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The ICC’s crime against the Jews

It was shocking to hear the news this week that Fatou Bensouda, the outgoing chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, has proceeded to open an official war crimes probe against Israel – a move which is immoral, unjustified, and beyond the court’s authority. Her decision is itself a crime against the Jewish people, and saddles the Court with the stigma of having initiated a modern-day blood libel against Israel.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague was established by the international community via the ‘Rome Statute’ two decades ago to investigate and prosecute the most heinous crimes under international law, including genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. It was meant as a ‘court of last resort’ with limited jurisdiction, trying only those atrocities referred to it by ICC member states or whenever those nations were unwilling or unable to try the perpetrators under their own judicial systems.

The ICC was founded after the world witnessed horrendous acts of genocide in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Special ad hoc tribunals were created to deal with the atrocities committed in those conflicts, which occurred despite countless declarations of “Never Again” uttered in the wake of the Holocaust – the methodical campaign to annihilate the Jews of Europe during World War II. After that war, a group of senior Nazi officials were tried at the Nuremberg tribunal – the first instance of an international criminal investigation and trial for what they referred to as the new crime of “genocide.”

Against this backdrop, it is completely absurd that the ICC has decided to investigate the only Jewish state for possible war crimes committed “on the territory of Palestine”. The Nazi war crimes against the Jews shocked the conscience of the world, yet now the laws and forums set up to deal with such reprehensible acts are being unjustly turned into a weapon against the Jewish state. Israel’s purported “crimes” actually consist of either acting in self-defense against deliberate Palestinian terrorist attacks targeting Israeli civilians, or in building Jewish homes and schools in politically disputed territories over which the Jewish people have valid legal and historic claims of their own.

The path for the ICC chief prosecutor to open her investigation was cleared in early February by a pre-trial chamber of the Court, which ruled that the Court has the jurisdiction needed to act on this matter. That narrow decision (two judges to one) is shameful, wrong and destructive – both legally, morally and practically.

As the dissenting judge pointed out, considerable legal acrobatics were required to arrive at this biased decision. It pretends that just by its association with the Court, the entity of ‘Palestine’ is a state – even though it does not satisfy the accepted legal criteria for statehood under international law. It also pretends that this Palestine has jurisdiction over the people of Israel, even though the Oslo Accords signed by both parties expressly exempts Israel’s citizens from their reach. No wonder that Hungarian judge Peter Kovács, the dissenting member of the pre-trial chamber, noted that “neither the Majority's approach nor its reasoning is appropriate in answering the question before this chamber,” and “they have no legal basis in the Rome Statute, and even less so, in public international law.”

What then are the main flaws of the decision?

First, it blurs the line between politics and law. The ICC has relied on political proclamations of the UN General Assembly, ignoring the fact that these non-binding resolutions are of a political, not legal, nature. It is clear that the Court is harming its reputation by allowing such politicization. What is even worse, it ignores established principles of international law when the Court decided that ‘Palestine’ can be considered a state. Palestine does not meet the criteria for statehood laid down in the well-accepted Montevideo Convention, which requires that a state must possess a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and the capacity to conduct international relations. It should be in the interest of all the signatory governments to the Rome Statute to uphold the integrity and reputation of the Court.

Second, the Court, in trying to answer the question to which territory its jurisdiction extends, has in fact defined the borders of Palestine, which is most certainly not its role to do. Moreover, in doing so, it has accepted the maximalist Palestinian territorial claims, which include all of Gaza, the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, without even considering Israel’s position and its well-founded claims to these disputed territories. By doing this, the Court prejudged the outcome of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which is the only mechanism that can settle the dispute and define the borders. Such an approach by the Court rewards Palestinian intransigence and undermines the prospects for peace. Most governments publicly support a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, so it should be in their interests to point out that the decision goes against their long-held policy.

Third, the Court has disregarded the Oslo Accords, which stipulate that the Palestinian Authority has no jurisdiction over Israelis anywhere in the disputed territories. Therefore, even if it was considered a state party to the ICC, the Palestinian Authority cannot offer jurisdiction over Israeli citizens to the Court because it does not have any itself. By ignoring these valid Oslo commitments, the Court has jeopardized the binding nature of international agreements in general. In particular, the witnesses to the Oslo Accords (the USA, European Union, Norway and Russia) should voice their alarm at such a ruling.

Fourth, the majority on the three-judge panel chose to completely ignore the opinion of seven States Parties (Australia, Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Uganda), which insisted that Palestine does not fulfill the criteria for statehood. Their involvement is unprecedented as they did not make their submissions in their own defense but rather weighed in on an issue which does not directly involve them. It can be argued that they did so because they felt it was a matter of principle. They made their submissions already a year ago and after the flawed decision of the pre-trial chamber had been announced, they publicly repeated their original objections. These countries certainly have an interest to continue pursuing their cause at the ICC, which they can do by bringing it to the attention of the ICC’s governing Assembly of States Parties.

At the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, we believe it is our duty to raise our voices in defense of truth and moral clarity. Though access to the judges of the ICC is minimal, we plan to approach the States Parties to the ICC (the 123 countries which have ratified the Rome Statute) to make clear our objections to this untenable investigation of Israel.

The ICEJ also will be launching a global petition addressed to the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties, calling on their governments to challenge the admissibility of this case and the Court’s lack of jurisdiction. Furthermore, we will be calling upon activists in these countries to lobby their governments in defense of Israel. The lobbying efforts and global petition will hopefully testify to widespread popular concern over the issue, which the relevant governments will have to take into account.

Geroge Orwell is quoted as saying: “Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.” It is time not to allow the obvious overreach by the Court to be blurred by political bias against Israel.
 

  

Battling the Spirit of Amalek

The festival of Purim, one of the most joyful holidays in Israel, is based on the story of Esther. The events of the book or “scroll” of Esther took place back during the Jewish exile in Persia under King Ahasuerus (Xerxes / 486-465 BC). The spiritual roots of the story, however, date back to the time when Saul first reigned as king over Israel and even further back to when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt.

In the days of Saul, he was put through a challenge to prove himself as Israel’s leader in battle over their worst enemies, the Amalekites, and so establish his kingship over Israel. Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin and his family were Kishites, a little-known community at the time. The prophet Samuel declared the time to establish his rule had come (1 Samuel 15:1), but it required strict obedience. Saul was commanded to engage in a battle of great historic and spiritual significance for Israel, by dealing a final blow to their ancient archenemy – the Amalekites.

