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US Ambassador Slams Iran for Religious Rights Abuses against Christians, Other Minorities

The US is pushing back against religious injustice in Iran. Illustrative. By Joshua Spurlock

The Islamic Republic of Iran is not known for being open to religious minorities, and United States Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback highlighted some of the egregious Iranian offenses in a recent speech. Christians, Baha’is and even Sunni Muslims have faced religious persecution from Iranian authorities. “In Iran, blasphemy, apostasy from Islam, and proselytizing of Muslims are crimes punishable by death,” said Brownback in a speech last week published on the US State Department website.

“Minorities not recognized under the Iranian constitution—such as Baha’is and Christian converts—may not engage in public religious expression and are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, harassment, and arbitrary arrest.”

Brownback cited multiple examples of the plight facing Christians in Iran—noting that a dangerous label is to be called a Christian supporter of Israel. … Continue Reading

Israel Condemns Passover Synagogue Shooting, Praises Victim as Hero

April 28, 2019 Special Feature

New shooting ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day highlights deadly dangers of antisemitism. Sculpture at Yad Vashem depicting Polish-Jewish doctor and author Janusz Korczak, and children from his orphanage, who all perished in the Holocaust. By Joshua Spurlock.

Another shocking synagogue shooting in the United States occurred on the last day of the festival of Passover at a Sabbath service on Saturday, killing Lori Gilbert-Kaye and wounding three others. The incident was met with a strong response by Israeli leaders and institutions and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning a special meeting this week to discuss the global increase in antisemitic attacks, according to a press release from his office published Sunday.

“I condemn the abhorrent attack on a synagogue in California; this is an attack on the heart of the Jewish people,” Netanyahu was quoted by the statement as saying. “We send condolences to the family of Lori Gilbert-Kaye and our best wishes for a quick recovery to the wounded. The international community must step up the struggle against antisemitism.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that an antisemitic online manifesto has been attributed to the 19-year-old shooter who attacked the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in California. The shooter’s gun reportedly jammed during the attack and he was arrested after fleeing via car.

The woman killed in the attack, Gilbert-Kaye, was more than a victim according to Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett, who called her a “Jewish Hero.” … Continue Reading

Israeli President, IDF Chief Hold Passover Meal with 400 Lone Soldiers

April 21, 2019 Special Feature

President Rivlin celebrating Pesach Seder with lone soldiers. Photo courtesy of Tzalamim Be’Klik

It’s always challenging to celebrate holidays without any family, and when one is serving in the military as well, that can make it even more so. In response to that, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and leader of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi on Friday celebrated the traditional Passover meal—known in Hebrew as a Seder—with 400 “lone” soldiers, or IDF troops who do not have family in Israel to support them.

“Despite the difficulties of being a soldier, and even more so of being a lone soldier, you chose to serve the state in order to protect us all,” Rivlin told the event per an Israeli press release. “You are brave and wonderful people. It is a great honor to sit with you here tonight… It is an opportunity for us to give something back to you.”

The Passover meal marks the Israelite’s freedom from slavery in Egypt as described in the Biblical book of Exodus and involves multiple special foods to recall that experience. Rivlin highlighted those themes as important to today’s times as well—especially for the military. … Continue Reading

How He Became the Unbeatable Bibi Netanyahu

April 11, 2019 Special Feature

PM Netanyahu oppose. Photo courtesy of Haim Zach (GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—known also by his nickname “Bibi”—is expected to be named as Israel’s leader for the fifth time, extending his record-setting run as prime minister to well into it’s eighth straight year. It will also give him a chance to catch Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, for the longest total time serving as Israel’s leader at a little over 13 years, thanks to Netanyahu’s earlier 3-year run in the 1990s. But how did he do it? How did Netanyahu not only manage to return to power, but stay there longer than anyone else in Israeli history? … Continue Reading

US Sanctions Iran Nuclear Group after Threat ‘Highlighted’ by Israeli Intelligence

Israel and the US are working hard to counter Iran’s nuclear threat. Illustrative photo of Netanyahu discussing Iran’s “secret nuclear files”. Photo courtesy of: Amos Ben-Gershom (GPO)

The United States last week levied sanctions on a total of 31 persons and entities for their connections to an Iranian group believed to be a threat capable of re-launching Iran’s nuclear weapons program when the timing was right—and Israeli spycraft helped showcase that risk. The sanctions target those affiliated with Iran’s Organization for Defense Innovation and Research, known in Farsi by the acronym “SPND.” That entity, according to a background briefing from two US Senior Administration Officials published by the State Department, is headed by the founder of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, and controls groups specializing in radiation, explosives, and missiles.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in comments released from his office on Saturday, congratulated US President Donald Trump and other key figures in the US Administration for the sanctions moves, which his office said came in the “wake” of Israel unveiling an Iranian nuclear program archive in 2018.

“Iran continues to deceive the international community and lie to the world about its military nuclear program,” said Netanyahu. “The Iranian regime continues to conceal its capabilities and to strive for nuclear weapons. Iran endangers the peace of the Middle East and the entire world and must be blocked.” … Continue Reading

Israel Strikes Weapons Storage Day after US Espouses Support of anti-Iran Action in Syria

January 13, 2019 Special Feature, Syria

PM Netanyahu & US Secy. of State Pompeo. Illustrative. Photo courtesy of: Haim Zach / Israeli GPO

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday last week provided American backing for Israel’s efforts to prevent Iran from setting up a new base of operations in Syria. One day later, Israeli warplanes struck weapons storage facilities belonging to Iran, including a target at an international airport in Syria’s capital of Damascus. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the unusual position of claiming credit for the attack on Sunday.

“Israel attacked an Iranian weapons warehouse at the international airport in Damascus,” said Netanyahu in comments released by his office. “This reflects our consistent policy and strong determination to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria. If necessary, we will step up these attacks.”

The Israeli strike follows Pompeo’s speech backing such action at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, which was republished by the State Department. Pompeo told the audience, “We strongly support Israel’s efforts to stop Tehran from turning Syria into the next Lebanon.” … Continue Reading

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