Posted tagged ‘Middle East’

Israel and Saudi Arabia: a desert mirage or a new alliance?

November 21, 2017

Israel and Saudi Arabia: a desert mirage or a new alliance? | Anne’s Opinions, 21st November 2017

In the crazy world of Middle East wars, politics and shifting alliances, it is hardly surprising that relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia are warming up from their deep freeze. In fact this is an alliance (“friendship” is too strong a word to use) that has been revving in the background for quite some time, ever since the rise of ISIS and more importantly, the tailwind given to Iran by our “friends” in the Obama administration and their European allies through the JCPOA, aka the Iran nuclear deal.

In the interim there has been some political upheaval in the kingdom, with princes and heirs to the throne being replaced at an eye-watering pace. The newest heir to the throne is determined to drag the medieval country into the 21st century, by whatever means:

(CNN)Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman, first in line to inherit the throne from his 81-year-old father, is not a patient man. The 32-year-old is driving a frenetic pace of change in pursuit of three goals: securing his hold on power, transforming Saudi Arabia into a very different country, and pushing back against Iran.

Mohammed Bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia

In the two years since his father ascended the throne, this favorite son of King Salman bin Abdulaziz has been spectacularly successful at achieving the first item on his agenda. He has become so powerful so fast that observers can hardly believe how brazenly he is dismantling the old sedate system of family consensus, shared privilege and rigid ultraconservatism.
In the process, however, MBS, as the crown prince is known, is making a lot of enemies.
Much of the prince’s agenda is laudable and long overdue. He has no interest in democratic reforms, but he does want to introduce social reforms, and is making some progress on that front. That, too, is making him enemies among the old guard.
He has vowed to improve the status of women, announcing that the ban on women driving will be lifted next year, and limiting the scope of the execrable “guardianship” system, which treats women like children, requiring permission from male guardians for basic activities. He has also restrained the despised religious police. And just last month he called for a return to a “moderate Islam open to the world and all religions,” combating extremism and empowering its citizens.
On the economic front, bin Salman wants to reinvent an economy that became complacent from fantastic oil riches — only to see oil prices crash — and bring it into the 21st century with his ambitious Vision 2030 plan.
But the prince’s revolutionary changes require, above all, making sure he remains in charge, and he is letting nothing stand in his way.

The prince is not bluffing. That became startlingly clear last Sunday, when he unexpectedly ordered the arrest of some of Saudi Arabia’s most powerful men.

Read it all, it makes for a thrilling read, even though this is not fiction but real life with very real and dangerous potential consequences if it fails.

Meanwhile, the latest pronouncements and actions emanating from Saudi Arabia give us pause for a cautious hope, though with each country having an influence on the next, there is always the danger of a domino effect, or maybe we should call it the dangers of unforeseen consequences.

The Saudis called on Hezbollah to disarm, threatening to oust it from Lebanon:

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Thursday called on the Hezbollah terrorist organization to disarm, warning the group that regional efforts were underway to oust them from the Lebanese government.

At a press conference in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, al-Jubeir denounced Hezbollah as “a tool of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards” and “a first-class terrorist organization used by Iran to destabilize Lebanon and the region.”

Saad Hariri, (former?) PM of Lebanon

“Hezbollah has kidnapped the Lebanese system,” he said.

Al-Jubeir added that “consultations and coordination between peace-loving countries and Lebanon-loving countries are underway to try to find a way that would restore sovereignty to Lebanon and reduce the negative action which Hezbollah is conducting in Lebanon.”

The minister’s remarks came as the kingdom rejected accusations that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was being detained in Riyadh following his shock resignation earlier this month.

In response Hezbollah raised the alert across Lebanon, which further complicates matters for Israel:

The Hezbollah terror group has raised its alert status across Lebanon, fearing threat of attack by Israel and other nations, Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai reported Saturday.

The news came amid a political crisis between Beirut and Saudi Arabia, sparked by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s surprise resignation. Hariri cited Iran and Hezbollah’s meddling in the region as the reason he was stepping down. The November 4 resignation broadcast from the Saudi capital is widely believed to have been engineered by the Gulf kingdom.

The Kuwaiti paper further reported that Hezbollah leaders have instructed a halt to arms shipments sent to the group from Iran through war-torn Syria.

Israel is widely believed to have carried out airstrikes on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles — as well as Hezbollah positions, though it rarely officially confirms such attacks.

In August a former air force chief said Israel carried out dozens of airstrikes on weapons convoys destined for the Lebanese terror group over the past five years.

Al-Jubeir warned Friday that there will be no stability in Lebanon unless Hezbollah disarms.

The resignation of Saudi-aligned Hariri has thrown Lebanon into turmoil and raised concerns that the country could be dragged into a battle for regional supremacy between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Indeed Israel has been watching Syria’s actions carefully and taking defensive action where necessary. On Sunday the IDF fired on Syrian targets fortifying positions near the demilitarized zone Golan heights:

The IDF fired upon Syrian army positions Sunday evening near the Israeli border in the Golan Heights on Sunday, the IDF spokesperson’s office reported.

IDF in a military exercise near the Syrian border

Syrian forces had been working to fortify a military outpost in the buffer zone, in violation of ceasefire agreements, and an IDF tank fired deterring shots in response.

A similar incident occurred on Saturday, when an IDF tank fired a warning shell near Syrian forces after identifying a Syrian army-built outpost in the demilitarized zone between Syria and Israel, similarly contrary to ceasefire agreements.

According to the IDF, the outpost was located close to the Druse village of Hader on the Syrian-controlled side of the Golan Heights.

Earlier this month, following intense fighting in the village, the IDF said it was willing to provide assistance and prevent the capture of the Druse village by anti-regime forces.

Meanwhile Israel is continuing its humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees. For the first time ever, the IDF permitted Israeli TV Channel 2 News to film the crossing of some refugees, and one Syrian mother of a sick child said “All Syrians want to come to Israel” – a mind-boggling statement considering that Israel and Syria have been deadly enemies since Israel’s establishment and even before:

Extraordinary footage showing Syrian mothers crossing into Israel with their sick children for medical care was broadcast by Israel’s Hadashot news (formerly Channel 2) on Sunday after the Israel Defense Force (IDF) permitted the channel to film for the first time operations part of its ongoing policy of providing care for civilians and select combatants injured in the country’s raging civil war.