During the time of the Exodus, this desert tribe had attacked the children of Israel on the way out of Egypt and they did so in a most despicable manner. “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God.” (Deuteronomy 25:17-18) Amalek was viscous, attacking the faint and weary at the rear of the column. Since then, this people became the archetype of enmity for Israel, with even God declaring: “The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” (Exodus 17:16)

The book of First Samuel tells us that Saul readily engaged the enemy, yet he did not finish the mission whole-heartedly. He kept the best of the sheep for himself and even worse, he spared Agag, king of the Amalekites. It was Samuel who executed Agag for the death of many in Israel. And because of Saul’s indecisiveness and disobedience in this battle, the kingship over Israel was ultimately removed from the House of Kish and given to the House of David.

And in a real sense, the lingering rivalry between the House of Kish and the House of Agag is then replayed in the story of Esther more than 600 years later.

Round Two
Besides Esther, the other main Jewish character in the story is described as follows: “Now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite.” (Esther 2:5) Mordechai was from the deposed royal clan of Saul (see 1 Samuel 9:1; 2 Samuel 16:5). He also served at the gate of Susa, meaning he was a high ranking official in Perisa. Finally, he was the foster father of Esther, a young orphan girl and relative of Mordechai.

Divine circumstances suddenly propelled Esther to the throne of Persia, as she became the wife of the ruler Ahasuerus. It was truly a fairy tale of a beautiful Jewish refugee girl becoming queen of an empire which ruled the world.

The other main figure in the story of Esther was another refugee from the same region named Haman. The Bible refers to him as an Agagite (Esther 3:1), which means he also was of royal descent – from the Amalekite kings. It is a lineage which dates back even to the time of Moses (Numbers 24:7, 20; 1 Samuel 15:7, 32). He, too, had reached the pinnacle of the empire as King Ahasuerus made him prime minister, bestowed with almost unlimited powers. All the other ministerial officers who sat in the gate of Susa, capital of Persia, needed to show respect to Haman by bowing down before him. And everyone did so, except for one man – Mordechai. This made Haman furious, especially when he heard Mordechai was a Jew (Esther 3:6).

Like his Amalekite ancestors, Haman manifested an ancient, demonic hatred of the Jews. He sought revenge, and killing Mordechai was not enough. Rather, he schemed to destroy all the Jews in the Persian Empire. Haman went to the king with a request which is one of the earliest recorded instances of antisemitism:

“There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so that it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them. If it please the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay 10,000 talents of silver into the hands of those who have charge of the king’s business…” (Esther 3:8)

For Haman, this was not just a breach of court protocol but a personal matter that was worth investing his own wealth. He saw it as the moment when the conflict between Israel and Amalek could enter its final chapter – the total annihilation of the Jewish people. Tragically, the king approved the plot. Only one other time in history has a similar decree been passed, and that was in 1942 when senior Nazi officials, under Hitler’s directions, met in the Villa Wannsee outside Berlin and plotted to annihilate the eleven million Jews of Europe.

Unlike the fate of European Jewry, when six million Jews were brutally murdered by Nazi Germany, the book of Esther turned into a story of miraculous deliverance.

A Day of Deliverance
When the Jews of Persia heard about the plot to kill them, they immediately called a national fast among all Jews living in Persia. Mordechai could see the hand of God with his cousin Esther now being queen of the empire. He thus made a dramatic appeal to Esther that now was the time for action (Esther 4:13ff):

“Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Mordechai challenged her with a statement that personally gripped my heart years ago when I read it: He said that the survival of the Jews is not dependent upon her; if she remained silent someone else would rise up and deliver them. What a powerful profession of faith!

Mordechai understood that neither Haman nor anyone else could frustrate God’s purposes with Israel. He knew Israel’s destiny was not over, but that God had promised to bring them back to their land and even promised to send them the Messiah. So, if Esther remained silent, another deliverer would arise to save God’s people. “But,” he added, “you and your father's house will perish.”

We do not know for sure, but maybe Mordechai saw this as the opportunity to redeem the half-heartedness of his ancestor Saul. In any event, he was certain that Esther’s silence would have catastrophic consequences for her and her “father’s house.”

To put this in a modern context, we see forces rising today that also seek with evil determination the ruin of the Jewish people. They want to harm Jews, and to weaken or destroy the nation of Israel.

We see this at the United Nations, where Israel – the only functioning democracy in the region – is irrationally singled out every year for condemnation while the worst tyrants of this world are treated as innocents. We also saw this just a few weeks ago at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where Israel is being unfairly investigated for alleged war crimes while other nations massacring their own people are routinely given a pass.

Indeed, the spirit of Amalek is waging war against Israel even in our generation. And here we are called to action. This brings to mind the words of Martin Niemöller, a pastor of the confessing church during Hitler’s time, who stated:

“First they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

While he sadly avoided mentioning the Jews, who needed intervention more than anyone else, we should take these words to heart and be ready to speak up in the face of unrighteousness, and in particular with regard to God’s chosen people – the Jews. The warning which Mordechai issued to Esther was already given to Abraham, the first Jew: “I will bless those who bless you and him who dishonors you I will curse!” (Genesis 12:3)

As we celebrate Purim, let us renew our commitment to stand unashamedly with God’s people. God sees it and He will bless it.

The story of Esther is one of total reversal. In Esther 9:1 it says: “… on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.”

As the king reversed the situation for the Jews, he allowed and encouraged them to defend themselves and the very day that was appointed for their destruction became a day of great victory and deliverance. Not only were Haman and his ten sons hanged on the very gallows he built for Mordechai, but also hundreds of the ‘enemies of the Jews’ fell with him.

Our Duty to Act
Ironically, when the Nuremberg trials ended in October 1946 and ten senior Nazi officials were hanged, an American journalist heard one of their ranks – Julius Streicher – cry out with his last words: “Purim fest!”

History does tend repeat itself, but it is up to us to do all we can to ensure it will not happen in our lifetime.

We should not ignore that Amalek represents a spirit which has operated throughout history. Both Moses in Exodus 17 and Mordechai in the scroll of Esther understood that prayer and fasting were needed tools to combat this evil spirit of antisemitism. Yet, we also need to be a people of action and visibly show whose side we are on. May God bless us as we do so!

  

The Battle of Voices

In most countries, there is no doubt that our media outlets and the streams of communication have become ‘mainstream’ in a very literal sense. In most places, there is just one prevailing discourse, one message, one viewpoint that is endorsed and anybody who decides to depart from this consensus view is immediately ostracized for being radical, racist, fascist or worse.

The University of Arizona found in a recent questionnaire, sent to 462 journalists at media outlets like The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, and Associated Press, that only 4.4% described themselves as conservatives, while an astonishing 58.7% identified themselves as left/liberal leaning.

One area where this bias is seen most obviously is their treatment of US President Donald Trump. The German newspaper Die Welt calculated recently that 99% of the articles published in Germany about Trump were critical. He is caricatured as a rough-talking, boastful man who is destroying Western culture.

