A former head of Israeli military intelligence said Thursday that an overnight airstrike on a Syrian chemical weapons facility that was attributed to Israel sends a message to world powers that the country intends to enforce its red lines when it comes to protecting itself.
The Syrian army confirmed in the morning that a military site near Masyaf was bombed, saying the attack was carried out by Israeli jets with missiles fired from Lebanon, and killed two people.
Opposition sources quoted by Israel Radio said the airstrike destroyed weapons stores including chemical-tipped missiles that were to be delivered to Hezbollah.
Yadlin, who heads Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, wrote in a series of tweets that the airstrike was “not routine.”
“It targeted a Syrian military-scientific center for the development and manufacture of, among other things, precision missiles which will have a significant role in the next round of conflict,” he said.
“The attack sent three important messages,” Yadlin continued. That “Israel won’t allow for empowerment and production of strategic arms,” that “Israel intends to enforce its red lines, despite the fact that the great powers are ignoring them,” and that “the presence of Russian air defense does not prevent airstrikes attributed to Israel.”
“Now it’s important to keep the escalation in check and to prepare for a Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah response and even opposition from Russia,” Yadlin advised.
The Syrian army threatened Thursday that there would be “serious consequences” to the attack, which it claimed was “a desperate attempt to raise the collapsed morale” of the Islamic State group, “after the sweeping victories achieved by the Syrian Arab Army,” and affirmed Israel’s “direct support” for IS and “other terrorist organizations.”
The target in Syria was apparently a Scientific Studies and Research Center (CERS) facility near Masyaf, which is in the northern Hama region. CERS is a Syrian government agency that Western officials have long associated with the production of chemical weapons.
In July, 2017, La Civilta Cattolica published an article entitled "Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism: A Surprising Ecumenism," a.k.a. "An Ecumenism of Hate." La Civilta Cattolica is Italian for Catholic Civilization. This publication is prestigious and long-lived. It was founded in 1850 and it is vetted by the Vatican. The authors of "An Ecumenism of Hate" are Antonio Spadaro a 51-year-old, Italian Jesuit and editor-in-chief of La Civilta Cattolica, and Marcelo Figueroa, a Presbyterian, Argentinian theologian. Both are close associates of Pope Francis.
"An Ecumenism of Hate" identifies Trump voters, Protestant and Catholic, as in need of correction, as they diverge from true Christian faith, and pose a threat to American democracy and world peace. These Trump voters are wrong about, or are handling in an incorrect way, the following: abortion, same-sex marriage, the environment, education, welfare, immigration, the current influx of migrants into Europe, and Islam. Given that the article was understood as a papally-endorsed, full-frontal attack on the president of the United States and his supporters, it received wide attention.
New York Times' readers exulted. "Glory hallelujah," says the reader response voted most popular by other readers. "I am not a Catholic but I believe Pope Francis is a true disciple of Christ," reads the second most popular response. "I wholly support Pope Francis' crusade against greed and exploitation… and hate-inspired exclusionary policies," "I am CHEERING," "Pope Francis … is the true moral leader of the world," read subsequent popular responses.
The Economist calls the article "startling." In Commonweal, author and theology professor Massimo Faggioli calls "An Ecumenism of Hate" a "must-read," because, inter alia, it shines a light on Vatican response to "Trump's Islamophobic remarks and advocacy for the deportation of undocumented immigrants." Trump voters and their ilk, Faggioli writes, are responsible for "new barriers … between Christianity and Islam."
Luis Badilla, editor of a popular Italian Catholic website, Il Sismografo, asks why Rome had to produce such an article. Why hadn't American bishops said, sooner and more emphatically, what the article said? American Catholic leaders were guilty of an "embarrassing silence."
There were some similar outpourings of joy at the Civilta Cattolica site. "My Muslim friends say that Francis is the one man on earth who is uncorrupted and can speak the truth. They love him," writes one reader.
John L. Allen writes in Crux that Spadaro and Figueroa "clearly reflect the kind of views held by the pontiff." Trump supporters hated the article, and Trump critics loved the article, Allen writes: "immediate reaction here mostly broke down along pro- or anti-Trump lines. If you're inclined to give the president a break, you probably hated the article, and vice-versa." The article deserves attention, Allen writes, because it breaks precedent. "This is not just business as usual. It's rare for a Vatican media outlet, even one that's only semi-official, to comment directly on the politics of another nation, especially in a fashion that can't help but be seen as fairly partisan."
I am a proud and lifelong Catholic, author of a book defending my faith. I am not a Trump supporter. Reading Spadaro and Figueroa's reflection of my pope's thinking about my country and my fellow citizens enrages and disgusts me, and tempts me to despair. The article epitomizes the ignorant, arrogant liberal stance that got Trump elected in the first place. Spadaro and Figueroa, and, by extension, Pope Francis, have, in this article, not only failed to meet the challenge presented by the Trump phenomenon, they have taken giant steps in the wrong direction.
"The Ecumenism of Hate" exhibits the intellectual level of a gaggle of scruffy, slightly tipsy graduate students randomly spinning the Google wheel in a futile attempt to support their wobbly positions. Spadaro and Figueroa make sweeping generalizations about what Americans think and how Americans behave, and they cite not one single peer-reviewed social science article or respectable poll. Spadaro is an Italian who has lived in Italy most of his life. His degrees are in theology, and he writes about literature and art. Figueroa is an Argentinian Presbyterian pastor and theologian. What formal education or life experience qualifies these two men to fabricate a hostile, strawman depiction of their boogeymen of choice, Trump supporters, and also, as the authors themselves specify in their bigoted little screed, "whites from the deep American South"?
Spadaro and Figueroa remind me much of Michelle Goldberg's 2006 book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. Goldberg works hard to associate American Christians with Nazis, through her black, white, and red cover photo of sieg heiling Christians to her saying that reasonable people must "Keep a bag packed and your passport current," so that you can escape the US once the evil Christians take over. Goldberg also waved the dreaded flag of Rushdoony. Goldberg diagnosed of one attorney, presumably an educated man, "whether he knew it or not" Rushdoony had "shaped his thinking."
Spadaro and Figueroa claim that Trump supporters work "to maintain conflict levels." I'd like to hear from Spadaro and Figueroa what, exactly, the fourteen innocents who died at the San Bernardino Christmas Party did to "maintain conflict levels" with their Muslim killers. Spadaro and Figueroa, please tell me what eight-year-old Catholic schoolboy Martin Richard did to "maintain conflict levels." His little body was ripped to shreds by the Tsarnaev brothers' pressure cooker bomb at the Boston Marathon.
In his interview with America magazine, Spadaro specifically identifies Pope Francis as deputizing himself to cleanse the good name of Islam. Francis, he says, "gives no theological-political legitimacy to … any reduction of Islam to Islamic terrorism." In other words, if Francis says jihad is not Islamic, suddenly jihad will stop being Islamic. When a non-Muslim says that jihad is not Islamic, it is "like a pig covered in feces giving hygiene advice," one ISIS member tweeted.
John L. Allen says that Trump supporters would not like the Spadaro and Figueroa article, and Trump critics would like it. I am a Catholic, and I am a Trump critic. I have debated every flashpoint that Spadaro and Figueroa highlight, from abortion to welfare, from jihad to homeschooling. I have never felt any temptation to take the route that Spadaro and Figueroa take. I have never felt any temptation to compare Trump voters to ISIS or to single out "whites from the deep American South" as being somehow uniquely evil actors on the world stage. In taking this high-profile and papally approved stance, Spadaro, Figueroa, and their supporters are not weakening Trump, they are strengthening him. And they are walking backwards from the teachings of Jesus Christ.
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