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TBR News March 30, 2018

Mar 30 2018

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. March 30, 2018:” The Internet is a wonderful thing; a highway for information and a great source of reference material. It is also, obviously, a breeding ground for eccentrics and outright lunatics of every stripe.

The so-called blogs are little better than private group therapy sessions for the frustrated, lonely and self-important and much of the alleged news being disseminated by them belongs, clearly, in a psychiatric journal or on a public lavatory wall, not a public forum.

In the dictionary meaning of ‘conspiracy theory’… every ‘explanation’ put forth (for an event in which more than one person is involved) is a ‘conspiracy theory’.  Also, every ‘explanation’ will remain to be a theory until every significant point has been proved to be absolute truth.

Only then should one consider changing the label from theory to explanation.  Alternative explanations which have not been proven to be impossible explanations… are not necessarily invalid theories.

Clearly the value of any particular conspiracy theory (e.g. its closeness to the truth) is directly related to how well it fits into the laws of the universe as we know them to be (e.g. nothing falls upward)… and what is unquestionably known to be true (e.g. something hit the Pentagon)

There are many ‘theories’ about the destruction of the WTC buildings.

The facts are simple: Commercial aircraft were hijacked by Muslim terrorists and crashed into the two buildings and another one crashed into the Pentagon. The WTC buildings were subject to intense fires which weakened the support beams, causing the upper floors to collapse downwards, destroying both buildings.

Stories about ‘plasmoid clouds’,’rockets,’ streets carpeted with aircraft parts that could not have come from commercial aircraft, Jewish moving van operators jumping up and down on top of their truck, US Army explosive experts rushing into the burning buildings to lay explosive charges are all interesting and very entertaining fantasies.

Not one of these “theories” has any more subjective value than a Grimm Brothers fairy tale. These stories make the round of the silly ‘blogs’ and are augmented with ‘authoritative reports’ of the atomic destruction of the city of Houston by evil Zionists.

All of these things are fantasy, designed to impress others with the self-importance of the reporter, have no basis in reality and are well worth a good satire.

One would think by now that the facts of the 9/11 attacks were well established. One would also think that the causes and effects of the Christmas Day SEA Tsunami would be equally established. Or that the increasing risk of serious hurricanes in the southeastern part of the United States is well-understood.

It has become a burgeoning industry to invent reasons and excuses for various events that have an absolute basis in provable fact.

French writers have claimed that ‘Soviet missiles’ struck the Pentagon.

They did not.

Other ‘experts’ claim that the WTC disaster was caused by: the Chinese Communists, ex-KGB personnel, the Illuminati, the CIA, the United States Army, the notorious Hidden Hand, East German scientists, renegade Albanian goat herders, the Boy Scouts, the gay community of Jacksonville, Florida, Satanists, trained lemurs, the Mossad, or the Mother Teresa Hate and Destruction Society of Hoboken, New Jersey.

It was not.

The same deluded people who eagerly find evil plots in such natural phenomenons as earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunami, terrorists, wildfires and chronic beach erosion also believe in the Return of Jesus, black helicopters, the Easter Bunny, the Bilderburgers, the Trilateral Commission, and the monumentally evil Skull and Bones society.

And we must not ignore the ‘M.V. Estonia’ which was sunk by Russian atomic bombs!

For aircraft incidence there are the 1955 bombing of the Kashmir Princess, the 1985 Arrow Air Flight 1285 crash, the 1986 Mozambican Tupolev Tu-134 crash, the 1937 Hindenberg disaster, the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, and the 1994 Mull of Kintyre helicopter crash.

In the 1960s, the John Birch Society asserted that a United Nations force would soon arrive in black helicopters to bring the U.S. under UN control.

And then there was the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in south-east Asia in March 2014 which prompted many conspiratorial theories. One theory suggests that this plane was hidden away and reintroduced as Flight MH17 later the same year in order to be shot down over Ukraine for political purposes

The Deepwater Horizon conspiracy theories pertain to a fatal oil-rig industrial accident in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, claiming alleged sabotage by those seeking to promote environmentalism, or a strike by North Korean or Russian submarines.

And in addition, there are stories about immense deposits of leaked oil reposing on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, waiting to rise up and flood western Florida beaches, killing inhabitants and their pets.

And fading slowly away is the belief that the Loch Ness monster surfaced in Lake Erie and destroyed a tour boat full of nuns.

The deaths of prominent figures of all types attract conspiracy theorists, including, for example, the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr., Sheikh Rahman, Yitzhak Rabin, George S. Patton,Jr., Princess Diana, Dag Hammarskjöld, President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln.

And some solemnly claim that Queen Elizabeth is actually a giant lizard or that huge cities have been discovered under the melting icecap in Antarctica.

The robbery-murder of Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich spawned several right-wing conspiracy theories, including the claim that Rich had been involved with the leaked DNC emails in 2016, which runs contrary to the U.S. intelligence’s conclusion the leaked DNC emails were part of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections

Some conspiracy theorists believe that Denver International Airport stands above an underground city which serves as a headquarters of the New World Order

There is a persistent theory that Israel uses animals to conduct espionage or to attack people.

A 2012  mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, prompted numerous conspiracy theories, among which is the claim that it was a manufactured event with the aim of promoting gun control.

And many believe that, in addition to faked moon-landing pictures, NASA is secretly planning to use holograms, lasers and electromagnetic waves to fool people into believing that God has appeared, which will permit the establishment of an evil global government.

And the latest example is the fictional ‘nerve gas poisoning’ of a Russian double-agent and his daughter in England.

Such people exist in all societies and in all times.

The ancient Greeks believed in the gods walking around Greece, fornicating with civilians and goats, the Egyptians believed in Sacred Snakes and Scientologists believe that poor, crazy (and fat) L. Ron Hubbard was God Incarnate.

At least once a week, some poor soul in Bad Seepage, Ohio, writes an email to me wanting me to publish a twenty page illiterate rant about how the CIA and the local YMCA are destroying her brain using ‘power waves’ from microwave transmission towers concealed in local church spires or one gentleman in Yuma, Arizona who wants me to alert the nation to the ‘absolute fact’ that an immense army of Chinese is poised at the northern Mexican border to invade America and has been waiting for forty-seven years.

