’s coast in April.

Hamas shuts Gaza crossing, blames Israel for assassination
AFP, Gaza City, Palestinian Territories Sunday, 26 March 2017/Hamas shut the crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Sunday, after blaming Israel for the assassination of one of its officials in the Palestinian enclave. A statement from the interior ministry in Gaza, run by Hamas, said it was shutting the Erez crossing for an indefinite period as it investigates the murder on Friday. Hamas officials have blamed Israeli intelligence agency Mossad for the killing of Mazen Faqha, 38, who was shot dead by unknown gunmen in the Gaza Strip on Friday. Israel has not commented on the shooting. According to Israeli media, Faqha was responsible for cells of Hamas’s military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israel arrested Faqha and sentenced him to prison over suicide attacks that killed hundreds of Israelis during the second intifada, or uprising, between 2000 and 2011 He was released in 2011 along with more than 1,000 other Palestinians in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier Hamas had detained for five years, and transferred to Gaza. Israel did not immediately comment in detail on Sunday’s closure but said its side of the crossing remained open. The Erez crossing is the only one between Gaza and Israel for people. Another crossing with Israel, Kerem Shalom, is used for goods. The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for a decade. Palestinian militants in Gaza and Israel have fought three wars since 2008. Gaza’s sole crossing with Egypt has also remained largely closed in recent years.

Erdogan says Turkey may hold Brexit-like referendum
AFP, Ankara Sunday, 26 March 2017/Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday it would be "easier" if the EU blocked Ankara's bid to join the bloc, suggesting he could even hold a referendum on the matter. It was the latest barb in the bitter dispute between Turkey and Europe after Germany and The Netherlands blocked Turkish ministers from campaigning among expats for a "yes" vote in next month's referendum on boosting Erdogan's powers. "What? If a 'yes' comes out on April 16, they would not take us into the European Union? Oh, if only they could give this decision! They would make our work easier," Erdogan told a rally in the southern city of Antalya. Despite the strained relations, no EU leader has openly said that a "yes" vote would spell the end of Turkey's already-embattled bid to join the bloc. If Turkish voters end up approving the constitutional changes, April 16 "would be a breaking point" in EU-Turkey relations, Erdogan said, adding: "Turkey is no one's whipping boy."Later on Saturday at a Turkey-Britain forum, the Turkish leader suggested he could even put EU membership to a vote after the April referendum, saying: "We could pursue a referendum and obey the decision taken by the nation."
Among some European politicians, there has already been talk about the future of Turkey's membership process. Writing in Politico Europe, Kati Piri, the European Parliament's Rapporteur for Turkey, said that if the constitutional changes were approved, "the European Parliament will have to assess whether the country's new governance structure meets the EU's Copenhagen accession criteria." On April 16, Turks will decide whether to approve constitutional changes that would create an executive presidency and abolish the post of prime minister. The government says the changes would provide political stability by avoiding fragile coalition governments, but critics fear it will lead to one-man rule. Another issue which has raised questions over Turkey's membership bid is plans mooted by Erdogan to bring back the death penalty if the move was approved by parliament. "What? If the death penalty is introduced (to bring justice) for the 249 people killed (in last year's failed coup), Turkey has no place in Europe? Oh, let it not be!" he mocked on Saturday. Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004 as part of its bid to join the EU and Brussels has made clear that any move to bring it back would scupper Ankara's decades-long efforts to join the bloc.

US strike kills senior al-Qaeda leader behind deadly attacks
The Associated Press, Washington Sunday, 26 March 2017/A US counterterrorism airstrike earlier this month in Afghanistan killed an al-Qaeda leader responsible for a deadly hotel attack in Islamabad in 2008 and the 2009 attack on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team, the Pentagon said Saturday. In confirming the death of Qari Yasin, US officials said Yasin was a senior terrorist figure from Balochistan, Pakistan, had ties to the group Tehrik-e Taliban and had plotted multiple al-Qaeda terror attacks. The airstrike that led to his death was conducted March 19 in Paktika Province, Afghanistan.
