Category Archives: United Nations

QUAGMIRE QUALMS

BLOG 369 October 23, 2017

The world is increasingly struggling with a sense of uneasiness over emotionally confrontational situations. The civil war in Syria is far from over, suggesting that Iran and Russia may end up being the big winners. If the US withdraws from the Iranian nuclear agreement, then Israel is pushed to consider a preemptive strike to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear armed country. The options in the Middle East remain dangerous and alarming. Which way can anyone jump?

Strangely enough, North Korea’s ultimatum to America poses another muddy quagmire. On September 3, North Korea conducted an underground thermonuclear bomb that has upped the ante across the world. At the heart of the threat is the issue of the US government’s capacity to protect its citizens. The omen of a hydrogen bomb attack has now been aimed at bomb America as well as South Korea.  If the United States does not take the threat of a nuclear attack seriously, it will communicate profound weakness both to its allies as well as adversaries. Allies will no longer trust the connection. Should the US back away, it will be on the verge of being completely discredited by a third-rate third backwater country.

Part of what makes this scenario so scary, is that the North Koreans apparently have come to believe their own propaganda. Nut case leaders are one thing in comic books; they are another in real life.

The record of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama indicates a failure to take the North Korean threat seriously.  After all, what could this improvised country do? The answer today is plenty. Nuclear power makes such a difference.

While Kim Jong-un’s threats once sounded like a comedian’s monologue, the H-bomb no longer leaves the world laughing. Unless North Korean’s nuclear stockpile is obliterated, the world can expect Asia and the Middle East to follow suit in building nuclear arsenals.

America is now looking into a deepening quagmire. If the US turns its back on the North Korean taunts, the US looses big time. On the other hand, a preemptive strike has never been American foreign policy. Since diplomacy isn’t and hasn’t worked, is there another better alternative?

That’s the qualm! No happy alternatives have surfaced so far.

Leave a comment

Filed under middle east, United Nations, Violence

ISRAELI UPDATE

BLOG 362 August 28, 2017

            Hey!  I’m back from Alaska. My trip took me up to the edge of the Arctic Circle and through Denali National Park. Beautiful beyond expression! I saw bears, caribou, and even wolves. It’s hard to believe, but in about 20 days the hotels and tourist sites shut down for winter which lasts until May.  I’d love to tell you all about the experience, but this blog is about the Middle East, not the Northern Frontier. So, lets’ hop across the globe and check in on what’s happening lately.

Two items that won’t make your local newspaper are worth noting.

Recent archeological digs at Beit Habek have recently uncovered the lost city of Julias believed to be the birthplace of the Apostle’s Andrew, Philip, and Peter. In the Upper Jordan Valley near a delta entering Lake Kinneret or the Sea of Galilee, the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archeology made the amazing discovery. The ancient site of Julias or Bethsaida is mentioned in the New Testament, but the exact location has been debated. More authentication is yet to come, but a silver coin from the period of Emperor Nero was uncovered. In addition, coins from the first to third centuries turned up. Anyone interested in the archeology of ancient Israel will find this new discovery to be significant.

The second story comes to us from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Long recognized as operating with a decidedly anti-Semitic bent, they’ve done it again. In 1982, UNESCO suggested Jerusalem’s Old City belonged to the Arabs even though the city has Jewish, Armenian, Christian, and Jewish sections. They also stated that the Christian Church of the Nativity is a possession of Palestine. On July 7, 2017, in a secret ballot UNESCO recognized the Tomb of the Patriarch’s as part of the “State of Palestine.” Three countries objected, six abstained, and 21 approved. Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately called the vote and decision “delusional.”

Obviously, the Bible in Genesis 25:7-10 records the burial of Abraham and his family in Hebron in the cave of Machpelah. Since the days of King David B.C.E., Jews have lived there. Islam was not even created until the seventh century C.E.. The Six Day War brought the return of the Western Wall and the Tomb of the Patriarchs back under Israeli control after years of strife.

Because of the divisive decree by UNESCO, Prime Minister Netanyahu withdrew Israel’s $1 million a year funding to the United Nations and will use the money to build a museum of Jewish heritage in Hebron. Educational Minister Naftali Bennett said after the vote, “… time and again UNESCO denies history and distorts reality; knowingly serving those attempt to erase the Jewish state…” He noted Israel will not cooperate with UNESCO while it remains a political tool rather than a professional organization.

For decades, the United Nations has been losing ground with people who want it to succeed. I’ve been there and walked through their headquarters in New York City. They have a potential to accomplish many important objectives. The July 7 vote wasn’t one of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

August 28, 2017 · 9:08 pm

OBAMA – NETANYAHU – AND WHAT? Part 3

Blog 334 January 23, 2017

I have begun a new internet radio show!
Tune in at www. blogtalkradio.com/miraclesnow

            Obama is now history while Netanyahu still treads water. But their struggles remains worth exploring. As the first month of this new year comes to a close, maybe there are trends and possibilities that are visible and important to consider.

