Tag Archives: syria

Fifty Years Ago, Jews Returned to the Golan Heights

Fifty years ago today on July 14, 1967, Jews returned to the Golan Heights, building a town in the region.

Between 1948 and 1967 while the Golan Heights was under Syrian control, the Syrians used the region as a military stronghold, randomly sniping at Israeli citizens. Syria allowed the terrorist organization Fatah to operate in the region, carrying out attacks on Israelis and laying mines throughout the area. Syria was not using this region for the good of its people, but instead to terrorize Israel. In 1966, Israel requested that the United Nations denounce the Fatah attacks. In response, the Syrian ambassador said “It is not our duty to stop them, but to encourage and strengthen them.”

Four days after the Six Day War began on June 5, 1967, Israeli forces moved in on the Syrian military in the Golan. On June 10, 1967, one day after their arrival, Israel assumed complete control of the region. Israeli control of the strategic mountain region helped secure the Jewish state from the Syrian threat. Syria tried to recapture the region six years later in the Yom Kippur War but failed. After the war, Syria signed a disengagement agreement that left the Golan Heights in Israel’s control.

On December 14, 1981, the Knesset voted to extend civilian law to the Golan Heights which was previously under military authority since 1967. Syria has abided by the ceasefire agreement with Israel mainly because of the proximity of Israeli artillery to Damascus, but Syria continues to fund and harbor terrorist organizations that carry out attacks on Israel from Lebanon and other areas.

Despite the history, the international community still views this region as an “occupied territory.” For some, this stems from anti-Semitism that disregards the facts and Syria’s use of the region’s high ground to attack Israel.  

Today, there are around 17,000 Druze residents and 14,000 Jewish residents in the Golan heights. Israel invests heavily in upgrading electric and water infrastructure that was left in disrepair by successive Syrian leaders. All residents enjoy freedom of religion, the right to fair trials and to run for office, access to Israeli welfare, healthcare, and social security programs, and every other right available to citizens throughout Israel.

In fact, many of the 17,000 Druze are relieved they now live in Israel rather than Syria, especially because of the Syrian Civil War. Many maintain their Syrian ties, but so far around 30% have become Israeli citizens. The broad support for Israel among Golan Heights residents, especially the Druze majority, further bolsters Israel’s claim to the region.

The journey of the relationship between the Golan Heights and the Jewish people has come full circle. In 1891, Baron Edmonde de Rothschild purchased 20,000 acres of land from the Ottoman Empire. In 1942 the Syrian government illegally confiscated the land. In 1957 the deeds were transferred to the Jewish National Fund by Baron Edmonde’s son, Baron James de Rothschild, and from there they were transferred to the Land office of Israel. Today they are stored in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Archaeology shows clearly that Jewish ownership of land in the region dates back well before the 1890s, all the way to biblical times. It was promised to Abraham and later became part of the tribe of Menashe by Moses’s division of the Land. Many events and battles took place in and around the Golan and there are many famous sites such as the fortress of Gamla and the Jewish town of Qasrin. Ruins of around twenty-five synagogues have been discovered dating from after the destruction of the Temple; mosaic inscriptions depict peaceful and uninterrupted Jewish life in the Golan until the Middle Ages.

Today we celebrate the modern return of Jewish life to the region, but we also must remember that the Jewish history of the Golan Heights dates back millennia.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Jake Greenblatt

11 Years Since the Start of the Second Lebanon War

This week marks 11 years since the start of the Second Lebanon War. The war took a large toll on northern Israel and its population, and still lives strong in the memories of many Israelis.

The war was sparked when Hezbollah terrorists fired rockets at an Israeli town near the Lebanese Border. At the same time, Hezbollah attacked an IDF Humvee, killing three soldiers and abducting two. The IDF then launched an operation to recover the abducted soldiers which included airstrikes on key Hezbollah infrastructure and the invasion of southern Lebanon.

The war lasted almost two months, with Hezbollah around 4,000 rockets at Israeli towns and cities, at a rate of over 100 per day. Over a million Israelis had to stay near or in bomb shelters throughout the duration of the war, with some 250,000 civilians evacuating northern Israel and relocating to other areas of the country.

