Egyptian Scholar: Al-Aqsa Mosque Is Not Sacred to Muslims (MEMRI)
Egyptian novelist and scholar Youssef Ziedan told Egypt's CBC TV on Dec. 3 that the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem has nothing to do with the Al-Aqsa referred to in the Quran.
"Our ancient religious scholars - Al-Waqidi, Al-Tabari, and many others - said...that the Prophet Muhammad...went to the city of Tai'f [in Mecca Province in Saudi Arabia]. On the road to Ta'if, there were two mosques: Al-Adna Mosque ["the nearest"] and Al-Aqsa Mosque ["the farthest"]....Al-Waqidi and others said that these two mosques were on the road from Mecca to Ta'if."
"The Al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem] did not exist back then, and the city...was called Aelia, and it had no mosques."
"The Al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem] represents a political game by [the Caliph of Damascus] Abd Al-Malik ibn Marwan."
Man Received Money from ISIS for U.S. Attack - Eric Lichtblau (New York Times)
Mohamed Elshinawy, 30, who lives outside Baltimore and was born in Egypt, was arrested on Friday by the FBI.
He received at least $8,700 from Islamic State operatives overseas to launch an attack in the U.S., prosecutors said on Monday.
Elshinawy declared himself a "soldier of the [Islamic] state" and said that "his soul was over there with the jihadists and that every time he saw the news, he smiled," according to an affidavit filed by FBI special agent David Rodski.
Sweden and Israel: A History of Tense Relations - Zvi Mazel (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Under the leadership of the Social Democratic Party, the attacks on Israel in Sweden continue as if it is Enemy No. 1.
In light of the generous welcome Sweden has accorded hundreds of thousands of Muslim migrants over the past 40 years, the country now has a large Muslim minority comprising about 700,000 people.
Sweden has a long history of anti-Israel policies, beginning with Social Democratic Prime Minister Olof Palme in the 1960s.
During the second intifada, as Palestinians blew up buses and restaurants, killing hundreds of Israelis, the Swedish government chose to castigate Israel and even gave a human rights prize to Palestinian spokesperson Hanan Ashrawi.
The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to Sweden, Romania, and Egypt.
See also Sweden: Shambles in Asylum Heaven - Ingrid Carlqvist (Gatestone Institute)
So far in 2015, 150,000 asylum seekers have been registered in Sweden.
More than 22,000 people are supposed to be deported but refuse to leave.
Video: Israeli Mission to UN Brings Together Pianists from 11 Countries to Play One Piece (Times of Israel)
The Israeli Mission to the UN sponsored a project involving one piece of music played by pianists from 11 countries. The "United Pianos" project with Israeli musician Idan Raichel involves a melody from Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf."
The video features pianists from Israel, Turkey, U.S.A., Vietnam, the Bahamas, Germany, India, Australia, Russia, South Africa and Poland, each playing a part of the arrangement in their own country.
"Music is a global language, it has the power to unite us together, by bridging cultural and political gaps," said Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon.
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- Abbas: Palestinian Violence Is "Justified Popular Uprising" - Mohammed Daraghmeh
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas referred to the last three months of violence Monday as a "justified popular uprising." Israeli leaders have accused Abbas and other Palestinian leaders of inciting the violence with incendiary rhetoric. Abbas had previously refrained from either endorsing or condemning the attacks, often referring to the wave of violence as understandable but not in the best interests of the Palestinian people. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev responded, "There can never be justification for wanton attacks on civilians." (AP-Miami Herald)
See also Hamas Political Leader Urges More Stabbing Attacks - Stuart Winer
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal has praised the recent spate of Palestinian attacks on Israelis, saying that "negotiations with the (Israelis) are useless," and that "only the path of Jihad, sacrifice, and blood (will bear fruit)."
On Monday, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research published a recent survey of Palestinian public opinion which found that two-thirds of the population in the West Bank and Gaza support the current wave of stabbings against Israelis, with the same percentage backing a larger armed uprising. (Times of Israel)
- Obama Says U.S. Hitting Islamic State "Harder than Ever" - Michael A. Memoli and W.J. Hennigan
President Obama said Monday that the U.S.-led coalition was hitting Islamic State "harder than ever" in Iraq and Syria. He noted that Islamic State had not waged a "single successful major offensive operation" since 2014 in those countries, and had lost up to 40% of its footprint in Iraq and thousands of square miles in Syria. In November, the U.S. dropped its highest number of bombs on Islamic State targets, while U.S. forces working with local partners have taken out senior ISIS leaders. (Los Angeles Times)
- U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group on Verge of Collapse - Slobodan Lekic
The main Western-backed Arab rebel group in Syria - the Free Syrian Army (FSA) with an estimated 35,000 fighters, some of whose members are trained by the CIA - appears on the verge of collapse because of low morale, desertions, and distrust of its leaders by the rank and file, threatening U.S. efforts to put together a ground force capable of defeating the Islamic State and negotiating an end to the Syrian civil war.
Among other problems, FSA fighters are losing faith in their own leaders. "They regularly steal our salaries," said Jaseen Salabeh, a volunteer in the Free Syrian Army, who came to Jordan after being wounded in battle. "We're supposed to get $400 a month, but we only actually receive $100." He also complained of lack of support for those killed or wounded in battle. Fighters who lost legs in the fighting were reduced to begging.
As a result, many FSA men in southern Syria were leaving for Jordan or joining the 15,000-strong Nusra Front, which reportedly pays its fighters $1,000 a month and cares for its wounded members and for the families of those killed in combat. "Nusra is winning the hearts and minds of the people, and positioning themselves as moderates despite their al-Qaeda links," said Elias Hanna, a former Lebanese general and professor of geopolitics at the American University of Beirut.
