Author Archives: menb

What MidEast News Brief is About

So I’ve had the idea for a site focused on the ME incubating for years, and while it’s pretty different from my original intent (a Drudge-style Middle East news aggregator) I’m pretty excited to move forward with what I think will be a learning experience for me as well as anyone else interested in coming along for the ride.

Keeping up with events related to the Israeli-Arab conflict, the terrorist proxies in the region, and bad geopolitical actors such as Iran is not for the faint of heart. In all honesty, I can confess for me, someone who is pursuing a masters in Middle Eastern studies, reading about the Middle East rarely leaves me in a state of ataraxy. It’s rather a hodgepodge of fascination, despair, hopelessness, and hope, in a region as seemingly dark as obsidian and yet, at times throughout history, humanity witnesses the heavens split and the most mesmerizing, ethereal crepuscular ray shines down and enlightens its inhabitants.

Such fusillades of light, however, are rare.

War, death, oppression, and poverty are just a few of the unsightly characteristics plaguing Middle East reality. It’s a daily read, especially in the age of the seemingly unending Syrian Civil War, and an overview of the daily history of the region (aka “news”) is never a walk through DC during Cherry Blossom season.

So why this site, and why a Middle East podcast? For one, it’s mainly a vehicle for my own personal enrichment and education as I journey toward further expertise in the subject, and this medium is an effective and convenient way to interact with the nitty-gritty of the regular happenings in the region. Second, I love to do radio/broadcasting, and what better subject to podcast on than what you are learning about growing as an expert in?

So, who am I? My name is Winston R. Holland and I’m a Christian, husband, father, small-business owner, and student who loves to learn, grow, and communicate the information and ideas I’m learning and growing in. I’m currently pursuing a Master’s of Public Policy in Middle Eastern Studies from Liberty University with a view toward some type of engagement in the public discourse in the future. What will that look like? That’s a GREAT question.

Thank you for being here, and feel free to get in touch with me any time at mideastnewsbrief AT g mail.

(This site is undergoing mega construction and there is still much to do. I will let everyone know when the updated site will be live as soon as possible)

Ep. 3 – The Peace Plan is Coming, ISIS on the Brink, and Iran is Still Terrible

This week on MidEast News Brief we spend half the show on Israeli-Palestinian issues, specifically in relation to the Kushner peace plan. It looks like ISIS is ever closer to their impending doom, the Pope and Sunni Islam’s rockstar Imam rendezvous in Abu Dhabi, and Iran has the formula for a nuke! This and more on today’s show.

Links to the articles discussed on today’s show:

Kushner: Israeli Peace Plan to Be Unveiled After Knesset Elections in April

Gulf States Commend Kushner’s Peace Effort

Netanyahu in Warsaw says Poles had Cooperation with Germans in Holocaust

Abbas Embarks on Trip to Wage Battle On Trump’s Deal of the Century

Yuli Edelstein Says a Palestinian State is not on the Agenda

US-Backed Forces Push to Capture Islamic State’s Last Territory in Syria

Pope Francis and Leading Imam Sign Covenant Pushing us Toward One World Religion

Iran’s Top Cleric Says Regime has the Formula to Create a Nuke

Netanyahu: Warsaw Sumit Unites Many Countries Against Iran’s Goals

Pence Rips Europe for Helping Iran Skirt US Sanctions

Ep. 2 – Fatah’s Facebook, Christian Persecution, and SOTU

This week our pals over at Palwatch provide a report of the so-called “moderate” Palestinian faction Fatah’s Facebook activity, and well, let’s just say the results are terror-ifying. Also, Open Doors USA has come out with their yearly report on Christian persecution worldwide, and you can only imagine where countries in the Middle East rank. I mentioned last week that we’ll get into some anti-semitism in the good ol’ USA by our own elected leaders, which is beyond abhorrent. And Trump did talk some foreign policy at the state of the union so we, of course, will play some clips and touch on points there, plus more.

MidEast News Brief Podcast #2 Transcript

And hello everyone and welcome to the second edition of our brand new podcast, MidEast News Brief, where we bring you the most important news and developments out of the Middle East. I am your host Winston R Holland. Be sure to subscribe to this Podcast in iTunes if you have not already, it will also be in the Google Play store eventually. It has been submitted but Google has to crawl it or whatever, but it will be in there eventually. If you subscribe on iTunes, and if you like it, please leave a review (but only if you like it). And be sure to head over to MidEastNewsBrief.com where you can subscribe as well as get the transcripts of the shows and links to the articles and research discussed.

I really don’t like people taking my word for things, which is one of the things that bothers me most about talk radio. Some guy bloviating into a microphone is proof of nothing. On this broadcast, however, I at least provide the links to the information I am using along with my bloviating, so I hope that’s at least a little bit better….

So, we have a ton to get to this week, including our pals over at Palwatch provide a report of the so-called “moderate” Palestinian faction Fatah’s Facebook activity, and well, let’s just say the results are terror-ifying. Also, Open Doors USA has come out with their yearly report on Christian persecution worldwide, and you can only imagine where countries in the Middle East rank. I mentioned last week that we’ll get into some anti-semitism in the good ol’ USA by our own elected leaders, which is beyond abhorrent. And Trump did talk some foreign policy at the state of the union so we of course will play some clips and touch on points there….