All of these fantasies are attested to by non-existent ‘experts’ such as ‘Army Officers,’ ‘Famous Scientists’ or other ‘experts,’ none of whom can ever be located, probably because they are Imaginary Friends such as those small children speak with while playing in the sand box.

And it is well-known that as a child, George W. Bush was not allowed to play in his families sand box because when he did, the neighborhood cats tried to cover him up.”

Table of Contents

  • Jesus: Fact and Fiction
  • Fact: The Person of Jesus
  • Fiction: What is the historical evidence that Jesus Christ lived and died
  • Israel denies Easter travel permits to Gaza Christians
  • Netanyahu urges bill be passed to prevent Muslim call for prayers
  • “We Know Where Your Kids Live”: How John Bolton Once Threatened an International Official
  • Fox News: ads pulled from Laura Ingraham show for mocking Parkland survivor
  • Trump tells advisers he wants U.S. out of Syria: senior officials
  • At least 15 Palestinians killed in Land Day protests

 Jesus: Fact and Fiction

Fact: The Person of Jesus

by Karl Kautsky

from: “Foundations of Christianity”

 

          The Non-Christian Sources

 

Whatever one’s position may be with respect to Christianity, it certainly must be recognized as one of the most titanic phenomena in all human history. One can not resist a deep feeling of wonder when one thinks of the Christian Church, now over two thousand years old and still vigorous and more powerful than the governments of many countries. Anything that helps us to understand this colossal phenomenon, including the study of its origin, is of great and immediate practical significance, even though it takes us back thousands of years.

This makes researches into the beginnings of Christianity of far greater interest than any other historical question that goes back further than the last two hundred years; it also however makes finding the beginnings even more difficult than it would otherwise be.

The Christian Church has become a sovereign organization serving the needs either of its own rulers or those of other, secular rulers who have been able to gain control over it. Any one who opposes these rulers must oppose the church as well. The struggle about the church and the struggle against the church have become matters of dispute bound up with the most important economic interests. It thus becomes only too easy to abandon impartiality in historical studies of the church and this long ago led the ruling classes to interdict the study of the beginnings of Christianity and to ascribe to the church a divine nature, standing above and outside all human criticism.

The middle class Age of Reason in the eighteenth century finally succeeded in getting rid of this halo. For the first time, scientific study of the genesis of Christianity became possible. But it is remarkable how secular science avoided this field during the nineteenth century, acting as though it still belonged exclusively to the realm of theology. A whole series of historical works written by the most eminent middle class historians of the nineteenth century dealing with the Roman Empire quietly pass over the most important happening of the time, the rise of Christianity. For instance, in the fifth volume of his Roman History, Mommsen gives a very extensive account of the history of the Jews under the Caesars, and in so doing can not avoid mentioning Christianity occasionally; but it appears only as something already existing, something assumed to be already known. By and large only the theologians and their adversaries, the propagandists of free thought, have taken an interest in the beginnings of Christianity.

It need not necessarily have been cowardice that kept middle class historians from taking up the origin of Christianity; it could also have been the desire to write history and not polemics. The hopeless state of the sources out of which we have to get our information in this field must alone have frightened them off.

The traditional view sees Christianity as the creation of a single man, Jesus Christ. This view persists even today. It is true that Jesus, at least in “enlightened” and “educated” circles, is no longer considered a deity, but he still held to have been an extraordinary personality, who came to the fore with the intention of founding a new religion, and did so, with tremendous success. Liberal theologians hold this view, as so do radical free-thinkers; and the latter differ from the theologians only with respect to the criticism they make of Christ as a person, whom they seek to deprive of all the sublimity they can.

And yet, at the end of the eighteenth century the English historian Gibbon, in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (written between 1774 and 1788), had ironically pointed out how striking it is that none of Jesus’ contemporaries mentions him, although he is said to have accomplished such remarkable feats.

“But how shall we excuse the supine inattention of the Pagan and philosophic world to these evidences which were presented by the hand of Omnipotence, not to their reason, but to their senses? During the age of Christ, of his apostles, and of their first disciples, the doctrine which they preached was confirmed by innumerable prodigies. The lame walked, the blind saw, the sick were healed, the dead were raised, daemons were expelled, and the laws of Nature were frequently suspended for the benefit of the church. But the sages of Greece and Rome turned aside from the awful spectacle, and, pursuing the ordinary occupations of life and study, appeared unconscious of any alterations in the moral or physical government of the world.”

At Jesus’ death, according to the Christian tradition, the whole earth, or at least all of Palestine, was in darkness for three hours. This took place in the days of the elder Pliny, who devoted a special chapter of his Natural History to eclipses; but of this eclipse he says nothing. (Gibbon, Chapter 15).

But even if we leave miracles out of the accounts, it is hard to see how a personality like Jesus of the gospels, who according to them aroused such excitement in people’s minds, could carry on his work and finally die as a martyr for his cause and yet not have pagan and Jewish contemporaries devote a single word to him.

The first mention of Jesus by a non-Christian is found in the Jewish Antiquities of Flavius Josephus. The third chapter of book 18 deals with the procurator Pontius Pilate, and says among other things:

“About this time lived Jesus, a wise man, if he can be called human, for he worked miracles and was a teacher of men, who received the truth gladly; and he found many followers among Jews and Greeks. This was the Christ. Although later Pilate sentenced him to the cross on the complaint of the nobles of our people, those who had loved him remained true to him. For he appeared again to them on the third day, risen to new life, as the prophets of God had prophesied this and thousands of other wonderful things about him. From his comes the name of the Christians, whose sect (phylon) has continued to exist ever since.”

Josephus speaks of Christ again in the 20th book, chapter 9,1, where the high priest Ananus is said in the time of the procurator Albinus to have brought it about that:

“James. The brother of Jesus, said to be the Christ (tou legomenou christou), together with some others, was brought to court, accused as a breaker of the law and delivered over to be stoned to death.”