(Stars and Stripes)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Palestinian Wounds 11 Israelis in Car-Ramming Attack in Jerusalem - Omri Efraim and Yael Freidson
Eleven people were wounded by a Palestinian, Abdel Muhsan Hasuna, 21, in a car-ramming attack at a bus stop near the Calatrava Bridge at the entrance to Jerusalem on Monday afternoon. The attacker was shot dead at the scene. An ax was found in his vehicle. A 15-month-old boy wounded in the attack remains unconscious and on respiratory support. (Ynet News-Ha'aretz)
See also Jerusalem Car-Ramming Terrorist Was Hamas Member - Stuart Winer (Times of Israel)
- Hamas Is Funding Islamic State in Sinai - Alex Fishman
Hamas has been transferring tens of thousands of dollars a month to the Islamic State in Sinai over the past year to secure weapons shipments - primarily explosive rocket propellant - being smuggled through the Sinai to Gaza. Egyptian security officials note that it is solely thanks to Hamas' monetary and professional support of ISIS in Sinai that it has transformed from a gang of Bedouin with light weapons into a well-trained, well-armed group that has been fighting the Egyptian army.
About half a year ago, Hamas provided ISIS in Sinai with advanced Kornet anti-tank missiles and launchers to use against Egyptian army vehicles. Shadi al-Mani'i, the commander of ISIS' Sinai branch, has been staying in Gaza. (Ynet News)
- Israeli Officials to Erdogan: There Is No Gaza Siege - Itamar Eichner
After Turkish President Erdogan repeated his conditions for normalizing relations with Israel,
Israeli officials said Monday that if the Turks wanted to normalize relations, then "the ball is in their court." "We apologized [for the Turkish casualties in the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla affair] and were ready to pay compensation. [Erdogan] should stop talking nonsense about the removal of the Gaza siege, because Turkey knows that there is no such thing, and we are not about to pay more for normalization," officials in Jerusalem said. (Ynet News)
- As Palestinian Attacks on Israelis Continue, Administration Takes a More Realistic Tone - Jackson Diehl
Attacks on Israelis by Palestinians, which began in Jerusalem in September, have turned into a steady drumbeat. There were five in the first four days of last week alone; 13 Israelis were shot, stabbed or deliberately hit by cars, while three of their Palestinian attackers were shot and killed. The Israeli army reports 90 stabbings, 33 shootings and 15 car rammings between Sept. 13 and Dec. 9.
Senior Israeli officials believe that Abbas and his top aides, while professing to oppose the ongoing violence, have done their best to stoke it. Abbas' chief diplomatic negotiator, Saeb Erekat, paid a condolence call on the family of a Palestinian Authority policeman who had shot two Israelis before being killed himself. The Israelis believe, with reason, that Kerry and Obama are pressing the Netanyahu government for concessions while asking little from the Palestinians - even though almost all the violence has been initiated by Palestinian attackers.
The administration is now taking the more modest but realistic tack that Obama should have adopted years ago: pressing for practical improvements in the Palestinian economy and daily life that could reduce tensions while helping to lay the groundwork for an eventual state.
- Killing the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg: Hamas, Gazan Workers, and the Israeli Labor Market - Hillel Frisch
Hamas has generated violence of which the costs, in human welfare terms, are immensely greater than the benefits of its charity. No social outlays or charitable work on Hamas' part could possibly outweigh the impact of terrorism on Palestinian access to the Israeli labor market and on the benefits that Palestinians, especially workers and their families from Gaza, derived from work in Israel.
In the 1980s, before the first intifada, 40-50% of Gaza's workforce were employed in Israel. Their net wages were appreciably higher than their fellow workers in Gaza and the West Bank. From the first intifada in 1987 onward, one sees a direct relationship between organized violance, increasingly carried out by Hamas, and the decline of access for Gazans to the Israeli labor market.
Since taking power in Gaza in 2007, Hamas has focused on enacting violence instead of on good governance. It is incumbent on the states that have provided international aid to bring pressure to bear on Hamas to stop its war-making. The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies and a senior research associate at the BESA Center at Bar-Ilan University.
(Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
The First Strict Implementation Test of the Iran Nuclear Deal - Michael Singh and Simond de Galbert (Wall Street Journal)
- The U.S. and its allies refrained from demanding that Iran come clean on its past nuclear efforts for the same reason that they accepted only partial and temporary constraints on Tehran's current nuclear activities: They hoped that defusing tensions on this issue and focusing on the future would build confidence so that a more stable and cooperative relationship prevails between Iran and the West.
- But Tehran's grudging cooperation with the IAEA and its repeated flouting of the UN ban on missile test launches are ominous signs that even faithful implementation of the deal by all sides may not succeed in building that confidence.
- By protecting its nuclear secrets, accepting only temporary constraints on fuel-cycle work, and advancing its missile program, Iran is keeping its nuclear options open for the future. In response, the international community must keep in place the tools to challenge Iran should its pursuit of nuclear weapons resume.
- Rather than closing the investigation of Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons as Iran has demanded, the IAEA board of governors meeting on Dec. 15 should direct that it continue.
- The nuclear deal provides tools for the IAEA to carry out such an investigation above and beyond those provided by the Non-Proliferation Treaty and its additional protocol. These tools are not as strong as they could be, but they nonetheless should be utilized to their fullest.
- Continuing to insist on a complete investigation into Iranís nuclear weapons activities is the first test of international determination to strictly implement the nuclear deal. Failing this test would signal to Tehran that the West will allow it to dictate the terms under which the agreement is implemented in the coming years.
Michael Singh is managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Simond de Galbert, a French diplomat, is a visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
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