Netanyahu and Draconian Laws

First off though, as I mentioned last week, Israeli elections are coming up April 9 and let’s face it if they were held today Netanyahu would run the table. He’s extremely popular and the polls are not even close… except…. An investigation into possible corruption charges could, possibly, cost him the election, because, well, you know here in America it’s really, really hard to get rid of a president? He has to resign under pressure or be impeached, which requires a simple majority in the House of Representatives, but if you want to actually convict and remove the prez from office that takes a TWO-thirds, yes, TWO-thirds majority in the Senate. Think about that. I mean, do you think we’ll ever see a ⅔ majority when it comes to impeaching a president again? It would take a massive political revolution to get that many senators to agree on that.

Anyway, well, it’s different in Israel. In the US sitting presidents will likely not be indicted or prosecuted. They gotta get booted by the Senate. But in good ol’ Israel, things are much different. This is from American Thinker, February 3: Trump, Netanyahu, and the Witch-Hunters, by Shoula Romano Horing, and Israeli born and raised attorney who practices here in the US:.

According to Israeli law, after an attorney general announces his intent to indict, a preindictment hearing requested by the defendant will begin, after which the final decision to indict will be made by the attorney general and a trial will follow….

In previous high-profile criminal cases, the preindictment hearings took several months and even longer.  In 2012, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman managed to avoid obstruction of justice and money laundering charges, after a hearing process that lasted over a year…. [remember I quoted the Prime Minister’s office last week as saying that “a process that should take 20 months is being squeezed into a few days….” basically due to pressure from the left wanting to see Netanyahu indicted before the election]….. In a past case against former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the preindictment hearing in which evidence was put forth persuaded prosecutors to drop the case entirely.

So here’s where it gets really crazy. In Israel, you can actually arrest witnesses, yes, witnesses, not just suspects. I couldn’t find out how long for witnesses, but I do know suspects can be held for up to 75 days without being charged. Fathom that. Here in the US suspects can only be held for up to 3 days without being charged and some states even shorter than that.

And so with that backdrop, here you have the Israeli government arresting Nir Hefetz, who was the Prime Minister’s spokesman, and holding him in detention for 15 days and I quote,

“under severe conditions, which included sleep deprivation, hundreds of flea bites and blisters, and a lack of access to immediate medical care.  In the U.S., such detention would be found unconstitutional and any testimony or evidence from such a witness would be inadmissible under the “Fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine.” (which is basically the idea that any evidence obtained by illegal means is not admissible in court, such as the police not having a warrant and they search the house anyway yet find real evidence in the individual).

That’s pretty horrendous when the state can basically engage in torture of a citizen, and not just any regular guy off the street, this guy was high, high up there, to get him to turn on a political foe. If they can do this to a man who held such a prominent position, what else can they do? Can you imagine if they did this to a Palestinian? But Netanyahu’s guy, great! Sick the fleas on him. It’s truly sad and I hope those heinous laws end up being changed. I love Israel and am 100% committed to the right of the Jewish people to have their own state because it’s really, really dangerous for them not to have their own state, but this draconian law has got to go.

Facebook and The Fatah Facebook Page

I didn’t talk much about Israeli-Palestinian issues last week so I want to spend a little more time today on it. The first thing I want to get to is what came out of the Jerusalem Post this morning, a report titled, “ISRAELI WATCHDOG TO FACEBOOK: REMOVE ABBAS’ PARTY’S PAGE – EXCLUSIVE.”

Now remember, we’re supposed to believe that in the regions that are carved out for a future Palestinian state, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, The Fatah party, which rules the West Bank, is the “moderate” party, and Hamas, which rules Gaza, is the “extreme” party. I’m sure Mahmoud Abbas loves that designation for Western media propaganda purposes, but at the same time it’s absolutely astonishing how they display in full view for anyone that’s watching the most blatant pro-terrorism images, and they do it on their public Facebook page! What??

This is a long report, so I’m just going to hit some highlights, it will of course be linked at MidEastNewsBrief.com if you would like to dig into the details:

An Israeli watchdog group has submitted a request to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to close down Fatah’s official Facebook page.

In a letter, sent to Zuckerberg Thursday – and reviewed first by The Jerusalem Post – Palestinian Media Watch … claim that Palestinian terrorists carried out terrorist attacks in 2018 “influenced by Fatah’s glorification of murder and its promotion of violence on its Facebook page.”

Let THAT sink in for a moment… Look, we talked about this last week with how Fatah was honoring two murderers “under the auspices” of PA President Abbas, for their role in killing and murdering an Israeli solder forty years ago. Anyway, the article continues for quite a while but let me point out a few of the pictures compiled in this report by Palestinian Media Watch:

  1. Ashraf Na’alwa murdered two colleagues, Kim Levengrond Yehezkel, 29, and Ziv Hajbi, 35, Fatah even glorified his work and even prayed for Allah’s safety and protection on him while he hid for six weeks. (I won’t read the prayer). And then after he was killed by Israeli authorities on December 13 last year, Fatah called him a hero, martyr, and legend.

“When Fatah honors a terrorist, who murdered two of his Israeli colleagues in cold blood by publicizing on Facebook that he is a ‘hero,’ a ‘martyr,’ and a  ‘legend,’ it tells Palestinians that Fatah continues to support violence and terror against Israelis,” said Nan Jacques Zilberdik, senior analyst at PMW and co-author of the report.