Yasin plotted the Sept. 20, 2008, bombing on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad that killed dozens, officials said. The victims included two American service members, Air Force Maj. Rodolfo I. Rodriguez of El Paso, Texas, and Navy Cryptologic Technician 3rd Class Petty Officer Matthew J. O'Bryant of Theodore, Alabama, U.S. officials said. The bus attack in the Pakistani city of Lahore killed six Pakistani policemen and two civilians and wounded six members of the cricket team. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in the statement: "The death of Qari Yasin is evidence that terrorists who defame Islam and deliberately target innocent people will not escape justice."The killing of Yasin in eastern Afghanistan lends credence to Pakistani claims that its militant enemies have found sanctuaries there. The neighboring countries routinely charge each other with harboring the other's enemies. Relations deteriorated earlier this year after a series of attacks in Pakistan that killed 125 people led Islamabad to close its border with Afghanistan for more than one month. The two countries have exchanged lists of insurgents hiding out on the other's soil and Afghanistan has also given Pakistan the locations of 23 sanctuaries where its Taliban militants are hiding. Kabul is demanding they be closed.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On March 25-26/17
A kill list targeting Shiite intellectuals
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/March 26/17
Six Saudi influential figures who are critical of uncontrolled arms and terrorist cells were threatened after graffitists listed their names on a wall in the town of Al-Awamiyah. What these men have in common is their consensus to condemn the assassination attempt of Engineer Nabih al-Barahim and their call to disarm terrorists and murderers fortified in Al-Awamiyah’s neighborhood of al-Masura, the terrorists’ stronghold. It’s an old area which the government is planning to reform and develop in a way that harmonizes architecturally. The government aims to turn it into an open and renewed area after it had been easy for terrorists to station themselves there to launch their brutal operations. Voices – from all sects and religions – critical of terrorism must be encouraged to speak up. The aim of this graffiti is to silence critical voices and threaten intellectuals and Shiite media figures who support civil peace values.
Voices – from all sects and religions – critical of terrorism must be encouraged to speak up. Media figures in Riyadh, Qassim and Jeddah have in the past suffered from al-Qaeda’s terrorism and some of these figures’ names were listed as targets in 2004. We’re witnessing this again as Al-Awamiyah cells are doing the same and threatening men with reasonable voices in al-Ahsa and Qatif. “The state will remain the state,” the Saudi crown prince once said, and no one should ever be allowed to perform the role of the state.

Saudi training and internship programs need a boost
Samar Fatany/Al Arabiya/March 26/17
Increasing employment opportunities for Saudi youth continues to be one of the main challenges facing Saudi Arabia today. Economists urge the need for a more efficient strategy to address the high rate of unemployment. 1.9 million Saudis will enter the workforce over the next decade according to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. Everyone agrees that more needs to be done to upgrade the educational system and increase career options to absorb the young and growing working-age populations into the workforce.
At present it remains critical to address the challenges facing post-graduate education. The Ministry of Education is continuously urged by experts to upgrade the school curricula and create technical workshops to produce graduates suitable for the industrial labor market.
Unfortunately, internship programs are not as effective and Saudi graduates lack the basic qualifications such as fluency in English, analytical and problem-solving skills, good command of MS Office and communication skills, both oral and written, required for any internship program in any reputable institution or company. Thus, industrial companies remain reluctant to recruit young graduates due to their poor qualifications and ill preparedness to work in the industrial sector. Meanwhile, local companies do not provide adequate on-the-job training for young inexperienced employees and are not willing to invest in providing highly qualified trainees. Not many Saudi companies provide adequate internship programs for the inexperienced graduates seeking employment. Ask any of the young interns who completed their internship in local companies and they will all tell you that they did not learn much and their benefit was minimal.