These pieces of evidence have always been highly prized by Christians; for they come from a non-Christian, a Jew and Pharisee, born in the year 37 of our era and living in Jerusalem, and so very well able to have authentic facts about Jesus. And his testimony was the more valuable in that as a Jew he had no reason to falsify on behalf of the Christians.

But it was precisely the exaggerated exaltation of Christ on the part of a pious Jew that made the first passage suspect, and quite early. Its authenticity was disputed even in the sixteenth century, and today it is agreed that it is forgery and does not stem from Josephus.  It was inserted in the third century by a Christian copyist, who obviously took offense at the fact that Josephus, who repeats the most trivial gossip from Palestine, says nothing at all about the person of Jesus. The pious Christian felt with justice that the absence of any such mention weighed against the existence or at least the significance of his Savior Now the discovery of his forgery has become testimony against Jesus.

But the passage concerning James is also dubious. It is true that Origen (185 to 254 AD) mentions testimony by Josephus concerning James; this occurs in his commentary on Matthew. He remarks that it is surprising that nonetheless Josephus did not believe in Jesus as the Christ. In his polemic against Celsius, Origen cites this statement of Josephus about James and again notes Josephus’ unbelief. These statements by Origen constitute one of the proofs that the striking passage about Jesus in which Josephus recognizes him as the Messiah, the Christ, could not have been in the original text of Josephus. It follows at once that the passage about James that Origen found in Josephus was also a Christian forgery. For this passage he cites runs quite differently from what we find in the manuscript of Josephus that has come down to us. In it the destruction of Jerusalem is said to be a punishment for the execution of James; but this fabrication is not found in the other manuscripts of Josephus. The passage as it occurs in the manuscripts of Josephus that have come down to us is not cited by Origen, while he mentions the other version three times on other occasions. And yet he carefully assembled all the testimony that could be got from Josephus that had value for the Christian faith. It would seem likely that the passage of Josephus about James that has come down to us is also fraudulent, and was first inserted by a pious Christian, to the greater glory of God some time after Origen, but before Eusebius, who cites the passage.

Like the mention of Jesus and James, the reference to John the Baptist in Josephus (Antiquities, XVIII, 5,2) is also suspect as an “interpolation.”

Thus Christian frauds had crept into Josephus as early as the end of the second century. His silence concerning the chief figures in the Gospels was too conspicuous, and required correction.

But even if the statement about James was genuine, it would prove at most that there was a Jesus, whom people called Christ, that is, the Messiah. It could not prove anything more.

“If the passage actually had to be ascribed to Josephus, all that critical theology would get from it would be the thread of a web that could catch a whole generation. There were so many would-be Christs at Josephus’ time and all the way deep into the second century, that in many of the cases we have only sketchy information left about them. There is a Judas of Galilee, a Theudas, a nameless Egyptian, a Samaritan, a Bar Kochba, – why should there not have been a Jesus among them as well? Jesus was a common Jewish personal name.”

The second passage of Josephus tells us at best that among the agitators in Palestine coming forward at that time as the Messiah, the Lord’s anointed, there was also a Jesus. We learn nothing at all about his life and work.

The next mention of Jesus by a non-Christian writer is found in the Annals of the Roman historian Tacitus, composed around the year 100. In the fifteenth book the conflagration of Rome under Nero is described, and chapter 44 says:

“In order to counteract the rumor (that blamed Nero for the fire} he brought forward as the guilty ones, men hated for their crimes and called Christians by the people; and punished them with the most exquisite torments. The founder of their name, Christ, was executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius; the superstition was thereby suppressed for the moment, but broke out again, not only in Judea, the land in which this evil originated, but in Rome itself, to which everything horrible or shameful streams from all sides and finds increase. First a few were taken, who made confessions; then on their indications an enormous throng, who were not accused directly of the crime of arson, but of hatred of humanity. There execution became a pastime; they were covered with the skins of wild beasts and then torn to pieces by dogs, or they were crucified, or prepared for burning and set on fire as soon as it was dark, prepared for burning and set on fire as soon as it was dark. Nero lent his gardens for this spectacle and arranged the circus games, in which he mingled among the crowd in the clothing of a charioteer or drove a chariot himself. Although these were criminals who deserved the severest punishment, sympathy arose for them as being sacrificed not so much for the general good but to satisfy the rage of an individual.”

This testimony is certainly not something falsified by Christians in their favor. However, its authenticity too is disputed, since Dio Cassius had known nothing of a persecution of Christians under Nero, although he lived a hundred years later than Tacitus. Suetonius, writing shortly after Tacitus, also speaks, in his biography of Nero, of a persecution of Christians, “men who had given themselves over to a new and evil superstition” (chapter 16).

But Suetonius tells us nothing at all about Jesus and Tacitus does not even hand down his name to us. Christ, the Greek work for “the anointed,” is merely the Greek translation of the Hebrew work “Messiah.” As to Christ’s work and the contents of his doctrine, Tacitus says nothing.

And that is all that we learn about Jesus from non-Christian sources of the first century of our era.

The Christian Sources

But do not the Christian sources gush forth all the more richly? Do we not have in the Gospels the most extensive descriptions of the teachings and deeds of Jesus?

It is true they are extensive; but as for credibility, there’s the issue. The example of the falsification of Josephus shows us a character trait of ancient Christian historians; their complete indifference to the truth. It was not the truth, but effectiveness, that they were interested in, and they were not too delicate in the choice of their means.

To be fair, it must be granted that they were not alone in their age. The Jewish religious literature had no higher standards, and the “heathen” mystical tendencies in the centuries preceding and following the beginning of our era were guilty of the same sins. Credulousness on the part of the public, sensationalism together with lack of confidence in their own powers, the need to cling to superhuman authority, lack of a sense of reality (qualities whose causes we shall soon come to learn), infected all literature at that time, and the more it left the ground of the traditional the more it was so infected. We shall find numerous proofs of this in the Christian and Jewish literature. But the same tendency appears in the mystical philosophy, which to be sure had an inner affinity to Christianity. We see this in the neo-Pythagoreans, a trend that began in the last century before our era, a mixture of Platonism and Stoicism, full of revelations and hungry for miracles, professing to be the doctrine of the old philosopher Pythagoras, who lived in the sixth century before our era- or before Christ, as they say- and of whom extremely little was known. That made it all the easier to attribute to him anything that needed the authority of a great name.

