Iran an Untrustworthy Ally in Iraq

(Photo: wikicommons/ MrInfo2012)

(Photo: wikicommons/ MrInfo2012)

As the United States continues its strikes on the Islamic State (IS or ISIS), the nation with many troops on the ground in Iraq is Iran. Writing at The Daily Beast, Eli Lake says that while Iran has ordered its Quds Force (“America’s most dangerous foe in the region”) not to fight Americans, this truce is for a self-serving reason and cannot be trusted:

U.S. intelligence officials tell The Daily Beast that the apparent Iranian decision not to target American troops inside Iraq reflects Iran’s desire to strike a nuclear bargain with the United States and the rest of the international community before the current negotiations expire at the end of November.

“They are not going after Americans,” one senior U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast familiar with the recent assessments. “They want the nuclear talks to succeed and an incident between our guys and their guys would not be good for those talks.”

The Quds Force, named for the Arabic word for Jerusalem, are believed to have hundreds of troops in Iraq. As the primary arm of the Iranian state that supports allied terrorist organizations, their operatives worried Obama’s predecessor so much that the Treasury Department began sanctioning its members in 2007 for sabotaging the government of Iraq. The U.S. military accused the Quds Force of orchestrating cells of terrorists in Iraq. In 2012, Wired magazine dubbed Quds Force leader Qassem Suleimani the most dangerous person on the planet. In 2013, the New Yorker arrived at a similar conclusion, and claimed he has “directed Assad’s war in Syria.”

More recently, the Treasury Department has accused the Quds Force of international heroin trafficking and conducting terrorism and intelligence operations against the Afghanistan government.

Exactly how long this informal Quds Force truce lasts is anyone’s guess. But Kimberly Kagan, the president of the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War and a one-time adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, cautioned that this…

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Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 at 8:50 AM  | Stand For Israel

Casualties Climb As Ukraine Ceasefire Continues to Crumble

(Photo: flickr/ Sasha Maksymenko)

(Photo: flickr/ Sasha Maksymenko)

Last week we reported on some disturbing developments in Ukraine: a Red Cross worker was killed by shelling, heavy fighting occurred at the airport in Donetsk, and 10 were killed when a school and bus were shelled. Writing at Vice News, Liz Fields reports that this increase in fighting – despite the supposed ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists – is causing the civilian casualties to climb:

As fighting rages around eastern Ukraine despite a tenuous ceasefire agreement between Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government, bodies continue to pile up in the morgues of Donetsk, with officials reporting at least 20 deaths over the last two days, according to Russian media.

At least 11 civilians were among those killed in the latest round of fighting, Dmitry Kalashnikov, the head of Donetsk’s main morgue, told Russia Today, an outlet that is sympathetic to Russian foreign policy.

“Twenty bodies have arrived at the morgue over the past 24 hours. Among them are 11 civilians, who were killed by shell explosions. I find it hard to call this a ceasefire,” Kalashnikov said. “Last week there were many civilian deaths, and I’m not even counting the soldiers.”

The EU has finally admitted that the peace agreement, signed early last month by Kiev, Ukrainian separatists, and Moscow, may have been breached, but at the same time called for continued adherence to the truce’s terms, Russian media reported.

“We are worried that the truce has been breached. We count on the truce to be respected because it is a necessary condition allowing the peace process to move forward, the OSCE and the Red Cross employees to work there,” Soren Liborius, the head of EU information department said, according to RT.

Clashes resumed in Donetsk pre-dawn Saturday, with residents awaking to gunfire and single booms of heavy artillery throughout the early morning, the Donestk Mayor’s Office said in a statement. The situation reportedly remained “restless” in the afternoon.

The UN estimates more than 3,000 people have been killed…

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Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 at 8:34 AM  | Stand For Israel

No Communion in Nineveh for First Time in 2,000 Years

(Photo: flickr/ james_gordon_losangeles)

(Photo: flickr/ james_gordon_losangeles)

As the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) has spread across Syria and Iraq, it has persecuted, expelled, and executed any and all whose ideas and beliefs conflict with its own hateful brand of radical Islam – including the Christian communities it has come across. Breitbart provides this troubling report on the state of Christians in the city of Nineveh in northern Iraq:

The Islamic State’s goal of eradicating Christianity from its ancient home in northern Iraq is nearly complete, report Christian officials remaining in the area. According to one Vicar, last week marked the first time in millennia that Christians did not receive Holy Communion in Nineveh, northern Iraq.