Now think for a moment… could you imagine what would happen if an IDF soldier murdered a Palestinian citizen in cold blood and then publicized it on their Facebook page, calling him a hero, how the international community would respond? Yet the Palestinians get a pass, and we get more resolutions against the only free country in the Middle East than all of the countries combined? (the link for that info will be in the transcript). This includes countries like Iran and North Korea. You know its antisemitism when a double standard is in place. Period.

Okay, so I’ll go through a couple more examples. This report is 45 pages long and is replete with example after example, and this is hardly my favorite topic in the world, but I think you’re getting the idea:

Ahmed Jarrar, who murdered Rabbi Raziel Shevach, a father of six, in a drive-by shooting in January 2018; Abu Jihad–responsible for the murder of 125 people; Dalal Mughrabi – responsible for the murder of 37 people including 12 children; Ali Hassan Salameh – responsible for the murder of 11 at the Munich Olympics; and Kozo Okamoto – responsible for the murder of 24 people, most of them Puerto Rican tourists in the Lod Airport massacre.

This is really, really sad. I feel for the Jews who have to live with this constant threat and the Palestinians who are raised in a culture that glorifies and honors murder… it’s truly, truly sad, please continue to pray for this region if you are a praying type. I’m not going to get into more examples, but you get the idea.

It’s worth noting Facebook’s initial response to the letter. Now, I don’t trust Facebook any further than I could throw their corporate office but I don’t know their internal dealings so, who knows what the truth is here. But this is what their PR person said:

A spokeswoman for Facebook said that to the organization’s knowledge, Zuckerberg had not yet received PMW’s letter. But she told the Post that “Praise and support for terrorism is not allowed on Facebook and we remove this type of content when it is reported to us.

“In this case, some of the content had already been reported and removed,” she continued. “We will continue to review any reports we receive and remove any content that violates our community standards.”

Now here’s what I’m wondering, Facebook. How does Fatah still have a Facebook page, but Alex Jones does not? If Jones was booted for violating their standards, the Fatah page should have been gone a long, long, long, long time ago. And regardless of how you feel about Jones, anything that he did is NOTHING compared to this gruesome glorification of violence. Are we really to believe Facebook knew nothing about this? I don’t believe it for a second, it’s not like Fatah is some obscure terrorist group running a Facebook page off their smartphone under a rock in Afghanistan. I’m not surprised at all, considering their willingness to work with Pakistan to make sure to no blasphemy seeps through their geographic safe-space.

The end of Supporting Palestinian Terrorism

So, some much-needed enforcement of legislation that came out of the Knesset is being enacted soon. But before that though, back in December Texas Senator Ted Cruz proposed a bill titled the “End Palestinian Terror Salaries Act of 2018.’’ Let me just read the main text of the bill because I alluded to this last time when I mentioned the Palestinians paying families of terrorists over $347 million last year. This bill seeks to help curb that:

To impose sanctions with respect to any entity of the Palestinian Authority, the Palestine Liberation Organization, or any successor or affiliated organization that is responsible for providing payments to Palestinian terrorists imprisoned for committing acts of terrorism against citizens of Israel or the United States, the families of such terrorists, or the families of Palestinian terrorists who died committing such acts of terrorism, and for other purposes.

The bill goes onto recap the Taylor Force Act, which if you remember was named after the Vanderbilt graduate student and much more importantly US Army veteran who was killed in March 2016 in Jaffa by a Palestinian terrorist. It also gives several interesting quotes from PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is quoted multiple times as saying they will continue to pay their “martyrs” and their families, even if they’re down to their last cent, which is truly remarkable. Calling brutal murderers, “martyrs?” And we somehow think we can negotiate peace with these people?

You’ve probably heard the name Ari Fuld. The bill mentions Ari because his killer’s family is now receiving a monthly stipend from the PA! It’s truly incredible. This is insanity on an unassailable level, and it’s almost funny (almost) to read how people online just deflect when this is brought up and talk about Israeli’s stealing land from Palestinians, as if there is even some kind of moral equivalent there. It’s funny how we’re open borders along the Southern US and Southern Israel but strict, strict, strict border hawks along the West Bank when we want to keep Jews out. Mahmoud Abbas has said that no Israeli, settler or, soldier, could remain in a future Palestinian state. Interesting…. So besides the obvious Jew-hating racism of such a statement, he is promoting good old-fashioned ethnic cleansing, like what happened in Gaza in 2006 where Jews were ripped out of their homes and transferred to Israel proper. What if Jews were to suggest the same thing? What if Benjamin Netanyahu came out and proudly declared, “I will not accept a two-state solution unless all Arabs are transferred to the West Bank.” Could you imagine the uproar? Yet the international community gives Abbas a pass on this bigotry? It’s beyond evil.

So Netanyahu is enacting what’s called the Deduction Law, where Israel withholds funds to the PA equal to the amount that they dole out to terrorists and their families for rewarding the murder of innocent Israelis. Sounds reasonable… This is from The Jerusalem Post:

The Deduction Law requires the Defense Ministry to present the security cabinet with a report on how much the PA paid terrorists in prison or the families of terrorists who were killed, and for the Finance Ministry to deduct that amount from the taxes and tariffs Israel collects for the PA. The Defense Ministry confirmed that it is in “advanced stages” of collecting the information, in order to transfer the report to the security cabinet, as required by law. Netanyahu said that he will enact the law, Israel Hayom reported, but is concerned that it will destabilize the PA, and is seeking a way to find a balance between the two elements

Also, they are gathering the data on how much the PA paid terrorists and their families in 2018 so they can withhold that money from the PA as well.