In the 11 years since the war, Hezbollah has been significantly increasing its weapons stockpile, with the terror group now possessing 17 times the number of missiles it had at the end of the war.  The specific number of Hezbollah missiles stands at around 120,000, with many being placed in and around villages in southern Lebanon, within the vicinity of schools, mosques and hospitals.

Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, has continued to threaten Israel regarding war, and there have been some worries that a ‘Third Lebanon War’ is on the horizon with the end of the Syrian Civil War seemingly in sight. Hezbollah has recently even erected billboards with the words “we are coming” facing the Israeli border.

Hezbollah Billboards on Israeli Border (Courtesy)

Despite this, Israeli intelligence officials have recently noticed some positive developments in regard to the Hezbollah threat. Iran is trying to establish a weapons factory in Lebanon, which in reality points to a failure for the Iranian regime and their proxy Hezbollah. This is because it indicates that all other ways by which Iran could transfer advanced weapons to the Shiite terrorist group through Syria have been blocked.

Additionally, the IDF believes its deterrence efforts regarding Hezbollah are going well. Israel has incredibly strong intelligence on the terror group, with one IDF official stating “If Nasrallah knew what we knew about him, he would give up any future intentions to start a war.” Israel’s striking power, which dealt large blows to Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War, combined with a now superior intelligence, would give Israel a significant advantage if war were to break out.

Another deterrence from war, this time not from Israel, is the Syrian Civil War. Though some may argue the ending of the Syrian Civil War would make war between Hezbollah and Israel more likely, Hezbollah has lost over 1,800 operatives since it entered the fighting in Syria, hardly acting as an incentive to start a fresh campaign against Israel.

Therefore, though threats from Hezbollah are very real, so real that they are considered to be Israel’s biggest strategic threat, the circumstances around the Syrian Civil War, and the strong deterrence strategy from the IDF, means war, for now, seems unlikely. The sudden flare-up however of the Second Lebanon War shows the fragility of the situation on Israel’s northern border.

Contributed by Daniel Kosky, CAMERA Intern

Jewish and Muslim Students Unite For Syrians

The war in Syria is now in it’s sixth year, and it is one of the great crises of our times – half a million people have been killed, and half the country have been forced from their homes. Many people around the world feel helpless, with no way of helping those suffering. But last month, in a beautiful event at Brandeis University, Jewish and Muslim students came together, united by the common cause of helping those suffering – a ray of light in a very dark storm.

The event saw many different organizations join together for this important cause.

Students at the event

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAMERA-supported group Judges For Israel joined the Muslim Student Association and other campus groups at Brandeis to bake goods, which were sold to raise money for the refugees. Specifically, the money went towards two of the Israeli hospitals that are helping the Syrian refugees (which are just some of the Israeli initiatives to help Syrian refugees). The Ziv Medical Center has given medical help to thousands of Syrian refugees during the past few years. Amaliah is another Israeli hospital, right on the border of Syria and Israel, which works with civilians to try to create a safe space whilst treating those who need medical assistance. More than one thousand dollars was raised at the event, for these Israeli hospitals working for the Syrian refugees.

But the event itself was special, because of the unique atmosphere that was created. The words of one of the participants speak for themselves. “Before the event we had a dinner (for Judges for Israel and Muslim Student Association) to get to know each other and plan the fundraiser,” said Aviya Zarur, CAMERA fellow at Brandeis. “It was supposed to be a business meeting but we all got along so well and couldn’t stop talking it was hard for the presidents to get us to focus!”

“When we got together with them again to bake the cookies it felt like we were meeting up with friends. While the dough was being made or when there was no work that needed to be done the guys on both boards started playing video games and hanging out as friends. I think the best part about all of this was that when people noticed us getting along so well at the actual sale they weren’t taken aback. Why wouldn’t JFI and MSA be having a fundraiser together? It wasn’t questioned or apposed. Nobody came up to us to ask about political, or religious differences or whether there was tension at all.”

The Middle East often looks like it is stuck in an endless cycle of war and fighting. But in a small corner of Massachusetts, a model for interfaith and co-operation was created for an evening. Let us hope this can spread to the Middle East itself as well.