As Christians, we should note that the vast majority of evangelical Christians in the USA came to an entirely different conclusion. In their eyes, Donald Trump’s time in office has been one of the most successful administrations in the past 50 years. Before Corona, the US not only had the lowest unemployment rate in decades, he also significantly improved the economic standing of America’s Black community, far more than his predecessor Barak Obama. Trump reversed some of the extreme abortionist laws and took an unprecedented pro-life stand as America’s president. He is considered the most pro-Israel US president in history, with these last months of his first term noted for the first peace breakthroughs between Israel and the Arab world in decades. When Trump announced the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, the political elites in Europe not only condemned the move, their experts foresaw a Middle East set ablaze. Yet today, three years after, much of the Arab world enjoys a rare atmosphere of peace and stability, and has become more friendly to Israel than many nations in what used to be known as ‘Christian Europe.’

Yet the media do not want to report anything good about Trump. And what is astonishing about this extremely liberal chorus of voices which dominate the airwaves around the world is that they are not united because laws force them to be so, but it all has coalesced into a grotesque Orwellian reality in which no law prevents free speech, but any deviation from the accepted narrative is punished. Just a few weeks ago, a Christian ministry leader in Germany posted a modestly pro-Trump opinion, yet all hell broke loose as politicians and media outlets swarmed down on her until she finally removed the post and focused back on her ministry.

Reading through the book of Revelation, I recently was surprised by a recuring pattern that the Apostle John encountered in his visions. As he describes the evil forces which will unfold and fight against the saints and the Lamb during the last days (also during history), they seem to all resort to one main weapon of choice – their mouths.

In Revelation 9, John sees a frightful demonic army, demonic horses having the heads of lions with “fire, smoke and sulfur” coming out of their mouths. John later attests that their main threat is their mouth; indeed, “the power of the horses is in their mouth” (Revelation 9:17-19).

In Revelation 13, as the anti-Christian Beast and his false prophet are revealed, we read “a mouth was given to the beast to speak haughty and blasphemous words” (Revelation 13:5). His prophet “spoke like a dragon” (13:11), and erected an image which spoke and caused “those who would not worship the beast to be slain” (13:15).

And as John sees the “bowls of God’s wrath” being poured out (Revelation 16), again an evil army is assembled. This army is led by the Beast, the dragon and the false prophet. Their key weapon again is their mouth. Out of their mouth, “three demonic unclean spirits like frogs” are released with the purpose “to assemble the kings of the world for battle.”

These passages are possibly best summarized by Revelation 12:15, where the serpent, Satan himself, comes to the scene and pours out of his mouth “a river after the woman (Israel)… that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood.”

The spoken deceptive words of Satan are what caused sin, chaos and death from the very beginning, by talking mankind into his demonic schemes (Genesis 3:1ff). He spoke back then in the Garden Eden, and he still speaks until today. His words of deception, immorality and blasphemy are all around us. And woe to anyone who dares to speak against it – a fury will break loose against you. There are numerous hot button issues where public dialogue has become impossible: abortion, gender and family issues, or support for Israel are some prime examples. In short, any biblical, conservative input into our national life is immediately shot down by the political correctness of our days.

The book of Daniel gives a similar picture. Also here, the beast and anti-Christ of Daniel chapters 7 and 11 speak against God and against the saints (Daniel 7:8, 11, 20). Daniel sees these demonic voices “wearing down the saints” (Daniel 7:25). The signs of the saints being worn down by these voices can be seen today. It is easier to compromise for peace’s sake than to stand firm on what we believe.

Yet the most important truth and value the book of Revelation offers us is hope! There is hope for the future. Jesus comes back! At his arrival, Jesus will – with the breath of his mouth – make an end of Satan and his Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:8). We must never forget that the word of God is more powerful than any word of deception and any demonic lie. His word stands forever! At the command of His word, the world was created and His word calmed the sea. When Jesus comes it will just take a breath, one word from his mouth, to unmask all the lies and schemes of the enemy. What a glorious day that will be.

But there is hope also for today. Again and again, John sees overcomers, men and women of God who will not bow down at the words that come from the mouth of the serpent. John sees those who overcame shared unique qualities:

“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12:11)

Never forget the power of the blood of Jesus. Like at Passover, when the blood protected the people of Israel, so also today the blood of Jesus “speaks.” It is more powerful than any power of darkness and protects us from the assaults of the enemy. Make it a point every day to proclaim the power of the blood of Jesus over your life and family, and trust the Lord to keep you from the many lies that fill the airwaves.

They also overcame by the word of their testimony. Don’t be silent, and ask the Lord for wisdom when to speak and when not to, and ask for courage not to hold back. As God gave us His word, we are called upon to make use of the “sword of the spirit, the word of God”. Let us trust that the power of His word is the same today as it was in the days of the Apostles.

And finally, they overcome because of an attitude of total dedication to the purposes of God. It reminds me of the three men in the fiery furnace who did not listen to the voices of their day and refused to bow down to an idol. “No matter if God will save us or not, we will never bow down” (Daniel 3:17). It also was the profession of Queen Esther, who after praying and fasting, went to the king saying: “If I perish I perish!” Radical dedication to Jesus and His eternal Kingdom is a quality that will be required in the years to come more than ever before.

As we cherish these qualities and immerse ourselves in the faithful words of God, He will keep us, protect us and allow us to carry out great exploits for His glory.

ICC ruling mangles international law to indict Israel

There is an old adage in the legal profession that “bad cases make bad law.”

And the International Criminal Court in the Hague has recently proven once again that the world community is far too easily willing to stretch and twist international law beyond recognition to satiate Palestinian animus towards Israel, most assuredly to the detriment of us all.

Two weeks ago, the ICC ruled that it had jurisdiction to open a probe of possible war crimes committed by Israel in the territories of “Palestine” – by which it meant Gaza, the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. This was a highly biased and outrageous move which has even opened up the Court to justifiable accusations of antisemitism, as was asserted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his immediate response.

Truly, this ruling is prejudiced and absurd on its face. The ICC was set up as a permanent tribunal to try war crimes and crimes against humanity which shock the conscience of the world. But it was intended as a “court of last resort,” to step in only when a member state passed on jurisdiction to it. If a country is not a party to the Rome Statute which established the ICC, or if it is already willing and able to investigate and try these cases within its own judicial system, then the Hague court cannot unilaterally assume non-consensual jurisdiction.

Here, Israel is not a member of the ICC and it does have serious, proactive judicial mechanisms in place to try such crimes. Meanwhile, the Palestinians do not qualify as a sovereign state under the Rome Statute governing the Court. Therefore, the Court has no legal standing or authority to investigate and charge Israel with war crimes in the so-called ‘occupied territories’.

So what we are witnessing is an overzealous chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, convincing the Court to bend and mangle international law to empower her quest to indict Israelis on invalid and unsustainable charges. This is happening even while the ICC is overlooking daily war crimes being committed by brutal regimes like Iran and Syria against their own people. Yet the ICC wants to prosecute Jews for building homes in Jerusalem as if they were Nazi war criminals.