Zero guidance
Most graduates complain that companies do not provide proper mentoring, training is inadequate and they feel marginalized with zero guidance leaving them lost and struggling to prove their competence at work. Adopting best practices from reputable international companies can be of great benefit for the newly employed graduates who are eager to learn, contribute and excel. Today most renowned academic institutions have centers for career education (CCE) that offer unique opportunities to provide young graduates with the required work experience and the opportunity to explore and learn. Many universities abroad offer numerous internship programs where students can learn about professional fields and experience typical workdays. Internship programs are taken seriously and students are provided with the necessary skills to pursue their future careers. The future development of Saudi Arabia into a diversified, knowledge-based economy will depend on a strong private sector and its ability to attract and train young graduates and offer them the incentives to contribute to nation building. Most global companies apply international training standards to provide serious and professional internship training to enhance capabilities and provide the necessary expertise to build productive employees. Reputable companies offer ground internship training on projects, which include the collaboration of expert motivators and thinkers around the world who work together to solve challenges. They provide training and mentoring that can boost the career of a young graduate with adequate skills to qualify them for a job anywhere in the world. Coaching, mentoring, job rotation and job instructional techniques are some of the necessary training requirements Coaching is a one-to-one training method that provides a more effective instruction for each trainee to develop according to their pace and individual capability. Instructional techniques that provide step-by-step instruction can also ensure that the trainer is assured that the learner has mastered the necessary skills required to make him a productive employee.
The mentoring process focuses on the development of attitude and work ethics, providing young employees with a solid foundation of professionalism and communication skills. Other methods include rotating them through a series of related jobs to make them more familiar with the work environment and able to perform different tasks in different sectors. Young employees can be more efficient and hardworking once they are provided with the proper technical guidance, thorough instructions and a specialized on the job training. The process of training young inexperienced employees should be taken more seriously by the Saudi labor market. The future development of Saudi Arabia into a diversified, knowledge-based economy will depend on a strong private sector and its ability to attract and train young graduates and offer them the incentives to contribute to nation building. Only if we apply effective policies, efficient strategies, and constructive plans that are based upon scientific methodologies can we make Vision 2030 more achievable.

Islamists taking the banner of a civil state
Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/March 26/17
It does not irritate or provoke me that the leaders of powerful Islamist parties, blocs and groups in the Iraqi authority have finally abandoned their traditional (Islamic) discourse, which they exaggerated its sanctity, and started shouting our sinful civic discourse.
It does not irritate or provoke me either that a number of these powerful Islamist parties, blocs and groups may run for Electoral Commission, which is responsible for registering parties and political associations under the law of parties issued last year, to enlist them with new names under a civil status and reforms.
In general, these recent developments are implicit or shy acknowledgment from these parties, blocs and groups and their leaders that they have failed to run the country for the past 14 years based on the Islamic theses and slogans only to deceive the Iraqis for the sake of power, public and private funds.
These developments are not provocative, because they are nothing but tricks. The rational people will come to realize that these blocs and groups are not concerned with civilization and reform and will not establish a civil state, just as they were only interested in Islam for their own personal agenda and benefits. The masses and groups and their leaders are the perpetrators of failure, mistakes and major sins, which lead to the downfall of one-third of the country for more than two years in the hands of ISIS with all the human suffering that accompanied millions of people and the destruction of dozens of cities and towns, as well as degrading the prestige and status of the state and its armed forces. Consequently, 35 million Iraqis suffered from poverty, destitution, ignorance, backwardness and the lack of public services in addition to fueling destructive sectarian and nationalist tendencies.
I do not think that raising the banner of civil reform by the influential parties, blocs and Islamic groups will benefit them in the parliamentary and local elections that will take place one year from now, especially if they are not accompanied by the launching of civic and national reform projects and programs and a change in leadership who are responsible for failures, mistakes and errors. For a few number of people who have experienced firsthand the Islamic forces in Iraq and abroad, the mere implementation of civil and reform projects and programs or a change in leadership will not be enough. People are accustomed to hearing one thing and seeing something else on the ground. Since the start of the protest movements more than a year and a half by millions of people, the ruling political class, through its government and its parliament, has made several reformist packages full of promises and pledges. Nothing has come of value, and some "reformist" measures have been reversed. There is a great deal of mistrust in this political class, and the gap between people and this class will not simply be filled by introducing a new "movement", embodied in changing the names and addresses from "Islamic" to civil and reform.

Islam, Not Christianity, is Saturating Europe
Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/March 26/17
Jihadists seem to be leading an assault against freedom and against secular democracies.
Sunni Islam's most prominent preacher, Yusuf al Qaradawi, declared that the day will come when, like Constantinople, Rome will be Islamized.
It is Islam, not Christianity, that now saturates Europe's landscape and imagination.
According to US President Trump's strategic advisor Steve Bannon, the "Judeo-Christian West is collapsing, it is imploding. And it's imploding on our watch. And the blowback of that is going to be tremendous".
