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New Documents Reveal Bin Laden Wanted to Set Up Shop in Iran

A note from Al:

The big story which the mainstream press hasn’t developed yet is the weird relationship between the only Islamic Republic, Iran, a nation state rooted in Shiite Islam and Sunni jihadists rooted in Wahhabism. They regard one another as heretics. They aren’t friends and Sunnis regularly destroy Shiite shrines. Sunnis want their caliphate and the Shiites see themselves as the victors of Islamic history, Iran being Allah’s choice to govern the Islamic world.

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by Katie Zavadski via TheDailyBeast.com

New documents taken from his compound show the group was much more tolerant of the Shiite state than its successor, ISIS. It even contemplated opening an office there.
An undated report on Al Qaeda’s external operations reveals that the group tried to establish a recruitment office in Iran but backed off because it was deemed to be too expensive.“[W]e have thought to open an office for ourselves in Iran, to receive whoever comes to join us or someone traveling, but we have backed off this idea because it will be very expensive,” the document reads (PDF). Though undated, it is likely from 2006 or later, given a later passage’s emphasis on attacking Danish targets, presumably over Muhammad cartoons.

Another document, however, concerns itself with the group’s public image, and gives instructions for a would-be spokesman for the group.

“It is better if he comments on what Saudi Arabia channels have been circulating,incorrect news that stated al-Qa’ida has links to Iran,” it reads.

Those are just revelations from a massive document dump by the U.S. of files it obtained during the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. Dubbed “Bin Laden’s Bookshelf,” the document dump includes the sheikh’s English-language library and correspondence with close associates and family. Many of the sources point to a complicated history between Iran and Al Qaeda, which included mass imprisonment and strategic permissiveness.

Many al Qaeda members and families found themselves in Iranian custody after fleeing Afghanistan during the U.S. invasion in 2001. In one account, the Iranians are referred to as “people whose mannerisms resemble those of the Jews and hypocrites.” A detailed inventory of arrests suggests that Iran detained many high-level members of the terrorist group, including Abu Ghaith and Sayf al Adl.

“I think it’s irrefutable that Iran would turn a blind eye to al Qaeda activities” when it benefited them, Brookings Institution fellow Will McCants told The Daily Beast. Al Qaeda didn’t have as hardline an anti-Shia stance as some of its successors like ISIS because “they understand they have to make compromises.”

Despite some sharp language, McCants said al Qaeda leaders seemed to be sometimes happy with a “detente” with Tehran.

The Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Clint Watts, however, told The Daily Beast that the documents show Al Qaeda members “seem to be pretty hating on Iran.”

Among those held in Iran appear to be Bin Laden’s wife and son, Umm Hamzah and Hamzah. One letter states that they are to be kept in a safe house once they leave the country, until Bin Laden decides whether to send the boy to Qatar. Another letter shows a concerns that Iran would spy on Bin Laden’s family after they leave:

Before Um Hamzah arrives here, it is necessary for her to leave everything behind, including clothes, books, everything that she had in Iran… Everything that a needle might possibly penetrate. Some chips have been lately developed for eavesdropping, so small they could easily be hidden inside a syringe. Since the Iranians are not to be trusted, it is possible to implant a chip in some of the belongings that you might have brought along with you…”

Documents revealed much more about Al Qaeda.

Tree-Huggers

A letter apparently addressed to a senior Al Qaeda urges leaders to tell fighters to not “cut down trees on a large scale […] without replacing them.” “Cutting down trees should be limited to the needs of the people and local consumption and not for export,” the August 2010 letter reads. “I am sure that you are aware thatclimate change is causing drought in some areas and floods in others.”

Another document, a “Letter on the implications of climate change,” calls on Muslims to participate in relief work and to prepare in advance for future natural disasters. At the same time, however, the letter takes time to critique an “Islamic” London-based NGO for providing aid to Christians and Hindus, and for employing female aid workers. It notes that the NGO said it would be unlikely to be able to help mujahideen in Pakistan.

Conspiracy Theories

“Jews were able to control world forces with these two sciences, sociology and psychology,” reads one. (Another document released from that trove instructs members to “avoid talking about the Jews and Palestine when talking to the Germans. This subject is very sensitive to in Germany, and it will bring negative results to our goal.”)

About half of the 38 English-language books Bin Laden possessed were about conspiracy theories, from freemasons to even 9/11.

Human Resources

The U.S. also released an official application form for Al Qaeda.