In interviews accompanying the footage, several Syrian mothers expressed deep gratitude to Israel for providing medical assistance and said that many Syrians living near the border no longer view Israel as the enemy, while another said that “all Syrians” would come to Israel if given the opportunity.

“Israel was thought of as the enemy… Now that you are helping us, most [on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights] are with you. They love Israel. They see the true face… the reality,” one mother said.

Another added that the real enemies are “Islamic State, Hezbollah, Bashar [Assad]. They’re all the same.”

“I wish we could stay here for good,” another interviewee told the reporter. “I’d be the first to cross [if the border were open]” she said, adding that “all of Syria would follow me. All the civilians left in Syria would come.”

Read their heart-breaking stories of abuse, murder, executions and more at the hands of the various Syrian factions and the regime.

Watch the video below:

With this in mind, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman called on the Arab nations to make peace with Israel and confront Iran:

“After Daesh, Iran,” Liberman tweeted on Saturday, referring to the Islamic State by its Arabic name. “[Late Egyptian President] Anwar Sadat was a brave leader, who went against the stream and paved the way for other Arab leaders to recognize the importance of strategic ties with Israel.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman looking through binoculars during a visit to the Israel’s northern border, November 14, 2017. Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense)

“40 years after his historic visit to Israel, I call on leaders in the region to follow the path of President Sadat, come to Jerusalem and open a new chapter, not just in terms of Israel’s relations with the Arab world, but for the whole region,” Liberman wrote.

Sadat famously flew to Jerusalem ahead of signing the Camp David peace deal with Israel, the first Arab leader to do so. Sadat was later assassinated for his actions.

“The Middle East today needs, more than anything else, a coalition of moderate states against Iran. The coalition against Daesh has finished its work, after Daesh, Iran,” Liberman wrote in remarks that appeared to be directed in part at Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has in recent days stepped up its efforts to counteract Iran and its proxies in Yemen, and the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

All these shifting alliances hold great potential benefit for Israel, especially Saudi Arabia’s turnabout, but Melanie Phillips wonders if it is all too good to be true:

According to the Turkish Anadolu news agency, reported here, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz al Sheikh, has issued a quite remarkable religious ruling. Answering a question on TV about the Palestinian Arab riots over Temple Mount last July, he didn’t merely denounce Hamas as a “terror organisation”.

Much more significantly he actually issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, forbidding war against the Jews; and he said that fighting against Israel was inappropriate.

How can this be anything other than highly significant?

With a religious fatwa coming on the heels of a Saudi realignment as well as their internal political upheaval, it is probably good news – we will just have to be patient, to wait and see:

We can all obviously see the politics behind this. Saudi Arabia is in the fight of its life with Iran, to which end it has forged tacit and not-so-tacit alliances with Israel as well as the US. The new, reformist Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has not only supported this alliance with Israel but, more remarkably, has said that now is the time for the kingdom to get rid of Wahhabi extremism and revert to “what we followed – a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions”.

… the fact that the Prince made such a statement about now getting rid of extremism, in public, followed by this fatwa from the Grand Mufti, in public, surely suggests that the tectonic plates might just be beginning to shift within the heartland of Sunni fundamentalism.

Too good to be true? Just more smoke and mirrors? Of no more significance than a temporary alliance of expediency? Maybe. Nevertheless, a religious statement goes beyond politics. Neither the Prince nor the Grand Mufti needed to open up the religious issue in public at all. Watch this space, eh.

I’m sure the Israeli authorities are proceeding with caution. כבדהו וחשדהו is what they say in Hebrew: Literally: respect him and suspect him. Verify and justify.

Why There Is No Peace in the Middle East

October 14, 2017

Why There Is No Peace in the Middle East, Gatestone Institute, Philip Carl Salzman, October 14, 2017

Many Middle Easterners see the disasters around them, and blame outsiders: “It is the fault of the Jews”; “The British did this to us”; “The Americans are to blame.”[5] Many Western academics and commentators say the same, dignifying this counter-historic theory with the label “postcolonialism.” But given that tribal dynamics were dominant in the region for a thousand years since the foundation of Islam, and thousands of years before that, blaming outsiders for regional dynamics is hardly credible. Nonetheless, “postcolonialists” will claim that pointing to regional culture as the foundation of regional dynamics is “blaming the victim.” We in the West, unlike Middle Easterners, love “victims.” But what if Middle Easterners are victims of the limitations and shortcomings of their own culture?

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Peace is not possible in the Middle East because values and goals other than peace are more important to Middle Easterners. Most important to Middle Easterners are loyalty to kin, clan, and cult, and the honour that is won by such loyalty.

There was no group and no loyalty above the tribe or tribal confederation until the rise of Islam. With Islam, a new, higher, more encompassing level of loyalty was defined. All people were divided between Muslims and infidels, and the world was divided between the Dar al-Islam, the land of believers and peace, and Dar al-harb, the land of unbelievers and war. Following the tribal ideology of loyalty, Muslims should unite against infidels, and would receive not only honour, but heavenly rewards.

Honour is gained in victory. Losing is regarded as deeply humiliating. Only the prospects of a future victory and the regaining of honour drives people forward. An example is the Arab-Israel conflict, in the course of which the despised Jews repeatedly defeated the armies of Arab states. This was not so much a material disaster for the Arabs, as it was a cultural one in which honor was lost. The only way to regain honor is to defeat and destroy Israel, the explicit goal of the Palestinians: “from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea.” This why no agreement over land or boundaries will bring peace: peace does not restore honor.

We in the West, unlike Middle Easterners, love “victims.” But what if Middle Easterners are victims of the limitations and shortcomings of their own culture?

Living as an anthropologist in a herding camp of the Yarahmadzai tribe of nomadic pastoralists in the deserts of Iranian Baluchistan clarified some of the inhibitions to peace in the Middle East. What one sees is strong, kin-based, group loyalty defense and solidarity, and the political opposition of lineages, whether large or small.[1] This raised the question how unity and peace could arrive in a system based on opposition.