As the Telegraph reports, Canon Andrew White, the only Anglican Vicar remaining in Iraq, reported that Communion did not take place in Nineveh this year. “All [churches] are closed, all their people have run away.” Canon White noted that the few Iraqis remaining in the region are there due to poverty or immobility, and that those remaining fear for their lives constantly …

Canon White has been warning of the potential for a complete ethnic cleansing of Iraqi Christians from the region for months. In July, he told BBC Radio 4 that “the end could very well be near” for Christianity in Iraq, noting the squalor in which the Islamic State had left thousands of Christians: “We have had people massacred, their heads chopped off. The Christians are in grave danger. There are literally Christians living in the desert and on the street. They have nowhere to go.”

The Islamic State’s advances in Nineveh and other areas of northern Iraq have severely hurt the Christian populations there, forcing an estimated 200,000 people to flee their homeland and remain permanently displaced, with few belongings and no homes. The situation in northern Iraq became especially dire in July, when Islamic State jihadists conquered Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq.

In Mosul, the terrorist group demanded that all Christians convert and pay an infidel’s tax (jizya),…

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Monday, October 6th, 2014 at 11:21 AM  | Stand For Israel

Stockholm’s Syndrome

(Photo: flickr/ komponisto)

(Photo: flickr/ komponisto)

Last week, we reported in the Daily Dispatch that the nation of Sweden has decided to recognize “the state of Palestine” – the first major European country to do so. While Sweden has since tried to backtrack and qualify its position, Dan Margalit worries that other European nations might soon follow the Swedish lead:

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven looked as if he had been possessed by some demon in his inaugural speech last Friday. When he spoke before the Swedish parliament, he said his country would “recognize the state of Palestine.” MK Ahmad Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were delighted, but the government in Jerusalem was outraged, and as a result, Swedish Ambassador to Israel Carl Magnus Nesser was summoned to the Foreign Ministry to receive an official Israeli demarche. In an effort to pre-empt this move, Sweden scrambled to clarify that recognition of the new state would take place only after the two parties arrive at a negotiated settlement.

So has Sweden walked back this statement and fallen in line with Israel’s position? Not really. Lofven, who hails from the Social Democratic Party, was probably more genuine in his original statement than in his clarification. The first was probably a reflection of what he truly thinks. For Lofven, recognizing “Palestine” is just as important as dealing with Islamic State and Hamas. It tops his agenda, perhaps even eclipsing the other two …

Israel and Sweden have a history of troubled relations …

But what’s most worrying is that Sweden is not alone. It is only a trailblazer. European countries may very well follow its lead, one by one. Of course, they are likely to sound equivocal statements along the way, very much like Sweden. Two steps forward, one step back.

There are multiple factors that contributed to this European posture: Muslim immigration; a lack of understanding when it comes to Hamas and al-Qaida and their extremism and…

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Monday, October 6th, 2014 at 8:36 AM  | Stand For Israel

Islamic State: Army of Psychopaths

(Photo: flickr/ hinkelstone)

(Photo: flickr/ hinkelstone)

Even before the United States and its current coalition of “allies” began to strike the Islamic State (IS or ISIS), we brought news of the terror group’s spread across Iraq and Syria, and warned of its brutal tactics. Writing at World Affairs Journal, Michael J. Totten says that ISIS is an organization of psychopaths, which will be its ultimate undoing:

Roughly one percent of human beings are psychopaths. Most aren’t violent, and nearly all are high-functioning. Supposedly they are overrepresented in Congress, on Wall Street, in corporate boardrooms, and in large urban areas.

They’re even more overrepresented in terrorist organizations like the Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda. Every violent psychopath with Muslim parents for thousands of miles in every direction is drawn to these organizations like maggots to meat. It gives them permission to behave monstrously with impunity.

I wasn’t a bit surprised to learn recently that two British jihadists purchased Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies before heading to Syria. They weren’t drawn there by religion. They were drawn by the license to kill.

Unlike Al Qaeda, IS is trying to build an actual state, but its behavior is so unrelentingly savage that little the organization does gets attention anywhere in the world except when its goons behead foreign civilians, crucify dissidents, and wage war with genocidal intent against local minorities.

