A 56-year-old Jordanian Christian writer was shot to death outside a courthouse in Amman on Sunday as he prepared to face trial on charges of giving offense to Allah, the Jordanian state news agency Petra reported on Sunday.
Nahed Hattar was being charged for sharing a cartoon on his Facebook page that portrayed Allah in a manner that was considered offensive to Islam. The cartoon was titled, “God of Da’esh” — the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State terrorist organization.
It showed an Arab sheikh, “Abu Saleh” lying smoking in bed in a tent labeled “Paradise” with two women, directing Allah to clear the dishes, bring him wine and cashews, get a “servant” to clean the floor and put a door on the tent and knock before entering the next time.
Hattar explained he was sharing the cartoon to ridicule “terrorists and how they imagine Allah and paradise,” saying that “it does not insult Allah in any way.” He removed the cartoon from his Facebook page and apologized for posting it after it triggered a firestorm of outrage on social media from conservative Muslim Jordanians.
Jordan’s highest official religious fatwa authority had condemned Hattar for what it said was an “insult to the divine entity, Islam and religious symbols.”
Hattar was shot three times by an unidentified bearded gunman in his fifties wearing a traditional Arab dishashada — a garment worn by deeply observant Sunni Salafi Muslims who shun a Western lifestyle, according to international news agencies.
The shooter was alleged by a security source to be a 39-year-old Muslim preacher from a mosque in Amman. He was arrested “and investigations are ongoing,” according to Petra.
The shooting was immediately condemned by the Jordanian Government. Spokesperson Mohammad Momani said in a statement that followed the murder, “The law will be strictly enforced on the culprit who did this criminal act and will hit with an iron fist anyone who tries to harm state of law.”
Hattar had said he believed his Islamist opponents were using the cartoon and the outrage it triggered to settle their political scores with him. The writer was a supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and an activist fighting political, radical Islam. He was arrested August 13 and charged with contempt of religion and incitement of sectarian strife.
Jordan has been struggling to contend with internal struggles between its secular, moderate and extremist Islamist sectors, as well as the internecine conflicts arising between Jordanian citizens and Syrian refugees.
The growing majority of Arabs from the Palestinian Authority has also become a growing factor in the rising discontent of various factions. This population is comprised of those who fled their homes and moved to Jordan during the 1967 Six Day War as well as their children, grandchildren and great-children.
On Wednesday, Christian Today reported that Mohammad El Halabi, an employee of World Vision (WV), the world’s largest evangelical Christian charity, had been detained on June 15 at the Erez crossing “on his way home from routine meetings” and was being held “without access to legal counsel or family visits,” which is normal fare in Israel with regards to security prisoners.
Last Friday, when El Halabi’s detention had been extended until August Tuesday, Aug. 2, WV’s eastern Jerusalem office released a statement saying, “World Vision stands by Mohammad who is a widely respected and well-regarded humanitarian, field manager and trusted colleague of over a decade. He has displayed compassionate leadership on behalf of the children and communities of Gaza through difficult and challenging times, and has always worked diligently and professionally in fulfilling his duties.”
It should be interesting to see the charity’s response to the charges submitted against El Halabi by the Southern District Prosecution in Beer Sheva District Court Thursday, describing him as Hamas activist who has been using his high position in the charity organization to systematically divert millions of dollars to the military arm of Hamas, financing, among other things, the digging of terror tunnels. The monies, according to Thursday’s indictment, was taken out of funds and resources that had been dedicated to humanitarian assistance to Gaza Strip residents. The indictment includes 12 counts of security violations of passing information to the enemy, membership in a terror organization, funding terrorism, participation in an unlawful association, and contact with foreign agents.
The facts included in the indictment describe El Halabi as having a master’s degree in engineering. A member of Hamas since 1995, in 2004 he joined the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military arm of Hamas. In 2005 he was hired by WV to carry out administrative assignments at the charity’s Gaza branch. His job provided him with an entry permit into Israel. El Halabi exploited his visits to Israel to locate and mark [via GPS] sites near the Erez Crossing that potentially could be used as egress points for Hamas attack tunnels.
Carrying out his assignments, according to the prosecution, El Halabi usurped millions of dollars in donations that arrived from foreign countries such as the US, Australia, Germany and the UK, and were slated for humanitarian needs, agricultural, education, and psychological support.
