“In Syria, if the choice is between Iran and the Islamic State, I choose the Islamic State.”
–Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, as quoted January 20, 2016 in Newsweek
“Al-Qaida control over Syria would be preferable to a victory by Assad over the rebels.”
–Senior Israeli officials, quoted by Israel Hayom in 2013
“The initial message about the Syrian issue was that we always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran…We understand that they are pretty bad guys…still, the greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc. That is a position we had well before the outbreak of hostilities in Syria. With the outbreak of hostilities we continued to want Assad to go.”
–Michael Oren, in 2013 interview with the Jerusalem Post
Some people have a hard time grasping the concept of “pure evil.” It has such a surreal tendency to boggle the mind that for most people, the notions of “purity” and “evil” are seen as opposites, and the fact that you can combine the two together, and in so doing derive an extract, or a concentrate, so hideous it gives rise to primordial fears in the heart as well as a sickening feeling in the gut–well, this is something that busy, workaday people seldom contemplate.
So perhaps that’s how we might explain the comments above by Israeli officials in their preferential views of ISIS–is that these officials simply haven’t grasped the concept of pure evil.
The other possible explanation, of course, is that they have grasped it all too well.
Events testified to at a recent conference on the plight of Christians in the Middle East would suggest that some of those giving testimony have seen pure evil–up close and personal.
And I would think that their views on the matter might be slightly different from those expressed by the leaders of the Jewish state.
“I was in captivity for six months and twelve days, in the hands of the Islamic State,” said fifteen-year-old Samia Sleman during the #WeAreN2016 international conference, held April 27-30 in New York. Sleman is a Yazidi girl who was kidnapped by ISIS from her village of Hardan, Iraq in August of 2014. She was thirteen years old at the time.
“They raped and violated myself and the girls that were with me in captivity. There were thousands of Yazidi girls in captivity in this headquarters, then they separated us into two different groups,” she said, adding that girls as young as seven and eight years were raped, while older women, along with large numbers of Yazidi men, were killed.
The #WeAreN2016 conference was sponsored jointly by In Defense of Christians, CitizenGo, and the Vatican’s permanent mission to the United Nations. The “N” in the name stands for the Arabic letter “nun,” often spray painted on the homes of Christians by ISIS terrorists when they capture an area. The letter is a reference to “Nazarenes,” and the people in such homes usually are killed or forced to pay a special tax known as the Jizya.
A report on the conference by the Catholic News Agency described the testimonies given as “graphic, brutal and raw.” And perhaps the rawest of all was that of California Attorney Jacqueline Isaac, who works with Roads to Success, a nonprofit organization providing aid to Middle Eastern refugees, and who spoke of the calamity that overtook one family in particular.
“They got a knock on their door. They opened that door and they found plastic, black bags. The bags had the body parts of their daughters…and a video–a video of their daughters being raped and tortured,” Isaac said. “They’re parents. They’re just like us. They’re parents. They’re mothers, they’re fathers, these are not numbers.”
Another story told concerned that of a Christian woman in Mosul whose daughter died when the family home was torched by ISIS, while three Christian clergy, Monsignor Jean-Clément Jeanbart, Father Rodrigo Miranda, and Sister María Guadalupe, spoke of ghastly events in Syria, especially in the city of Aleppo.
“We have seen things you cannot understand,” said Jeanbart. “We have seen people killed because they were Christians. We have seen bishops abducted, priests abducted–myself I have been three times in danger of death, two times in my archbishopric, one on my way to Beirut.”
But perhaps the most powerful presentation of all was that given by Sister María, who discussed not only the agony of the people of Aleppo, but also the outright fictions about the conflict pedaled by the media. Her talk is one of the most engaging and riveting I have seen in recent memory, and what it reveals about the courage and resilience of Aleppo’s Christian martyrs is quite stunning.
It’s interesting that Michael Oren, who formerly served as Israeli ambassador to the US, would express such concern over what he refers to as a “strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut.” Oren is of course referring to the governments of Iran and Syria and to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
I’m sure Israeli intelligence is well aware–and probably even Michael Oren himself knows this as well–that Christians in the Middle East have nothing to fear from either the Syrian or Iranian governments, and I’m guessing they equally are aware that Hezbollah has even forged a political alliance with a Maronite Christian party in Lebanon.
In fact, when I visited Beirut in 2014, I saw the St. Joseph Church, located right in the heart of the Hezbollah neighborhood of Haret Hreik–and I saw no visible sign the church had been vandalized. It was well maintained, looking just as it does in this photo:
No surprise, then, that Hezbollah issued a statement in 2014 denouncing crimes against religious sites–a statement that of course received no coverage in the mainstream media.