“The neo-Pythagoreans wanted to be considered faithful followers of the old Samian philosopher: in order to present their theories as the old Pythagorean ones, those countless forged documents were produced that put anything at all into the mouth of a Pythagoras or an Archytas, no matter how recent it was or how well known as stemming from Plato or Aristotle.”

We see exactly the same phenomenon in the early Christian literature, where it has produced such a chaos that for over a hundred years a series of the keenest minds have been working on it without getting very far in attaining any definitive results.

How the most discordant notions as to the origin of the early Christian writings still exist side by side can be shown by the case of the Revelation of St. John, an especially hard nut to crack anyway. Pfleiderer says of it in his book on Early Christianity, Its Writings and Doctrines:

“The book of Daniel was the oldest of such apocalypses and the model for the whole genus. Just as the key to the visions of Daniel was found in the events of the Jewish war under Antiochus Epiphanes, so the conclusion was correctly drawn that the apocalypse of John too must be explained by means of the conditions of its time. Now since the mystic number 666 in the eighteenth verse of the thirteenth chapter was interpreted almost simultaneously by various scholars (Benary, Hitzig and Reuss) as indicating the Emperor Nero in Hebrew letters, a comparison of chapters 13 and 17 led to the conclusion that Revelation was written soon after Nero’s death in 68. This long remained the dominant view, in particular in the old Tübingen school, which still assumed that the book was written by the Apostle John and thought it had the key to the whole book in the party battles between Judaists and Paulinists; this of course was not done without crass arbitrariness.”

It has been ascertained, with a reasonable degree of historical certainty that Revelations was not written by the Apostle John but by a certain John of Patmos, a Greek eccentric who certainly did not live during the stated lifetime of Jesus.

It is certain that almost none of the early Christian writings are by the authors whose names they bear; that most of them were written in later times than the dates given them; and that their original text was often distorted in the crudest way by later revisions and additions. Finally, it is certain that none of the Gospels or other early Christian writings comes from a contemporary of Jesus.

The so-called Gospel according to St. Mark is now regarded as the oldest of the gospels, but was not in any case composed before the destruction of Jerusalem, which the author has Jesus predict, which, in other words, had already happened when the author began to write. It was probably written not less than a half a century after the time assigned for the death of Jesus. What we see, therefore, is the product of a half a century of legend making.

Mark is followed by Luke, then by the so-called Matthew, and last of all by John, in the middle of the second century, at least a century after the birth of Christ. The further we get from the beginning, the more miraculous the gospel stories become. Mark tells of miracles, but they are puny ones compared to those that follow. Take the raising of the dead as an example. In Mark, Jesus is called to the bedside of Jairus’ daughter, who is at the point of death. Everyone thinks she is dead already, but Jesus says: “the damsel…but sleepeth,” reaches out his hand, and she arises (Mark Chapter 5).

In Luke it is the young man of Nain who is waked. He is so long dead that he is being borne to his grave as Jesus meets him. Then Jesus makes him rise from the bier (Luke Chapter 7).

That is not enough for John. In his eleventh chapter he shows us the raising of Lazarus, who has been in his grave for four days already is beginning to stink. That one tops all the others.

In addition, the evangelists were extremely ignorant people, who had thoroughly twisted ideas about many of the things they wrote of. Thus Luke has Joseph leave Nazereth with Mary on account of a census in the Roman Empire, and go to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born. But there was no such census under Augustus. Moreover, Judea became a Roman province only after the date given for the birth of Jesus. A census was held in the year 7 AD, but in the places where people lived, and thus did not require the trip to Bethelehem.  We shall have more to say on this topic.

The procedure of Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate is not in conformity either with Jewish or with Roman law. Thus even where the evangelists do not tell of miracles, they often relate what is false and impossible.

And what was concocted as “Gospel” in this fashion later suffered all sorts of alterations at the hands of “editors,” to the edification of the faithful.

For example, the best manuscripts of Mark close with the eighth verse of the sixteenth chapter, where the women seek the dead Jesus in the grave, but find a youth in a long white robe instead. Then they left the grave and “were afraid.”

What follows in the traditional editions was added later. It is impossible however that the work ended with this eighth verse. Renan already assumed that the remaining portion had been stricken out in the interests of the good cause, since it contained an account that seemed obnoxious to later views.

From another angle Pfleiderer, after intensive studies, came to the conclusion, as did others, “that the Gospel of Luke said nothing of the supernatural conception of Jesus, that this story came up only later and was then inserted into the text by adding the verse I, 34 ff.

In view of all this it is no wonder that by the first decades of the nineteenth century many scholars had already recognized the complete uselessness of the gospels as sources for the history of Jesus, and Bruno Bauer could even go so far as to deny the existence of Jesus altogether. It is understandable nevertheless that the theologians cannot dispense with the gospels, and even the liberals among them do all they can to maintain their authority. For what is left of Christianity if the person of Christ is given up?

The gospels were not historical works anyway; they were not written to report how things happened, but were works of edification.

“Accordingly they are not useless as historical sources, especially since their purpose is not borrowed from outside, but coincides in part with the views of Jesus.”

But all we know of these views is what the gospels tell us! Harnack’s whole argument for the credibility of the gospels as sources for the person of Jesus only proves how impossible it is to offer anything solid and penetrating in that direction.

Later in his essay Harnack is compelled to abandon everything that the gospels say of Jesus’ first thirty years as unhistorical, as well as everything regarding the following years that can be proved to be impossible or invented. But he would like to save the rest as historical fact. He thinks we still have left “a vivid picture of Jesus’ teaching, the end of his life and the impression he made on his disciples.”