IS fighters conquered a lot of ground this way in a hurry, but it will eventually be their undoing …

Meanwhile, Israeli doctors saved the life of a five year-old Syrian boy who was shot in the head. Try to imagine IS or Al Qaeda doing anything of the sort for one of their enemies. The idea is ludicrous, isn’t it?

It could take an awfully long time before every place in the Middle East adopts a zero tolerance policy toward organizations like IS and Al Qaeda, but such gruesome people are always destroyed in the end.

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Monday, October 6th, 2014 at 8:24 AM  | Stand For Israel

Yom Kippur and the Book of Jonah

(Jonah, c. 1895, Albert Pinkham Ryder)

(Jonah, c. 1895, Albert Pinkham Ryder)

For the Jewish people, Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) begins tonight at sundown. On this day, the biblical reading is the entire Book of Jonah, something to which writer and historian Ilana Bet-El gives some personal insight:

My mother died many years ago. Rosh Hashanah she was still at home, just; but by Yom Kippur she was in hospice and unconscious. My father stayed the night there, just in case she woke up over the fast. She didn’t wake up. We laid the table with the blue-and-white china set that was only ever used at the end of the fast. We drank the coffee—with hot milk—that she claimed was the only way to break the fast, and with it we nibbled at the yeast cake we had made, in her special way, which was always the first thing we ate. Then we all went back to the hospice.

The Book of Jonah is traditionally read on Yom Kippur. The whole book. Admittedly this is not an arduous task, coming in at four chapters, but it is one I have found lingers with me over time. I started to ask myself why. When I found a semblance of an answer, I realized it was relevant to my feelings about my mother’s death.

The Book of Jonah is a story that does not gel. It has a number of ideas and themes, but it lies somewhere between narrative and thundering repost. A mention of Tarshish, then the sea and a whale, and finally a lot of Nineveh and death and a tree that appears from nowhere and is then eaten by a worm.

Take the sea. It’s a relatively unexplored theme in the Bible: There is the story of Noah and his ark, and the parting of the Red Sea, but apart from that you get schlepped through deserts and lands, get invaded by Philistines or exiled to Babylon. On the whole, it is a landlocked narrative, making this…

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Friday, October 3rd, 2014 at 3:21 PM  | Stand For Israel

Photo Friday: The Day of Atonement

(Photo: flickr/ Center for Jewish History)

(Photo: flickr/ Center for Jewish History)

… it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the Lord your God. (Leviticus 23:28)

Tonight at sundown, the Jewish people enter Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In this photo from 1917, Jewish soldiers serving during World War I attend Yom Kippur services in France.

We wish you the traditional Yom Kippur greeting: “Gemar chatimah tovah,” meaning, “May you be sealed for good in God’s Book of Life in the coming year.”

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Friday, October 3rd, 2014 at 2:36 PM  | Stand For Israel

In Israel, Growing Crops Under Biblical Law

(Photo: flickr/kpang21)

(Photo: flickr/kpang21)

A couple weeks ago, Rabbi Eckstein explained shmita, which commands that every seven years the land should lie fallow. With the new year beginning – and this year being one of shmita – the Holy Land is preparing to obey this biblical law. USA Today’s Michele Chabin provides some insight into how Israelis are readying themselves for a year of shmita:

On Friday, when Israeli Jews sit down for their pre-Yom Kippur meal, prior to the Day of Atonement fast, many will be discussing where to buy their produce during this agricultural sabbatical year.

That’s because this Jewish New Year, 5775, is a sabbatical year, when, according to the Bible, the land of Israel is supposed to lie fallow. Called a shmita year in Hebrew, the sabbatical is intended to allow the poor to reap whatever may still be growing on the land “so that the poor of your people may eat,” Exodus 23:11.

The start of the sabbatical-year prohibitions, which include sowing, planting, pruning, reaping, harvesting and improving the land, coincided with the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year that began this year on Sept. 24. Produce planted before the shmita can be harvested this year …

Recently, leaders in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), one of the largest public institutions in Israel, had to decide whether to purchase fruits and vegetables from Israeli farmers this year, as it has always done, or to obtain the produce from abroad.

To accommodate the small minority of ultra-Orthodox soldiers in the army, the IDF initially decided to purchase only imported food as well as food grown in the southern Arava desert, a stretch of Israeli land outside the boundaries of the biblical land of Israel …

Not only the army is affected. So too, are many other institutions.