Further, this ruling did not happen overnight. It is part of a wider Palestinian diplomatic agenda that has been progressing in United Nations organs ever since the 2001 Durban conference to delegitimize, demonize and dismantle the Jewish state.

In terms of the ICC, it has been building for the past 5-to-6 years, ever since Bensouda began pursuing it in earnest following the Hamas rocket war with Israel in 2014. It reflects the access and influence which the Palestinians and their global allies have in UN organs. And sadly, they have a large, effective network of pro-Palestinian NGOs and human rights groups which constantly pressure UN bodies to take actions against Israel – a network that is funded in large part by the European Union and some of its member states.

Here is a brief timeline of the ICC’s decisions on this probe, which demonstrates they were conducting a direct ‘dialogue’ with the Palestinians on investigating Israel.

In January 2015, in the wake of the third rocket war which Hamas launched against Israel along the Gaza border, ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened at the Palestinians’ request a preliminary examination into the situation in “Palestine.”

In December 2019, after several years of gathering evidence from partisan pro-Palestinian sources, Bensouda announced there was a reasonable basis for opening a war crimes investigation against Israel.

In May 2020, the ICC asked the Palestinian Authority for clarification on a declaration by PA president Mahmoud Abbas that the Palestinians were no longer bound by and would no longer abide by the Oslo agreements signed with Israel.

In June 2020, the PA clarified that it regarded itself as absolved of all agreements with Israel, but they did not deem this to affect the case they were building against Israel at the ICC.

Three days later, Bensouda agreed that Abbas’ declaration had no influence on the status of Palestine as a member of the Rome Statute.

Then on 5 February 2021, a pre-trial panel of three judges (by a slim 2-to-1 margin) ruled that the ICC did in fact have jurisdictional authority over the territories occupied in 1967, including Gaza, West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, and could open a war crimes probe against Israel (and Hamas).

This ICC ruling represents a significant and troubling advance on three key prongs of the long-term Palestinian agenda against Israel.

1) They seek to gain recognition of a Palestinian state outside direct bilateral talks with Israel.
“Palestine” is not a sovereign state, but it has managed to gain observer status in UN forums, and even achieved recognition as a state in some UN organs – including now the ICC.

2) They seek to undermine Israel’s legitimacy and in particular its right of self-defense.
This move would allow the ICC to try Israeli leaders and military figures for war crimes, and thus it is intended to strip Israeli authorities of the means to defend its citizens. In this regard, Bensouda has specifically referenced the 2014 Gaza conflict and the 2018 ‘March of Return’ riots as instances in which she has reason to believe Israel committed wars crimes. In truth, Israel’s leaders simply sought to protect its civilian population from deliberate armed attacks against them by a widely-recognized radical Islamic terror militia.

3) They seek to uproot the Israeli communities in Judea/Samaria by discrediting and now even criminalizing Jewish settlement activity. In response to the Nazi genocide against the Jews and their diabolical efforts to make Europe Judenrein, the international community set up the Fourth Geneva Conventions to prohibit many of the specific war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Nazi Germany during World War Two. This includes a ban on the forced transfer of populations in or out of an occupied territory. But now, the Palestinians are hoping to turn this ban into a club against Israel.

War crimes and crimes against humanity are rightly seen as especially heinous violations of law and moral decency. They are considered so odious that there are no statutes of limitation for prosecuting them. Thus, we have seen Nazi war criminals hunted to their graves by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and others for decades. But now, the ICC would have us accept a perverse moral equivalence between what the Nazis did in forcefully transporting millions of Jews to their deaths, and the voluntary return of Jews to the heart of their ancient biblical homeland, including Jerusalem.

On the contrary, this will never be acceptable! Thus, all of Israel’s friends need to band together over coming months to urge those states who are members of the ICC to reject and rescind this outrageous decision.
 

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

More Positive Fruit from the Abraham Accords

One of the main developments in the Middle East of late is the Abraham Accords – Israel’s recent normalisation agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Since those accords were concluded last summer, Israel also has signed peace deals with Morocco and Sudan, while Kosovo just became the fifth Muslim-majority nation to recognise Israel in the past six months.

There are numerous signs that this positive momentum between Israel and the Arab world will continue, even amid concerns the new Biden administration will adopt a softer line towards Iran.

For instance, more than 50,000 Israelis flocked to the UAE and Bahrain to visit and shop over recent months, despite the coronavirus travel restrictions. Emirates and other Arabs also began showing up in Israel in greater numbers, with many coming to visit historic sites and pray at the Muslim shrines in Jerusalem.

Prominent Israelis also are increasingly being interviewed by Arab media outlets, and some are even getting their commentaries published in official newspapers. Last week, Dr. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak and Dr. Jonathan Spyer, both fellows at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, wrote an analysis in a leading Saudi daily about Turkey’s recent recruitment of proxy militias in Syia, based on joint research with a UAE think tank.

Interestingly, after years of radiating hostility towards Israel, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has started making overtures for reconciling his differences with Jerusalem, a move which some experts see as a response to his fears the Israeli-Sunni Arab alliance now forming may outflank his designs for the region.

In another telling sign, dozens of Arabs from the surrounding nations took part in an online event on January 27th to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, where they heard a survivor of Auschwitz give her harrowing testimony of being a victim of Josef Mengele’s diabolic medical experiments. The Arab listeners were moved to tears and vowed to bring Holocaust education to schools and societies throughout the Middle East.

During the ICEJ’s recent Envision conference, we heard from Amb. Dan Shaham, who quietly served as Israel’s top envoy in the United Arab Emirates during the lead-up to the Abraham Accords. He described the recent move towards peace between the sons of Abraham as truly “prophetic”.

“After getting to know the Arabs over my two years in Abu Dhabi, I realised there are a lot of commonalities between us,” said Amb. Shaham. “Israelis are warm, open and friendly, and so are they. They want to develop their country and to create a new narrative for the Arab world, which is something we also understood as our role… So it was a meeting of minds between two peoples who were both ready for these changes.”

“There was also a value for the Arabs of just doing the right thing”, he added. “One of my friends told me: ‘We have relations with many Christian countries, why shouldn’t we have relations with the Jewish country.’”

American-Israeli author Joel Rosenberg also shared about his recent ground-breaking visits with Arab rulers who are now befriending Israel.

“Suddenly, we’ve seen these tectonic changes and the big question is: Why?” said Rosenberg. “The Arab leaders I have met are saying the world has changed. They have seen Israel become a military power in this region, but also an economic miracle. And they see Israel as an ally against the growing threat of Iran… They also are telling me they still support the Palestinian cause, but they have become frustrated with the Palestinian leadership for constantly rejecting peace with Israel.”