Peace is not possible in the Middle East because values and goals other than peace are more important to Middle Easterners. Most important to Middle Easterners are loyalty to kin, clan, and cult, and the honour which is won by such loyalty. These are the cultural imperatives, the primary values, held and celebrated. When conflict arises and conflict-parties form based on loyal allegiance, the conflict is regarded as appropriate and proper.

The results of absolute commitment to kin and cult groups, and the structural opposition to all others, can be seen throughout Middle Eastern history, including contemporary events, where conflict has been rife. Turks, Arabs and Iranians have launched military campaigns to suppress Kurds. Meanwhile, Christians, Yazidis, Baha’is and Jews, among others, have been, and continue to be ethnically cleansed. Arabs and Persians, and Sunnis and Shiites, each try to gain power over the other in a competition that has been one of the main underlying factors of the Iraq-Iran war, the Saddam Hussein regime, and the current catastrophe in Syria. Turks invaded Greek Orthodox Cyprus in 1974 and have occupied it since. Multiple Muslim states have invaded the minuscule Jewish state of Israel three times, and Palestinians daily celebrate the murder of Jews.

Some Middle Easterners, and some in the West, prefer to attribute the problems of the Middle East to outsiders, such as Western imperialists, but it seems odd to suggest that the local inhabitants have no agency and no responsibility for their activities in this disastrous region, high not only in conflict and brutality, but low by all world standards in human development.

If one looks to local conditions to understand local conflicts, the first thing to understand is that Arab culture, through the ages and at the present time, has been built on the foundation of Bedouin tribal culture. Most of the population of northern Arabia at the time of the emergence of Islam was Bedouin, and during the period of rapid expansion following the adoption of Islam, the Arab Muslim army consisted of Bedouin tribal units. The Bedouin, nomadic and pastoral for the most part, were formed into tribes, which are regional defense and security groups.[2]

Bedouin tribes were organized by basing groups on descent through the male line. Close relatives in conflict activated only small groups, while distant relatives in conflict activated large groups. If, for example, members of cousin groups were in conflict, no one else was involved. But if members of tribal sections were in conflict, all cousins and larger groups in a tribal section would unite in opposition to the other tribal section. So, what group a tribesmen thought himself a member of was circumstantial, depending on who was involved in a conflict.

Relations between descent groups were always oppositional in principle, with tribes as a whole seeing themselves in opposition to other tribes. The main structural relation between groups at the same genealogical and demographic level could be said to be balanced opposition. The strongest political norm among tribesmen was loyalty to, and active support of, one’s kin group, small or large. One must always support closer kin against more distant kin. Loyalty was rewarded with honour. Not supporting your kin was dishonourable. The systemic result was often a stand-off, the threat of full scale conflict with another group of the same size and determination acting as deterrence against frivolous adventures. That there were not more conflicts than the many making up tribal history, is due to that deterrence.

There was no group and no loyalty above the tribe or tribal confederation until the rise of Islam. With Islam, a new, higher, more encompassing level of loyalty was defined. All people were divided between Muslims and infidels, and the world was divided between the Dar al-Islam, the land of believers and peace, and Dar al-harb, the land of unbelievers and war. Following the tribal ideology of loyalty, Muslims should unite against infidels, and would receive not only honour, but heavenly rewards.

Honour is gained in victory.[3] Self-sacrifice in the attempt is lauded, but honour comes from winning. Having lost and being a victim is not an esteemed position in Arab society. Having lost in a political struggle results in loss of honour. This is felt deeply as a loss that should be corrected. Losing is regarded as deeply humiliating. Only the prospects of a future victory and the regaining of honour drives people forward. An example is the Arab-Israel conflict, in the course of which the despised Jews repeatedly defeated the armies of Arab states. This was not so much a material disaster for the Arabs, as it was a cultural one in which honour was lost. The only way to regain honour is to defeat and destroy Israel, the explicit goal of the Palestinians: “from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea.” This why no agreement over land or boundaries will bring peace: peace does not restore honour.

None of this is unknown to Arab commentators, who repeatedly refer to the tribal nature of their culture and society. Of course, today, few Middle Easterners live in tents and raise camels, but villagers and urbanites share the same tribal assumptions and values. According to the Tunisian intellectual Al-Afif al-Akhdar, the Arabs cherish their “deep-culture of tribal vengefulness” and consequent “fixated, brooding, vengeful mentality.”[4] Former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki has said that “We need an ideological revolution; our tribal mentality has destroyed our society.”

Dr. Salman Masalha, an Israeli Druze literary intellectual, argues:

“The tribal nature of Arab societies is deeply embedded in the past, and its roots date back through Arab history to the pre-Islamic era. … Since Arab societies are tribal in nature, the various forms of monarchies and emirates are the natural continuation of this ingrained social structure in which tribal loyalty comes before all else.”

Mamoun Fandy, an Egyptian-born American scholar, wrote in the Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat:

“The Arabs, even after the arrival of Islam, were never “ideological” people who sought to develop an intellectual vision of ourselves and the outside world. Instead, we are the people of blood relations and family ties, or “Shalal” as we call it in Egypt. … Despite the fact that Islam was the greatest intellectual revolution in our history, we, as Arabs, have succeeded in adapting Islam to serve the tribe, the family, and the clan. Islamic history began as an intellectual revolution, and as a history of ideas and countries; however, after the beginning of the Orthodox Caliphate, it was transformed into a somewhat tribal state. The State of Islam became the Umayyad State, and after that the Abbasid, the Fatimid, and so on and so forth. This means that we now have a history of tribes instead of a history of ideas. … Has this tribal history, alongside tribal and family loyalties and the priority of blood relations over intellectual relations gone forever after the “Arab spring?” Of course not; what has happened is that the families and tribes have dressed themselves up in the cloak of revolutions in Yemen and in Libya, and in Egypt the opposition consists of tribes rather than concepts.”