According to El Halabi, the humanitarian aid donated for the residents of the Gaza Strip was in actual fact given almost exclusively to Hamas terrorists and their families. Non-Hamas members almost never received any benefit from the aid, despite their relative level of need. Needless to say, this is in contradiction to the accepted practice of the humanitarian aid organizations. Every month, El Halabi distributed thousands of packages of food, basic commodities and medical supplies to Hamas terrorists and their families, commodities that World Vision had intended to go to the needy.
Over his many years working for WV, El Halabi transferred to Hamas’s possession thousands of tons of iron rods, digging equipment and plastic hoses, originally intended for agricultural use but in reality utilized by the Hamas tunnel builders and for building military bases such as the “Palestine” military base which was built in 2015 entirely from British aid money. Some of the money went to pay the salaries of Hamas terrorists and, in some cases, senior Hamas terrorists took large sums of money for their own personal use. During the war of 2014, Hamas terrorists received WV food packages to sustain them above and below ground, including in terror tunnels.
El Halabi also provided plastic sheets bearing the WV emblem to cover the openings of tunnels, making them look like agricultural hothouses.
According to the indictment, around the year 2012, El Halabi was engaged by Hamas to initiate a greenhouse project, to use greenhouses to hide the sites where terror tunnels were being dug. In addition, a project for the rehabilitation of (fictitious) fishermen was actually used to provide motor boats and diving suits for Hamas’s military marine unit.
The Shabak investigation revealed that the main method El Halabi used to divert money to Hamas was to put out fictitious tenders for WV-sponsored projects in the Gaza Strip. The “winning” company was simply informed that 60% of the project’s funds were to be designated for Hamas.
El Halabi told his interrogators that a regular method of acquiring equipment for Hamas was to disguise Hamas warehouses as WV warehouses. Trucks bringing supplies to the Kerem Shalom Crossing between Israel and Gaza would then unload their goods at Hamas warehouses instead of legitimate WV warehouses. Hamas operatives would pick up the supplies in the dead of night.
According to Shabak, the El Halabi investigation revealed much information concerning additional figures in the Gaza Strip who exploited their work for humanitarian aid organizations and UN institutions, on behalf of Hamas. El Halabi’s statements portray a troubling picture in which UN institutions in Gaza are in fact controlled by Hamas.
How the Money Was Transferred to Hamas
Some of the money raised to support injured children in Gaza was diverted to the families of Hamas terrorists, by fraudulently listing their children as wounded.
Money designated for psychological support, education and health in Gaza ($2 million/year) was used to pay the families of Hamas terrorists.
Part of the WV donations was transferred in cash and recorded fraudulently as aid to needy children.
Monies were paid out as salaries to Hamas terrorists and activists, who were registered as employees of the aid organization when in fact they never worked for WV.
Costs for legitimate infrastructure projects were inflated, with the difference going to Hamas.
Straw companies — two farmers’ associations and a fake charity for the benefit of the injured — were established with false registers to launder money.
Unemployment payments were diverted to Hamas terrorists. El Halabi arranged for one-third of the allowances WV transfers to Gaza for the unemployed to go to members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. The terrorists received a larger allowance ($392 instead of $300).
Using lists of fictitious beneficiaries, $2 million a year were designated as aid for farmers and diverted to Hamas activists. El Halabi reported a larger sum than what was actually transferred to the farmers to World Vision. The difference was diverted to Hamas.
Project costs were inflated. For example, WV invested in the construction of 500 greenhouses and the preparation of land (495 acres) for agriculture. El Halabi reported to the charity that the cost was $1,000 per quarter acre, while the real cost was $700. The difference – $300 per quarter acre – was transferred to Hamas.
In their 2014 report titled “Filling in the Blanks — Documenting Missing Dimensions in UN and NGO Investigations of the Gaza Conflict,” NGO Monitor and UN Watch have cautioned: “The willingness of World Vision workers to openly discuss these issues is exceptional; however, the answers leave little doubt as to World Vision’s willingness to negotiate and coordinate with armed groups. This raises questions as to whether the group would prevent components of its aid from being misappropriated by terrorist organizations, if it felt that taking a stand would jeopardize the organization’s ability to continue its operations in a given area.”
The head of the Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate, Mehmet Gormez, Orthodox Christian Patriarch Bartholomew I and Hakham Bashi (Chief Rabbi) Ishak Haleva on Saturday issued a joint declaration condemning the coup.
“From wherever and whomever it comes, terror and violence cannot be displayed as a legitimate thing and it cannot be supported,” their statement said, adding that “those who have faith within them cannot approve any killing, as murdering a human being is no different than murdering the whole humanity.”