Last week, I alerted you to the Israeli police investigation of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office and family. He has since responded, “long years of daily persecution against me and my family turned out yesterday to be nothing.” However, the criminal investigation has not ended. A serious charge against the Prime Minister remains unknown, but its existence was reported on the news on Channel 2 in Israel. Political leaders opposing Netanyahu claimed an interest only in the democratic process rather than a political war. Stay tuned.

Across the world at the United Nations, out-going Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in his final address to the Security Council noted that Israel has been and is subject to a strong bias in the United Nations. He said, “decades of political maneuverings have created a disproportionate volume of resolutions, reports, and conferences criticizing Israel.” The Jerusalem Post published in Israel kept an account of what Ki-Moon referenced. The UN passed 223 resolutions condemning Israel and only eight against the Syrian regime for the massacre its own citizens during the past six years.

The United Nations’ score card has ended up being a reflection on itself rather than Israel. Even the heated condemnation of Israel just before Christmas turned into a political debacle more than a piece of helpful resolution of a problem. In the background then president-elect Trump signaled sympathy for the Jewish settlements the UN condemned. Nothing settled there!

The hot issue remains accepting or rejecting a two-state solution between the Palestinians and Israel. Many prominent Israeli politicians have already declared the idea dead. Most of the rest of the world demand Israel come to terms with a Palestinian state and that a settlement be reached. Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly said one thing while doing another, creating a suspicion that he wants to scuttle the two-state idea. At this point, no one is certain about what Trump thinks, but whatever policy the new President has in mind appears to pop into his head when he wakes up. Moreover President Trump appears to be able to out flip-flop Prime Minister Netanyahu who has been the ultimate switch artist up until now. Who knows where American policy is actually going?

Perhaps, 2017 is not as certain or the path as clear as we might have thought! Time to buckle up.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under America, Israel, middle east, United Nations

SYRIA? THE PITS!

United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Sima Sami Bahous, working in the U.N. Development Program, released a report on the casualties in the three-year on-going civil war. Over 120,000 citizens have been killed. Five and one-half million children need assistance. Six million have been displaced with ten million still living in poverty. Two and half million are refugees now living in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt. While these countries have been gracious, the load is approaching the unbearable point.

One glances at these statistics and soon drowns in the massive numbers. To keep in touch with the extreme cost, we have to step back and fasten on one children’s face twisted in anguish and fear –then multiply that one face by millions more. The people paying the highest price are the women and children. Syria is sinking in pain.

As the third year of fighting begins, there is no end in sight. Reports from within Syria now reveal that Assad is using starvation as a weapon to force some areas to submit. An anonymous Syrian rebel, Skyped that people are eating whatever they can find, including grass. Deaths from malnutrition-related illnesses are not uncommon. One of the hardest hit areas is Moadamiyya that has been under siege for 15 months. Opposition held towns in the Damascus suburbs and Old Homs report a similar story. A spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme reports about 200,000 Syrians in 40 besieged communities are in desperate need of aid.

The city of Homs is a good example of the crisis. As many as 4,000 people are trapped in besieged neighborhoods. Around 100 are critically wounded, trying to survive in sadly under-equipped makeshift clinics. Because Assad’s siege is total, no one can get in or out. No help or equipment has made it in or out for over 600 days. One man sent a Skype internet call, saying Syria has become a “war of starvation.”

Why? Because Bashar Assad lacks the manpower to engage street battles with the rebels, he has resorted to this strategy. Long ago labeled the “butcher of Syria,” he is apparently not bothered by such an approach. Turning now to barrel bombs in the Damascus suburb of Darayya, he is using explosives designed to create terror more than take out rebel forces. The rebels read this tactic as a sign that Assad has little left to fight with except such explosives and hunger.

Because the Geneva “supposed peace talks” have accomplished absolutely nothing, Syrians have lost faith in the international community. Rebels believe the UN has done zero to stop Assad. Yet, the rebels will not back down. Another anonymous rebel reported, “We would prefer to die of starvation than return to Assad’s rule.”

And so the war goes on . If you believe in praying about such situations, now would be a good time to get down on your knees.

Leave a comment

Filed under Civil War, middle east, Syria, United Nations

THE SYRIAN SITUATION

            Current United Nations reports indicate that somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 Syrian citizens have been killed during the Syrian civil war. President Bashar Al-Assad spoke a couple of days ago for the first time in months and essentially said nothing of substance. The most recent data indicates rebels are closing in on Damascus and Assad’s days are numbered. Of course, this same prediction was made months ago. Cutting through the spin and misinformation, here is what I’m finding behind the clouds of smoke and fire.