Pictured: Bedouin men in Abu Dhabi. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The history of the Middle East, the centuries of tribal wars, and the ongoing fissures in Arab society all testify to the Arab tribal culture and structural opposition. There may have been good reasons to stick with tribal culture and organization in pre-modern times: states and empires were despotic, exploitative, and heavily dependent on slave-labor, and tribal organization gave some people a chance to remain independent. In recent times, with the modern state model, governments in the Middle East have tried to establish states, but these have foundered on tribal loyalties and oppositions, which do not fit with constitutional states. Rulers in the region have all turned to coercion to maintain their positions, making all Muslim states in the region despotic.

Many Middle Easterners see the disasters around them, and blame outsiders: “It is the fault of the Jews”; “The British did this to us”; “The Americans are to blame.”[5] Many Western academics and commentators say the same, dignifying this counter-historic theory with the label “postcolonialism.” But given that tribal dynamics were dominant in the region for a thousand years since the foundation of Islam, and thousands of years before that, blaming outsiders for regional dynamics is hardly credible. Nonetheless, “postcolonialists” will claim that pointing to regional culture as the foundation of regional dynamics is “blaming the victim.” We in the West, unlike Middle Easterners, love “victims.” But what if Middle Easterners are victims of the limitations and shortcomings of their own culture?

Philip Carl Salzman is Professor of Anthropology at McGill University, Canada.


[1] Philip Carl Salzman, Black Tents of Baluchistan, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.

[2] Philip Carl Salzman, Culture and Conflict in the Middle East, Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2008.

[3] Frank Henderson Stewart, Honor, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.; Gideon M. Kressel, Ascendancy through Aggression, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1996.

[4] Quoted in Barry Rubin, The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Hoboken, NY: Wiley, 2006), 80-81.

[5] Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel, NY: Free Press, 2007, p. 47.

“Drip-Drip” Genocide: Muslim Persecution of Christians, February, 2017

May 28, 2017

“Drip-Drip” Genocide: Muslim Persecution of Christians, February, 2017, Gatestone InstituteRaymond Ibrahim, May 28, 2017

“They are burning us alive! They seek to exterminate Christians altogether! Where’s the military?” — Christian man fleeing Al-Arish, Egypt; video.

“Historical churches in Iran being destroyed while UNESCO overlooks,” is the title of one report.

On the same day as Pakistan’s government charged an elderly Christian man with blasphemy — which carries a death penalty — it acquitted 106 Muslims of burning down an entire Christian village.

The Islamic State is at it again. More stories of atrocities against Christians continued to surface. In one, a Christian man, Meghrik, said the bus in which he was riding in Syria was stopped at what turned out to be an ISIS checkpoint. Three men dressed in black entered and began checking all the passengers’ identification papers. “Are you a Christian?” they asked him. “No,” he said. He explained that he was raised by Christian parents and his family name was Christian, but that he was not. “You’re lying,” the fighter said. “Your name says you’re a Christian. Come with me.” He was taken to an ISIS judge who “concluded that he was a Christian” and said “You’re sentenced to death.” Thereafter Meghrik was severely whipped and tortured. At one point, he was thrown in a hole in the ground and surrounded by an execution squad prepared to fire. After 10 days of this treatment and for unknown reasons — Meghrik cites a miracle and is now a devout Christian — he was released.

While much of the world acknowledges that the Islamic State is engaged in acts of genocide against religious minorities such as Christians and Yazidis, in other Muslim states, such as Pakistan, Christians and other non-Muslim minorities are experiencing a “drip-drip genocide“, said the noted author, journalist and Pakistani politician Farahnaz Ispahani:

“Right before the partition of India and Pakistan, we had a very healthy balance of religions other than Islam. Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Zoroastrians. Pakistan goes from 23 per cent [non-Muslim at the time of partition in 1947], which is almost a quarter of its population, to three per cent today. I call it a ‘drip drip genocide’, because it’s the most dangerous kind of wiping out of religious communities…. It doesn’t happen in one day. It doesn’t happen over a few months. Little by little by little, laws and institutions and bureaucracies and penal codes, textbooks that malign other communities, until you come to the point of having this sort of jihadi culture that is running rampant.”

Other accounts of Muslim persecution of Christians to surface in February 2017 include, but are not limited to, the following:

The Slaughter of Christians in Egypt

As in January, when five different Christians were killed in four separate hate crimes around the country, another murderous wave took non-Muslim minorities by storm, this time in al-Arish, Sinai. The murders may have resulted from a video released in February by the “Islamic State in Egypt.” In the video, masked militants promise more attacks on the “worshipers of the cross” — a reference to the Coptic Christians of Egypt, of whom they also refer to as their “favorite prey” and “infidels who are empowering the West against Muslim nations.” One of the militants, carrying an AK-47 assault rifle, added, “God gave orders to kill every infidel.” Below is a list of Christians murdered in al-Arish:

  • January 30: A 35-year-old Christian was in his small shop working with his wife and young son when three masked men walked in, opened fire and killed him. The masked men then sat around his shop table, eating chips and drinking soda, while the bodies lay in a pool of blood before the terrified wife and child.
  • February 13: A 57-year-old Christian laborer was shot and killed as he tried to fight off masked men trying to kidnap his young son on a crowded street in broad daylight. The men, after murdering the father, seized his young son and took him to an unknown location (where, if precedent is accurate, he is likely being tortured or possibly killed, if a hefty ransom is not paid).
  • February 16: A 45-year-old Christian schoolteacher was moonlighting at his shoe store with his wife, when masked men walked in the crowded shop and shot him dead.
  • February 17: A 40-year-old medical doctor was killed by masked men who, after forcing him to stop his car, opened fire and killed him. He leaves a widow and two children.
  • February 22: Islamic State affiliates killed a 65-year-old Christian man by shooting him in the head. They then abducted and tortured his 45-year-old son before burning him alive and dumping his charred remains near a schoolyard.
  • February 23: A Christian plumber was shot dead in front of his wife and children at their home.