The State of Our Union

President Donald Trump hit some major foreign policy in his State of the Union Address, and I want to play some of that now in case you guys missed it. I’ll pause it at various moments to comment, but I want to start off with his quick introduction to it toward the beginning of the speech.

Antisemitism in the US Congress

And while we’re camping out in that hallowed chamber… So, when US politicians, especially high profile US politicians make antisemitic statements, I tend to take notice and will be reporting on it regularly. Here we have a sad story from the Daily Caller about Minnesota rep Ilhan Omar, who, back in 2012 tweeted out something rather, well, disturbing, to say the least. I’m just going to read it and imagine if you were Jew, or you are a Jew, how this would come across to you:

So she was interviewed by CNN and here’s how she responded:

“You wrote Israel has ‘hypnotized the world,’” CNN host Poppy Harlow asked Omar. “I wonder what your message is this morning to Jewish-Americans who find that deeply offensive…. “That’s really a regrettable way of expressing that. I don’t know how my comments would be offensive to Jewish-Americans. My comments precisely are addressing what was happening during the Gaza War,” Omar said.

I’m sorry, but this tweet sounds like something you would expect out of ISIS or Al-Queda, not a future US Congresswoman. And there’s more here with Omar, actually quite recently. At an event at the Center for American Progress, this past Tuesday, February 5th, Omar was actually asked point blank about anti-semitism. This is from The Federalist:

When asked what she has “learned about anti-Semitism from engaging in these debates,” Omar did not address anti-Semitism or Jewish people.

“A lot of the conversation often times is one that refuses really to separate, I think, discussions around the country and its policies, and when that is hatred for the people and their faith,” she said after a long pause. “I think I am at a breaking point where we are starting to have a conversation about what it means to be a people that harbor hate, and um, and the kind of journey we could all be on in fighting against discrimination collectively while still having the freedom to debate foreign policy and not only think about how we engage our allies but also how we criticize and hold them accountable.”

Okay…. so…. what… about anti-semitism? I don’t know about you, but that’s troubling, but we shouldn’t be surprised when she has such inane views as blaming the United States’ involvement around the world for an Al Shabab terrorist attack on a Kenyan shopping mall! And even as recently as 2016 wrote a letter to a judge asking for leniency for nine men accused of trying to join ISIS! The fact that someone with such a disdain for Israel, she even said she “chuckles” at the idea of Israel being upheld as a democracy, and a sympathy for our enemies is serving in our congress is simply astonishing. Pray for her and pray for our nation!

Israel and Its Arab Neighbors

This is what I was referring to last week in regard to the bi-lateral relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. It’s simply astonishing. This is from The Tower: “UAE Minister of State: There is no enmity between Us and the State of Israel:

Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh, a minister of state in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government, said this week in an exclusive interview with Sohrab Amari of The New York Post that, “There is no enmity between us and the state of Israel,” – a groundbreaking statement that would have been unthinkable in the not so distant past.

Nusseibeh made the comments as Christian and Jewish leaders gathered in Abu Dhabi for the first-ever papal visit to the UAE and the Arabian Peninsula.

Wow! Relations with Israel and many of its Arab neighbors have never been warmer. I don’t know how long this will last but we will enjoy it as long as it does!

The Israel Project’s Senior Fellow, Julie Lenarz, observed in an op-ed published on Tuesday in Reaction that, “The Pope’s visit also comes at a time, when the Arab World is increasingly engaging in a rapprochement with the global Jewish community and in particular, Israel.” The emirate, she said, “has been one of the leading exponents of this approach.”

Persecution Brief

So Open Doors USA published their World Watch List, which is their yearly report of the top 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution. I don’t want to downplay the persecution of other religious minorities, I am fully aware of that very sad reality, but Open Doors is a Christian Organization and as such is the focus their research. The link to this report of course will be at MidEastNewsBrief.com.

Before I get to the list there are some very, very sad trends this report highlighted that I’ll briefly mention:

“1. The shocking reality of persecution against women.” There was a disproportionate persecution of women over men and sometimes women received double persecution – one for being a Christian and two for being a woman. It’s nuanced and complex as a lot of it is hidden, but they were able to parse out some examples.

“2. Islamic oppression continues to impact millions of Christians.” I’ll get to this in a minute

“3. The world’s two most populated countries rise on the World Watch List.” India is for the first time in the top ten and China has jumped 16 spots, from 43 to 27. I realize China is not in the Middle East but they are dragging people of all religions into these “re-education camps,” and it’s simply horrific. I expect to see that number continue rise. China is not getting more tolerant, at all.

“4. The Spread of radical Islam across Sub-Saharan Africa.” I’m just going to quote directly from this one: “While the violent excesses of ISIS and other Islamic militants have mostly disappeared from headlines from the Middle East, their loss of territory there means that fighters have dispersed to a larger number of countries not only in the region but, increasingly, into sub-Saharan Africa. Their radical ideology has inspired, or infiltrated, numerous splinter groups such as Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a deadly group that broke away from Nigeria’s Boko Haram that also enslaves Christian women and girls as an integral part of their strategy.” What do you say to that? Pray my friends, please pray.