Israel itself prizes its diversity, and hopefully this model can be applied across the Middle East

Contributed by Aron White, CAMERA intern

Six Years of Civil War

CAMERA Fellow Aviya Zarur

March 15th 2017 marks the six year anniversary of the war in Syria. Since 2011, there have been thousands killed and injured in fighting, 4.9 million refugees, and 6.3 million displaced people within the country’s borders. The numbers are unimaginable, and the stories told through photos are unbelievable. Apart from a country self destructing and countless cities collapsing, there are 13.5 million Syrians in need of humanitarian aid; every one of them risking their lives to find refuge, for themselves and their families, including the 3 million children who cannot grasp the idea of a world without the conflict. Every day, hundreds of refugees take the risky voyage across oceans to try to find a new home, some never making it to the other side. Others are told to turn around, and most are unable to properly integrate into an alien society.

A group of women and children, refugees in Syria’s humanitarian disaster

Countries around the world are trying to help these refugees, but the thousands that flood in are a strain on the communities, economy, and politics of their host countries. The UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) is doing what it can to save the lives of men, women, and children all affected by the chaos. In the last year alone, they provided more than 4 million Syrians with basic relief items such as food and bedding. Every motion to protect and assist the refugees, despite only putting a dent in the issue, is crucial.

Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan are the top three among many who are allowing the refugees inside their borders. In Egypt, the refugees do not live in camps, and are immediately integrated into society. Israel too is doing its part in saving lives, by taking injured refugees from Aleppo, and arranging for them to be treated in the country’s hospitals, and returning them after their treatment.

In the most evil of worlds, humanity shines as people come together to find support even the smallest fraction of people. The Ziv Medical Center in Tzfat, Israel, for example, is a hospital that has treated over two thousand casualties from the civil war in Syria since February 2013, and is currently raising funds for the treatment and return of even more Syrians. The patients hospitalized in Ziv are treated for a long period of weeks, sometimes months, until they are well. When they arrive at the hospital they have nothing, including medical forms usually required to treat patients, yet they are treated nonetheless. Patients include Druze, Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The hospital staff take care of men, women, and children who have suffered war injuries and cannot be treated due to lack of medical care in Syria.

 

Driven by the determination to prevent another mass massacre such as the Jewish Holocaust, Amaliah, a different hospital at the border of Israel, understands that there is a need for a safe zone in Southern Syria. The hospital brings refugees to be treated before being taken back. Amalia’s mission is to support projects that create partnership, stability and prosperity with the Middle East and promote a safe zone in Southern Syria. They focus on South Syria with the goal of restoring civil society there. Because of a strong presence of the United Nations in that area and the border with the Golan Heights it becomes easier to envision a brighter society due to geographical advantages. Among their goals for 2017 is to bring over ten thousand injured and sick Syrian civilians into neighboring countries, partner with Syrian doctors and an ongoing medical relief program, and expand their “Bus of Angels” to Syria’s neighboring countries. Ziv Hospital and Amaliah Field Hospital in Israel have been providing medical aid to Syrian civilians caught in the Syrian Civil War, but they are still understaffed and underfunded. 

At Brandeis University different groups and people came together to find a way to support the refugees. Syrians in America, [CAMERA-supported group] Judges for Israel, the Muslim Student Association, and Common Ground teamed together to raise money for this hospitals. By coming together, their fundraiser, Kneading Aid, raised over a thousand dollars that will be distributed evenly between the two hospitals that help thousands regain their health and their lives. Despite the immigration ban, together JFI and MSA baked goods, designed shirts, and sold all of it in an effort to help make a difference where possible. Hopefully there will be an end to this crisis soon, and we will not have to witness the seven year anniversary of this tragedy.

Students at the event

The event saw many different organizations joint together for this important cause.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contributed by Aviya Zarur, CAMERA Fellow at Brandeis University, and the first year rep for CAMERA-supported group Judges for Israel.

This article has been republished by Brandeis University campus paper The Brandeis Hoot.

United Nations International Day of Democracy

Today is the UN’s International Day of Democracy.