After the slayings, at least 300 Christians living in al-Arish fled their homes, with nothing but their clothes on their backs and their children in their hands. In a video of these Copts, one man can be heard saying “They are burning us alive! They seek to exterminate Christians altogether! Where’s the military?” Another woman yells at the camera:

“Tell the whole world, look — we’ve left our homes, and why? Because they kill our children, they kill our women, they kill our innocent people! Why? Our children are terrified to go to schools. Why? Why all this injustice?! Why doesn’t the president move and do something for us? We can’t even answer our doors without being terrified!”

“We loved our country but our country doesn’t love us,” said the brother of one of the slain.

Muslim Abduction, Rape, Murder and Mutilation of Christian Women

Pakistan: Hours after being dropped off at the Convent of Jesus and Mary school in Punjab by her brother, Tania Mariyam, a 12-year-old Christian girl, was found dead in a canal. Despite all the evidence to the contrary — including her clothes being ripped off and signs of drugging — police investigations concluded that she had committed suicide. After three weeks of pressure from Mariyam’s family and human rights groups, who insisted that the girl had been raped and murdered — as so many Christian girls (and boys) in Pakistan have been before her — police finally conceded that she had not killed herself. Even so, “the severe delays,” says the British Pakistani Christian Association, “mean that much of the evidence has been lost.”

“There was a disgusting police cover up,” the murdered girl’s father said, “and I fear that they have colluded with the murderer and know more than they are letting on. They do not care about Christians.”

West Africa: According to a report, “Muslims radicals punished the [14-year-old] daughter of a Christian missionary for her faith by subjecting her to brutal female genital mutilation. Currently, the young woman remains in a coma, struggling for her life.” Lydia’s father, Yoonus, formerly a Muslim scholar, had converted to Christianity. When the local Muslim community heard of this — and that he “was now leading Muslims to Christ” — they “urged him to return to Islam and promised to give him gifts if he rejected Christianity. However, Yoonus and his family refused to renounce their faith, resulting in increased persecution,” including the attack on his daughter.

Egypt: Two new cases surfaced of young Christian girls being abducted with the indifference or complicity of the authorities. After Rania Eed Fawzy, 17, failed to return home, her parents and lawyer said it was “an incident of kidnapping and forced conversion to Islam.” They “filed a complaint with the local police that a Muslim male named Rabee Radi Naghi had taken their daughter against her will.” When the family lawyer contacted the Egyptian Attorney General, Nabil Ahmed Sadek, requesting “to remove Rania from hiding and deliver her to one of the Christian Orthodox homeless youth shelters”—as “[n]ormally in such cases the local authorities know where the kidnap victim is kept” — the Attorney General refused and said, “[T]he girl embraced Islam, what do you want?”

As the report explains, even if she did freely convert, “a child in Egypt is considered a minor until age 21. Until [one comes] of age, conversion from one religion to another is illegal.”

“In such kidnapping cases, however, the authorities always settle the issue by accepting the minor Christian girl’s ‘conversion’ to Islam … never the other way around. In conversion from Islam to Christianity complaints, police go above and beyond their role to retrieve the girl and warn her of death from apostasy. Such cases suit the purposes of ideological jihad. By removing a non-Muslim young woman of child-bearing age from the Christian community, adding her to the Muslim girl population to bear Muslim children serves to increase the Muslim population while decreasing Christian numbers.”

Separately, after an apparent ruse caused the older brother of Hanan Adly, an 18-year-old Christian girl, to step out of the house one night, she disappeared from the family farm. The family and their lawyer made a formal complaint to the police, accusing a neighbor, Mohamed Ahmed Nubi Soliman, 27, of kidnapping her. Prosecutors summoned the man and “he admitted a connection with the incident. However, he was released due to lack of physical evidence,” says the report.

“A national security investigation was ordered, but … there has been no progress with the case, despite protests outside the police station by friends and family of Hanan.”

Mali: A Christian nun was kidnapped in the Muslim-majority African nation with “no claims or demands for ransom”, said a local Christian leader. Sister Cecilia Narváez Argoti, of Colombian background, belonged to the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate.

“The kidnappers arrived on 7 February from a secluded location a bit far from the village where Sister Cecilia and her sisters were. They broke into the missionary center and plundered money and computer equipment. They then escaped with the ambulance of the medical center with the nun.”

Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches

Central African Republic: Supporters of a Muslim rebel group destroyed two churches and killed a pastor in what are described as “revenge attacks.” After the national security forces, backed by UN peacekeepers, launched a military operation to interrogate Youssouf Malinga, a local Muslim militia leader known as the “Big Man,” he and his men opened fire on the security forces and killed two passersby. Security forces responded with fire and killed Malinga and one of his men; three soldiers were also injured in the shootout. Malinga’s supporters responded by surrounding an apostolic church and stabbing its pastor to death. “More than two dozen people were wounded. At least two churches were destroyed, along with a school,” in the “revenge attacks,” the report adds. “Central African Republic was plunged into civil war in 2013 following the overthrow of former president Francois Bozize, a Christian, by Muslim rebels from the Seleka militia.”

Congo: Churches are “being desecrated and Christian nuns terrorised by ‘violent thugs’ amid a wave of increased hostility on Christians,” according to reports. Elsewhere the “thugs” are described as “Islamist extremists.” In February alone, “the extremists” burned a major seminary and

“sow[ed] terror among the Carmelite Sisters in nearby Kananga…. The extremists also attacked the St. Dominic church in the town of Limete. They ‘overturned the tabernacle, ransacked the altar, smashed some of the benches and attempted to set fire to the church,’ the archbishop said.”

Iran: “Historical churches in Iran being destroyed while UNESCO overlooks,” is the title of one report. After explaining that “Destroying church buildings has a long record in the history of the Islamic regime of Iran,” it gives several examples in recent times. Sometimes churches are attacked by “extremist Muslims” who destroy crosses, statues, and icons with sledgehammers and axes; other times the government is responsible. In one case, “judicial authorities in Kerman issued a ruling for a historical church building in their city to be brought down, even though a few years earlier this church had been registered as a national heritage site”; in another instance, a “historical evangelical church building in Mashhad that had been registered as a national heritage site in 2005, was destroyed.” There “are around five hundred registered church buildings in Iran, with many of them abandoned or on the verge of destruction.”