“We hope terror will be wiped out from Turkey and the world,” the statement concluded. “May God protect our country and all humanity.”
Rabbi Haleva was the deputy to Rabbi David Asseo for seven years and became the new Hakham Bashi after his death in 2002. As a 7-year-old, he came with his father to Istanbul from Edirne, near Turkey’s western border with Bulgaria and Greece, to study in a Jewish school. As a teenager he studied in a yeshiva in Israel to become a rabbi. According to his acquaintances, Haleva was a prankster in his youth, and he still maintains a humorous, informal manner, peppering his words with folksy Hebrew and Turkish sayings.
Before dawn Monday, four suicide bombers killed five and wounded at least a dozen in the Lebanese Christian town of al-Qaa. Later that night, as townspeople prepared to bury their dead, four more suicide bombers hit.
The attacks underscored just how endangered are Christians who live in today’s Muslim world. As the United States debates how many Mideast refugees to accept and who should get priority, the answer is staring us in the face: Those most in need of refuge are Christians and Yazidis who live among Muslims.
On June 19, a suicide bomber killed three people as he detonated himself at a memorial to massacred Christians in Qumishi, Syria. On June 9, a Pakistani Muslim mob badly beat a man merely because he was a Christian. On June 5, two people were killed when Islamists targeted a church with rockets in Syria; the same day, a Christian man was hacked to death at his shop by Islamists in Bangladesh. On June 2, in Nigeria, Muslim youths beheaded a Christian woman for allegedly insulting Mohammed.
And that’s just this month — a typical month, sadly, for the world’s Christians.
In May, similar Muslim attacks against Christians took place in Niger, Turkey, Syria, the Philippines, Uganda, Pakistan and Bangladesh. On March 27-28, a Taliban group murdered 69 Christians and wounded 30 more, mainly women and children, as they were celebrating Easter in a park in Lahore, Pakistan.
The Obama administration has called for massive acceptance of Muslim refugees from war zones.
The list goes on. Yet President Obama seems to value endangered Muslim lives more than the lives of endangered Christians and Yazidis.
In April, America built a temporary “surge” center in Amman, Jordan, to more rapidly process Muslim immigrants from Syria. The vetting process has been “fast tracked,” perhaps in order to meet Obama’s desired number of 10,000 Muslim Syrians to be admitted by September.
The Obama administration has called for an openhearted and massive acceptance of Muslim refugees from war zones. Democratic leaders insist that it would be wrong, morally, legally and politically, to stop Muslim immigration — but concede that it’s currently impossible to identify would-be jihadists among refugees or homegrown radicals among their descendants.
The United Nations has more modestly suggested that Western nations accept Muslim “women and children” first.
Obama has paid no attention to what has happened in Europe, namely the large number of sexual assaults of girls, women and homosexuals by Muslim men, as well as the staggering financial cost of hosting hostile, non-productive immigrants who may have no desire to assimilate to Western customs.
Here’s another suggestion.
Christian refugees are more inclined to assimilate to Western ways, or at least respond to them nonviolently.
If we want to accept refugees in flight from Arab and Muslim war zones, why not start with Christians who are being slaughtered by Muslims in Muslim-majority countries? Although they’re Arabs, Africans or Central Asians, the fact that they’re also Christians might make them more inclined to assimilate to Western ways — and, even if they assimilate imperfectly, they’re more likely to respond to Western freedoms in nonviolent ways.
Why has the pope offered symbolic asylum in the Vatican only to Muslims and not to fellow Christians?
Recently, according to my colleague Ashraf Rameleh, a Coptic Christian advocate, “Pope Francis, who is ‘building bridges to build peace’ around the world, has naturally reached out to embrace Sunni Muslims.” Rameleh notes that the pope has “grieved with the Orthodox of Egypt and offered his prayers over the spilled blood of Christians in Libya, recognizing the Coptic Christian martyrs.”
However, the pope has remained silent about the systematic destruction of the Eastern Christian Church. He hasn’t supported Egyptian President Abdel Fatta el-Sisi, who is trying to break the stranglehold that the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood still has on Egypt.
I have been told by the director of the Hatune Dogan Foundation, Hans Erling Jensen, that Christians stuck in refugee camps in Turkey have arrived penniless; that Muslims don’t look out for them but, instead, continue to persecute them. Most are starving. Many don’t have money to buy food or to pay traffickers to smuggle them out.
Why not bring Christians and Yazidis from the Muslim world here first? Why not bring Muslim dissidents, ex-Muslims, and Muslim homosexuals here second?