Meantime, during a visit to Ariel in the Shomron (northern West Bank) we also heard from Palestinian sheikh Nasr Abu Khalil Al-Tamimi, who said he not only accepts the Jewish people’s rightful place back in the Land of Israel, including in the settlements, but he also believes there is room on the Temple Mount for the Jews to rebuild their temple.
 

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

Return of the Two-State Solution

With the new Biden administration now in place in Washington, many are wondering how this might impact the Middle East, especially with regards to the Iranian nuclear threat, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and the warming relations between Israel and the Sunni Arab world.

Familiar Faces
During the recent US presidential campaign, candidate Joe Biden distanced himself from incumbent President Donald Trump on nearly every issue related to the Mideast region – except for the Abrahams Accords. There were just too many positives coming out of the Trump team’s successful efforts to help Israel reach peace deals with four Arab countries (United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco).

But Biden offered a different take on nearly every other policy concern, and his incoming Administration is now expected to shift course in two main areas – brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and how to defuse the Iranian nuclear threat. In both cases, Biden will likely revert to the approaches taken by the previous Obama presidency, especially given that he served as vice president then and so many other senior Obama appointees are now being tapped for key positions in Biden’s foreign policy team.

For instance, former secretary of state John Kerry is now the new ‘climate czar’, overseeing Biden’s top priority abroad – the crusade against global warming. Samantha Power, who served as Obama’s ambassador to the UN, will now be director of the US AID program. Normally, both positions would be under the supervision of incoming Secretary of State Antony Blinken, but Kerry and Power each used their clout to elevate these postings to cabinet-level status.

Meantime, Wendy Sherman, the main US negotiator of the Iranian nuclear pact in 2015, is now number two at the State Department. And Rob Malley, an Obama-era advisor known for having close contacts in Tehran, will now be Biden’s special envoy to Iran.

Regarding Iran, Bidens’ aides have said they would prefer to renegotiate the 2015 JCPOA agreement to extend its timeframe and include curbs on Iran’s ballistic missile threat, among other regional concerns. But before re-engaging with Tehran, they have pledged to first consult with allies in the Middle East and Europe, as well as key leaders in Congress. Yet they also have warned that a decision is urgently needed on whether to re-enter the Iranian nuclear deal abandoned by Trump – since Tehran could be only “weeks away” from reaching breakout capabilities to develop a nuclear weapon. Israeli officials disagree, however, assessing the ayatollahs would still need at least six months to reach the breakout stage.

This is an odd reversal of the days when Jerusalem was the one warning Iran was much closer to the ‘bomb’ than the Obama White House estimates. In any event, it is doubtful Biden’s team will put much effort into consulting with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu on this existential issue for his nation, and the upcoming Israeli elections could be used as a convenient excuse for essentially evading him on the Iran question.

And keep in mind that the clerical regime in Tehran is certain to demand a high price for even considering possible changes to the JCPOA negotiated under Obama.

Familiar Flaws
For many Israelis, the presence of so many Obama-era officials in Biden’s leadership team is also a bad sign on the settlements issue. After all, it is widely believed that John Kerry and Samantha Power were behind the passage of UN Security Council resolution 2334, the vindictive, blatantly anti-Israel decree adopted in December 2016, just weeks before Barack Obama left office.

That resolution declared that “Israeli settlements, including East Jerusalem, have no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation under international law.” It added that they also are “a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution”, which can only be “salvaged” by an Israeli settlement freeze.

So for those who stand firmly with Israel’s claims to Judea/Samaria and all of Jerusalem, the days of being able to relax on the settlements issue during the Trump presidency are over. Now I doubt that Biden will immediately start pressing Israel for serious concessions to the Palestinians, but some of their allies in Europe and elsewhere are already doing so.

For instance, when Biden was declared the president-elect in early November, European Union officials instantly ratcheted up their denunciations of the Givat Hamatos building project in southern Jerusalem. Germany and France also have started pushing to relaunch talks over the two-state solution, while UN Secretary General António Guterres recently called for the same, citing in his official statement the exact wording from UNSC resolution 2334 about Israel’s “flagrant violations under international law”.

This had all been put on the back burner under Trump, who rarely mentioned the “two-state” option and saw no reason to condemn Israeli settlement activities – with his State Department even maintaining that they were legitimate under international law. But this is all now back in play, so get used to hearing once more the incessant drum beat against the Jewish settlements and Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian lands.

This shift is basically a return to the foreign policy establishment’s biased consensus – held in Washington and Brussels too – that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies at the root of all the troubles in the Middle East and they can only be solved after Israel makes the moves necessary to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians. President Trump proved this ‘linkage’ theory was totally flawed, of course, by brokering peace accords between Israel and four Arab states. But that is not going to stop the Western elites from reviving the same old logic in order to put the onus back on Israel again to make one-sided concessions for peace.

 

 

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

Christians Must ‘Vaccinate’ Others Against the Virus of Antisemitism

This week the world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day, established by the United Nations on the anniversary of the Red Army’s liberation of the Auschwitz death camp on 27 January 1945. Exactly one year ago, Yad Vashem – the world’s premiere Holocaust memorial and museum – hosted an august gathering of international leaders from 55 nations who pledged to fight the global resurgence of antisemitism. As these potentates, princes, presidents and prime ministers returned home from Jerusalem, the world was just starting to wake up to the threat of the new coronavirus.

Sadly, the spread of coronavirus over the past year also has brought with it a renewed wave of the virus of antisemitism. So often, this oldest form of human hatred latches on to a real or perceived threat and becomes a fellow traveler with it. It scapegoats the Jews, falsely blaming them for every problem and peril that comes along. Christians used to be the chief purveyors of such lies, but today we can clearly see that this is no longer the case.

This week, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem hosted (online) some 750 Christian pastors and ministry from 55 nations as well for our annual Envision conference, scheduled each year around the January 27th Holocaust observances. We have no doubt that they represent multitudes of Christians worldwide who are deeply committed to combating all forms of antisemitism – including the corona-related version now making the rounds.

Ever since the corona outbreak started one year ago, the twisted interests on the far-Left and far-Right have converged in targeting Jews for either creating or taking advantage of this pandemic to further their purported goals of self-enrichment and global dominance.

It is nothing new for people to blame infectious diseases on Jews. When the Black Death swept across Europe in the 14th Century, the Jewish people were widely blamed (and even tortured and executed) because there were so few Jewish victims – which mainly resulted from their communal ritual of simply washing their hands before meals. Hitler and the Nazis also routinely described the Jews as parasites and disease-bearing vermin who needed extermination.

In the case of COVID-19, some have claimed the virus is a ‘hoax’ conjured up by Jews to provide a global emergency which allows them to take over governments or exploit the accompanying economic crisis. Others have insisted corona is a real viral threat created by Jews for the very same dubious aims.