Sudan: The government ordered the “demolition of at least 25 church buildings” in the Khartoum area, relates one report. The government claimed the churches were built on land zoned for other uses, although mosques located in the same area were spared from the demolition order. Christian leaders said this is “not an isolated act” but rather part of a wider “crack-down” on Christianity that “should be taken with wider perspective.” The Sudan Council of Churches denounced the order and called on the government to reconsider the decision or provide alternative sites for the churches. But Mohamad el Sheikh Mohamad, general manager of Khartoum State’s land department in the Ministry of Physical Planning, said the order should be implemented immediately. “Sudan since 2012 has bulldozed church buildings and harassed and expelled foreign Christians,” the report concludes.

Nigeria: The Christian Association of Nigeria is calling on the nation’s government to help rebuild destroyed churches in the Muslim majority regions of the nation’s northeastern states. This comes after a report revealed that “at least 900 Christian places of worship have been destroyed by Boko Haram since the [militant Islamic] group began its violent activities.” U.S. lawmakers said that Nigeria is the worst nation in which to be Christian. Christopher Smith, Chairman of US House of Representatives’ Sub-committee on Africa, said that both his staff and he have “investigated the crises facing Christians in Nigeria today” and

“made several visits to Nigeria, speaking with Christians and Muslim religious leaders across the country and visiting fire-bombed churches, such as in Jos…. Unfortunately, Nigeria has been cited as the most dangerous place for Christians in the world and impunity for those responsible for the killing of Christians seem to be widespread.”

What makes the African nation so hostile to Christians is Boko Haram, a militant Muslim group, which has “forced Christians to convert and forced Muslims to adhere to its extreme interpretation of Islam.”

Pakistan: Catholic churches and schools in the Lahore area closed down after a Taliban splinter group, which had killed seventy Christians on Easter Day, 2016, carried out a suicide bombing at a rally and killed at least 14 people. The group had vowed a year ago that it planned on launching “more devastating attacks that will target Christians and other religious minorities as well as government installations.”

CAIRO, EGYPT – DECEMBER 11: Christians rally in the street outside the church of St Peter and St Paul in the Coptic Cathedral complex after a bomb exploded on December 11, 2016 in Cairo, Egypt.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

On January 28, a court acquitted 106 Muslims of burning down an entire Christian village in 2013 — including 150 homes and three churches. The attack came after one of its inhabitants, Sawan Masih, was accused of blasphemy. More than 80 prosecution witnesses, 63 of them with statements recorded about the attack, said they did not recognize any of the 106 accused. So they were all released.

Also on January 28, the government arrested an elderly Christian man on the charge of blasphemy — which carries a maximum death penalty. A mosque leader accused Mukhtar Masih, 70, of writing two letters containing derogatory remarks about the Koran and Muhammad. The report cites a source who said that “the charges against Masih were fabricated by local Muslims seeking to seize his property.” Nonetheless, police raided the elderly man’s home the same day and took his entire family into custody. His family was released but he was booked on charges of blasphemy, and beaten in an attempt to force him to admit to it.

Separately, the Pakistani government denied that “Christian minorities are being targeted by the country’s controversial blasphemy laws,” says another report — despite the well-known fact that religious minorities, chief among them Christians, are the demographic group most prone to being accused and convicted of blasphemy, to say nothing of being beaten, lynched, and burned alive in mob attacks. After alleging that, of 129 cases of blasphemy, 99 were leveled against fellow Muslims, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan said “religious minorities are not being embroiled in blasphemy cases more than Muslims.” However, “[s]everal different persecution watchdog groups have pointed out that Christians are often heavily targeted by blasphemy laws.” Pakistani human rights activist Wilson Chowdhry said officials are “twisting statistics”:

“Sadly, Mr Khan’s comments… [and] contrived results have failed to recognize that Christians in recent years have become the number one target of blasphemy allegations. It is our belief that a large proportion of the 26 percent of blasphemy convictions listed against minorities will have sentenced Christians, yet we contribute only 1.6 percent of the entire national population.”

Muslim Hate for and Discrimination against Christians

Egypt: Fadi, a 15-year-old Christian boy, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being found guilty of what human rights activists say is a false accusation. Last summer, a Muslim neighbor accused him of sexually assaulting an 8-year-old Muslim boy. Investigations and forensic examinations were performed but revealed no evidence of sexual activity. The family was still ordered to leave the village and the charges remained. According to Fadi’s mother, Hana, he was targeted only because their Muslim neighbors, whose grandfather is an influential imam at the local mosque, “don’t like Christians.” She adds: the “judge convicted my son to 15 years because he is a Christian. If he was a Muslim boy, the judge would acquit him when he saw the forensic report, because the forensic report absolved my son,” but “because my son is Christian,” the judge “believed the speech of [the Muslim boy’s] father instead of the forensic report.”

Turkey: The Islamic terrorist who opened fire on an Istanbul nightclub during New Year’s Eve celebrations confessed that “I wanted to stage the attack on Christians in order to exact revenge on them for their acts committed all over the world. My aim was to kill Christians.” But for a variety of reasons that made it difficult for him to launch a spectacular attack on Christians, Abdulkadir Masharipov, of Uzbeki origin, ended up killing 39 people and wounded 65 others at a nightclub. He laments that he did not die then and there as a “martyr”: “When I was out of bullets, I threw two stun grenades. I put the third one near my face to commit suicide, but I didn’t die. I survived, but I entered Reina [nightclub] to die.” Apparently to hurry him on his way to what he sought on the day of attack, Islamic paradise, Abdulkadir said that “it would be good if he were given capital punishment.”

Iraq: Kurdish Peshmerga forces continue to be hostile to a Christian militia group also fighting the Islamic State. After William J. Murray, chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Religious Freedom Coalition, visited the Christian town of Qaraqosh on the Nineveh Plain, he wrote that it

“has enemies other than the ruthless Islamic State, or ISIS, which left it in ruins. Currently the Kurdish militia, the Peshmerga, is blocking aid to the NPU [Nineveh Protection Unit] that guards the town, because the NPU is the Assyrian Christian militia. It is the only armed Christian group in Iraq…. While for appearance and funding from Washington, the Kurds support Christian interests for now, the historical relationship between the two groups includes participation in slaughtering Christians by the tens of thousands. There is no room for a Christian enclave, particularly one that is armed, in the future of an independent state of Kurdistan…”

Kurds are Sunni Muslims.