Finally, why not bring Muslim girls and women who are already in flight from honor-based violence, including from honor killing here, next — before we extend visas, green cards and asylum to Muslim boys and men?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday met with Christian supporters of Israel in Nairobi, Kenya. The following is an excerpt from his remarks:
“I am glad, I am glad I have the opportunity, the privilege really of coming to Africa to meet you.
We appreciate this friendship and we’re expanding it to the continent of Africa. Yesterday I had a remarkable meeting in Uganda hosted by the President of Uganda, and six other African leaders including President Kenyatta there. Seven leaders from seven African countries talking about how to expand Israel’s relationship with their countries but with all the countries of Africa.
“Israel is coming back to Africa. Africa is coming back to Israel.
“And I believe that this is important for all Africans, all Africans, Christians, Muslims, all Africans.
“We produce water. We’ve had a substantial decline in rainfall since the establishment of modern Israel. And our population has grown ten times and our GDP per capita has grown 40 times. We should have a big water problem but we don’t, we have a water surplus. We have a water surplus because we’ve developed ingenuity to overcome this.
“And we are eager to share all of this with our African friends. This is the importance of this meeting.
“I had an extraordinary meeting today and we’re still going to have an extension, this dinner tonight with President Kenyatta who is a real friend. And we intend to continue and expand this relationship here and in the other countries. But at the heart of it, the connection with the people is a very sound idea, it’s the right idea and that’s why I am expecting you in Jerusalem.”
Interestingly, at least part of Israel – Judea and Samaria — is experiencing daily water shortages, but mostly due to two of Israel’s most acute problems: a bureaucracy that failed to upgrade the supply systems, and hundreds of millions of gallons of water being stolen annually by Arabs.
An unrepentant Palestinian terrorist convicted of murdering a Christian clergyman has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize – by one of the world’s most prominent Christian clergymen.
In a letter to the Nobel Prize committee in Norway, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa announced his nominee for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize: Marwan Barghouti, currently serving five consecutive terms of life imprisonment for five counts of murder, including masterminding the murder of a Greek Orthodox monk, Georgios Tsibouktzakis, near Ma’ale Adumim in 2001.
Father Tsibouktzakis is one of the many victims of Palestinian terrorism whose name has long been forgotten by most people. Born in Saloniki, Greece, Tsibouktzakis decided at an early age to devote his life to study and prayer. Patriarch Deodoros I of the Greek Orthodox Church sent him to Jerusalem in 1990 for his training. He was ordained a monk in December 1993, and assigned to the St. George Monastery. In 2000, he was elevated to the priesthood. Situated on a ledge in Wadi Kelt, in the Judean desert just outside Jerusalem, St. George’s Monastery was an ideal place for a life of quiet contemplation and worship.
According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Father Tsibouktzakis was well known and admired by residents of the area and, especially by hikers who frequent Wadi Kelt. A Ma’ale Adumim police spokesman recalled how the monk once used his jeep to help retrieve the body of a tourist who died after falling into the wadi. On another occasion, he helped the police when two Israeli youths were murdered in the wadi by Palestinian terrorists.
Father Tsibouktzakis’s life of spiritual devotion was cruelly cut short on Tuesday night, June 12, 2001. He was driving from Jerusalem back to the monastery when a Fatah Tanzim gang under the direction of Marwan Barghouti opened fired on his car. Tsibouktzakis, just 34 years old, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Here’s what Tutu wrote about the terrorist who murdered Tutu’s fellow-clergyman: “He is a symbol of the “struggle for freedom, [which] constitutes a clear signal of support for the realization of the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights, including to self-determination.”
Not that this is the first time Tutu has spoken up for Barghouti. In fact, the South African clergyman is a member of a group called the International High Level Committee of the Campaign for the Freedom of Barghouti and all Palestinian Prisoners.
There is no “International High Level Committee” to speak up for Barghouti’s victims. That would not interest Tutu. He could not care less about Yoela Cohen, the young woman shot to death by one Barghouti’s gangs at a gas station near Jerusalem on January 15, 2002; or Salim Barakat, Yosef Habi, and Eli Dahan, who were stabbed to death by Barghouti’s killers in a Tel Aviv restaurant, on March 5, 2002.
I suppose those who are familiar with what Alan Dershowitz has called Tutu’s “long history of ugly hatred toward the Jewish people, the Jewish religion and the Jewish state” will not be surprised by Tutu’s embrace of Barghouti.