Early on, when Israel largely escaped the worst of the first wave of the coronavirus through an effective governmental-societal response, some used Israel’s good fortune to accuse Israeli leaders and “Zionists” of being behind a viral plot.

Such outrageous conspiracy theories have been widely promoted on the Internet and social media. Even tech giants like Facebook and Twitter have faced criticism for letting such racist hate-speech to appear on their platforms, including from such sources as Iranian leaders.

In the UK, for instance, there were numerous social media posts which linked the spread of the virus to new 5G towers and networks, and suggested Jews either owned the networks or were building towers in non-Jewish neighborhoods. An Oxford survey in the UK also found that 20% of all Britons believed that Jews were somehow behind corona, and indeed many social media posts referred to it as the “Jew flu”.

Conspiracy theories also are now cropping up around the Internet regarding the vaccines being rapidly developed to fight COVID-19. There are many variants of this canard as well, but a common one follows the familiar line that Jews created this global health crisis in order to ‘depopulate’ certain non-Jewish people groups or force them to take vaccines that will render them sterile.

While the lack of proper long-term testing of the new vaccines is a genuine concern, this has nothing to do with the Jewish people. Further, it is ironic that Israel has become the country with the most ambitious plan for mass vaccinations using these new, largely untested vaccines.

In the face of this wave of corona-related scapegoating of Jews, some of the prominent monitors of antisemitism, such as the ADL, have concentrated on Right-wing and ultra-nationalist culprits, such as ‘white supremacists’, Q-Anon conspiracy theorists, and the Nation of Islam. But one study concluded the recent spate of corona-related antisemitic outbursts can be attributed to a small but very active network of a few dozen far-Right extremists.

Further, when we look at some of the other widespread expressions of antisemitism over recent months, it is clear the extreme Left and extreme Right each have their own share of militantly anti-Jewish elements.

For instance, both far-Left and far-Right agitators carried out vandalism, arson and other violent attacks on several synagogues across America in the wake of last summer’s spate of George Floyd protests.

Radical leftists, especially students on American university campuses, also remained very active in pushing the antisemitic BDS campaign, which continues to gain traction in Europe as well. For example, three German MPs, a leading German diplomat, the socialist youth organization, and several German cultural NGOs were all singled out by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in 2020 for promoting the Boycott-Divest-Sanction agenda against the Jewish state.

One important angle to note in all of this is the paucity of Christians openly involved in these antisemitic outrages. Christians may have been among the main spreaders of antisemitic tropes against Jews in the past, but ever since the Auschwitz death camp was liberated exactly 76 years ago this week, Christian attitudes towards the Jewish people have undergone a sea change.

Evangelical Christians in particular – today the fastest growing stream of Christianity at some 700 million adherents worldwide – are some of the most ardent, vocal supporters and admirers of the Jewish people and the nation of Israel. We are defending Jews from these canards, not spreading them. The atrocities of the Nazi Holocaust were a wake-up call to the Christian world, and it has essentially ‘vaccinated’ several generations of Christians now from being susceptible to the new strains of the same old repackaged antisemitic lies and slanders.

But the need to inoculate others – including future Christian generations – from the virus of antisemitism demands that we continue to undertake serious efforts at Holocaust remembrance and education. That is why the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem holds our annual Envision conference for pastors and ministry leaders to coincide with the January 27th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. It took place this year online, due to corona, but we now have hundreds more Christian leaders from dozens of countries who just took part in this week’s events and are fully equipped to vaccinate others against baseless Jew-hatred.

So amid all the bad news about corona-related antisemitism, there is good news about the Jewish people’s steadfast friends in the Christian world.
 

David Parsons is Vice President & Senior Spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

 

PS: To learn more about the ICEJ’s work with Yad Vashem, please check out our page on Christian Friends of Yad Vashem at: icej.org/yadvashem

PS II: Our friends at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs recently produced a new video on the subject of corona-related antisemitism, entitled: Conspiracies, Jews, and the Jewish State. Watch it here: jcpa.org/video/conspiracies
 

The righteous shall live by faith

The days we live in are truly challenging times. The year 2021 started out with more worrisome news: new mutations of COVID-19, talk of an economic meltdown, and disturbing scenes from the Capitol building of the United States. It seems that indeed everything that can be shaken is being shaken.

The global pandemic has impacted not only our economies, but also the way we worship and fellowship as believers. The recent US elections seem to have put America on a new path that already appears to be threatening the Judeo-Christian values upon which America and the Western world were founded. Many ask: ‘Where is God in all this?’ This is particularly so as many prayed for a different outcome in the US elections, and even more have interceded for an end to the corona pandemic.

For me, the book of Habakkuk holds more relevance today than ever before. The prophet Habakkuk lived in a time when he did not understand the world anymore – and more importantly he did not understand God anymore. As you read this, I encourage you to prayerfully read the entire book of Habakkuk and have your Bible ready as you read along. Allow me to take you through the three chapters of a prophetic book that I believe many of us can identify with today.

The book of Habakkuk differs other prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible. The prophet did not receive a message directed to Israel, but it is more the very personal dialogue of a troubled man of God with His Creator.

Habkkuk’s crisis
From the very beginning (Habakkuk 1:2-4), Habakkuk voices his complaint to God: ”How long must I call for help but You do not listen!” The prophet comes straight to the point: Lord, my prayers are not answered! In addition, he feels God is just looking on as injustice spreads, and strife and conflicts abounds. He sees the people of God and the law being paralyzed (v. 4) and losing their impact in the land. Instead of righteousness, he sees injustice and violence taking over.

God’s first response
God’s response (vs.1:5-11) was definitely not what the man of God expected: God instructed him to observe what is going to happen, not only in Israel but among the nations. “I will raise the Babylonians … that ruthless and impetuous people” (1:6). They will come to destroy and to take captives wherever they go. In other words, God told him: “You think it is bad now? Just wait, it is going to get even worse and …. I am in the midst of it.”

In fact, God told Habakkuk: “I am doing something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told (Habakkuk 1:5).”

The man of God
Let us take a step back and see who Habakkuk was. He was not your average Sunday church-goer who once a week bothered go to the church to fulfill his religious duties. He was not a complainer upset that his prayers did not get instantly answered. We are dealing here with one of the great men of God from ancient times. Habakkuk was one of the few persons whose writings ended up in the Bible. His declaration that “the righteous shall live by faith” (2:4) is one of the most quoted Old Testament verses in the New Testament. He was a man of prayer and heard the voice of God like few did in his generation (He was a compatriot of Jeremiah).

It was exactly this rare man of God who saw his prayers go unanswered. His “how long shall I cry” (v. 1) is the despair of possibly many years of prayer for revival in Israel, and yet he saw nothing happening. And honestly, that might be the situation of many dear men and women of God in our times, who have hoped and prayed for another revival for decades. Truth be told, it has been a long time since we have seen revivals like Azusa Street, the Welsh revival, and the Wesleyan or Pietist revivals, in many Western countries. “How long” might be the cry of many believers today.