Israel was established as a parliamentary democracy, a state with fundamental democratic values. While much of the Middle East is hostile to democratic governments from forming, Israel strives to constantly develop as a democracy. Between rights for Palestinianswomen, and members of the LGBTQ community, Israel is a leader in democratic values in the Middle East, not to mention the world.

Danny Danon, first Israeli head of a commitee at the United Nations. Source: Facebook Page

Danny Danon, first Israeli head of a committee at the United Nations. Source: Facebook Page

Israel is often held to unfair scrutiny by the United Nations. While Syria tears itself to shreds, impoverishment only increases in India, and female genital mutilation is accepted among many countries, the UN chooses to unfairly criticize Israel rather than focus on critical international issues.

The UN ironically tried to condemn Israel for violating health standards at a World Health Organization assembly. Not only are Israeli health regulations up to level, Israel is a leader in international aid when other countries are in need of assistance.

Likewise, the UN tried to accuse Israel of not fully supporting women’s rights. In all areas, women in Israel have full equal rights. They lead in government, military, and all professional fields in Israel.

Just like any other democratic country, there are room for improvements. However, its democratic values cannot go unappreciated and its efforts to promote human rights should not be overlooked.

With pride in the democracy it is today, Israel celebrates the UN’s International Day of Democracy.

For Israel, every day is World Humanitarian Day

Today is World Humanitarian Day. On a day like today, Israel can be extra proud of its impressive contributions to populations around the world.

In 1958, only ten years after the State of Israel was established and was struggling to build itself up, the state created an official humanitarian aid agenda. Since then, through various organizations, Israel has been dedicated to serving international humanitarian needs.

As the #IDFWithoutBorders map shows, the Israel Defense Forces have sent countless aid missions across the globe. Sent by the IDF to help the Philippines recover from a typhoon, one doctor explains that “This sort of mission allows you to be a real doctor, this is what medicine is all about.” Medical resources should be used for good, for treating people and saving lives and that is exactly what the IDF strives to do by bringing top medical care and support resources to places in need. With the IDF’s C4I BranchIsrael’s advanced military technology even allows doctors and nurses to create an internal digital medical file for every patient while abroad.

Hundreds of casualties were tended at the IDF field hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal, after the earthquake earlier this year. Photo by IDF Spokesperson via FLASH90 and Israel21c

Hundreds of casualties were tended at the IDF field hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal, after the earthquake earlier this year. Photo by IDF Spokesperson via FLASH90 and Israel21c

IDF delegations are often the first to set up field hospitals and provide help at post-disaster scenes. The IDF will carefully help in areas that could potentially put Israel in danger as well. The IDF recently began helping Syrians by allowing for the delivery of medical, educational, and food supplies into Syria.

Non-profit humanitarian aid organization, IsraAID's chief operating officer Navonel Glick. Source: CIJA

Non-profit humanitarian aid organization, IsraAID’s chief operating officer Navonel Glick. Source: CIJA

Aside from the IDF’s incredible aid work, IsraAID, a non-profit, apolitical organization, has provided aid relief to 37 countries and and reached over one million people in need. The organization works tirelessly to help reconstruct and rehabilitate populations recovering from crises, providing rapid response humanitarian aid as well as long term support programs.

Source: www.bicom.org.uk

Source: www.bicom.org.uk

Just days ago, IsraAID’s chief operating officer Navonel Glick was awarded with the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for his dedication and leadership. Based out of the Tel Aviv headquarters, Glick manages this incredible organization. Glick feels very honored by this award and is pleased that it is bringing attention to the need to further expand international humanitarian aid.

Israel continues to develop internally, and with all its advancements, becomes even more dedicated to helping populations in need abroad.

Happy World Humanitarian Day from Israel!

To learn more about IsraAID, visit their website and check out their accomplishments from 2015:

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz.

Water Shortages – Scarier Than ISIS?

Israel is a country with constant droughts. A good year in Israel is a year full of rain. Since it is impossible to depend on a sufficient rainy season, Israelis have developed ways to preserve water resources and manage their limited water resources.