But how does Harnack know that Jesus’ teaching is so faithfully reported in the gospels? The theologians are more skeptical about the reproductions of other teachings at the time. Harnack’s colleague Pfleiderer says in his book on early Christianity:

“It does not really make sense to argue over the historical reliability of these and other sermons in the apostolic history; we need only think of all the conditions required for a literally exact, or even an approximately correct, transmission of such a sermon: it would had to be written down immediately by an auditor (properly speaking, it should be stenographic), and these records of the various sermons would have to be preserved for more than half a century in circles of hearers who were for the most part Jews and heathen and indifferent or hostile to what they had heard, and finally collected by the historian from the most scattered points! Any one who has realized how impossible all these things are will know once and for all what to think of all these sermons; that is, in the stories of the apostles as in all the secular historians of antiquity these speeches are free compositions, in which the author has his heroes speak in the way that he himself thinks they could have spoken in the given situation.”

This is entirely correct but why should not all this apply to the sermons of Jesus too?  These were still further in the past for the authors of the gospels than the sermons in the gospels ascribed to the apostles? Why should Jesus’ sermons in the gospels be anything more than speeches that the authors of the reports wished Jesus had made? Actually, we find all sorts of contradictions in the sermons that have come down to us, for example both rebellious and submissive speeches, which can only be explained by the fact that divergent tendencies existed among the Christians, each group composing and handing down speeches for Christ in accordance with its own requirements. How free and easy the evangelists were in such matters can be seen from an example. Compare the Sermon on the Mount in Luke and in Matthew, which is later. In the first it is still a glorification of the poor and a damning of the rich. By Matthew’s time this had become a touchy subject for many Christians and the Gospel according to Matthew baldly turns the poor who are blessed into the poor of spirit, and leaves the damning of the rich out altogether.

That is the sort of manipulation that went on with sermons that had already been written down; and then we are asked to believe that sermons that Jesus is said to have given a half a century before they were written down are faithfully reported in the gospels! It is clearly impossible to keep the words of a speech straight merely by oral tradition for fifty years. Anyone who writes down such a speech at the end of such an interval shows thereby that he feels justified in writing down what suits him, or that he is credulous enough to take at face value everything he hears.

What is more, it can be shown that many of Jesus’ sayings do not originate with him, but were in circulation previously.

For instance, the Lord’s Prayer is regarded as a specific product of Jesus. But Pfleiderer shows that an Aramaic Kaddish prayer going far back into antiquity ended with the words: “Exalted and blessed be His great name in the world He created according to His will. May he set up His kingdom in your lifetime and the lifetime of the whole house of Israel.”

As we see, the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer is an imitation.

But if nothing is left of Jesus’ sermons, nothing left of the story of his youth, certainly nothing left of his miracles, then what is left of the gospels altogether?

According to Harnack there is left the impression Jesus made on his disciples, and the story of his Passion. But the gospels were not written by the disciples of Christ, they do not reflect the impression made by the person of Christ on the members of the Christian community. Even the strongest impression does not testify to the historical truth of any story. The story of an imaginary person is capable of producing the deepest impression on society, if historical conditions for it are present.

In Judaism, and precisely in the centuries directly before and after Jesus, fictitious personalities had tremendous influence when the deeds and doctrines attributed to them corresponded to the deeply felt needs of the Jewish people. This is shown by example by the figure of the prophet Daniel, of whom the book of Daniel reports that he lived under Nebuchadnezzar, Darius and Cyrus, that is in the sixth century BC, worked the greatest of miracles and made prophecies that were fulfilled later in the most amazing way, ending with the prediction that great afflictions would come to Judaism, out of which a savior would rescue them and raise them to new glory. This Daniel never lived; the book dealing with him was written about 165, at the time of the Maccabean uprising; and it is no wonder that all the prophecies that the prophet ostensibly made in the sixth century were so strikingly confirmed up to that year, and convinced the pious reader that the final prediction of so infallible a prophet must come to pass without fail. The whole thing is a bold fabrication and yet had the greatest effect: the belief in the Messiah, the belief in a Savior to come, got its strongest sustenance from it, and it became the model for all future prophecies of a Messiah. The book of Daniel also shows, however, how casually fraud was practiced in pious circles when it was a question of attaining an end. The effect produced by the figure of Jesus is therefore no proof at all of its historical accuracy.

Hence the only thing left of what Harnack thought could still be rescued from the gospels as an historical nucleus is the Passion of Christ. But this is so filled with miracles from beginning to end, up to the Resurrection and Ascension, that even here it is virtually impossible to get any kind of reliable historical nucleus. We shall look further into the credibility of this story of the Passion later on.

Matters are in no better shape with the rest of early Christian literature. Everything that ostensibly comes from contemporaries of Jesus, as from his apostles for instance, is known to be spurious, at least in the sense that it a production of some later time.

And as for the letters that are attributed to the apostle Paul, there is not one whose authenticity is not in dispute, and many of them have been shown by historical criticism to be altogether false. The baldest of these forgeries is the second letter to the Thessalonians. In this counterfeit letter the author, using the name of Paul, warns: “That ye be not shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us” (2,2). And at the end the forger adds:  “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.” It was just these words that betrayed the forger.

A number of other letters of Paul are perhaps the earliest literary evidence of Christianity. About Jesus however they tell us virtually nothing, except that he was crucified and rose again.

It will not be necessary to go into details as to what to think about the Resurrection. In a word, there is hardly anything left in the Christian literature that can be said to be a solidly established fact about Jesus.

 

Fiction: What is the historical evidence that Jesus Christ lived and died?

Today some claim that Jesus is just an idea, rather than a real historical figure, but there is a good deal of written evidence for his existence 2,000 years ago

April 14, 2017

by Dr Simon Gathercole

The Guardian

How confident can we be that Jesus Christ actually lived?

The historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth is both long-established and widespread. Within a few decades of his supposed lifetime, he is mentioned by Jewish and Roman historians, as well as by dozens of Christian writings. Compare that with, for example, King Arthur, who supposedly lived around AD500. The major historical source for events of that time does not even mention Arthur, and he is first referred to 300 or 400 years after he is supposed to have lived. The evidence for Jesus is not limited to later folklore, as are accounts of Arthur.