“Please enter the required information accurately and truthfully,” it reads. “Write clearly and legibly. Name, age, marital status. Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?”

Thirst for Poison

In an English-language document taken from bin Laden’s compound, Al Qaeda said it planned to use cyanide and ricin in terrorist attacks.

“A few grams of Cyanide (easily manufactured and sold by the kilo in third world countries) or Ricin diluted in water and injected randomly in anything ingested on super markets shelves, picnics, restaurants etc […] are just examples of what multinational Terror Franchises need to disseminate NONSTOP, UNPREDICTED, INVISIBLE SUDDEN DEATH,” a document said. It includes a terrorist wishlist including explosives, toxic agents, electronics, and more. The author is believed to be Abu Hafez, the leader of Al Qaeda’s external special ops.

Osama Bin Laden’s Bookshelf Reflects His Fixation on West

A note from Al:

Notice Osama bin Laden’s bookshelf. It had a few mainstream political science books like Paul Kennedy’s classic The Rise and Fall of Great Powers which warned against U.S. overreaching and Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward. Most interesting are the presence of conspiracy books including one written by a Holocaust denier. In Egypt they still publish The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forgery turn of the century Czarist Russia. This last generation of jihadists are a product of very limited educational experience and openness to the whole of created reality. Their education in America would be considered cranky and cultic for the most part. They have no interest in the humanities and no real appreciation for history unless told from their narrow Islamic perspective. They see themselves as an aggrieved and victimized people and this warps their view of the world and us. Take a look. – Al Kresta

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Among the books, periodicals and letters found in Osama bin Laden’s hide-out in Pakistan was a copy of the former C.I.A. officer Michael Scheuer’s 2004 book, “Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror,” which describes the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as “the most respected, loved, romantic, charismatic and perhaps able figure in the last 150 years of Islamic history.”

Also in his library was a copy of Michel Chossudovsky’s conspiracy-minded book “America’s ‘War on Terrorism,’ ” which argued that 9/11 was simply a pretext for American incursions into the Middle East, and that Bin Laden was nothing but a boogeyman created by the United States.

It should not come as a surprise that the terrorist leader was concerned with his legacy and world image — after all, he was famously recordedwatching video of himself on television. Holed up in Abbottabad for perhaps as long as five years without an Internet connection, Bin Laden had plenty of time to read about himself, Al Qaeda and his enemy, the United States.

Bin Laden learned English at an elite Western-style high school in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, where he was by most accounts a serious, sober student, and his library suggests that he spent his last years in hiding as a student again — but a student of terrorism, fixated on American imperialism.

The declassified list released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence includes art books (“Arabic Calligraphy Workshop”) and health books (“Grappler’s Guide to Sports Nutrition”) described as “documents probably used by other compound residents.” Bin Laden’s books, however, appear pretty much work-related — little or no recreational reading, it seems, for the Qaeda leader.

Some of the books are mainstream history or journalism: “Obama’s Wars” by Bob Woodward, “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers” by Paul Kennedy, “The United States and Vietnam 1787-1941” by Robert Hopkins Miller. Others are conspiracy-mongering tomes like “Bloodlines of the Illuminati” by Fritz Springmeier, “The Taking of America, 1-2-3” by Richard Sprague, and “Secrets of the Federal Reserve” by Eustace Mullins, a Holocaust denier.

There are two works by Bin Laden’s early mentor, Abdullah Azzam (“The Defense of Muslim Lands” and “Join the Caravan”), about jihad.

There is also a sizable cache of documents relating to France, such as “Wage Inequality in France” and “France on Radioactive Waste Management, 2008.” And there are books by the left-wing writers Greg Palast (“The Best Democracy Money Can Buy”) and Noam Chomsky (“Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance”) that Bin Laden probably thought ratified some of his own views about American imperial ambitions and corporate corruption.

While stuck in Abbottabad, Bin Laden seems to have been studying publicly available United States government documents and articles and radical publications. He also read Foreign Policy magazine articles and RAND Corporation studies on counterinsurgency, trying to keep a handle on the war on terrorism he had set off.

His bookshelf is a weird hodgepodge. It’s hard to know how complete a list it is, and whether he requested certain books from aides, or if aides sent him works they thought he might like or that might influence his thinking.

The declassified letters and correspondence reflect Bin Laden’s managerial concerns — Al Qaeda had become a kind of giant corporation. His self-prescribed syllabus included works on global issues, like climate change, and ran a spectrum from historical works to crackpot conspiracy tracts.