And God’s response to the prophet is even more puzzling: “You would not believe it if I told you!” I remember hearing one of the new prophetic voices recently being asked: Where were the prophets that foretold of the global pandemic?” The lady was sincere in answering: “I most likely would not have believed it if God told me about a coming global pandemic.” I was refreshed by her honesty.

Many people today question the role of the prophets today, particularly after the recent US election so many prophetic voices foresaw Trump winning a second term. Like Habakkuk, they most likely would not have believed such a dramatic turn would happen to their beloved nation. It is easy to judge them in hindsight. But knowing many of them personally, I know that they – like Habakkuk – hoped most of all for revival in USA. They hoped, like me and many of us in Israel, that another term of Donald Trump would continue to strengthen Israel and would strengthen Christian values not only in America but in other nations as well.

Habakkuk’s third response
Yet after God’s reply, Habakkuk was even more perturbed. The pagan Babylonians would be allowed to judge the people of God? This was highly upsetting for him. “Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” the prophet asked (1:13).

But then Habakkuk made a decision that became a game-changer, both for the prophet and for the outlook and tone of his entire message.

The watch tower
Habakkuk recognized that he now desperately needed to hear from God. He understood that old paradigms and concepts would no longer work. The focus now shifted from asking God to hearing from Him.

God still speaks today, but maybe we need to reorient our hearts to hear the new thing He is doing in the world today. We all need to remember that the Bible is full of passages that difficult times will come to the world. Lawlessness will increase, He will judge the world through earthquakes, wars and even pestilences, and yes eventually there will be even a globally orchestrated war on the saints. I do not know what lies ahead, but could it be that we are entering into a new season when things will become more difficult for the Western church? Yet, as we draw close to Him and seek His face, God promises that He will draw near to us and will answer our plea!

Instead of praying what he always prayed, Habakkuk went on his watch tower to receive the divine insight for his time. We need to realize that many of the changes of 2020 will be irreversible. What worked in years past might not work today or even tomorrow. This is a time when each one of us is called to go up to our personal watch tower to pray and seek the Lord as never before.

The light house
As Habakkuk listened, God spoke to him! God’s new revelation changed the perspective of the prophet. God did not change his purposes, but He allowed the prophet to see the world how God saw it. The Lord told him to write down plainly what He was about to share with him so that others could read it (2:2). That means God gave him not just an answer for his own questions but what he heard would help others too. Habakkuk’s watch tower of prayer turned into a lighthouse of guidance for others. God used him in turbulent times to be like the sons of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32). This unique tribe understood the times and the seasons they lived in and also knew what they ought to do. The result was the people were at their command. God looks for these lighthouse people today – people who can give hope and direction in these stormy times.

The righteous shall live by faith
At the same time God affirmed to Habakkuk His immovable purposes. “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.… but the righteous shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:3-4)

Shakings would surely come, God said, yet the righteous shall live by faith! The most needed quality we need to strive for in these troubling times is faith. Do not allow the confusion and challenges of our time to rob your faith. In spite of all the chaos around us, God is seated on His throne. This was the vision of Isaiah when one of the greatest kings of Israel died a tragic death. He saw the Lord seated on His throne and the train of his robe filling the temple (Isaiah 6:1).

Or to put it in the words of the prophet Daniel: When confronted with death and all the wisemen and magicians of Babylon were at the end of their wisdom, Daniel was full of faith and declared… “but there is a God in heaven!” (Daniel 2:28) It means that in the midst of confusion, economic hardship, and all our unanswered questions, it is our faith in Jesus Christ that will carry us through. The righteous shall live by faith!

God is still at work!
Finally, God affirmed to Habakkuk what he could not believe anymore. In the midst of judgement and chaos, God’s salvation purposes with mankind continue apace. Like a powerful ray of light penetrating the darkness, God announces: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14) This is not just a theological or prophetic statement of the future, but an invitation of God to take an active part in His salvation purposes.

Habakkuk’s new-found faith
The prophet Habakkuk’s first reaction was to embrace God’s will. “I heard your report (3:2).” He still did not like it and was filled with fear and trembling (3:2+16). Yet he could see that God was at work. He saw pestilence and pandemics “at God’s heels” (3:5), and high places were shaken as the Lord came to visit the earth. But Habakkuk understood that He came not destroy His people but was coming on a chariot of salvation (3:8) and that God “went out for the salvation of His people, His anointed (3:13).”

It should make us think that the greatest revivals of recent decades have not taken place in the Western democratic, free-market countries, but in developing nations still fighting poverty in Latin America and Africa, and in places like China and Iran and even more recently in the turbulent Arab world.

In one of our weekly Global Prayer Gatherings recently, we heard an amazing testimony from our branch director in the Philippines, Pastor Stephen Mirpuri. Through November and December last year, we prayed for his region after it was horribly struck by a typhoon. Entire villages were completely submerged in water. Many people lost everything. Yet he just reported how revival broke out in this hard-hit region and only in his churches over 3000 people accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

God does work in mysterious ways. But God does work! Therefore, Habakkuk received divine faith in the midst of his challenging times. His hunger for revival in Israel was not quenched but even strengthened. “O LORD, I have heard the report of You, and Your work, O Lord, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:2)

Maybe the greatest time for the Church in the West is still ahead of us. His work is not dependent on any earthly government. In the midst of the pandemic and great political change, let us make Habakkuk’s prayer our prayer: Lord, revive your work and in wrath remember mercy!

Habakkuk’s attitude was now different from his seemingly legitimate complaints at the beginning of the book. He was able to make one of the most profound statements of faith in the Bible: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17ff)

His faith and his joy were no longer dependent of the circumstances, because he saw the Lord in control! Do not despair of your own disappointment or lack of understanding and even wavering faith. Remember that even a great man of God like Habakkuk struggled with the times he was living in. It is this book of a struggling prophet which invites us to plead our case before the Lord and He will indeed answer!

Finally, Habakkuk made one more profound statement, and this is how his book ends:
“GOD, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.” (Habakkuk 3:19, ESV)

The chaos and shakings became the territory of victory for Habakkuk. God strengthened him with His strength and gave him “feet like deer” treading on “high places.” There is no doubt we live today in complex and difficult times. Reading this verse, I was reminded of a documentary on mountain goats. With uttermost ease they are able to navigate the highest and seemingly impossible terrain of the Rocky Mountains. God promises this supernatural gift to us. The capability to navigate the new realities of the COVID-19 period, or the coming economic hardships, or a new government not to our liking. He will give us not only His strategies, but also His divine empowerment.

Remember! As we man our watchtower, He might turn it into a lighthouse for others. And most importantly, keep trusting in the Lord because “the righteous shall live by faith!”
 