France: A new study revealed that, in the Western European nation with the largest Muslim population, the overwhelming majority of “religious attacks” are against Christians. “Acts targeting Christian places accounted for 90% of all attacks on places of worship (Christians, Jews or Muslims).” Although the government responded to these statistics by saying that “all these acts have no religious motivation,” and that out of 949 attacks on churches, “there was a possible ‘satanic motivation’ in 14 cases and an ‘anarchist’ motivation in 25,” it did not reveal the source behind the other 910 attacks. Another report, however, from neighboring Germany gives a hint:

“Last year in Dülmen, following the arrival of well over a million [mostly Muslim] migrants in Germany, local media said ‘not a day goes by’ without attacks on Christian religious statues.”

About this Series

While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by Muslims is growing. The report posits that such Muslim persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.

Before and After Sharia Law: A cautionary tale

April 23, 2017

Before and After Sharia Law: A cautionary tale, Rebel Media via YouTube, April 23, 2017

(Please see also, San Diego School District Pushes CAIR-Assisted ‘Anti-Islamophobia’ Plan and Sharia-Advocate Sarsour to Give Graduation Address at CUNY. Worried yet? — DM)

 

Islamist Attacks on Holidays

April 20, 2017

Islamist Attacks on Holidays, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Noah Beck, April 20, 2017

Nearly 50 people were murdered on Palm Sunday when Islamic State terrorists bombed two Coptic churches in an Easter celebration-nightmare. The next day, on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover, the Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate launched rockets at Israel.

Just before Christmas, a terrorist claimed by the Islamic State rammed a truck into Berlin’s crowded Christmas market, killing 12 people. And in Australia, a group of self-radicalized Islamists planned to attack St Paul’s Cathedral. In 2011, Nigerian Islamists murdered nearly 40 Catholic worshipers in a Christmas Day attack.

Terrorists attack where and when they can. But they seem keenly aware that turning holidays into horror can carry greater shock and terror. In 2002, 30 Israeli civilians were massacred and 140 injured by a Hamas suicide bomber who blew himself up as they sat for the seder, the traditional Passover meal, at the Park Hotel in Netanya.

It isn’t just terrorists who see advantages in striking during holidays. The 1973 Yom Kippur War may be the most famous example, when the armies of two Muslim-majority states, Egypt and Syria, attacked Israel on the most sacred day of the Jewish calendar. That war produced an estimated 20,000 deaths.

Christians and Jews aren’t the only religious groups that have been targeted by Islamists during non-Muslim holy days. The Hindu festival of Diwali has also been attacked. In 2005, a series of bombs killed over 60 people and injured hundreds in Delhi; a Pakistan-based Islamist terrorist group, the Islamic Revolutionary Front, claimed responsibility. Last October, Indian police arrested an Islamist cell inspired by the Islamic State for planning an attack during Diwali.

Muslims are also victimized by Islamist attacks in increasing volume. A 2015 mosque bombing in Yemen killed 29 people during prayers for the Muslim holiday of Eid. Last July, also during Eid, three people were killed at a Bangladesh checkpoint when gunmen carrying bombs tried to attack the country’s largest Eid gathering, which attracted an estimated 300,000 worshippers.

Last May, as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan approached, a spokesman for the Islamic State urged jihadists to “make it, with God’s permission, a month of pain for infidels everywhere.” Days later, as Ramadan celebrations stretched past midnight in central Baghdad, a minivan packed with explosives blew up and killed at least 143 people.

Terrorists also target secular holidays. Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a Tunisian resident of France, killed 85 people and injured hundreds more in a truck-ramming terrorist attack as people gathered for a Bastille Day celebration. In New York last fall, dump trumps were deployed to protect the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, after the Islamic State called it an “excellent target.”

Holidays are often chosen because they are “optimal attack days,” in terms of gathering large crowds into soft targets like houses of worship, religious markets, ceremonial gatherings, and parades. Last November, U.S. officials warned that the coming holiday season could mean “opportunities for violent extremists” to attack.

A terrorist attack on a holiday is also more likely to attract media attention. And because holidays draw tourists, well-timed attacks can amplify the economic damage that would be wrought by terror even on a non-holiday. After a spate of attacks toward the end of 2015, “about 10% of American travelers have canceled a trip … eliminating a potential $8.2 billion in travel spending,” reported MarketWatch.

But ISIS, al-Qaida and other Islamist terrorist groups believe they are waging a holy war above all else. Attacking infidels, be they Christians, Jews or Muslims of other sects, motivates jihadis more than anything else. “Those who targeted churches on holiday celebrations tend to be professional terrorist groups,” Raymond Ibrahim, author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians, told the IPT. By contrast, “mob attacks happen either on a Friday, after an especially potent sermon, or whenever infidels need to be put in their place (e.g., a Christian accused of blasphemy, then the church in his village gets torched).”

In 2015, Islamic State warnings of future attacks against Christians noted that Christians were their “favorite prey” and no longer protected as “dhimmis,” a reference to non-Muslims in Islam who may, in exchange for paying the jizya tax, receive some state protection.

Thus, within the larger context of a holy war, attacks on non-Muslim holy days can be viewed as part of the more general Islamist strategy of humiliation, forced submission to Islam, and the denial of any competing religion. Attacking on Diwali or Christmas or Yom Kippur is essentially declaring that such “infidel” holy days ought to be desecrated rather than respected. The symbolic message is akin to the one communicated by the two Islamists who entered a French cathedral and beheaded an octogenarian priest, Jacques Hamel, during mass services last July.

Attacking places of worship on holy days – when they are most used by and relevant to their congregations – is also a good way to undermine these religious institutions and their supporters. If Islamist terror makes churches the most vulnerable on the days when they are most crowded, how will those houses of worship attract enough followers to sustain themselves? And how will their congregants practice their faith? The Coptic Pope curbed some Easter celebrations in Egypt after the recent Palm Sunday blasts.