The eclectic nature of the list speaks to both Bin Laden’s reach as Al Qaeda’s leader and his limitations as an international fugitive; his ambitions to think globally and his naïve susceptibility to theorists who talk conspiracy to explain the perfidies of the West; his fascination with America and his determination to find new ways to attack it by trying to understand the dynamics of its political and economic systems.

As Steve Coll wrote in his compelling biography of the Bin Laden family, “The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century”: “Osama was not a stranger to the West,” having grown up in one of Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest families and traveled abroad, “but by age 15, he had already erected a wall against their allures. He felt implicated by the West, and by its presence in his own family, and yet, as he would demonstrate in the years ahead, he lacked a sophisticated or subtle understanding of Western society and history. He used his passport, but he never really left home.”

Kresta in the Afternoon – May 21, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on May 21, 2015


4:00 – ISIS, Ramadi, Palmyra and Mohammad Cartoons

Robert Spencer joins us to discuss the latest movements from ISIS, as well as his experience with the Mohammad cartoon contest in Texas. We’ll also discuss the significance of recently-released documents recovered from Osama Bin Laden’s compound.

4:20 – Is the Beatification of Oscar Romero a Turning Point for Catholics?

Oscar Romero will be beatified on Sunday. What, if anything, does this indicate about the state of the Catholic Church? We’ll talk about it with Sam Gregg.

5:00 – Kresta Comments: Pope Francis to Parents: Come out of “Exile” and Educate your Children

5:20 –Kresta Comments: What the New Documents tell us about Osama Bin Laden

5:40 – Dorothy Day and the Story of the Catholic Worker Movement

When Dorothy Day was a young woman in the early 20th century, she embraced what many felt were the “answers” to happiness, including abortion, communism and free love. What followed was a life of pain and suffering. She converted to Catholicism in 1929 after she was changed by love and the overpowering awareness of the reality of God’s love and mercy. We hear about her life from Dr. Lance Richey.

 

Why it may be impossible to raise ‘free range kids’

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by Michael Brendan Dougherty via TheWeek.com

I’m a new father. Like many new parents, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I want to raise my child. And just as this became my life’s primary mission, there emerged this phenomenon of “free range kids.” An anti-helicopter parenting movement was just what I wanted.

Lenore Skenazy, who is sort of the spokeswoman for free range parenting, says she is fighting “the belief that our children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers and/or the perils of a non-organic grape.” Finally! A movement that sets itself against the notion that a kid who isn’t being actively surveilled by parents or a paid professional is in danger. Finally, a reaction to the parental fear that becomes an excuse for omnipresent intervention and control, to the absurd point of mistaking a cultivation of self-reliance with neglect.

The “free range kids” movement speaks exactly to what I want for my children: a childhood that teaches independence and self-reliance, a childhood like my own. And yet I’m worried that I can’t avoid the helicopter. I know that crime is way, way down from when I was a free range kid. (Back then it was just called “childhood.”) I know that the chances of stranger-danger are infinitesimally small. But I already have some of the anxiety that motivates over-protective parents. I want to imitate the free-rangers, but am afraid to do so. And I think I’ve discovered one reason why. Free range kids, and the parental trust that enables them, are at least partly dependent on a feature of American life that is dead or dying in many areas: the neighborhood.

As a child of the 1980s and early 90s, I had a single, working mother, and we lived with my grandparents in Bloomfield, New Jersey. It was one of those 60 percent Italian, 40 percent Irish neighborhoods you used to find then in Essex County. On most days when the weather was nice, it was expected that I would leave the home and play outside, that there would be other children doing the same, and that no one would have to organize our activities at the nearby park. I never had a play date. A friend from half a mile away might leave his house without a plan, come up with the idea that it would be fun to jump bikes over a curb with me, and knock on the door to ask my grandmother if I was home. In the summer, I might leave the house at nine or 10 in the morning and not return home until the street lamps came on.

By the time I was seven years old, I was comfortable walking over a mile to school. This included going underneath a Garden State Parkway overpass. I realize that I already sound like the apocryphal grandfather humble-bragging about long walks to school in the snow. But, in truth, if school was cancelled, sometimes the daily morning Mass still needed servers. I’d make the same walk to make good on my commitments, even in the snow. By age 10, I could do this walk in the dark of a winter evening after basketball practice. Learning to keep to your social commitments was probably a great thing to learn.

