Photo: Ron Cantrell

Friday, May 25, 2007


The UNIFIL (the United Nations Interim Forces In Lebanon) soldiers gesticulated obscenely at us as we slowed down at the Lebanon border. My jaw dropped. These were supposed to be "peace keeping forces." We had to pass through these blue beret-clad soldiers. Our Israeli license plate and armed soldier chaperone tagged us as having come into Lebanon from Israel. Though the hatred of the U.N. soldiers was a real shock, it wasn’t the first surprise of the day. Moshe, our armed chaperone had taken us to a Palestine refugee camp near Tyre where a U.N. aid truck was surrounded by angry Palestinian men shouting at the driver. These enemies of Israel treated Moshe, an Israeli soldier, as if he were their brother. “Moshe,” they said, “Please can’t you stop the U.N. from coming here? They are not bringing us anything . . . they are stealing what little we have.” Another shock was clever news editing to exaggerate damage from Israeli bomb strikes, to the point of photographing buildings that had been destroyed in Lebanon’s civil war years before. If one news source was reporting a bloody war, you can bet all the others had to trump the story because of expensive advertising time on prime-time news spots.

That was 1982 and three trips into Lebanon left me so angry at the media’s misinterpretation of what was happening there I left my family for a three-month speaking tour to Europe and the USA in an effort to tell my own photojournalist eye-witness account. We didn’t have the luxury of cyberspace then. The reality was that the UNIFIL soldiers reaction was merely the fruit of reporting that was viciously biased against Israel from almost every media source.

In the successive 25 years, it has come to be reality that any two people groups fighting almost anywhere in the Islamic world can be blamed on Israel. Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fouad Siniora just addressed his nation regarding the Lebanese Army battering the Palestinian Refugee Camp near Tripoli. There, the "blame game" surfaced again. "Militants are the target, not our Palestinian friends," Siniora made clear. He ended his "state of the nation"-style speech bringing Israel into focus as the ultimate culprit in Lebanon’s troubles.

Don’t forget Siniora’s speech last year at the U.N. General Assembly. It was telling. Lebanon’s Prime Minister broke down in tears describing Hezbollah’s control over his country. The spectacle proved only one thing: Presidents don’t weep. Siniora’s break down meant he was not in control. However, in the end, in his frustration, the blame was thrown onto Israel. Logic fails here. Kidnapped soldiers, thousands of rockets launched by Hezbollah to which Israel responded to stop the volleys of bombs, and somehow, magically, they are at fault.

For the sake of clarity, let’s play along with the blame game for a moment. The reference is of course to the Palestinians "fleeing" their homeland because of the Israeli 1948 War of Independence. According to the blame game, their homeland from time immemorial, was lost. A pastoral Middle East had been "invaded" by non-Muslim interlopers who, on top of that insult, were Jews. Indeed the Arabs did flee, but the facts on the ground are not what they seem.

It is vital to note that the name "Palestine" was an insult to the Arabs of this region as early as 1936. Auni Bey Abdul Hadi, a noted Arab leader here addressed the British Peel Commission and told them just that. Abdul Hadi claimed even our Bibles were in error with maps labeled Palestine. "Foreign" to the Arabs was how he described the "Palestine" label.

It was only in 1964 that Arafat decided the term "Palestine" would work for him. Out of nothing came the myth of a Palestinian State. With the constant retelling of the story, and searching for shreds of evidence to support the myth, Palestine came into being.

The myth didn’t remain within the boundaries of Israel, however. By 1970, Arafat declared statehood in northern Jordan. It was the wrong place to put himself forward. The late King Hussein massacred Arafat’s followers in the month of September, termed thereafter "Black September" (I suggest the movie Munich). Fleeing into Lebanon, the new refugee population threw the delicate balance of Lebanon into a tailspin from which it has never recovered. Don’t forget that the West Bank was under the government of Jordan between 1948 and 1967 and it was never referred to as "Palestine," but rather, "Greater Jordan." Jordan was not interested in a Palestinian State.

The initial flight of the Arab population in 1948 happened at the demand of the surrounding Arab nations. The cry from Jordan, Syria, Egypt and others was for the Arabs to get out of the way so the Jews could be wiped out without danger to Arab populations. When the attacking nations failed to realize their goal of victory over the Jews, a refugee problem began that has not ended, Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and other Arab states. Why? After all, almost a million Jews were forced out of Islamic Arab nations in retaliation for the ‘48 War. However, there are no Jewish refugee camps in Israel. All the hundreds of thousands of immigrants have been absorbed into the fabric of Israeli life. Conversely, Arab refugee camps have been kept in squalid refugee camps for political reasons. They have never been absorbed and fester in poverty to create a frustrated angry fighting force, in the hopes they will aim their violent rage at Israel.