“5. More laws added to control religion.” Tyranny is on the rise, thanks in part to the technology integrated into the device you’re likely listening to this on right now. If technology was ever a double-edged sword it is today!

First, some quick stats: [read page 5 of the report]

All right, here is your list of the top 20 religious persecutors in the world as well as the source or reasoning behind the persecution:

14 out of the top 20 come from what source? Somalia, who our good friend and congresswoman Ilam Omar is from, is number THREE! Will she speak out against this systematic persecution of her own home country? I’m not aware of it, perhaps you’ve heard her but I would doubt it.

Okay, so what is the point of telling you all of this? Well, for those listening that are believers there is a scripture in the book of Hebrews that is appropriate for this situation. It’s chapter 13 verse 3 [corrected from broadcast], “ Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.” We can’t invade those countries and stop them from doing this, but we can invade spiritually and pray for those across the world suffering such horrific persecution. And get that report, you can get the link at MidEastNewsBrief.com or just look up Open Doors USA and you should be able to get it pretty quickly.

Quote of the Week

All right, let’s end this broadcast with this week’s quote of the week. This one is from Otto von Bismarck, Minister-President of Prussia from 1862 – 1890. In light of current events discussing endless wars I thought this quote was rather relevant:

Woe to the statesman whose arguments for entering a war are not as convincing at its end as they were at the beginning.

And that will do it for this week’s edition of MidEast News Brief. Be sure to check us out online at MidEastNewsBrief.com where you can subscribe to the podcast as well as get the show notes and links to the articles discussed. Have a great week, and I’ll see you again here next time.

MidEast News Brief Podcast #1 – Introduction to the Podcast + Latest Middle East News!

I’m elated to say that our very first Podcast has arrived! Join us as we discuss what this podcast is all about plus get the latest news out of the Middle East!

MidEast News Brief Episode 1 Transcript – Intro to the Show + News Article Links

And hello everyone and welcome to the very first edition of our brand new podcast, MidEast News Brief, where we provide you a summary of the most important events and developments out of the Middle East from the past week. I am your host, Winston R Holland, and I want to use today’s broadcast as an introduction to what this podcast is about, who I am, my philosophy on how I will be presenting the information, and pretty much any other abstractions that pop into my head that feel relevant.

So first off, let’s talk about this podcast. As I already expressed, this is a show primarily about the most important developments out of the Middle East summarized for you here each week. The Middle East is, of course, a very big place, and there are literally thousands, maybe tens of thousands?, of stories that are produced from major news agencies every day about the Middle East. So, how are we going to peel back the layers and unyielding insanity of this volatile region to provide a cohesive set of information relevant to you?

As the great Macedonian ruler Phillip the II famously quipped, “divide et impera,” divide and conquer. I’m going to divide out primary subjects from secondary subjects, and focus on “conquering” those primary subjects each week as developments arise.

Secondary subjects will be discussed as relevant, but there are going to be some primary areas we will be covering. And here they are:

  1. The Israeli-Arab conflict, including general news out of the region
  2. The Syrian civil war, which will inevitably bring discussion of the Iranian-Russian-Syria axis of evil
  3. Iran and its terror proxies, as well as its relationship with Syria and Russia
  4. Multilateral relations between Israel and Arab countries in the Middle East. This one is particularly fascinating as the gains have been historic for Israel in this regard
  5. US-Middle East relations, for two reasons. I am an American so, you know… and secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the US is arguably the most influential nation in the world, and impacts Middle East events perhaps more than any other nation. Plus, the Kushner-Greenblatt-Friedman peace plan is likely due out this year, so we’ll be watching that closely and trust me that we will be doing a whole show just on that plan, maybe multiple. Oh, and spoiler alert: don’t expect the Palestinians to even read it.

So in terms of news items, those will be my priority. However, there is more to life than geopolitics, and I want this show to be much more than reports of international wrangling. Archaeological discoveries, technological and agricultural developments, religious interests, and, something near and dear to my heart, suffering of religious minorities will be discussed where applicable. Sadly, human trafficking is an issue in the area and although it’s my least favorite subject to discuss it is something I feel needs to be discussed from time to time.

So, a little about me. First, I am a Christian, and am very blessed to know and follow Jesus Christ. Religion, and specifically Christianity, is not the focus of the show, however. It is, of course, what I just laid out above. However, I readily admit that being a Christian will of course affect my interests, especially when it comes to Israel and biblical archaeology. But as a Christian I am called to love all people, Jews and Arabs, not just one or the other, and I hope that is clearly conveyed in this and subsequent broadcasts. Secondly, I’m a husband to the love of my life and a dad to four amazing children, and consider those to be my greatest relationships after my relationship with Christ. Credentially, I’m a student working on a Masters of Public Policy in Middle East Affairs, so this is an area I’m studying with a view toward a professional life in the coming years.

So, why this podcast? Well, frankly, I enjoy broadcasting. I have been doing broadcasting several years now via Facebook Live videos for our business and have always wanted to do radio. So, it seemed podcasting combined with a subject matter I am working toward expertise in was a great fit. After literally years of consideration, prayer, and planning, February 1, 2019, appears to be the day to get started.