In some ways this independence was forced on me and my friends. Many families, including mine, simply didn’t have the time, money, or energy to have us monitored constantly. But my free range childhood was also sustained by a community. I was able to entertain myself outside because other kids my age were also playing outside, almost constantly.

That community included scores of homes filled with people who knew me and my family by name, and had lived in that community themselves for decades. They knew my uncles from when they were kids. And there were spinsters and nosy retirees who casually kept an eye on those parks where we romped. They didn’t intervene, unless someone’s property or safety was obviously in danger.

If I came home from school and was locked out, I could knock on about a dozen doors and would immediately receive assistance, whether that came in the form of a phone to call my mother, a bowl of butterscotch candies, or a remote control to watch afternoon cartoons. The expectation was that “we” were all in this together.

Everyone knew that you sometimes had to let a rambunctious kid out of doors. Or that he would get out of line once in a while. It would have been serious effrontery if you gave a parent a nasty look merely because their child was publicly misbehaving. The judgmental reproaches would only come if misbehavior was constant, and even then it would be expressed privately.

I live in a much safer neighborhood now than the one of my youth, and in an era that is almost incomparably safer according to crime statistics. And yet I never see children playing outside unsupervised. Who would my children play with unless I organized a play date? I’ll probably never see another kid knock on my door and ask if my daughter can come out to play. Couldn’t she have texted instead?

People live in my neighborhood (and nearly all the others around it) because it is nice, but as social mobility increases the stock of people who have been here for decades has decreased. There are fewer “eyes on the street” altogether; the retirees move away or into more specialized communities. And why not? Their children, if successful, didn’t buy a house near their childhood home either.

At the local shops, parents flash each other nasty and judgmental looks all the time for the slightest and most routine annoyances of children’s behavior. Instead of a “we” that lightly surrounds us, everyone in my town is a “they,” and a potential source of problems. I’m not afraid of strangers doing harm to kids. I’m much more afraid (even if the stats don’t justify it) of other parents calling the police or child services on me and getting a bogus charge of “unsubstantiated child neglect” merely for having kids that are more capable and independent than theirs.

Some people reading this may scratch their heads. They may still live in the kind of neighborhood that is characterized by a sense of shared identity and familiarity. The decline of neighborhood solidarity isn’t universal across America, and it seems far more advanced among upwardly mobile neighborhoods than in working class areas. But it’s one of the most obvious and profound changes I’ve noticed in my own day-to-day life. And it makes me suspect I won’t be able to give my children the independence that I know is best for them.

Population Control Has China Headed for ‘Demographic Disaster’

This year marks the 35th anniversary of China’s one-child policy. Recently our friend Reggie Littlejohn gave testimony to the U.S. congressional executive commission on China. She’s been advocating for Chinese women for decades. Here’s a Q&A with her from the National Catholic Register.

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by Edward Pintin via NCRegister.com

Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers discusses 35 years of the nation’s one-child policy.

ROME — The Chinese Communist Party will never end the “one-child policy” because the policy is effectively terrorizing the Chinese people into keeping the Communist Party in power, according to Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, who gave testimony on April 30 to the U.S. Congressional Executive Commission on China on the effects of the country’s population-control measures.

The 35th anniversary of the policy, which continues to impose forced abortions on countless Chinese mothers, will be marked on Sept. 25. In this May 8 interview with the Register in Rome, Littlejohn explains in more detail what is keeping the policy in place, why reports about China ending the policy are incorrect and why a more accurate name for it would be “China’s forced-abortion policy.”

What have been the effects of the one-child policy?

First of all, you have to look at the demographics. The Chinese Communist Party is very aware that its one-child policy has caused, and is continuing to cause, an increasing demographic disaster — in three ways.

One, because of the traditional preference for boys, girls are selectively aborted, so they have approximately 37-40 million more men than women living in China. This is driving human trafficking and human slavery in China and is also a recipe for domestic instability.

Two, they have a rapidly aging population. The reason why they instituted the one-child policy 35 years ago is that, during the Mao era, fertility rates among women became very high — 5.9 births per woman. Under the one-child policy, it has plummeted to approximately 1.3 to 1.5 births per woman, depending on who you ask. But the population explosion under the Mao era is now heading towards retirement, so they don’t have a young population to support that elderly population, and they don’t have social security as we know it. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Then the third problem is that China’s workforce is actually beginning to become depleted. 2013 was the first year when the trend went down, and the number of workers is going down. It’s actually too late. Taiwanese demographers say that the recent modification of the policy is too little, too late to stave off the threefold demographic disaster they’re heading into.