The genie is now out of the bottle in Lebanon. The Lebanese Army are poised to eliminate the uprising within the Palestinian refugee camps. So, let’s keep the blame where it belongs. Surely, this situation will not just simmer. Hezbollah is out of the lime-light at this moment. That is definitely contrary to their M.O. Expect them to step up to the plate soon and take the spotlight. Likewise, Iran’s President has just issued a severe warning to Israel not to meddle in Lebanon this summer: ‘If this year you repeat the same mistake of the last year, the ocean of nations of the region will get angry and will cut [the] root of the Zionist regime from its stem . . ."

All this darkness, makes it easier to see the light clearly. If God was not for Israel with the horrible odds against them, they could never stand.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Lebanon & Gaza : The Real Issues

Pan-Islam is the real undercurrent in the two civil wars now raging, one in Lebanon and the other in Gaza.

However, finally, there is clarity. The present conflicts have brought the hidden agenda out into the open. Gaza’s continual lobbing of Kassem rockets is merely a tool to keep Israel in the blame-game, and a smoke screen lest the truth be exposed. The conflict now raging in Lebanon is another example of a splintered Palestinian Islamic group within their "refugee" camp caught up in the power struggle detailed here.

Under the surface of the smoke and gunfire of both conflicts is the complex issue of control. Before Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini declared the Islamic Revolution’s intentions in 1979, Arab states imagined a powerful pan-Arabic Islamic entity that would rule the Middle East.

Khomeini’s bold move trumped pan-Arabism with pan-Islam. His Islamic Revolution, slow in getting started with Iranian students planting themselves in western Universities, is now shaking the foundations of the world. Pan-Islamic focus included all the world within the quest for an Islamic Empire upon which the sun would never set. Remaining only within the borders of Middle East would not be enough.

Pan-Arabism – the ideology that all Arab nations should unify for strength - wasn’t broad enough to serve Islam’s greater goals. Ayatollah Khomeini’s declarations that all the world must be conquered for Islam was published in great detail in the late 1970s. Iran’s programs to make that happen were also available to the public through a U.S. Congressional Task Force on Unconventional Warfare and Terrorism. Yosef Bodansky, former Director of that task force wrote a book called Target the West: Terrorism in the West Today (see booklink on this blog) which was published in 1993. In that book, two Iranian airports dedicated to flying large aircraft into tall buildings were exposed clearly. Fifteen years of research went into the congressional report that became that book. The book has been retitled, “Target the West.” The present conflicts stem from the problem that dogged pan-Arabism – namely, who will be the larger-than-life leader.

That same problem dogs Iran’s Islamic Revolution as it has spread to other countries. The splintering of Islam into Sunni and Shi’ite, countless militant groups, Iranian and Syrian supported revolutionary groups like Hezbollah, and Hamas guaranteed the present conflict, the only question was “when?" The world was shocked to learn that Hezbollah’s parasitic government forbade Lebanon’s military from entering its self-declared boundaries in Beirut. Hezbollah’s expansion became known only from Israel’s summer war in 2006.

The present conflict has now revealed that 12 Palestinian camps scattered throughout Lebanon have diplomatic immunity and its Arafat-founded PLO government system has also restricted Lebanon’s government from entering their confines. What kind of government allows such dangerous Fifth Column cells to grow up in its midst? However, exposing Lebanon’s weakness is not the issue. The issue is that this present conflict has exposed the Islamic Revolution. The fight for supremacy fuels Middle East conflicts from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, the Philippines, and every other Islamic hotspot.

The surface reason for Lebanon’s Tripoli conflict was simple: A bank robbery went wrong and Lebanese police entered a forbidden area to make arrests. Robbers lost their lives and the transgression of Lebanon’s police force drew ire from surrounding revolutionary cells (also constituting off-limits areas to Lebanon) who responded to their comrades in revolution. Thus, a veritable war has ensued the past 2 days between this virtually unknown Islamic group and the Lebanese army, such as not been seen in Lebanon in over 17 years. Likewise, Hamas and Fatah continue to battle for governing power in Gaza.

All the while, Israel suffers from the breeding grounds that are Gaza and Lebanon where Islamic intentions of the revolution are matured.