The impotence and the fragility of our civilization is haunting many Europeans as well.
Europe, according to the historian David Engels will face the fate of the ancient Roman Republic: a civil war. Everywhere, Europeans see signs of fracture. Jihadists seem to be leading an assault against freedom and against secular democracies. Fears occupy the collective imagination of Europeans. A survey of more than 10,000 people from ten different European countries has revealed increasing public opposition to Muslim immigration. The Chatham House Royal Institute of International Affairs carried out a survey, asking online respondents their views on the statement that "all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped". In the 10 European countries surveyed, an average of 55% agreed with the statement.
Mainstream media are now questioning if "Europe fears Muslims more than the United States". The photograph used in the article was a recent Muslim mass prayer in front of Italy's monument, the Coliseum. In echoes of the capture of the great Christian civilization of Byzantium in Constantinople, Sunni Islam's most prominent preacher, Yusuf al Qaradawi, declared that the day will come when Rome will be Islamized.
Hundreds of Muslims engage in a mass prayer service next to the Coliseum in Rome, on October 21, 2016. (Image source: Ruptly video screenshot)
Do civilizations die from outside or inside? Is their disappearance the result of external aggression (war, natural disasters, epidemics) or of an internal erosion (decay, incompetence, disastrous choices)? Arnold Toynbee, in the last century, was adamant: "Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder".
"The contemporary historian of ancient Greece and ancient Rome saw their civilisations begin their decline and fall, both the Greeks and the Romans attributed it to falling birth rates because nobody wanted the responsibilities of bringing up children," said Britain's former chief rabbi, Lord Sacks.
Everywhere in Europe there are signs of a takeover. Muslim students now outnumber Christian students in more than 30 British church schools. One Anglican primary school has a "100 percent Muslim population". The Church of England estimated that about 20 of its schools have more Muslim students than Christian ones, and 15 Roman Catholic schools have majority Muslim students. In Germany as well, there are fears of a massive Muslim influx into the school system, and German teachers are openly denouncing the threat of a "ghettoization".
France saw 34,000 fewer babies born last year than in 2014, a new report just found. The number of French women having children has reached its lowest level in 40 years. A low fertility rate has become a plague all over Europe: "In 1995 only one country, Italy, had more people over 65 than under 15; today there are 30 and by 2020 that number will hit 35." Welcome to the "Greying of Europe".
Additionally, if it were not for Muslim women, France would have an even lower birth rate: "With a fertility rate of 3.5 children per woman, the Algerians contribute significantly to the growth of the population in France", wrote the well-known demographer Gérard-François Dumont.[1]
Thanks to Muslim migrants, Sweden's maternity wards are busy these days.[2]
In Milan, Italy's financial center, Mohammed is the top name among newborn babies. The same is true in London, in the four biggest Dutch cities and elsewhere in Europe, from Brussels to Marseille. It is Islam, not Christianity, that now saturates Europe's landscape and imagination.
Meanwhile, Europe's leaders are almost all childless. In Germany, Angela Merkel has no children, as British prime minister Theresa May and one of France's leading presidential candidates, Emmanuel Macron. As Europe's leaders have no children and no reason to worry about the future (everything ends with them), they are now opening Europe's borders to keep the continent in a demographic equilibrium. "I believe Europeans should understand that we need migration for our economies and for our welfare systems, with the current demographic trend we have to be sustainable", said Federica Mogherini, the European Union representative for foreign affairs.
The Battle of Tours in 732 was the high-water point of the Muslim tide in Western Europe. If Christians had not won, "perhaps," wrote Edward Gibbon, "the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet". Does that sound familiar these days?
Islamists take culture and history more seriously than the Westerners do. Recently, in Paris, an Egyptian terrorist tried to strike the great museum, the Louvre. He planned to deface the museum's artwork, he said, because "it is a powerful symbol of French culture". Think about an Islamic extremist shouting "Allahu Akbar" while slashing the Mona Lisa. This is the trend we need to start reversing.
*Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
[1] Dumont elaborates: "According to the latest available data, the fertility of women living in France and born in Algeria is 3.5 children per woman; those of Morocco and Tunisia are 3.3, those of Turkey 2.9".