Why do they keep the policy?

China’s population problem isn’t that they have too many people — it’s that they have too few young people and too few women. I believe I can answer the unanswerable and explain the unexplainable. I believe that the reason the Chinese Communist Party has not abandoned and will never abandon the one-child policy is that the one-child policy is keeping them in place.

How does it keep them in place?

In four ways. No. 1, when the one-child policy was instituted 35 years ago, China was experiencing a population explosion, and I believe it was originally instituted as population control. The terror that is caused by forced abortion and forced sterilization was a by-product of the policy and was not the purpose of the policy. Now that the policy makes no sense whatsoever, I believe terror is the purpose of the policy.

China has many different human-rights abuses — they have problems in terms of executing prisoners to harvesting organs for transplant, persecuting of Christians, Falun Gong and other faiths, overuse of the death penalty and the detention of human-rights lawyers and journalists. All of these are human-rights abuses of the Chinese Communist Party, but they affect only a thin sliver of the society.

The one-child policy is unique because it affects everyone. It is a way for the Chinese Communist government to instill terror across the board in China and to demonstrate to people that the reach of its power extends from Beijing to every single woman in China — the power to declare life or death over the baby in that womb. That is terrifying. So I believe this is social control masquerading as population control.

The spirit of the “cultural revolution” lives on in the family-planning police. The family-planning police function as domestic terrorists; and in my opinion, forced abortion is official government rape. That’s what they’re doing to the population.

What are the other reasons for maintaining the policy?

The second reason is that they’re making a lot of money out of it. According to one estimate, the Chinese Communist Party has taken in $314 billion in fines through the family-planning police, so women are fined in all kinds of different circumstances. These fines are arbitrary; they’re not uniformly imposed throughout the country.

But if you get someone pregnant without a birth permit, a fine can be 10 times your annual salary. And these fines are completely not regulated. They’re not accounted for. There’s complete opacity, there’s no transparency in where this funding is going, and local officials have been accused of pocketing the money. So that’s a big reason not to get rid of the policy.

The third reason is that the family-planning officials, the family-planning police, form a wide infrastructure of coercion. According to one estimate, there are approximately 1 million people engaged in coerced population control in China. If that were a standing army, it would be the sixth-largest standing army in the world, on par with the army of North Korea. Social unrest is on the rise in China; it’s sharply increasing. They can use this army of family-planning police, turn it in any direction, to quash dissent in any direction. So why would they get rid of this elaborate infrastructure of coercion? They need it to keep the population down, to keep security in China.

The fourth reason, I believe, is to deliberately rupture the natural relationships of trust with the Chinese people. In China, they employ a system of paid informants, where anyone can inform on a woman who is pregnant without a birth permit.

It can be her neighbors, her friends, her co-workers, people in the villages, who are paid to look at women’s abdomens to see if they’re a little bit bigger. So since anyone can inform on you, there’s no relationship of trust.

Do you have any examples of this?

A couple of years ago, I testified in Congress about a woman who had had five forced abortions in a factory in China. She said that, in her work unit, if one person became illegally pregnant, the entire work unit would be punished, so all the women were spying on each other to report on each other about an illegal pregnancy. Then, if a woman runs away because she wants to have her baby, because she wants to run away from the family-planning police, they can detain her family, her parents, her husband and her extended family. They can be detained and tortured.

So if the one-child policy can be used to rupture relationships with family, friends, co-workers and neighbors, it can be used to keep down organizing for democracy. If you cannot trust anyone, you cannot organize for democracy.

Could China be forced to end the policy?

I don’t think that the Chinese Communist Party will ever abandon the one-child policy. What’s frustrating, for me, is there’s such a misunderstanding of the one-child policy, because it has been misnamed. The one-child policy is actually not a one-child policy: There are many exceptions to the policy, and the Chinese Communist Party is heading towards this demographic disaster and creating exceptions of small segments of population that can have another child.

There were media reports not long ago about China ending the policy. Can you explain why this was not correct?

On Jan. 1, 2014, they [the Chinese government] said if one member of a couple is an only child, that couple can have a second child. Because it’s called a one-child policy and a couple can have a second child, Western media blares out, “China Abandons One-Child Policy,” and people say, “Oh great, I’m so glad they’re not doing that anymore.”

But, actually, you need a birth permit for the first and second child. The core of the policy is not that the Chinese government allows a woman to have one child or two children. The core of the policy is that they’re telling people how many kids they can have, and they’re enforcing that limit coercively, including through forced abortion and forced sterilization.

