The Jewish Festival of Purim, celebrated this year on March 5th, "commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia (modern day Iran) from Haman's plot 'to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day.'" Instead, Queen Esther, a Jewess, stepped forward and bravely saved her people.
Tuesday on Capitol Hill, we heard about another grave threat to the Jewish people. As I sat in the House Chamber and listened to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, I heard a leader who respectfully but urgently conveyed a single, compelling message, the same message Esther gave to the Persian King Ahasuerus: the Jewish people are under threat, and need immediate help.
This was not, contrary to some press reports, a partisan event. Seated in front of me were former Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman and former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. These men are divided over many things, but united in their understanding that the American-Israel alliance must never be compromised. more >>
A recent report reveals that the "grave humanitarian crisis" in Gaza is even worse now than it was during the Israel-Hamas war last summer. With an international embargo hampering reconstruction efforts, close to 1.8 million people are living among the destroyed buildings in the region, and facing a 70 percent unemployment rate.
"One of the most difficult parts of our trip was seeing how much people have lost hope," said Sami El-Yousef, Catholic Near East Welfare Association's regional director for Palestine and Israel. "They really could not see any bright spot at the end of the tunnel; the tunnel does not even exist for them."
El-Yousef added that the atmosphere among the locals is one of anger. more >>
Late last week The New York Times ran an essay by a Marine infantry officer, Timothy Kudo, based on Mr. Kudo's experience giving orders to kill men in Afghanistan. He didn't pull the trigger, but he gave the orders — often viewing the action on grainy screens. His essay is thoughtful, though it doesn't square with either my own reflections or the reflections of others I know that made similar decisions in similar circumstances.
I salute him for his service, and I'm not here to judge how he processed the kill orders he gave.
There is, however, one segment of his piece that I think demonstrates that anguish and self-doubt are at least a partial product of our military's failure to educate and motivate. We shy from describing the enemy's true moral nature and ascribe responsibility to our own soldiers for innocent deaths that are truly the enemy's fault. Read these two paragraphs: more >>
An eight-year U.S. Army veteran in Florida has started an initiative calling on experienced military veterans to join him in traveling to Iraq or Syria to fight against the Islamic State terrorist organization.
Fed up with the U.S.'s lack of a physical presence in Iraq and Syria in order to help defend the millions of people who've been affected by ISIS' uprising, Army veteran Sean Rowe founded the group Veterans Against ISIS last Wednesday and is asking for donations and other veterans to join his cause and take a stand against ISIS' radical Islamic oppression.
"We are tired of seeing what's going on, and it doesn't look like anything is being done," Rowe told ActionNews Jacksonville. "These guys are slaughtering and beheading people. We're going over there to stop that. It's not about the money." more >>
Population shifts resulting from Syria's four-year long civil war have profoundly changed Syria and its three Arabic-speaking neighbors: Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. (Turkey and Israel have changed too, but less so.) Ironically, amid tragedy and horror, as populations adapt to the brutal imperatives of modern nationalism, all four countries are becoming a bit more stable. That's because the fighting has pushed peoples to move from ethnic-minority status to ethnic-majority status, encouraging like to live with like.
Before looking at each country, some background:
First, along with the Balkans, the Middle East contains the most complex and unsettled ethnic, religious, linguistic, and national mix in the world. It's a place where cross-border alliances deeply complicate local politics. If the Balkans set off World War I, the Middle East might well spark World War III. more >>
A 27,000-strong Iraqi army, backed by both Shiite and Sunni fighters, is attempting to retake the city of Tikrit from terror group ISIS' control. The assault began Monday morning, reports said, with the army being backed by artillery and airstrikes by Iraqi fighter jets.
Fox News noted that the assault on Tikrit, known as the hometown of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, is being documented by state news media. American and French forces, which have been launching airstrikes against ISIS across Iraq and Syria, are also aiding the ground troops.
The city, which has a population of 260,000 people, fell under ISIS' control in the summer of 2014. Fox News suggested that recapturing Tikrit might be an important step in the wake of the offensive planned on the city of Mosul, which the jihadists have made into one of their strongholds. more >>