Tutu has denounced the “Jewish lobby” as “powerful” and “scary.” He has complained about Jewish “arrogance.” He has minimized the Holocaust, saying “the gas chambers” made for “a neater death” than did apartheid. He has complained about what he calls “the Jewish monopoly of the Holocaust,” while at the same time urging the Jewish people to “forgive the Nazis for the Holocaust.”
According to Tutu, Zionism has “very many parallels with racism,” the ancient holy temple in Jerusalem was similar to South African apartheid, and the Palestinians are enduring a fate similar to that of the Jewish slaves in Egypt. No wonder the late Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum of the American Jewish Committee concluded that Tutu harbors a “classic anti-Judaism that feeds his constant pattern of anti-Jewish attitudes.”
Archbishop Tutu has also been a vocal champion of the BDS movement. In 2011, an appeal by Tutu and other South Africans resulted in the University of Johannesburg canceling its joint project on biotechnology and water purification with Ben-Gurion University. Tutu’s accusations against Israel were characterized by Ben-Gurion University officials as “a collection of lies.”
So perhaps it makes perfect sense that Tutu considers Marwan Barghouti a hero. Barghouti fights Israel with bombs and bullets; Tutu fights Israel with slander and boycotts. The fact that the victims of Barghouti’s bullets include one of Tutu’s fellow-Christian clergymen merely adds a thick layer of irony to Tutu’s appalling record. Welcome to Wonderland.
“My faith, as we interpret the scriptures, we identify with the people of Israel as God’s chosen people, and therefore we understand that those who bless Israel receive blessings and those who curse Israel are really fighting against our culture and faith,” said A.W. Mays, an African-American Christian leader from Austin, Texas.
Mays was one of 26 African-American members of the National Baptist Convention of America (NBCA) who were hand-picked to travel from the United States on a six-day educational mission to Israel from May 23-29. The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) sponsored the trip to help deepen Christian-Jewish ties and black leaders’ bonds with Israel.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, The Fellowship’s founder and president, has been working to build bridges between Christians and Jews – as well as Christians and Israel – for more than 35 years. Last year, The Fellowship raised $138 million in humanitarian aid for Jews in Israel and around the world, almost entirely from Christian donors.
The trip just concluded marked The Fellowship’s third such mission; it brought 21 ministers to Israel in the summer of 2015 and 22 more in January of this year.
“African-Americans are the Jewish people’s natural partners,” said Yael Eckstein, Rabbi Eckstein’s daughter and senior vice president of The Fellowship.
“They know what it means to be suffering and reach freedom, to be slaves and come to enjoy the full benefits of American peoplehood.… We have not had positive ties throughout the years because no one ever put an effort into creating those ties.”
“What most people don’t understand,” said Rev. Deedee Coleman, the head of a 1,500-member Oak Park, Michigan congregation who has been to Israel more than a dozen times, “is that in Baptist culture we preach about Israel every Sunday, about the Jewish people and the trials of Moses and the Red Sea – everything that is not only in our Bible, but what starts in the first five books.”
Beyond the mission’s spiritual impact on attendees, the trip also enhanced the black leaders’ understanding of the challenges Israel faces. Many participants said they now have deeper knowledge of the political situation in Israel, and that the trip debunked the often-biased American media coverage of events on the ground in the Jewish state.
“I learned to not believe the American media 100 percent, and their slant on what this nation is,” said Rev. Samuel C. Tolbert, Jr., NBCA’s president, who helped organize the mission to Israel.
“It is best for people to come and see it firsthand, and they will see a totally different view of Israel.”
Kristina King, director of African-American outreach for The Fellowship, worked in a similar role with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for eight years. She says that both organizations do dynamic work in helping leaders understand some of the geopolitical complexities and everyday realities in Israel.
But while AIPAC seeks to influence political policy, The Fellowship’s work is faith-based and focuses on common spiritual values. Those values don’t change, said King, regardless of who holds elected office in Israel or America.
“When African-Americans are exposed to Israel, they see our common values,” King said.
At the same time, the black Christian leaders who visited Israel can become powerful political partners and pro-Israel activists because of their faith, said Yael Eckstein.
“I think the Jewish community should stop sitting back and complaining that we don’t have friends,” said Yael Eckstein. “Be proactive and reach out to find things in common with the people who can stand with us long-term and be strategic partners for our future.”
“These are the ones who will bring back the message of Israel to the larger body,” said Rev. Coleman. “They have been on Facebook, tweeting, and they will bring it back [to America] and educate their people about what is real.”