[2] A 25% increase in births was registered between 2001 and 2014 and the percentage of foreign-born nationals rose from 4% in the 1960s to 17% in 2015.
© 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.

Japan: The Grateful Generation
Amir George/Gatestone Institute/March 26/17
"We fought against them [Americans] and instead of harming us, they fed, clothed and rebuilt us. If it had been the Russians who had won the war instead, we would now be like North Korea." — Owner of a noodle shop, Japan.
Now is not the time to withdraw from the world, but to love, support and build a hurting and needy world that simply needs to know there is hope.
People may be familiar with the term "The Greatest Generation," now almost past, who fought World War II and rebuilt America in the shadow of the Great Depression.
Now there is "The Grateful Generation" -- those who were touched by "The Greatest Generation," their kindness and love in rebuilding the world after World War II. We in Asia and parts of the Middle East have a special place in our hearts for America.
From the graves of brave Americans at Normandy to freeing East Germany from Soviet domination, the United States has been the major force in leading the world for good.
After the end of World War II, General Douglas McArthur put out a call for 10,000 young men and women to help rebuild postwar Japan. Decades of abuse under a terrible dictator began slowly to heal.
My parents came to Japan, separately, from the West, met in Japan, married there, had their family and served the country for nearly 60 years.
When I was growing up in Japan, a strange event seemed to happen almost every day: Someone would stop, bow deeply and say "Arigato" ("thank you") sometimes accompanied by an awkward handshake or hug.
One day at a noodle shop, the owner said, "What nationality are you?"
"American", I said.
"Son", he said, "everything we have is because of Americans. We fought against them and instead of harming us, they fed, clothed and rebuilt us. If it had been the Russians who had won the war instead, we would now be like North Korea."
Throughout the world, particularly in Japan, Korea, Europe, the islands of the Pacific and so many other places, there were, and still are, people scattered throughout the world who were loved and cared for by the Americans.
The most important reason for decades of relative peace and stability in the world is not the United Nations or the European Union or the World Bank.
The real reason is that a hidden group of people, called "The Grateful Generation" fell in love with America and that love never left them.
One of the reasons for a rise in instability in the world is that this Grateful Generation -- for all America did for us -- is passing.
There is, however, a new "Grateful Generation" -- not the same in number and perhaps a bit more subdued, but in a most unlikely place: Iraq.
In Baghdad, we were with millions of America's best and brightest fanned out -- one for every ten Iraqis. We fixed the roads, fed the people, treated their wounds and, as one of my Iraqi relatives put it, "Loved us back to sanity."
The war in Iraq was steeped in the anti-American propaganda of Saddam Hussein and his insane sons as they looked fearfully out of the curtains, fearing what the Americans would do.
One of my relatives would look fearfully out the window and say, "It looks as if they are sweeping the streets and repairing the school."
"No," another would say, "They are probably laying bombs or landmines."
A few weeks into this strange situation, my family called a meeting.
"Something is going on with these Americans," they said. "We need to find out what they are planning." They then concluded that no matter how bad the Americans were, they would not harm the children.
So, the next morning they sent out the children; they came back in the evening laden with toys and candy and gum.
"No," my family said. "Put all the toys outside -- they are probably booby-trapped."The next morning, one brave cousin ventured outside to check; there all the toys still sat.
Coming inside, he announced to the huddled family, "I am not sure how to put this, but I think the Americans are all right."
Soldiers from the U.S. Army's 4th Battalion hand out small American flags and gifts to children during a goodwill visit to a village outside of Tikrit, Iraq, on April 1, 2006. (Image source: U.S. Army)
Another day, a man walked up, put three fingers up to his lips in the traditional Arab style, kissed them and lifted them to the sky. "God bless George Bush!" he said. "God bless America!"
Just think of Afghanistan, or Syria or Africa or Indonesia or the Philippines -- the list goes on and on -- each place where America went to bind up the wounds of war, help after a natural disaster, treat people for illnesses and more.
Do not listen to those who say that America needs to withdraw from the world because all we get is criticism for the good we do.
Now is not the time to withdraw from the world, but to love, support and build a hurting and needy world that simply needs to know there is hope.
**Amir George is the author of the book, Liberating Iraq.
© 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.