Israel water drip system. Source: Haaretz

Israel water drip system. Source: Haaretz

In the 1960’s, Israel’s famous water drip system was created. Dripping water onto plants rather than spraying copious amounts across fields allows farmers to hydrate their produce without wasting water.

In addition, the water used for agriculture is also heavily recycled. 80% of sewage water from Israeli homes is recycled for agriculture use.

Despite lacking resources, Israel manages to hydrate the whole country efficiently. While Hamas fails to develop a clean water supply in Gaza, which Israel gave to Arab control as part of a peace treaty in 2005, Israel fully supplies the Arabs in the West Bank with plenty of water.

Israelis have been working hard on this water issue since the 1960’s, when they developed a desalination system in order to use seawater. At the time, Israel had worked with Iran—both countries wanted to become seawater-based. For a few years, Iran also succeeded to create great water systems to hydrate the needs of Iranians.

However, as the Islamic revolution began, the efforts to build a great water system in Iran faded.

Along with many countries in the Middle East, good living standards in Iran are not currently the highest priority of the government. While citizens live poorly and suffer daily from constant political and social strife, water does not seem like such a big concern.

Seth Siegel, CAMERA speaker and author of Let There Be Water, begs to differ. Water is a critical issue in Iran and many other countries and if it is not confronted, it will come back to bite them. Or more accurately, leave them very thirsty.

Seth Siegel speaking at Cal Polytech CAMERA-supported event. Source: Mustangs United For Israel Facebook page

Seth Siegel speaking at Cal Polytech CAMERA-supported event. Source: Mustangs United For Israel Facebook page

Seth Siegel has spoken to a Mustangs United for Israel CAMERA-supported event at California Polytechnic State University on international water crises and works hard to advocate for the need to follow after Israel’s example of developing sufficient water systems.

Poly Tech student at CAMERA-supported event holding Seth Siegel's book, Let There Be Water. Source: Mustangs United for Israel Facebook page

Cal Polytech student at CAMERA-supported event holding Seth Siegel’s book, Let There Be Water. Source: Mustangs United for Israel Facebook page

While he has promoted water systems in California, which suffers from drought, Siegel is more concerned about water, or lack thereof, in politically torn countries.

Turkey holds power over the Tigris and Euphrates River. With control over these water sources, Turkey can withhold water resources from Syria and Iraq. That said, according to a recent study, Turkey does not even have an ample water supply and Syria is already creating a worrisome water deficit.

Similarly, Ethiopia is already suffering and is now competing with Egypt for access to the Nile. While Egypt has a good amount of water, the country uses their resources inefficiently and unfortunately Ethiopia and Yemen already lack sufficient water supply.

Seth Siegel points out the importance of developing sufficient water systems. The lack of water management is feeding the already-heated political tensions in the Middle East. As countries compete for water, and citizens fear they will not have enough, daily living conditions such as water supply may be turning the ideological fights of the Middle East into resource wars as well.

This continuing problem of water carries a lot of weight on security in the Middle East. However, as Seth Siegel argues, the problem could be averted. If Middle Eastern countries were willing to accept help from Israel, they could better manage their water supplies and also improve political relationships. Hopefully countries will begin to see Israel as part of a solution for their resource troubles, rather than continuing on to work against the state of Israel.

For more information on Seth Siegel’s book, Let There Be Water, visit his site.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz.

Remembering Operation Protective Edge and the Miracle of the IDF

Two years ago this week, Operation Protective Edge had just ended. Operation Protective Edge was a war in Gaza instigated by constant rockets fired into Israel and the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli boys. IDF troops were sent into Gaza to close up terror tunnels infiltrating into Israel and detonate rocket launching sites set up throughout the Gaza Strip.

operation protective edge

By August 4th, 2014, IDF soldiers came home from Gaza, some unfortunately carried over the shoulders of their brothers in arms. Operation Protective is one among many wars that Israel has endured since the Jews have returned to this land.

Such is the history of Israel—since the establishment of Israel in 1948, the Israel Defense Forces had struggled to preserve the country and protect her people.

Israeli Independence War. Source: Jewish Virtual Library

Israeli Independence War. Source: Jewish Virtual Library

Today, the IDF is seen as an incredible military, esteemed by other armies as one of the most efficient, capable, and moral in the world.