Israel Headed to Fourth Elections in Two Years

As we enter the new year 2021, Israel is heading to its fourth elections in the past two years and this one will yet again focus on whether to continue under the security and stability the country has known under long-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or finally move on to a new national leader. The campaign is still in its early stages and there are several factors which could tip the scales one way or another – including Israel’s coronavirus vaccination effort, Netanyahu’s pending trial, the Iranian threat, and the approach of the new Biden administration to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and especially to Tehran.

The election is slated for March 23, and various parties are still jockeying to see who has the best chance to unseat Netanyahu, which remains a very tall task. Netanyahu is widely known as “Mr Security” here in Israel, and even the Blue & White alignment featuring three former IDF chiefs-of-staff could not dent that reputation in the last election. He also has performed extremely well on economic affairs, championing free markets and successfully promoting Israel as the Start-Up Nation. Netanyahu has shown incredible diplomatic skills that have elevated him to the status of a Western statesman. And he has enjoyed unprecedented longevity in office by his mastering of the game of domestic Israeli politics.

But Netanyahu also is seen by many as too focused on his own political survival, while his family is viewed as leading a privileged lifestyle. Taking advantage of the three-pronged corruption scandal now facing Netanyahu, the “Black Flag” protest movement has been holding boisterous demonstrations outside his official residence for months on end, and even stirred similar protests in other nations.

While he is preparing for that trial, which could begin before the March 23rd balloting, Netanyahu also continues to build on what may be his most lasting legacy – the Abraham Accords. Indeed, the recent peace and normalization deals with several Sunni Arab states is an historic diplomatic breakthrough for Israel and the region.

His main rivals in this election are not from the Left or the military, but from his own Right flank. Both Naftali Bennett of Yamina and Gideon Sa’ar of the fledgling “New Hope” faction were close associates of Netanyahu within Likud who have since parted ways and now present the biggest threat to toppling the five-time premier. They do not disagree so much with his policies, but are banking on Israelis wearying of his personality.

Meantime, Benny Gantz of Blue & White lost public support when he broke his promise not to sit in a government with Netanyahu, even though it was for the good of the nation during a global pandemic. His old partners Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid and Moshe Yaalon of Telem have yet to broaden their support base enough to challenge for the top seat of power. And Gabi Ashkenazi has done well in his short stint as Foreign Minister, but currently is still weighing his options.

As the campaign heats up, Netanyahu will tout his ambitious plan for Israel to lead the world in the race to mass vaccinations from coronavirus. And he will certainly explore whether more Arab nations are open to peace with the Jewish state – a breakthrough made possible by US President Donald Trump.

Trump may not be there this time to deliver Netanyahu some election-eve gifts, such as his well-timed recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights. Instead, the Biden administration could seek to impact the election by unnerving Israeli voters about Netanyahu being a liability to closer US-Israeli relations. Yet they could easily drive just enough Israelis into Bibi’s arms to return him to power should Biden’s team come out too strongly against the settlements or too easy on Iran. After all, there is something to be said for security and stability in these very turbulent times.

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

Middle East faces prospects of Biden presidency

After the media declared Joe Biden the winner of the US elections in early November, leaders in Israel and the Middle East quickly began taking measures in anticipation of Biden taking office on January 20th. These moves may prove premature, however, as President Donald Trump has contested the results over allegations of massive election fraud and is seeking to secure a second term on Constitutional grounds. As of this writing, the outcome of those efforts are still unresolved, but the prospects of a Biden presidency have already caused key shifts in the region.

From an Israeli perspective, it would be hard for any president to measure up to Trump. He recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US Embassy there; recognised the Golan as sovereign Israeli territory; gave legitimacy to Israel’s presence in Judea/Samaria; played down the two-state solution; cut off US funding to the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA refugee agency; withdrew from the flawed Iranian nuclear agreement; confronted the bullying of Israel in the United Nations; and recently swayed three Arab states to normalise relations with Israel. For all these reasons Trump is widely admired in Israel, with one pre-election poll showing 66% of Israelis were pulling for his re-election.

Meantime, Biden has his own long record on Israel and the region. During his 36 years in the US Senate, he did tend to go along with the pro-Israel consensus in Congress. But as vice president for eight years in the Obama administration, there were many occasions when he could have distanced himself from its unfriendly policies towards Israel, yet he failed to do so. This extends from when a newly sworn-in Barack Obama immediately pressured Israel to impose an unprecedented ten-month settlement freeze, all the way to when the outgoing Obama team orchestrated the very one-sided UN Security Council resolution 2334, which declared Israeli settlements a “flagrant violation under international law”.

Given this record, most Mideast leaders have been expecting Biden to take a completely different approach to the region than Trump.

As a general rule, Biden is bent on undoing many of Trump’s executive decisions – both at home and abroad. This might not mean returning the US Embassy to Tel Aviv. But it would include warming US relations with the PLO and restoring US funding to the PA and UNRWA – although Biden would need to adhere to the new Taylor Force Act which now blocks US funding if the Palestinians are still paying welfare benefits to terrorists.

He also would vigorously push the two-state solution again, as well as pressure Israel on settlement activity. And he would likely revert to the “linkage” theory – the State Department’s traditional position that all conflicts in the region stem from the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, which needs to be solved before other regional problems can be addressed.

Buoyed by the thought Trump was on his way out, the PA leadership in Ramallah quickly signalled Biden they were ready to start restoring security cooperation with Israel, and even to enter renewed negotiations with Jerusalem, after boycotting any such talks during Trump’s time in office.

European Union officials also felt emboldened to ratchet up their opposition to all settlement activity, denouncing in particular Israeli plans to build hundreds of new housing units in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Givat Hamatos.

However, many Arab leaders continued to take steps to normalise relations with Israel. Even Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman recently hosted a discreet but historic meeting with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss future moves should Biden take office.

Meanwhile on Iran, many analysts believe Biden would either re-enter the old nuclear deal or seek a new one with minor changes and an extended deadline. The clerical regime in Tehran, however, made it clear they would exact a high price to even entertain possible changes to the JCPOA negotiated under Obama.

Otherwise, Biden is largely seen as a ‘globalist’ – a view reflected in his picks so far for senior foreign policy positions. Many are former Obama appointees, which could prove worrisome to Israelis still smarting from the Obama years. But Biden’s defenders insist he would respect the close US-Israel relationship and help maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region.

For America’s traditional Sunni Arab allies, however, there are serious concerns Biden would return to the Obama-era appeasement of Iran by lifting sanctions and overlooking its aggressive tactics in the region. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid a visit to the region to reassure Israel and the Arabs that Trump was still around, and a few days later Iran’s top nuclear scientist was assassinated – setting back its atomic program no matter who occupies the White House.

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

 

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