Okay, so now to the question you’re all wondering. Will this podcast be biased? There’s a diplomatic adage I’ll enlighten you with but refuse to employ: “When it doubt, dodge.” Well, I’m not going to dodge this one; you are taking the time to listen, so you deserve a straight answer.

As a Christian, my desire and responsibility is to share truth, even truth I may not like. So, while like all conveyors of information, I have my political positions, at the beginning and end of the day it’s my responsibility to share accurate information. That is my goal, and that is my commitment to all of you. As a result, you will see me pull from sources from what are considered various spectrums of the political map. Will my personal political positions affect what articles I choose to discuss? Of course it will! After all this is a news AND commentary show, not just news, and any news outlet that tells you what they discuss is not influenced by their political opinions is lying. It’s pretty obvious from any cable news networks you tune into or newspaper you pick up that they have a point of view that influences the discussion.

That being said, again, I cannot emphasize enough that my goal is to bring truth, even truth I don’t like, and I hope that is refreshing to you as the listener, knowing you’re not always hearing only one side of the issue.

The Middle East is a tough neighborhood, to put infinitely mildly. Terrorist nations, terrorist proxies, terrorist groups, and lone-wolf terrorists persistently make their deadly mark on this fragile region, while innocent Jews, Arabs, Christians, Yazidis, and other minority groups suffer the terrible results of their horrifically evil ideology.  But amidst the negativity that daily barrages the headlines, I believe, and at times can even see, a much greater purpose at work, and hold an endless optimism for that region that I cannot and never will shake. My advice to you, for what it is worth, is don’t believe all of the negativity. I hope you, like I do, believe God is at work in this region, working all things after the council of His will, and will bring an ultimate good far beyond what we can imagine.

I can think of no better way to end this introductory podcast than to share one of the reasons for my enduring optimism. It is from the Hebrew Bible, in the book of Isaiah, chapter 19 verses 23-25:

In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.

May God bless all of you and I look forward to sharing the news with you for the very first time in about ten seconds, don’t go away…

[musical interlude]

Ok we are back and ready to dive into the latest developments of the past week….

An ISIS supporter was indicted on Jan. 30 of a federal hate crime charge. Why? Well, inspired by the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh that took eleven lives in October of last year, he was planning a mass shooting of his own at a synagogue in Ohio per the AP. Court documents showed he was aiming to pick a synagogue based on “which one will have the most people…” Antisemitism is alive and well…

As many of you know Israeli elections are coming up April 9, and Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu is bringing his…. Trump card… onto the campaign trail. A short video produced by his campaign features Netanyahu saying that the Embassy needs to be in Jerusalem, followed by a clip of President Trump congratulating Israel on the US Embassy move. An i24news and Israel Hayom poll recently showed Netanyahu’s Likud party winning by nine seats. There are ongoing probes, however, into possible corruption charges and the A.G. is apparently going to try to get a hearing in before the election. The Prime Minister’s office responded, saying “In the most crucial decision in the history of Israeli law, a process that should take 20 months is being squeezed to a few days.” It continued, “It seems the A.G. gave in to the pressure used by the left and the media to indict Prime Minister Netanyahu at all cost – ahead of elections.” We will be monitoring the election and will keep you abreast of any developments.

And how about this? Another country, or, rather… the great state of Florida! did something perhaps a bit unexpected for one of the 50 states in our union. Check this out, the Florida cabinet recognized Jerusalem as the “eternal and undivided” capital of Israel on Tuesday, January 29th. Per the Miami Herald:

The resolution was brought to the Cabinet by Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, whose office last year pledged an increase in the state’s holdings of Israeli bonds. He said he hopes to make a statement that “the interests of Israel are the interests of Florida.”

Florida has a Jewish population of roughly 630,000, so this is a huge sign of support for the Jewish community especially in light of rampant anti-semitism continuing in various places around the world, including, sadly, the US.

And speaking of the US, and Florida, and Jews, and anti-semitism…it looks like our least favorite Bed & Breakfast conduit, Air BNB, is in trouble with Florida. 90 days! Yes, Air BNB has ninety days to fix its current anti-semitic policy of not listing properties specifically owned by Jewish families living in the “occupied territories.” On Tuesday also Governor Ron DeSantis said Air BNB has 90 days to change its policy or risk losing Florida, since Florida law does not allow the state to do business with any companies that boycott Israel. Yes, your hatred for the Jewish state sure can come back to bite you, can’t it?  

And if you have this idea that the “occupied territories” are a bastion of love and tolerance your bubble is about to be burst. Any by the way, it should be labeled a “disputed territory,” not “occupied territory,” but that’s another matter. Okay, so prepare for the bubble to burst! Palestinian media watch reports that a Palestinian university in Jericho awards a jailed murderer with “honorary certificate in military science as a sign of appreciation for his role and sacrifice”

The article goes on to say:

Karim and Maher Younes are Israeli Arab terrorists serving a 40-year sentence for having kidnapped and murdered Israeli soldier Avraham Bromberg in 1980. They are among the Palestinian Authority’s so-called “veteran” prisoners, and as such are glorified tremendously by the PA. The fact that they have both “endured” 36 years in prison was celebrated by the PA this month.