However, in 1948, no one could have predicted that the IDF would ever amount to such a great defense force for the Israeli people. Threatened by five surrounding nations, small militant groups in Israel were put together to make the Israel Defense Forces. The combined forces of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon were ready to take down Israel with their manpower as well as military capabilities.

At the time, aside from an insufficient amount of troops to withstand the enemy armies, the IDF did not have a single plane or any form of an air force. While the tragedy of war should not be glazed over with unnecessary romanticism, the miracle of Israel’s make-do first Israeli Air Force is uncanny and, as Producer Nancy Spielberg and Director Roberta Grossman present in their film, Above and Beyond, played a critical role in the establishment of the State of Israel.

American volunteers together with Israeli pilot in front of an Avia S-199, flew the first combat mission in the Israel War of Independence. Source: Jewish Journal

American volunteers together with Israeli pilot in front of an Avia S-199, flew the first combat mission in the Israel War of Independence. Source: Jewish Journal

The documentary film, Above and Beyond, presents the back story of the birth of the Israeli Air Force. With such an exciting sequence of events throughout this incredible true story, the film borders the sensation of an action movie.

In May, 1948, as Israelis were mustering forces, a few American Jews recognized the needs of their people far away in the land of Israel. After serving in the US Air Force in WWII, two Jewish American pilots recognized Israel’s dire need for airplanes. After pressing other Jewish American pilots to join them overseas, these two pilots flew 11 hours until they reached Israel and landed the first two planes of the new Israeli Air Force onto Israeli territory.

As the film reveals, little did these American pilots know that the establishment of the modern state of Israel would depend so heavily on their contribution. Other American veterans followed the lead of these two pilots and with the help of these volunteer soldiers, food and supplies were provided throughout the country and Israeli soldiers were able to successfully complete their missions along all of Israel’s borders.

As shown in Above and Beyond, overseas care from American Jewry is a well-established tradition. As mentioned in the film, Italian American singer Frank Sinatra did what he could as well to show support for Israel by contributing basic supplies to troops back in 1948.

This tradition continued throughout Operation Protective Edge in 2014—Americans and American Jewry made greats efforts to send food and moral support to IDF soldiers going in and out of Gaza. Likewise, many celebrities have shown support for the IDF through FIDF fund raising events.

Aside from presenting the admirable story of how Israel’s Air Force came to be, the film touches upon Jewish identity as well. Just as throughout Operation Protective Edge, Jews outside of Israel supported IDF troops and Israelis banded together to protect the country, Israelis and volunteer soldiers from abroad worked together to establish the State of Israel in 1948. American Jews who knew no Hebrew and maybe ate gefilte fish on holidays, the volunteer soldiers explained during the film how they became proud Jews while serving with the IDF in Israel’s War of Independence.

Just as the world was mesmerized by the establishment of the state of Israel and often is still amazed today by its flourishing progress despite continuous threats and constant terror, the volunteer soldiers recognized the miracle of 1948. In one veteran’s words, when asked if he thought Israel would survive throughout all these years, his response was “Israel is an article of faith.”

The film Above and Beyond reminds viewers of the blood and sacrifice on which Israel was build. Looking back at the heroes of 1948 and remembering the heroes of Operation Protective Edges from two years ago, the Jewish people continue to protect Israel and preserve the legacy of the incredible homeland as a just, democratic society in the Middle East.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz

Iran in Syria: Tragically, To Be Continued…

Source: DU it for Israel Facebook page

Source: DU it for Israel Facebook page

This past February, Emanuele Ottolenghi, Senior Fellow of Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), spoke at an event held by Denison University‘s CAMERA – supported group DU it for Israel.

The event’s concentration on Iran’s involvement in the Syrian conflict gave students important perspective on the magnitude of events occurring beyond Israel’s borders.

The Palestinian’s lack of independence, according to Ottolenghi, is a marginal issue compared to other events in the region.

It is important for students to understand Israel’s influence in the Middle East—where it begins as well as where it ends—and to understand the powers of growing Middle Eastern forces such as Iran.