What do Christian writings tell us?

The value of this evidence is that it is both early and detailed. The first Christian writings to talk about Jesus are the epistles of St Paul, and scholars agree that the earliest of these letters were written within 25 years of Jesus’s death at the very latest, while the detailed biographical accounts of Jesus in the New Testament gospels date from around 40 years after he died. These all appeared within the lifetimes of numerous eyewitnesses, and provide descriptions that comport with the culture and geography of first-century Palestine. It is also difficult to imagine why Christian writers would invent such a thoroughly Jewish saviour figure in a time and place – under the aegis of the Roman empire – where there was strong suspicion of Judaism.

What did non-Christian authors say about Jesus?

As far as we know, the first author outside the church to mention Jesus is the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who wrote a history of Judaism around AD93. He has two references to Jesus. One of these is controversial because it is thought to be corrupted by Christian scribes (probably turning Josephus’s negative account into a more positive one), but the other is not suspicious – a reference to James, the brother of “Jesus, the so-called Christ”.

About 20 years after Josephus we have the Roman politicians Pliny and Tacitus, who held some of the highest offices of state at the beginning of the second century AD. From Tacitus we learn that Jesus was executed while Pontius Pilate was the Roman prefect in charge of Judaea (AD26-36) and Tiberius was emperor (AD14-37) – reports that fit with the timeframe of the gospels. Pliny contributes the information that, where he was governor in northern Turkey, Christians worshipped Christ as a god. Neither of them liked Christians – Pliny writes of their “pig-headed obstinacy” and Tacitus calls their religion a destructive superstition.

Did ancient writers discuss the existence of Jesus?

Strikingly, there was never any debate in the ancient world about whether Jesus of Nazareth was a historical figure. In the earliest literature of the Jewish Rabbis, Jesus was denounced as the illegitimate child of Mary and a sorcerer. Among pagans, the satirist Lucian and philosopher Celsus dismissed Jesus as a scoundrel, but we know of no one in the ancient world who questioned whether Jesus lived.

How controversial is the existence of Jesus now?

In a recent book, the French philosopher Michel Onfray talks of Jesus as a mere hypothesis, his existence as an idea rather than as a historical figure. About 10 years ago, The Jesus Project was set up in the US; one of its main questions for discussion was that of whether or not Jesus existed. Some authors have even argued that Jesus of Nazareth was doubly non-existent, contending that both Jesus and Nazareth are Christian inventions. It is worth noting, though, that the two mainstream historians who have written most against these hypersceptical arguments are atheists: Maurice Casey (formerly of Nottingham University) and Bart Ehrman (University of North Carolina). They have issued stinging criticisms of the “Jesus-myth” approach, branding it pseudo-scholarship. Nevertheless, a recent survey discovered that 40% of adults in England did not believe that Jesus was a real historical figure.

Is there any archaeological evidence for Jesus?

Part of the popular confusion around the historicity of Jesus may be caused by peculiar archaeological arguments raised in relation to him. Recently there have been claims that Jesus was a great-grandson of Cleopatra, complete with ancient coins allegedly showing Jesus wearing his crown of thorns. In some circles, there is still interest in the Shroud of Turin, supposedly Jesus’s burial shroud. Pope Benedict XVI stated that it was something that “no human artistry was capable of producing” and an “icon of Holy Saturday”.

It is hard to find historians who regard this material as serious archaeological data, however. The documents produced by Christian, Jewish and Roman writers form the most significant evidence.

These abundant historical references leave us with little reasonable doubt that Jesus lived and died. The more interesting question – which goes beyond history and objective fact – is whether Jesus died and lived.

 

Israel denies Easter travel permits to Gaza Christians

On Good Friday, hundreds of pilgrims retraced the last journey of Jesus in the Old City of Jerusalem. Many Christians in Gaza, however, are still waiting for permits to take part in the Easter festivities.

March 30, 2018

by Tania Krämer

DW

Under a gray and rainy sky, Palestinian Christians and visitors from all over the world gathered in Jerusalem for the Old City’s traditional Good Friday procession, which departs on the Via Dolorosa and retraces the route that Jesus is believed to have taken to his Crucifixion. The path goes through the Old City and ends at the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is believed to have been buried. “We are Christians from India, and it is very hard to comprehend that Jesus, the Son of God, touched earth,” said one of the visitors, a woman named Iola. “And these were the places where his feet touched and he walked, and actually to be there, on the day of his Crucifixion, it is very moving.”

This year, the Jewish Passover holiday also begins on Good Friday and runs for a week. Security is tight, with Israeli police and border guards posted every few meters along the route. Palestinian residents of Jerusalem tried to go about their daily lives, as did Muslim worshippers on their way to Friday’s noon prayers. Even some of the visitors were frustrated by the closures of certain streets. But most patiently took in the atmosphere. “We want to get the whole Holy Land experience: We want to experience where Jesus walked,” said Amanda Cummings, an American who lives in Germany. “It is very different here culturally, the way they celebrate Easter, but it is very nice and a much bigger celebration.”

Missing this year are Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, home to about 1,000 Christians, most of them members of the Greek Orthodox Church. Shortly before the start of Easter celebrations, they were still waiting for permits to leave the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem or the West Bank. Gaza is tightly closed off by Israel, and people’s movement is severely restricted for security reasons. “Somehow we are still waiting, although it doesn’t look as if we get a permit this time,” said Mazen, a Christian who spoke on the condition that his real name not be used because he still hoped to receive a permit in time for next week’s Orthodox Easter celebrations, when more Christians from all over the world are expected to attend the ceremony of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

‘A sovereign state’

For many Christians in Gaza, Easter is a time to visit relatives who live in Jerusalem or in the occupied West Bank, as Israel usually eases the travel restrictions for that period of time. “My daughter lives an hour away from us, in the West Bank,” said a woman who declined to give her name. “One needs to apply for a permit from the Israeli authorities to exit, and wanting to see each other just for the sake of it is not a reason to receive a permit.”