“Under the auspices” of PA Chairman Abbas, the Tulkarem district held a “rally of solidarity” in Maher Younes’ honor with the participation of Fatah Deputy Chairman and Abbas’ representative Mahmoud Al-Aloul, Fatah Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi, Tulkarem District Governor Issam Abu Bakr, Director of PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Qadri Abu Bakr, and PA-funded Prisoners’ Club Chairman Qadura Fares.

At the event, Abbas’ deputy Al-Aloul “conveyed the blessings of President [Abbas] and the leadership to prisoner Maher Younes, his family, and all of our heroic prisoners.” [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Jan. 20, 2019]

It was also announced at the event that the PA’s Al-Istiqlal University in Jericho – the Palestinian Academy for Security Sciences – is venerating murderer Maher Younes and awarding him with an honorary certificate:

The board of governors of Al-Istiqlal University has decided to present prisoner Maher Younes with an honorary certificate in military science as a sign of appreciation for his role and sacrifice.”

Commemorating the anniversary of Karim Younes’ arrest, official PA TV honored him in a filler that it broadcast several times. It included this poster of him, referring to him and other terrorist prisoners as “brave.”

So if you’re one of these types that sees a moral equivalent between Israel and the Palestinians, and think that we just need two states for two peoples living side by side in peace and harmony, what does this say to you? How does this affect you? We already know that the Palestinian authority doled out over $347 million to families of terrorists in 2017. Is this a state you can negotiate peace with, or is this a terrorist state? I report, you decide…

And hey, if you’re thinking right now, “you only report pro-Israel stuff,” here’s something that’s reprehensible on the other side. Five IDF soldiers were charged with beating Palestinian detainees, ANI News reports. “According to an indictment filed in an Israeli military court Thursday… the soldiers have been charged with abuse and aggravated assault,” and included a list of several things they did that I won’t go into here because, well, it just breaks my heart. I will point out, however, that the government of Israel does not condone or applaud this behavior nor do they provide the families of these soldiers with lifetime pensions. They investigated and indicted them of these crimes, as they should have been.

Okay, I want to shift a bit to the aforementioned Iranian-Syria perpetual crisis. This is a pretty interesting article out of the Wall Street Journal, January 30. “U.S. Asks Western Allies to Help Form Buffer Zone in Northern Syria.”

So basically what’s going on is that the US is seeking out its Western allies to create a buffer zone in the Northern part of Syria. President Trump has ordered 2,000 US troops out Syria, which has created no less than a firestorm across the political landscape, even Mitch McConnell leading the way to a vote of 68-23 to rebuke the “precipitous withdrawal” of US. Troops.

The article goes on to state:

The difficulty in getting allies on board with the plan, details of which hadn’t previously been disclosed, is the latest challenge administration officials face as they search for a way to satisfy President Trump’s withdrawal order and avoid potentially adverse effects of a pullout, including an Islamic State rebound or a war between Turkish forces and Kurdish fighters.

The administration hopes to persuade allies including the U.K., France, and Australia to take responsibility for northern Syria, both to address Turkish concerns about Kurdish separatists in Syria while keeping Turkey’s forces away from U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters who have been battling Islamic State.

And of course, if we know anything about President Trump, he is not taking any of this lying down. This is what he tweeted today:

What’s perhaps most interesting about all of this, as the Daily Caller points out, is that the Senate Democrats’ most leftist members sided with Trump!

“Prospective” presidential candidates including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Democratic New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand had endorsed Trump’s plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Syria, reported The New York Times.

The Senate’s Thursday rebuke is largely symbolic but is expected to be rolled into “a broader bipartisan Middle East policy bill expected to easily pass the Senate next week,” according to the Times.

We will of course continue to follow those developments. And speaking of Syria, I came across an interview last week with a Kurdish Commander, Mazloum Kobani that he did with the AFP. He had some interesting things to say about the so-called ISIS caliphate, which has basically been reduced to a small pocket of a few hundred fighters defending just a couple of villages, “Marashida and Baghuz Fawqani on the banks of the Euphrates River, a few miles from the Iraqi border in southeastern Syria…” per the Washington Post.

So Kobani says he expects that the caliphate will defeated in a month! He says:

“The operation of our forces against IS in its last pocket has reached its end and IS fighters are now surrounded in one area,” Mazloum Kobani, the chief of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, told AFP.

With backing from the US-led coalition, the SDF are in the last phase of an operation started on September 10 to defeat the jihadists in the Euphrates Valley in eastern Syria.

“We need a month to eliminate IS remnants still in the area,” said Kobani, who spoke to AFP on Thursday near the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakeh.

So this of course is going to be fascinating to watch and see if this actually happens. ISIS is so horrendous they’ve even made Al-Queda wince at some of their brutal tactics, so their defeat in a month or so will interesting to watch, I certainly pray it happens. Also, if you’re a little confused about the Kurds, there’s a great piece by Lee Smith in the Washington Times that provides a great overview of the Kurdish people and their political movements, including an informative map. The link to that article will be posted on MidEastNewsBrief.com

Okay, let’s shift over to Iran with a few noteworthy news items. “New US Sanctions target Iran-backed fighters in Syria,” from Al-Jazeera, Jan. 24.

The United States has announced new sanctions on two Iran-backed militias fighting in Syria in a move aimed at raising pressure on Tehran and the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as Washington prepares for a military withdrawal from the war-torn country.