Few know that a message was posted to a password-protected jihadist forum as far back as November 29, 2006, containing an announcement by the Fatah al-Islam Movement, in which the group announces that it has split from the “apostate seculars” of the Palestinian Fatah party. Fatah al-Islam observes jihad as the only means of victory and liberation for the Palestinian people. Their message was distributed to the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp near Tripoli. Muslims are encouraged to join their ranks and training camps because victory requires the “complete effort” of the Muslim Nation (i.e., "The Empire of Pan-Islam"). The message also states: “Know that our goal is fighting the Jews and all who support them from the Zionist Crusaders of the West and liberating our sacred [land]. So get out of the way. Don’t be the first to defend them. We warn everyone who wants to hurt our movement, because by Allah we did not take this step but only wishing for martyrdom”.

According to media reports, two-hundred Arab militants arrived in Lebanon at a Palestinian refguee camp in the north, and joined the Fatah-Intifada movement. They soon announced their split, and are purportedly headed by Shaker Issa, a former Palestinian Fatah official who had previously been expelled from the group.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Jerusalem Reunification Day

Just count the wars of Israel! In the 1930s Arabs began launching terror attacks against Jews to halt Jewish immigration. Many Jewish people were already seeing storm clouds on the horizon in Europe and fleeing to their restored homeland and imagined safety. Every decade since Israel has been attacked: 1947, 1948 (War of Independence), 1956 (Sinai Campaign), 1967 (Six Day War), 1973 (Yom Kippur War), 1982 (Operation Peace for the Galilee), and uprisings within Israel borders called Intifadas 1987-1992 and from 2000 to date. What nation on earth has suffered this manner of physical, emotional and political/diplomatic attack?

In 1947, the United Nations passed a resolution to divide the land into two nations – Palestine and Israel. The Jewish people said, “Yes” even though the resolution designated Jerusalem an international city to be administered by the U.N. Surprisingly however, Arabs voiced a resounding, “No!” Five months later, Arab intrigue, terror attacks, and a strongly encouraged evacuation of their own people (to keep them from being caught up in a massacre of the Jews), erupted into all-out war. Against terrible odds, with six Arab nations attacking, the modern nation of Israel was born.

Subsequent U.N. Resolutions regularly castigated Israel. Condemnations on every level were brought to the United Nations General Assembly. These condemnations were fueled by Arab nations now infected with the genocide virus through Haj Amin al-Husseini (Jerusalem’s Grand Mufti [supreme governor]), who interfaced in person with Hitler regarding the eradication of the Jews, not only of Europe, but also of the Middle East.

In both ‘47, and ‘67, Israel was attacked without provocation. On both occassions what one could only call divine intervention, Israel won military victories, recovered occupied land, and took her place on the world stage just short of a super power.

Yom Yerushalyaim, Jerusalem Reunification Day, is the celebration of the 1967 Six Day War and the victory that placed the Shomron (biblical name of the West Bank), the Sinai, Gaza, and Jerusalem back under the authority of the nation of Israel.

Yet, as I type this, Israel’s 40th anniversary of that war is almost overshadowed by an attack from Egypt. What do I mean? Actually we now have three nations in a tiny area in the Middle East – Gaza under Hamas; once seen by Egypt as Greater Egypt, now fed by terror cells coming from that impotent country. The West Bank under the Palestinian Authority; once seen by Jordan as Greater Jordan, now fighting for its life as the growing menace of Gaza/Egypt/Hamas matures to a potential worldwide danger, and Israel in the middle. Egypt is turning a blind eye to the arming of Hamas through their own borders.

However, in light of all this this week’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of Yom Yerushalyaim was like none I have ever seen. The West’s mislabeling of Israel’s tenacity as bull-headed arrogance happens when all the facts are not considered. All things considered it is fairly easy to predict another full-fledged assult upon Israel – the bullies now being Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria’s saber rattling on the north border. It is also fairly easy to predict continued victories and celebrations within Israel because He who keepth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Samaritan Passover

The first time I went to observe the Samaritan Passover was 1982. How very different twenty-five years later. Then it seemed only a handful came to observe this unique event. Now, at least a hundred tour busses crowded the inadequate street leading to the Mount Gerizim community of the Shomron'im (Samaritans). Somewhere near 4,000 visitors from all walks of life made the small mountain top neighborhood resemble an ant hill.

The New Testament story of the woman at the well seemed as pertinent as if it were written yesterday. Thousands of years have passed, and yet a group still contend for the exact spot where the Lord should be worshipped. A Samaritan priest lectured a group of Jewish visitors on why the Samaritans still believe themselves to be obeying God’s written laws from the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy). And pointing out that at least 30,000 of them were not transferred by the Assyrians out of Israel. Those who lived east of the Jordan River of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. It helps to remember that Yeshua did not upbraid the woman . . . He simply informed her that the time was near when God would be worshipped in Spirit and truth, not anchored to a location. He knew what Roman politics would bring to Israel within the following few decades.
Another scattering of His people across the earth reminiscent of the Assyrian destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel, and the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem some time later. The destruction of Jerusalem, the change of the name Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina. Several varied issues come into focus here. My own fascination with ancient languages gets a booster shot as the ceremony here is done in Samaritan Aramaic language dating back 3,600 years. Speculation about a Third Temple built in Jerusalem too comes into focus – but in practicality. Sacrifice is not a pretty picture and certainly not an idea compatible with modern notions. However, seen in practice, it becomes less mysterious and more understandable. With many Jews and Christians alike in expectation of a Third Temple, this becomes a training exercise toward that day.