It should really be called “China’s forced-abortion policy” because that doesn’t end. The forced-abortion policy doesn’t end, no matter how many children they allow you to have. So that would be a better name for the policy.

Of course, they didn’t name it that — because it sounds so terrible — but it’s much more accurate.

Kresta in the Afternoon – May 20, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on May 20, 2015


4:00-6:00 – Direct to My Desk: Helicopter Parents and Free-Range Kids

Calls are coming from you direct to my desk talking over whatever matter of importance you’d like to discuss, question, analyze and so on.  Fear is probably one of Satan’s most effective ways to keep us in a form of bondage. Christ came to “deliver those who through fear of death, were subject slavery all their lives” (Heb 2:15). More than fear of death these days is fear of what will happen to our kids. There’s been a lot of dispute about “free range kids” and “helicopter parenting.” Some parents are in trouble with the law for allowing their kids to walk home from school, go to the park and do other activities unsupervised. Where do conscientious Christian parents draw the line between being a hands-off, “let the kids roam free” parent and being an overprotective, “fear everything” nanny? The data seems clear: kids are safer now than they were in the recent past, despite what the news media’s focus on tales of horror would lead you to believe. Is that why are we so scared? We’re letting the infotainment media test reality for us. People rarely talk to their neighbors any more…Are we strangers because we’re scared, or are we scared because we’re strangers? Tell us how you see it. We are also discussing the President’s claim that Christians are too preoccupied with with abortion and gay marriage. How common are atheists in foxholes? Why the present obsession with inclusion and diversity to the point of jeopardizing public safety. There are new stories about female firefighters failing physical stamina tests but still being assigned to standard firefighting. There’s always more. You make it possible. Give us a call at 877-573-7825.

From Al: Understanding Vatican Recognizing Palestine State

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Recent actions by the Holy See raise questions about its relationship to Israel and the Palestinians. These pieces explain some concerns that have been raised. Their primary focus is on the state of the Palestinian people. Little attention is paid the nation of Israel. Many Christians, including Catholics, have shown interest in the question, “Who owns the land? Did God give it to the Jewish people in perpetuity and unconditionally?” To go more deeply into this question you can read evangelical Protestant New Testament scholar Gary Burge, “Whose Land, Whose Promise: What Christians are not being told about Israel and the Palestinians”. He is writing in reaction to the Zionist bent of some of his fellow evangelicals and Colin Chapman’s “Whose Promised Land?” is less concerned with the conflict between American Christians.

Holy See to Recognize Palestinian State – http://ow.ly/3xT2bR

 

Explaining the Vatican’s perceived pro-Palestinian tilt – http://ow.ly/3xT2cd

 

No novelty in Vatican reference to ‘State of Palestine’ – http://ow.ly/3xT2cx

Holy See to Recognize Palestinian State

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by Diane Montagna via Aleteia.org

VATICAN CITY —  The Holy See announced on Wednesday that it has concluded an agreement to recognize the State of Palestine, a step welcomed by Palestinians but drawing sharp criticism from Israel.

The agreement, which has been finalized but still must be approved and signed, makes clear that the Holy See has switched its diplomatic relations from the Palestinian Liberation Organization to the State of Palestine.

According to an official statement issued by the Vatican, Wednesday’s discussions took place “in a cordial and constructive atmosphere.” Both parties acknowledged the work carried out “at an informal level by the joint technical group following the last official meeting held in Ramallah at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine on 6 February 2014.”

The Commission, chaired by Mgsr. Antoine Camilleri, Under-Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, and by Ambassador Rawan Sulaiman, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Multilateral Affairs of the State of Palestine, “noted with great satisfaction the progress achieved in formulating the text of the Agreement, which deals with essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine.”

In an interview with the Osservatore Romano, Mgsr. Camilleri specified that these aspects include: freedom in the Church’s action, her jurisdiction, personal status, places of worship, social and charitable activities, means of social communication, and matter pertaining to finance and property.

However, Msgr. Camilleri also underlined that the agreement also expresses, “the hope for a solution to the Palestinian question and to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians as part of the two-state solution and the resolutions of the international community.”

It would be “positive,” the head of the Vatican delegation said, “if the agreement could somehow help the Palestinians to see established and recognized an independent, sovereign and democratic State of Palestine that lives in peace and security with Israel and its neighbors, while somehow encouraging the international community, especially those most directly affected, to take stronger action to help achieve a lasting peace and to the desired two-state solution.”

