Israelis security services were on high alert on Monday as Palestinians are expected to launch protests against the “catastrophe” that was the creation of the State of Israel, officials said, amid already high tensions in the West Bank over an ongoing hunger strike by Palestinian security prisoners.
Palestinians and some Arab Israelis mark the Nakba, or “catastrophe” — namely the dispossession that accompanied the creation of the State of Israel — every year on May 15.
The day is marked with a siren that blares for one second for every year since 1948 — 69 seconds this year — and with marches across the West Bank, Gaza, inside Israel and occasionally abroad as well.
These protests occasionally turn violent, resulting in clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces. In 2014, two Palestinian teenagers were shot dead by a Border Police officer who replaced his less-lethal rounds, used to disperse riots, with full live-fire bullets.
In a statement, the army said that as a preventive measure it would be sending additional troops to areas where protests have taken place before.
“In last two years, the region has been relatively quiet. The IDF is taking extra security precautions, particularly in areas that are prone to riots,” the statement read.
Jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti on Sunday urged Palestinians to carry out acts of “civil disobedience” to commemorate Nakba Day on Monday, which marks the “catastrophe” of the creation of Israel each year on May 15.
For the first time since initiating a hunger strike in prison 28 days ago, Barghouti was allowed to meet with his lawyer Khader Shkirat on Sunday for three hours.
In a letter by Barghouti obtained by Lebanese outlet Al Mayadeen on Sunday, the convicted terrorist — who is serving five life terms for orchestrating the murders of Israelis during the Second Intifada — orders the public to ratchet up tensions with Israel on Monday in solidarity with the fasting security inmates.
- Because the word of a Christian "infidel" is not valid against the word of a Muslim, accusations of blasphemy, often with little or no evidence, routinely lead to the beating, imprisonment, and possible killing of Christians and other minorities every month in Pakistan.
- "The available evidence in all these cases suggests that charges were brought as a measure to intimidate and punish members of minority religious communities... hostility towards religious minority groups appeared in many cases to be compounded by personal enmity, professional or economic rivalry or a desire to gain political advantage." — Amnesty International.
- "Iran sentences a 21-year-old man to death for 'insulting Islam' ... after confessing when police promised he would be pardoned if he came clean." — Daily Mail.
A few days ago in Pakistan, a Christian pastor who has been "tortured every day in prison" since 2012 when he was first incarcerated, was sentenced to life in prison. Zafar Bhatti, 51, is accused of sending "blasphemous" text messages from his mobile phone; but human rights activists contend that the charge "was fabricated to remove him from his role as a Pastor." His wife, Nawab Bibi, says:
"Many Muslim people hated how quickly his church was growing; they have taken this action to undermine his work. Yet despite their actions the church grows. I wish our persecutors would see that Christians are not evil creatures. We are human beings created by God the same God that created them although they do not know this yet."
She adds, "There have been numerous attempts to kill my husband — he is bullied everyday and he is not safe from inmates and prison staff alike." In 2014, he "narrowly escaped assassination after a rogue prison officer," Muhammad Yousaf, went on a shooting spree "to kill all inmates accused of blasphemy against Islam."
Bhatti is one of countless Christian minorities to suffer under Pakistan's blasphemy law, which has helped make that country the fourth-worst nation in the world in which to be Christian.
Asia Bibi, a Christian wife and mother, has been on death row since 2010 on the accusation that she insulted the Islamic prophet Muhammad. According to Section 295-C of Pakistan's penal code:
"Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine."
Because the word of a Christian "infidel" is not valid against the word of a Muslim, accusations of blasphemy, often with little or no evidence, routinely lead to the beating, imprisonment or killing of Christians and other minorities every month in Pakistan. An Amnesty International report from 1994 summarizes the situation:
Several dozen people have been charged with blasphemy in Pakistan over the last few years; in all the cases known to Amnesty International, the charges of blasphemy appear to have been arbitrarily brought, founded solely on the individuals' minority religious beliefs... The available evidence in all these cases suggests that charges were brought as a measure to intimidate and punish members of minority religious communities... hostility towards religious minority groups appeared in many cases to be compounded by personal enmity, professional or economic rivalry or a desire to gain political advantage. As a consequence, Amnesty International has concluded that most of the individuals now facing charges of blasphemy, or convicted on such charges, are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for their real or imputed religious beliefs in violation of their right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Christians accused of blasphemy never get the chance for even a mock trial and are dealt "justice" at the hands of angry mobs -- such as the young Christian couple burned alive on a spurious accusation of blasphemy in November 2014. A report from 2012 found that "Since 1990 alone, fifty-two people have been extra-judicially murdered on charges of blasphemy" in Pakistan.