The woman’s husband held a mobile phone in his hand, and their daughter, who was following the conversation via Skype, added that “I really hope they get a permit this year so we can celebrate Easter together like any other family.” Previously permitted to leave, the young woman had stayed in the West Bank and gotten married; Israeli authorities consider her to be residing there “illegally.”

In March, Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the civil-military authority that is responsible for Gaza and the West Bank, announced that it would not allow any exits unless Palestinians who had previously overstayed their permits to travel returned to Gaza. “Israel is a sovereign state, and it has the right to decide who will enter its gates,” a COGAT spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the country promotes freedom of worship.

For residents denied travel, however, the situation is not so cut-and-dried. “As a young person, Gaza has nothing to offer,” the woman’s father said. “They don’t find jobs. They don’t feel they have a future here anymore. It is difficult.” One in two people younger than 30 cannot find jobs, and overall unemployment is nearly as high, at over 42 percent. In addition, it is also difficult to find suitable partners in the ever-shrinking Christian community in Gaza. And many simply that family celebrations and worship should not require a permit. “We don’t ask to stay in Israel,” the man said. “We want to visit Bethlehem or Ramallah, the West Bank. We want to celebrate Easter. And still we need to ask for a permit.”

Earlier this week, the authorities said they would allow Christians aged 55 and older to enter Israel. On Friday, there were reports that children younger than 16 might be permitted to travel, as well, but by the end of the day it remained unclear how many Christians had been allowed to leave the Gaza Strip to celebrate Easter with their brethren.

“It is sad,” said Wadie Abunassar, an official with the Catholic Church in Jerusalem. “We are families, which can’t be separated. These feasts are not a honeymoon: These feasts are an occasion for families to celebrate together.”

 

Netanyahu urges bill be passed to prevent Muslim call for prayers

March 29, 2018

Middle East Monitor

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday asked the chairman of the government coalition to push the “Muezzen Bill”, which outlaws the Muslim call for prayer – athan, to get Knesset approval, Arab48 reported.

The bill was shelved for about a year after it passed an initial reading in the Knesset. Analysts expected the renewal of the proposal to lead to a new coalition crisis as the bill is opposed by the ultra-orthodox Jewish parties.

The bill initially banned Muslims from using loudspeakers at mosques to call for prayer, it was later modified to include the use of loudspeakers from 11pm to 7am in an effort to appease ultra-orthodox Jews who were worried it would hinder their religious rites.

Violators of the ban would be fined 10,000 shekels ($3,000).

 

“We Know Where Your Kids Live”: How John Bolton Once Threatened an International Official

March 29 2018

by Mehdi Hasan

The Intercept

Who better to advise the bully-in-chief, Donald Trump, on when to make war and kill people than another bully? It’s difficult, after all, to avoid the label — that of a bully — when thinking of John Bolton, the former Bush administration official-turned-Fox News pundit who Trump recently picked as his national security adviser.

“John Bolton is a bully,” José Bustani, the retired Brazilian diplomat and former head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, told me when I reached him by phone in Paris earlier this month.

There are a number of people who claim to have been bullied or intimidated by Bolton — including Bustani. The latter’s criticisms of the famously mustachioed hawk have been public for many years now, but some of the details of his tense encounter with Bolton at the OPCW have never been reported before in English.

In early 2002, a year before the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration was putting intense pressure on Bustani to quit as director-general of the OPCW — despite the fact that he had been unanimously re-elected to head the 145-nation body just two years earlier. His transgression? Negotiating with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to allow OPCW weapons inspectors to make unannounced visits to that country — thereby undermining Washington’s rationale for regime change.

In 2001, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell had penned a letter to Bustani, thanking him for his “very impressive” work. By March 2002, however, Bolton — then serving as under secretary of state for Arms Control and International Security Affairs — arrived in person at the OPCW headquarters in the Hague to issue a warning to the organization’s chief. And, according to Bustani, Bolton didn’t mince words. “Cheney wants you out,” Bustani recalled Bolton saying, referring to the then-vice president of the United States. “We can’t accept your management style.”

Bolton continued, according to Bustani’s recollections: “You have 24 hours to leave the organization, and if you don’t comply with this decision by Washington, we have ways to retaliate against you.”

There was a pause.

“We know where your kids live. You have two sons in New York.”

Bustani told me he was taken aback but refused to back down. “My family is aware of the situation, and we are prepared to live with the consequences of my decision,” he replied.

After hearing Bustani’s description of the encounter, I reached out to his son-in-law, Stewart Wood, a British politician and former adviser to Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Wood told me that he vividly remembers Bustani telling him about Bolton’s implicit threat to their family immediately after the meeting in the Hague. “It instantly became an internal family meme,” Wood recalled. Two former OPCW colleagues of Bustani, Bob Rigg and Mikhail Berdennikov, have also since confirmed via email that they remember their then-boss telling them at the time about Bolton’s not-so-subtle remark about his kids.

Another former OPCW official, then-Special Assistant to the Director-General for External Relations Gordon Vachon, who was in the room for the meeting with Bolton, has confirmed that the Bush administration official implicitly threatened Bustani. The OPCW chief “could go quietly, with little fuss and restraint on all sides and ‘without dragging your name through the mud,’” Vachon recalled Bolton saying, in an email to The Intercept. “I cannot say from memory that I heard Mr. Bolton mention DG Bustani’s children, probably because I was reeling from Mr. Bolton’s thinly-veiled threat to DG Bustani’s reputation.”

I reached out to John Bolton and the White House for a response to these allegations. Rather than issue an outright denial, the White House responded via a press spokesperson that referred me to a section of his 2008 memoir, “Surrender is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations,” which deals with Bustani and the OPCW. In the book, Bolton said the U.S. viewed Bustani as a “management disaster” (without mentioning Powell’s praise), but claims to have offered him “a gracious and dignified exit” — if, that is, he went quietly.