However, Israeli officials have criticized the announcement.

“We’re disappointed by the decision taken by the Holy See. We believe that such a decision is not conducive to bringing the Palestinians back to the negotiating table,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon told The Times of Israel.

A brief statement from the Ministry said: “Israel will study the agreement and consider its next steps accordingly.”

The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, is scheduled to meet Pope Francis this Saturday, one day before the pontiff canonizes two saints from the Holy Land: religious sisters Marie Alphonsine Ghattas of Jerusalem and Marian Bawardy of Galilee.

No novelty in Vatican reference to ‘State of Palestine’

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by John Allen Jr via CruxNow.com

One unfortunate consequence of widespread public fascination with Pope Francis is that many people are paying attention to a pontiff for the first time, and thus they tend to assume that everything that happens on his watch must be a novelty.

Such is the case Wednesday with a new agreement between the Vatican and the Palestinians, which is being alternately hailed or condemned, depending on one’s point of view, as a breakthrough recognition of Palestinian sovereignty because a brief Vatican statement employed the phrase “State of Palestine.”

In truth, the agreement is nothing of the sort.

The Vatican has been using the phrase “State of Palestine” in its official diplomatic verbiage since November 2012, when the General Assembly of the United Nations voted to admit the Palestinians as a non-member observer state. The Vatican has always supported Palestinian statehood, and took the position that it would follow the lead of the UN as to when to start referring to it as a fact.

It should be noted that the UN vote came during the papacy of Benedict XVI, meaning that recognition of Palestine as a state is not a new Vatican policy under Francis.

When the Vatican issued a news release in 2013 announcing the onset of negotiations with the Palestinians towards the agreement that’s now been finalized, it said the talks would be conducted with “representatives of the Foreign Ministry of the State of Palestine.”

The “news” reported Wednesday, therefore, is two and a half years old.

When the Vatican spokesperson, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed to reporters on Wednesday that the language used in the statement is “a recognition that the state exists,” he understood himself to be repeating an already established point.

Since the onset of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the Vatican has favored a two-state solution, with security guarantees for Israel and self-determination for the Palestinians. It also backs a special status for Jerusalem, including protection for the holy sites sacred to the three monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

 The agreement announced Wednesday isn’t about the question of statehood.

Instead, it largely concerns the tax and legal status of Catholic facilities and personnel on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, building on a basic accord reached between the Vatican and the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 2000.

To be sure, it’s not wrong to see Pope Francis as a supporter of the Palestinian push for sovereignty.

When Francis visited the West Bank in May 2014, the image of him paused in silent prayer before the controversial Israeli security barrier, underneath a patch of graffiti reading “Free Palestine!”, became an instant Palestinian icon.

There’s nothing new about that position, however.

When Pope Benedict XVI travelled to the Middle East in 2009, he pledged support for Palestinian statehood. St. John Paul II made similar statements many times, and was sufficiently fond of former PLO leader Yasser Arafat that he had a set of the Stations of the Cross made out of ivory, presented to him by Arafat as a gift, installed in a small chapel off a Vatican chamber where bishops from around the world gather in a meeting called a “synod.”

The agreement announced Wednesday further cements the relationship between the Vatican and the Palestinians, and certainly Vatican diplomats are not so naïve as to fail to recognize the political relevance of using the phrase “State of Palestinian” in an official communiqué.

However, to style that phrase as another diplomatic innovation under this maverick pontiff is excessive. At most, it’s a confirmation that the Vatican under Francis is not backing away from a position it had already taken.

Perhaps the Vatican’s communication team might want to consider a boilerplate disclaimer in the future. “Caution: Not everything contained in the following statement amounts to a revolution.”

Explaining the Vatican’s perceived pro-Palestinian tilt

Palestinian-Christians-2

 

by John Allen Jr via CruxNow.com

In terms of relations with the Vatican, it would be tough to imagine a better run for the Palestinians than the one they’ve enjoyed over the past week.

On Wednesday, the Vatican announced its first bilateral treaty with the “State of Palestine.” During a meeting Saturday, Pope Francis affectionately referred to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, with whom he enjoys a close relationship, as an “angel of peace.”

(The Vatican issued a clarification saying the remark came in the context of presenting Abbas with a bronze medal depicting an angel, suggesting it wasn’t simply a gratuitous tribute, but that did little to lessen Israeli umbrage.)