Last month, three burqa-wearing sisters shot and killed a man accused of committing blasphemy in 2004. "[W]e couldn't kill him at the time because we were too young then," they explained.
Also last month, a 23-year-old college student "was killed and another seriously injured by a vigilante mob for allegedly 'publishing blasphemous content online.'" The incident occurred on campus; the mob was yelling "Allahu Akbar" throughout.
North Korea test fired yet another missile on Sunday. This time the test did not end in a fiasco. The missile was fired somewhere between 430 to 500 hundred miles, staying aloft for about 30 minutes at an altitude exceeding 1,240 miles, before landing in the Sea of Japan 60 miles south of Russia's Vladivostok region. It exceeded in distance and altitude an intermediate-range missile that North Korea successfully tested last February. While reportedly not an intercontinental missile, North Korea is demonstrating with this successful test, according to at least one expert, a missile with a range as far as 3700 miles, putting Hawaii potentially at risk. The North Korean regime’s missile program is firing on all cylinders, including the use of mobile land-based and submarine launch platforms. It is only a matter of time before North Korea also conducts another, more powerful nuclear test in its relentless march towards achieving a strategic nuclear deterrence that would provide it with the leverage to extort its neighbors and threaten the U.S. mainland at will.
South Korea’s newly elected President Moon Jae-In, while indicating more receptiveness to diplomatic talks with North Korea than his predecessor, called the missile test-launch a “clear” violation of UN Security Council resolutions, adding that “we should sternly deal with a provocation to prevent North Korea from miscalculating.”
North Korea’s leader Kim Jung-un appears oblivious to such condemnations and rhetorical threats. The latest missile launch was timed to send a clear message to South Korea’s new government, sworn in just days ago, that North Korea would not back down in the face of joint military exercises or other demonstrations of force by the United States, South Korea or their allies. If anything, such demonstrations are having the opposite effect, further convincing Kim Jung-un and his fellow leaders that North Korea’s only path to survival is a nuclear strike capability strong enough to dissuade the U.S. from daring to launch a pre-emptive military strike or invasion.
The Trump administration has not ruled out the use of military force to stop North Korea from developing a nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland. The U.S.’s overwhelming fire power, which would rely primarily, according to a Stratfor Worldview report, on “stealth aircraft [such as the U.S. B-2 bomber and F-22 tactical fighter] and standoff cruise missiles launched from ships and submarines,” together with North Korea’s relatively weak air defense systems, would allow the U.S. to do serious damage to North Korea’s nuclear production infrastructure, storage facilities and delivery systems. However, it would be highly unlikely for a single strike to completely immobilize North Korea’s offensive military assets. The regime would still have at its disposal lethal retaliatory capabilities, including conventional artillery and commando forces, weapons of mass destruction and cyberwarfare tools. Thus, a preemptive strike against North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities will most certainly trigger the regime to launch a devastating reprisal attack against South Korea, Japan, and U.S. bases and facilities in the region, potentially costing millions of lives.
On the other hand, the longer we sit back and allow North Korea to move ahead unimpeded with developing its strategic nuclear blackmail program, the more impossible it will become to completely neutralize the emerging existential threat.
Earlier this spring, Pacific Command commander Adm. Harry Harris warned in congressional testimony about the rising North Korean threat: "With every test, Kim Jong Un moves closer to his stated goal of a preemptive nuclear strike capability against American cities, and he's not afraid to fail in public."
North Korea’s latest missile test did not fail. We cannot afford to continue the feckless policies of the past.
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