Such questions may help to explain why Christians, who have lived in the Middle East – the birthplace of Christianity – for millennia now constitute only about 3 percent of the region’s population, down from 20 percent a century ago.

Indeed, the only non-Muslim country in the entire Middle East is also the safest place for non-Muslims in the region, including Christians, Druze, and Bahai. “Christians and other minorities in Israel prosper and grow,” says Shadi Khalloul, founder of the Israeli Aramaic Movement. “[W]hile in other countries in the Middle East, as well as in the Palestinian Authority, they suffer heavily from the Islamic movement and persecution – until forced to disappear.”

Mission accomplished in Syria

April 12, 2017

Mission accomplished in Syria, Israel Hayom, Clifford D. May. April 12, 2017

(Accomplished or just begun? — DM)

Congress should send Trump the legislation it is now considering, seeking to impose new sanctions on Iran in reprisal for its continuing support of terrorists, its missile tests and its maintenance of more than 35,000 troops in Syria, including its own, those of its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, and Shiite fighters recruited from Iraq and Afghanistan. Suspending Iran’s deal with Boeing/Airbus would be useful, too. Only the willfully credulous believe that Iran’s theocrats won’t use such aircraft for illicit military purposes.

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If you’re still unsure about whether U.S. President Donald Trump did the right thing when he launched 59 cruise missiles at Syria’s Shayrat Air Base last week, consider the alternative.

He knew that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad had yet again used chemical weapons to murder Syrian civilians, women and children prominent among them. He knew that Iran and Russia had enabled this atrocity, as they have many others. He knew he had two choices.

He could shrug, instruct his U.N. ambassador to deliver a tearful speech calling on the “international community” to do something, and then go play a round of golf. Or he could demonstrate that the United States still has the power and the grit to stand up to tyrants and terrorists, thereby beginning to re-establish America’s deterrent capability.

In other words, this was what Sun Tzu and Carl von Clausewitz would call a no-brainer. (Well, loosely translated.) A mission was accomplished. Do harder missions lie ahead? Yes, of course. But I suspect Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster have made that abundantly clear to the new president.

We now know for certain that Russia failed to live up to its 2013 commitment to ensure that Assad surrendered all his illegal chemical weapons under the deal it brokered. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acerbically questioned whether that was the result of complicity or incompetence or whether Russia allowed itself to be duped by Assad.

The strike ordered by President Trump was not “unbelievably small” — then-Secretary of State John Kerry’s description of the punishment then-President Barack Obama decided not to impose in response to Assad’s earlier use of chemical weapons. It was big enough to make clear that American diplomats are again carrying big sticks. (For Obama to insist that diplomacy and force are alternatives was patently absurd.)

Conveniently, Trump was dining with Chinese President Xi Jinping when the strikes occurred. It’s fair to speculate that Xi is today thinking harder about American requests to rein in Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator whose drive to acquire nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the American mainland has become what Tillerson called an “imminent” threat.

Having passed his first major national security test, Trump is now obliged to demonstrate firmness and consistency. What plans might the Pentagon have on the shelf to respond to further provocations? The next round of Tomahawk missiles could permanently ground Assad’s air force. That would make it easier to then establish no-fly zones. If such measures do not alter the calculations of Assad and his Iranian and Russian patrons, consideration could be given to leveling his defense, intelligence and command-and-control centers as well.

Another idea under discussion: setting up safe havens, or, to use a better term, “self-protection zones,” for those fleeing the Syrian regime and various jihadist forces, Sunni and Shiite alike. Israel and Jordan could help the inhabitants of such areas adjacent to their borders defend themselves. The Saudis, Emiratis and Bahrainis could contribute to the cost. Might this lead to the partition of Syria? Most likely, but it’s difficult to imagine a “political solution” that would not include such readjustments.

All this, while useful and perhaps even necessary, should be seen as insufficient. Syria is a major humanitarian catastrophe but only one piece in a much larger geopolitical puzzle. Sooner rather than later, the Trump administration needs to develop what Obama refused to contemplate: a comprehensive and coherent strategy to counter the belligerent, imperialist and supremacist forces that have emerged from the Middle East and are now spreading like weeds around the world.

The Islamic State group will of course need to be driven off the lands on which it has attempted to establish a caliphate. After that, its terrorists will have to be hunted, along with those of al-Qaida, wherever they hide (e.g., Egypt where, over the weekend, they bombed two Coptic Christian churches).

But — and this is crucial — accomplishing these missions must not serve to further empower Iran’s jihadist rulers, who dream of establishing an expanding imamate, the Shiite version of a caliphate.

Most immediately, Congress should send Trump the legislation it is now considering, seeking to impose new sanctions on Iran in reprisal for its continuing support of terrorists, its missile tests and its maintenance of more than 35,000 troops in Syria, including its own, those of its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, and Shiite fighters recruited from Iraq and Afghanistan. Suspending Iran’s deal with Boeing/Airbus would be useful, too. Only the willfully credulous believe that Iran’s theocrats won’t use such aircraft for illicit military purposes.

That the United States cannot solve all the world’s problems was one of Trump’s campaign themes. But the implication is not necessarily, as some of his supporters hoped, that he would turn a blind eye to all atrocities and threats not already within America’s borders.

In the last century, most Americans recognized, in some cases with enormous reluctance, that there was no good alternative to doing whatever was necessary to rout the Nazis and communists, enemies whose goal was to kill off the democratic experiment.

In this century, jihadists and Islamists harbor the same ambition. We can attempt to appease them. We can try to make ourselves inoffensive to them. We can keep our hand extended, hoping that in time they will unclench their fists. Or we can decide instead to plan for a long war that will end with the defeat of these latest enemies of America and the rest of the civilized world. If Trump has grasped that within his first 100 days, he’s not off to such a bad start.

President Trump and King Abdullah II Hold a Joint Press Conference

April 5, 2017

President Trump and King Abdullah II Hold a Joint Press Conference, White House via YouTube, April 5, 2017