The Fatemiyoun Division, comprising Afghan nationals, and the Zaynabiyoun Brigade, comprising Pakistani fighters, were placed on the US Treasury’s financial blacklist, which aims to cut off their access to international financial networks to choke their operations.

Both militias are recruited by Iran’s elite military unit, the IRGC, the Treasury said, from communities of refugees and migrants living inside Iran, and sent to fight for the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.

“The brutal Iranian regime exploits refugee communities in Iran… and uses them as human shields for the Syrian conflict,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement.

“Treasury’s targeting of Iran-backed militias and other foreign proxies is part of our ongoing pressure campaign to shut down the illicit networks the regime uses to export terrorism and unrest across the globe.”

In a post on social media, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of “preying” on refugees and using them as “cannon fodder in Syria”.

Plus, Netanyahu gets tough with Major General Qassem Soleimani, the Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, who, if you weren’t looking at close enough could be mistaken for John Goldsmith, the most interesting man in the world!

The Jerusalem Post states:

Iran’s Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force Maj.- Gen. Qassem Soleimani was less than an hour’s drive away from Israel’s border on Friday, according to a report by Kuwaiti paper Al-Jarida.

This visit, the report claimed, is what triggered Israel’s rare daytime strikes on Iranian targets in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport on Sunday. This, in turn led to Iranian forces launching a surface-to-surface missile towards northern Israel’s an hour later.

Quoting a source, the report said that Soleimani – one of the most prominent and influential military figures in Iran – visited eastern Ghariyya in the Daraa province less than 40 km. from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. According to the source, Soleimani’s visit to a home in the area between 8-10 p.m. was monitored by intelligence officials.

So this was not okay for the most interesting terrorist commander in the world to be doing as the article goes on to say that, ““Soleimani’s visit to a location less than 40 km. from the ceasefire line in the Golan Heights violated a previous US-Russian-Israeli agreement,” regarding the Iranian presence in the war-torn country, the report said.”

Netanyahu’s response?

 

There is so much more we could say about all of this, and there are some topics of antisemitism out of Ireland and here in the good ol’ USA I want to get to, but we’ll have to hit those next week. I now what to shift from geopolitics a bit and end the show with what has recently become a strong interest of mine, and that archaeology. Now, my plan on the show is to, from time to time, discuss recent or breaking archaeological findings in the Middle East, Biblical or non-biblically related as it’s all just simply fascinating, but with this being the first podcast I wanted to talk about an archaeological discovery I believe everyone should know about. And what is it? Maybe you’ve heard of it?

Yes, it’s none other than the Tel Dan Inscription! So what is it? Well, it’s actually the first evidence we have of the existence of King David outside of the Hebrew Bible, as if that wasn’t enough! I mean, maybe you don’t ascribe to all of the stories in the Bible, but to doubt such a prominent figure simply because we haven’t found his name etched on a rock somewhere? Anyway, well, the skeptics were certainly quieted when this discovery was literally unearthed in 1993. This is from the Biblical Archaeology Society, September 10, 2018:

Few modern Biblical archaeology discoveries have caused as much excitement as the Tel Dan inscription—writing on a ninth-century B.C. stone slab (or stela) that furnished the first historical evidence of King David from the Bible.

The Tel Dan inscription, or “House of David” inscription, was discovered in 1993 at the site of Tel Dan in northern Israel in an excavation directed by Israeli archaeologist Avraham Biran.

The broken and fragmentary inscription commemorates the victory of an Aramean king over his two southern neighbors: the “king of Israel” and the “king of the House of David.” [note: this also backs up the biblical description of a divided Israel during this time] In the carefully incised text written in neat Aramaic characters, the Aramean king boasts that he, under the divine guidance of the god Hadad, vanquished several thousand Israelite and Judahite horsemen and charioteers before personally dispatching both of his royal opponents. Unfortunately, the recovered fragments of the “House of David” inscription do not preserve the names of the specific kings involved in this brutal encounter, but most scholars believe the stela recounts a campaign of Hazael of Damascus in which he defeated both Jehoram of Israel and Ahaziah of Judah.

Guys, this was unprecedented! The inscription proves that King David was an actual historical figure, not a concoction from scribes consuming too many fermented grapes as they lounged by the Pool of Siloam! Since the 1800s so-called scholars said King David couldn’t have existed because there’s no archaeological evidence, and beside from that being bad logic and the glaring disdain for the Biblical evidence, boom, here it is. And of course I will have the link to this and all of these stories up at mideastnewsbrief.com.

All right, let’s end end off the show now with our Quote of the Week (yes, we’re doing that): It won’t always be about foreign policy but since this is the first podcast I figured I’d us off with a great one from the gipper himself, Ronald Reagan.

“Weakness, after all, is a temptation — it tempts the pugnacious to assert themselves — but strength is a declaration that cannot be misunderstood. Strength is a condition that declares actions have consequences. Strength is a prudent warning to the belligerent that aggression need not go unanswered.”

All right, well that will do it for this very first edition of the MidEast News Brief podcast, thank you guys so much for joining us, and and be sure to head to MidEastNewsBrief.com to subscribe to this podcast and get the transcript of this show as well as links to the articles discussed. We look forward to seeing all of you here again next week.