Besides posing no threat to Christians, the governments of Syria and Iran and Hezbolla, the “strategic arc” Michael Oren is so paranoid over, have, in combination with Russian air support, done the most by far to defeat ISIS–more than all 59 countries making up the US-led coalition combined.
In addition to describing the attempts on his life, Jeanbart also talked about the Syrian government of Bashar Assad, defining it as “pluralistic” and “nonconfessional”–describing it as well as a government that had been in need of some changes and reforms, but insisting that these changes could have been achieved peacefully through the political system.
“Changing a few things, mending the Constitution, changing the government–and everyone would have been okay,” he said. “Why did they do all this war to destroy everything in Syria?”
It is an excellent question. Why did they? Another excellent question is why, instead of the present government in Syria, Israeli officials would prefer to see a Middle Eastern nation bordering their own state run by a bunch of blood thirsty maniacs–maniacs with a fondness for dismembering Christian children, and stuffing their body parts in plastic bags, and leaving them on the doorsteps of their families. It almost sounds like an anti-Semitic “blood libel,” doesn’t it? In fact, if you were to hear such a statement made about Israeli leaders in another context you’d likely leap to the conclusion that that must surely be what it is.
But it does appear as if this is what they would prefer. Moreover, in addition to the statements quoted above, we’ve had a number of reports of terrorists being treated in Israeli hospitals, while the UN has released reports documenting contacts between Israeli forces and Syrian armed opposition groups in which the Israelis were observed providing assistance to the militants. The reports were compiled by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force.
“UNDOF sporadically observed armed members of the opposition interacting with IDF across the ceasefire line in the vicinity of United Nations position 85,” said one of them.
A couple of questions here are worth asking:
1. Is Israeli intelligence convinced that such things as “moderate rebels” actually in exist in Syria? If not, then,
2. Have the Israelis intentionally provided assistance, including weapons, to Syrian armed groups, and have they done this knowing the weapons would end up in the hands of ISIS?
Numerous reports have appeared in the past year or so of so-called “moderate rebels” defecting over to Al-Nusra or ISIS and taking their US-supplied weapons with them. In fact, the phenomenon has been discussed in a couple of recent articles.
“While Washington is pouring billions of US taxpayer dollars into various training and arming programs in the Middle East and Central Asia, the US-backed fighters regularly defect to Islamists – Daesh, al-Qaeda, Taliban – taking their weapons and invaluable knowledge to ‘the dark side,’” comments Gordon Duff in a May 5 article published at VT.
The New Eastern Outlook also published a commentary on the issue, written by Martin Berger, who speculates that the defections are in reality a “planned event.” The idea, says Berger, is that those who’ve undergone US training are then able to pass their knowledge on to the members of the respective terrorist organizations “at a time when Washington was unable to train them openly.”
It’s not an altogether implausible theory. As Berger notes, last August it was revealed that the Pentagon had spent $42 million on two months of training for a group of moderates, half of whom were “immediately” captured by Al-Nusra and agreed to defect.
The only idea that’s farfetched is that a ragtag group of clueless (or maybe diabolical) misfits could arise from out of nowhere, wreak havoc upon the cradle of civilization, flood the Internet with slickly-produced videos…all with no backing or support whatever from any government, and with the intent of killing every “infidel” they can get their hands on but without launching an attack on Israel.
It would seem that these ever-buzzing, ever-replenished minions (of whomever) have a decided predilection for the blood of saints.
Richard Edmondson is an author, novelist, poet, and journalist whose writings often focus on Middle East issues, the Zionist lobby, and religion. His latest novel is The Memoirs of Saint John: When the Sandstone Crumbles, a story about an archaeological team doing a dig in Syria and set amidst the current conflict in the country.
In 2014 Richard attended an International Conference on Combating Terrorism and Religious Extremism, held in Damascus. The book is part two in the Memoirs of Saint John series.
Two other books by Richard are Rising Up: Class Warfare in America from the Streets to the Airwaves, relating his experiences founding and operating an unlicensed or “pirate” FM radio station in San Francisco in the 1990s, as well as a volume of poetry entitled American Bus Stop: Essay and Poems on Hope and Homelessness.
Richard is cognizant of the words of the early Christian writer Tertullian, who in the second century-basically prognosticating the fall of the Roman Empire-wrote: “We have made merry amid the ludicrous cruelties of the noonday exhibition.”