On Sunday, the pontiff canonized two 19th-century nuns as the first-ever Palestinian saints. Taken together, many Israelis saw the gestures as the Vatican tipping its hand.

In truth, this is hardly the first time Israel has detected a pro-Palestinian slant in Rome.

St. John Paul II, for instance, was widely perceived as a friend of Judaism and of Israel. Yet it irritated Israelis no end that John Paul II also met PLO leader Yasser Arafat 12 times over the course of his papacy, treating him as a serious statesman rather than the gun-toting thug most Israelis perceived him to be.

After the first such meeting in 1982, reaction from then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was pointed.

“What else can one say,” Begin said, “except to express disgust?”

Likewise, Pope Benedict XVI stirred Israeli resentment during a May 2009 trip to the Holy Land, when he criticized Israel’s security barrier separating the West Bank from Jerusalem.

During a visit to the Aida camp, home to some 3,000 Palestinian refugees that was opened after the 1948 Arab/Israeli war, Benedict affirmed his audience’s “legitimate aspirations for permanent homes [and] for an independent Palestinian State.”

The Vatican’s subsequent adoption of the term “State of Palestine,” after a November 2012 UN vote to admit Palestine as a non-member observer state, came under Benedict XVI.

To the extent there really is a pro-Palestinian tilt in some Vatican quarters, three factors help explain it.

1. Europeans favor the Palestinians.
The Vatican is a European institution and its diplomatic corps is predominantly European, mostly Italian. European biases tend to form the “default setting” of Vatican diplomacy, the instinctive line the Vatican falls back on in the absence of anything pulling it in a different direction.

Just as a pro-Israeli impulse is in the water of American politics, sympathy for the Palestinians tends to be the European norm.

2. The Vatican supports small states – and the UN.
The Vatican sees itself as the world’s smallest state and thus feels a natural affinity for other small states, especially when the perception is that a major world power – in this case, the United States through its support of Israel – has that small state at a disadvantage.

Bundled with that is strong support for the United Nations, and for multilateral approaches to virtually every foreign policy question.

It often strikes people as odd that the Vatican is so robustly pro-UN, given the battles it has waged with some UN agencies over population control. For better or worse, however, support for the global body is a bedrock principle of Vatican diplomacy.

3. Holy Land Christians are Palestinians.
The overwhelming majority of the Christians in the Holy Land are Palestinian Arabs, including the bishops and other clergy the Vatican relies upon to get its bearings in terms of what’s happening on the ground.

Over the years, the Catholic bishops of the Middle East have typically been strongly pro-Palestinian. Most have not gone as far as Greek Melkite Archbishop Hilarion Capucci, who was arrested in 1974 and later convicted by an Israeli court for smuggling guns to the PLO in the trunk of his Mercedes sedan, but many sympathized with Capucci’s aims.

In part, Palestinian Christians are conscious of their status as a minority within an overwhelmingly Muslim society, and thus sometimes feel the need to prove their Arab loyalties by being especially vocal in their criticism of Israel and their support for the Palestinian cause.

The Vatican is aware of that dynamic, and generally comes off as more cautious and balanced than the local bishops. Nevertheless, those voices can’t help but have a strong impact on the way Rome thinks.

These conditions are permanent, but there’s another factor: Francis is the first pope from the developing world, and as such, he probably brings a special degree of instinctive sympathy for what he sees as oppressed and struggling peoples.

This perceived pro-Palestinian impulse stirs deep resentment on the Israeli side, and not merely because of its broader geopolitical ramifications or the Catholic Church’s checkered history with anti-Semitism.

Israelis also insist that as the region’s lone real democracy, they do a far better job protecting religious freedom, including the rights of Christians, then anyone else in the neighborhood. At a time when Pope Francis has made anti-Christian persecution a signature cause, they argue, the Vatican should be pointing to Israel as a model rather than undercutting its standing.

(That claim is vigorously contested by many Palestinian Christians, who, among other things, say that Israeli security policies split Christian families and make access to holy sites difficult if not impossible.)

No doubt, the Vatican will find ways in the days to come to signal that its gestures to the Palestinians are not intended to come at the expense of its relationship with Israel. Francis is committed to Catholic/Jewish relations, among other things relying on his close friend, Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka, as an informal channel of communication with the wider Jewish world and with Israel.

In the end, however, Israelis and their supporters probably will continue to suspect the Vatican of a basic pro-Palestinian prejudice. That perception pre-dates Francis, but after this week it seems fair to say it’s unlikely to change on his watch.

 

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