As a member of the FDD, a counterterrorism institute focusing on foreign policy and national security, Ottolenghi gave an expert overview to the students about the Iranian policy in the context of the broader Middle East. At the event, Ottolenghi explained Iran’s role in the Syrian conflict. Following his lecture, students engaged in an question-answer session and were able to fully conceptualize the conflict along with all of its complexities.

Mark Dubowitz (left), the Canadian director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, at forum about Iran sanctions. Source: www.presstv.ir

Mark Dubowitz (left), the Canadian director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, at forum about Iran sanctions. Source: www.presstv.ir

According to FDD research, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces combined with Iranian supporters continue to demolish rebel-held areas in order to prevent rebel power and influence over a lasting political agreement.

The Islamic Republic of Iran aims to keep Assad in power, however, simultaneously plans how to use Syrian territory should Assad fall. In essence, according to an Institute for the Study of War report, Iran’s presence in Syria is inspired entirely by self-interest, which raises a red flag—Iran’s tactics to eventually use Syrian territory could immensely increase Iran’s power and threat to the region.

Last July, Obama managed an agreement with the Iranian government in order to keep the security situation stable. Considered a “historic deal” by some, Iran promised to never seek, acquire, or develop nuclear weapons.

However, the story with Iran unfortunately did not end with this “historic agreement.”

Ottolenghi discussing the Syrian conflict on CTV News in 2013. Source: FDD Youtube channel.

Ottolenghi discussing the Syrian conflict on CTV News in 2013. Source: FDD Youtube channel.

Iran’s involvement has not even changed. Just this week, Reuters reported that Iran is still working to support the Assad regime as well as Shi’ite militia Groups. Iran’s interest for power over the region remains undisturbed.

In addition to Iran’s pursuit of tactical territory, Iran has not stopped its nuclear developments. This past February, despite a UN ban, Iran launched test missiles and completed its new Simorgh rocket. Soon after, in March, Iran went on to test two variations of their medium-range ballistic missile, Qadr. Any launch of Iran’s nuclear weapons could be catastrophic.

The FDD continues to research the Syrian conflict and expose Iran’s involvement. With over 400,000 dead and 4.9 million Syrian refugees, the Syrian conflict and Iran’s nuclear development is an exponentially great threat and concern in the Middle East. 

Millions of Syrian victims are suffering as the war continues. Without an end to the conflict in Syria in sight, there is a looming threat that Iran will expand its nuclear weapons into new territory, threatening international security.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz

Raise Your Voice

On November 20th, 2015, Students United, the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Emet for Israel supported group, hosted an event called “Raise Your Voice,” which turned out to be a huge success.

This CAMERA funded CUFI initiative was geared toward the Christian community on campus, and the goal was to raise awareness about the Christian persecution taking place in the Middle East. Students United also sought to present the positive role Israel has been playing in response to this series of recent attacks. The event showed how it is the only country in the region where Christians are free to practice their religion.

Initially, there were a number of setbacks in terms of planning the event, but there was a major turn around when the group successfully booked a speaker from Voice of the Martyrs, Carolyn Luce, and found a local musician to play as well.

The Voice of the Martyrs is a non-profit, inter-denominational Christian organization dedicated to assisting persecuted Christian families around the world. It was eye opening for students to hear Luce speak about the violence taking place against Christians, as well as to hear her perspective on Israel’s assistance. The audience interacted with Luce once she concluded her speech. She was able to address the current threats that Christians are facing throughout the Middle East, and answer all of the questions that were posed.

Prior to the event, students were not necessarily aware of the efforts Israel makes to ensure that tolerance of other faiths is maintained. As democratic nation, it is vital to uphold these freedoms for every individual. Students left the event feeling proud to be supporters of Israel because the facts brought up throughout the speech showed that the Jewish state defends the religious rights of everyone, not only Jews.

The attendees absolutely loved the event. It was a comfortable environment for them to cry over the suffering of these Christians, but to also make new friends and connect with people on a deeper level. Everyone learned something new and gained a greater awareness of current events.

Students United has already followed up with the speaker and the members in the audience through Facebook and email. The group is looking forward to building a stronger connection to these Christian clubs and inviting their members to future events.