            Russia appears to have finally backed off. Foreign minister Sergev V. Lavror released a statement saying that there was no possibility that Assad would leave Syria. Lavror also said that the rebels insistence that Assad leave as a precondition for peace would only result in more loss of life. In recent weeks, Russia has been steadily retreating from support for the Assad regime. While they backed away from Assad, they acknowledged the loss of government held territory. The Russians now realize their unyielding support of Assad has resulted in a loss of face, trust, and prestige in the Arab world. They are on the losing end and hustling to attempt to regain prestige in the entire region. Unfortunately, they have waited so long that they have helped create the mounting death toll.

Attempting to set the stage for forward momentum, Russia also announced a trilateral gathering in a few weeks involving the United States in an attempt to restore some stability (while making Russia appear positive to the Arabs).

The bottom line is that Assad is not only seeing his top leadership defect, but has lost his major source of support. Iran must also be worried. Will Assad flee? One must factor in Assad’s Islamic faith that could allow him to die a martyr while fighting in a battle for what he might conclude involves his faith. We have seen plenty of evidence that the Islamic world has no hesitance in such suicidal actions. On the other hand, Assad could have an airplane waiting in the back yard. Apparently, his most faithful supporters in Russia have concluded they can’t second guess him.

In the midst of the killing and chaos, a bright lights does still exist inside Syria. Recently I received a report from journalist Alessandra Nucci on Trappist Nuns living in Aleppo and telling the world Merry Christmas. This contemplative order celebrated Christmas in the midst of war by reassuring the world that nothing has quenched the light shinning in the darkness. Their New Year’s message was a prayer for peace, reconciliation, dialogue, and mutual forgiveness The members continue to intercede for a faith that nurtures and transfigures. From the midst of the tragic conflict in Aleppo arises a renewed hope in the midst of despair.

Tragically, we are not likely to see those prayers answered quickly. I believe the civil war will continue well into 2013. In the post-communist era we learned that repressed societies need to recover a motivated populace if they are to become politically viable again. Suppression by totalitarian governments takes decades to be repaired. The state is set for continuing upheaval long after the Assad regime disappears.

Let us hope that someone in authority listens to those Trappist nuns.

2 Comments

Filed under Syria, United Nations, Violence

SHAKE UP OR SHAKE DOWN – Part 2

In the last blog, I suggested that a world is ending in the Middle East. Actually, that’s not new. Simply following the history of Israel is a continuous story of endless change. The Romans changed the name to Aelia Capitolina and it stated that way for well over 200 years. Helena, the mother of Constantine started the trend in the other direction and the name changed back to Jerusalem. In recent times everyone from the Turks to the Germans to the British have claimed the city of Jerusalem. As recently as  June of l967, Israeli soldiers recaptured the entire city and united Jerusalem under Jewish control. Change is a worn word in this portion of the Middle East.

Exactly what form change takes in the Egyptian world is now under duress. The struggle remains up for grabs. The situation is no less volatile in Israel.

The Israeli Air Force strike that killed Hamas commander Ahmed Jabari set off the rocket exchange that leveled most of the Hamas offices in the Gaza strip and seriously depleted their rocket supply. No rockets have been fired since the cease fire. At that point, PLO leader Abbas sought a nonmember observer state status at the United Nations. One hundred and thirty-eight General Assembly members voted yes and the Palestinians broke into wild celebrations in the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu dismissed the UN vote as meaningless and suggested retaliation would follow. It now has as Israel plans to start 3,000 new houses in the disputed area. What’s really happening? Shake up or shake down?

Of course, how this action is viewed depends on which side of the issue you already stand on. I attempt to view each situation as objectively as I possibly can. And there is more to the Israel action that meets the eye.

Construction in the El area will connect the large Jewish Ma’ale Adumim settlement to Jerusalem. The Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem will be cut off making the continuous Palestinian state endorsed by the United Nations virtually impossible. Whether Israel proceeds is still in question as the United States stopped a similar effort back in 1994. However, the area makes a serious bargaining chip. With an Israeli election coming on January 22, Netanyahu felt pressure to act quickly.

Israelis do not consider this area as settlements because they believe Jerusalem, including East Jerusalem is their capital and property. Most of the rest of the world considers East Jerusalem as occupied territory.

PLO leader Abbas may have strengthened his diplomatic stature with the U.N. vote. The rise of the popularity of Hamas has proved to be a problem for him. However, Israel’s counter move could close the window on a 2-state solution. Israel’s response signals that the Palestinians have actually lost ground in this latest exchange. Even Professor Zakaria al-Qaq at Al Quds University said, “maybe the Palestinians got something on paper and morally, but he got nothing on the ground.”

Change is in the wind, but where is it going? Don’t count on who is the winner in this latest exchange in Israel. The shake up may yet prove to be a shake down.

Leave a comment

Filed under Egypt, Israel, middle east, United Nations