I certainly didn’t come away with less questions – but the questions are now different. And knowing that God is not as pleased with the blood of bulls and lambs, as He is with obedience, I can see why the pieces of the puzzle are not in place for an immediate reconstruction of the Temple. I came away with a greater patience with God and His time-table, submitting to His sovereignty and wisdom. This spectacle multiplied a thousand times at a rebuilt Jerusalem temple would surely be close to impossible. God will work all things out in His own timing.
Click arrow to view the film I took of the Samaritan Passover.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Israeli Tribe of Dan

The initial land allotment for the ancient Israeli tribe of Dan was on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It joined Benjamin’s allotment halfway down the mountain coming from Jerusalem to Joppa. The land allotment was sandwiched between Ephraim and Judah. However, this land area was right in the middle of the International Coastal Highway, used by much more powerful nations than Israel at that time. Egypt used the route heading north in many wars against both the Hittites and Assyrians.

Conversely, Assyria used the route south for similar purposes. All trade from Europe and Asia to Africa used that route. It was one of the ancient world’s most traveled highways. Dan threw up their hands eventually and moved as far north as they could get and still be within the boundaries of the nation of Israel. Their city near Mount Hermon was called Dan. Thus the saying, “From Dan to Beer Sheva,” which meant the whole of the nation of Israel. The important thing about this is the fact that ancient Israel had weak points used by aggressive nations to bring them into submission. Two of those were the routes: the International Coastal Route (Via Maris), the Kings Highway (running along the mountain ridge in what is now Jordan), and the Desert Route (the Jordan Valley highway). When you read the Prophet Isaiah chapter 30 entitled “An Oracle to the animals of the Negev," you see Israel using a harsh, rarely used route to travel to Egypt to form an alliance against their northern neighbors Assyria and Babylon. They were in fact sneaking down that route so as not to be seen by those who used the major routes. Therefore, Israel is weak when her access routes are conquered. Also, it is noteworthy that five of the six cities of refuge (Israel’s ancient judicial system) are now under the control of Islamic countries. The names of the cities are Golan, Ramoth Gilead (now in Jordan), Shechem (now the Islamic city of Nablus), Hebron (now in the control of Palestinians), Bezer (also in Jordan); the only city left is Kedesh on the way to Dan and Mount Hermon on the Golan Heights. Syria is presently demanding that the Golan Heights be returned to them, which will, in fact, be the end of ancient Israel’s judicial system of the cities of refuge. That must have spiritual implications. Mount Hermon itself sits between Syria and Lebanon on Israel’s north border. This mountain, beyond its beauty and modern-day resort status, is the watchtower of Israel, guarding her from potential future invasions from Hezbollah and Syria. The vital importance of this area cannot be overestimated or exaggerated. An area called the "Sheba Farms" is the flash point being used right now by Lebanon and Syria to hold Israel’s feet to the fire on where the border is exactly. The Chinese drip torture of these continual assults upon God’s land and God's people is nothing new. However, if we we are not familiar with history, it is sure to repeat itself with the consent of more powerful nations.

A final word on Israel’s weak points is another highway. The Highway of the Patriarchs runs from Assyria (now Modern Syria) through the Golan to ancient Samaria. It then travels on a very high but flat plateau between Shiloh and Gibeah (of Saul) just north of Jerusalem, through Bethlehem and on south to Hebron, Beer Sheva and finally Egypt. This route now lies mainly in what the media likes to call "the West Bank." The biblical term is Shomron. The "name-change” game assures that Israel’s God-given right to the land is blurred and the term “occupied” then seems politically correct to the Western world. I think you can see the implications of Dan, their move, and Mount Hermon in the larger picture. We find ourselves spinning our wheels in political negotiations several levels removed from the spiritual reality of a land belonging to God and only loaned to a people group called the Jewish nation of Israel. This is the only land in the world with such distinctions.

Today we are faced with challenges as at no other time in history. We sit on the watershed of history wherein the results of events may go one of two or more directions. I believe we stand in the gap for Israel and must do so until the end of all things here in on earth.