The majority of the farms that donate food to Leket, Israel’s national food bank and the country’s largest food rescue network, abide by heter mechira. That means it will accept Israeli-cultivated crops.

Shaya Sheveks, director…

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Friday, October 3rd, 2014 at 2:15 PM  | Stand For Israel

Red Cross Worker Killed in Ukraine



This week we’ve been updating you on the fighting that has resumed in Ukraine. Much of it is in the eastern city of Donetsk, where a school and bus were shelled, where the airport is under attack, and where The Fellowship has been helping members of the Jewish community. Now Vice News reports that an International Red Cross worker was killed last night by shelling in Donetsk:

A worker for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was killed on Thursday night by shelling in central Donetsk, the rebel stronghold currently the scene of fierce fighting over the city’s airport .

Laurent DuPasquier, a 38-year-old Swiss national, had worked for the ICRC in crisis-hit areas across the world including Pakistan, Haiti, Egypt and Papua New Guinea, before taking up his post in Ukraine six weeks ago …

“Indiscriminate shelling of residential areas is unacceptable and violates international law,” added Stillhart, noting other civilian casualties in Donetsk on the same day.

Since fighting broke out in mid-April at least 3,000 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine and up to one million people displaced.

A ceasefire was agreed as part of a peace deal signed in Minsk on September 5, but violations have been reportedly almost daily since it was signed. Until recently much of the fighting was contained to the area surrounding Donetsk airport, where pro-Russian separatists are trying to drive Ukrainian forces from their last foothold in the city, and other flash points near the frontlines such as Debaltseve and Popasna. But overspills in the clashes and civilian casualties have mounted notably in recent days. On Wednesday at least nine deaths were reported after shells hit a bus and school playground in the Kyivskiy district in north Donetsk, close to the airport.

The fresh strikes on central areas of Donetsk are another nail in the coffin for the ceasefire deal, which many in Ukraine now regard as existing only on paper.

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Friday, October 3rd, 2014 at 1:35 PM  | Stand For Israel

English Cleric’s Anti-Semitism

(Photo: Diocese of Guildford)

(Photo: Diocese of Guildford)

Yesterday we told you about the annual Iran-sponsored anti-Semitic conference currently being held in Tehran. One of the attendees we noted is Anglican priest, Reverend Stephen Sizer, who Dexter Van Zile reports has a long history of anti-Semitism and antagonizing Jews:

He has been antagonizing Jews and saying hateful things about Israel for years. He works a lot of his mischief on his blog and Facebook page, where he has posted links to articles that downplay or minimize the Holocaust, and accuse Jews of controlling the world and of being responsible for starting World War I and World War II.

But that’s not all. Dr. Sizer has spoken a number of times on Iranian television to condemn Israel and its supporters and has spoken at conferences in Indonesia and Iran organized by Holocaust deniers and attended by anti-Israel and anti-Western terrorists.

When Sizer is confronted about his attendance at conferences organized by Holocaust deniers, he responds by saying he is merely interested in telling his audiences about Jesus Christ …

Sizer’s behavior has been so outrageous that the Board of Deputies of British Jews filed a complaint with the Church of England, charging the vicar with misconduct …

Dr. Sizer agreed to be more careful on his Internet postings and to have three people read his website and blog “in order to check their content and, in particular, monitor any links to websites.”

Sadly, it looks like Dr. Sizer has fallen off the wagon and thumbed his nose at both his church and at the Board of Deputies.

This week, he went to Iran to participate in a three-day conference where speakers blamed Israel for the September 11, 2001, attack. At the event, titled, The Second New Horizon Conference,” Sizer is giving lectures on “The Israeli Lobby in England” and on “Christian Jihad vs. Christian Zionism.”

Dr. Sizer’s participation in this conference is a violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the mediation agreement he signed with  his Anglican superiors and…

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Friday, October 3rd, 2014 at 11:15 AM  | Stand For Israel

"informing, equipping and mobilizing individuals and churches to support the
State of Israel"

Rabbi's Commentary
Rejoicing in God’s Word

The festive Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah ends and begins the annual cycle of Torah readings in synagogue. It is God’s Word that offers comfort and hope to Jews and Christians alike, reminding us of His permanent presence in our constantly changing world.

Read Rabbi Eckstein's message »


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