To call Bolton’s rhetoric undiplomatic is an understatement. He visited Bustani in his capacity as a top U.S. State Department official, yet his behavior was more thuggish. How on earth can a senior diplomat, representing a democratic government, justify implicitly threatening the children of an international official in order to win a political argument? How is such a person now fit to hold the office of national security adviser — the most senior position in the U.S. government that doesn’t require an election win or Senate confirmation?

“The problem with this man is that he’s so ideological, so brutal; he doesn’t open the door to dialogue,” the former OPCW chief told me on the phone. “I don’t know how people can work for him.”

Bolton’s history of bullying, in fact, is well-documented. Carl W. Ford Jr, the State Department’s former intelligence chief, called Bolton “a serial abuser” of junior employees and “a quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy.” Testifying before the Senate in 2005, Ford discussed the case of Christian Westermann, the former chief bioweapons analyst at the State Department who had refused to sign off on a speech accusing Cuba of possessing a secret bioweapons program and had been “berated” by Bolton, who “then tried to have him fired.”

Melody Townsel, a former U.S. Agency for International Development contractor, said she was harassed by the short-tempered Bolton, then a lawyer in the private sector, on a visit to Kyrgyzstan in 1994: “Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel — throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and, generally, behaving like a madman,” she later recalled, in a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

According to Time magazine, his former boss Colin Powell privately warned Republican senators in 2005, during the confirmation hearings for Bolton’s controversial nomination as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, that “he had been troubled by the way Bolton had treated subordinates who did not agree with him.”

Yet the big problem is that Bolton — the “madman,” the “serial abuser,” the “bully” — happens to also be pretty effective at getting things done. This is perhaps what makes him so dangerous. Take the case of Bustani and the OPCW: Bolton succeeded in having the Brazilian removed from his post. Only a few weeks after the U.S. official’s visit to the Hague, the OPCW chief was “pushed out of office” in an extraordinary meeting of the organization’s member countries (and in a decision, incidentally, that an administrative tribunal of the International Labour Organization would later call “unlawful”).

Bolton himself proudly recalled in his memoir how then-Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., criticized his views while praising his abilities during the 2001 congressional hearings to confirm him as under secretary of state. “My problem with you, over the years, has been, you’re too competent,” Biden remarked, according to Bolton. “I mean, I would rather you be stupid and not very effective.

Now, therefore, is the time to panic; now is the moment to sound the alarm. The bullies have come together. The “ideological” and “brutal” Bolton is about to be given a desk a few feet away from the Oval Office. As national security adviser, he’ll be the first one in the room and the last one out. “Trump is utterly ignorant of the world, prone to making impulsive decisions, and tends to defer to the most forceful voice in the room, especially when it conveys information with confident bluster,” observed Damon Linker in the The Week. “That would give Bolton enormous power to shape policy — which means the power to get the United States to launch big new wars as well as expand the numerous ones we’re already waging across wide swaths of the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia.”

Is it any wonder, then, that Bustani — who did so much to prevent the threat of conflict and the proliferation of chemical weapons before being ousted by Bolton — believes the latter’s appointment as Trump’s national security adviser could spell “disaster” for the world?

 

Fox News: ads pulled from Laura Ingraham show for mocking Parkland survivor

Student David Hogg tweeted list urging 12 advertisers to pull out of presenter’s show

March 29, 2018

The Guardian

At least five companies said they were dropping advertisements from Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show after the conservative pundit mocked a teenage survivor of the Florida school massacre on Twitter and he responded with a call for a boycott.

Parkland student David Hogg, 17, tweeted a list of a dozen companies that advertise on The Ingraham Angle and urged his supporters to demand they cancel their ads.

Hogg is a survivor of the 14 February mass shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in the Parkland suburb of Fort Lauderdale. He and other classmates have become the faces of a new youth-led movement calling for tighter restrictions on firearms.

Hogg took aim at Ingraham’s advertisers after she taunted him on Twitter, accusing him of whining about being rejected by four colleges to which he had applied.

On Thursday, Ingraham tweeted an apology “in the spirit of Holy Week”, saying she was sorry for any hurt or upset she caused Hogg or any of the “brave victims” of Parkland.

“For the record, I believe my show was the first to feature David … immediately after that horrific shooting and even noted how ‘poised’ he was given the tragedy,” Ingraham tweeted.

But her apology did not stop companies from departing.

Nutrish, the pet food line created by celebrity chef Rachael Ray, travel website TripAdvisor, online home furnishings seller Wayfair, the world’s largest packaged food company Nestle and travel website Expedia all said they were cancelling their advertisements.

Wayfair said in a statement it supports dialogue and debate but “the decision of an adult to personally criticise a high school student who has lost his classmates in an unspeakable tragedy is not consistent with our values.”

Responding to public pressure, Nestle wrote on Twitter that it had “no plans to buy ads on the show in future.”

CNBC cited a TripAdvisor spokesman as saying the company does not condone “inappropriate comments” by Ingraham that “cross the line of decency”.

Hogg wrote on Twitter that an apology just to mollify advertisers was insufficient. He said he would accept it only if Ingraham denounced the way Fox News treated him and his friends.

“It’s time to love thy neighbor, not mudsling at children,” Hogg tweeted.

 

Trump tells advisers he wants U.S. out of Syria: senior officials

March 30, 2018

by Steve Holland

Reuters

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – President Donald Trump is telling advisers he wants an early exit of U.S. troops from Syria, two senior administration officials said on Friday, a stance that may put him at odds with many top U.S. officials.

Trump is spending Easter weekend at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate. During a speech in Richfield, Ohio on Thursday, he revealed his desire to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and turn over security to regional countries.

He said that based on allied victories against Islamic State militants, “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon.”

“Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon, very soon, we’re coming out,” Trump said. “We’re going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be.”

The administration officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Trump’s comment during the speech reflected internal deliberations with advisers in which he has wondered aloud why U.S. forces should remain with the militants on their heels.

Trump has made clear that “once ISIS and its remnants are destroyed that the United States would be looking toward having countries in the region playing a larger role in ensuring security and leaving it at that,” one official said.

Such a policy is nowhere near complete, however, the official added.

The second official said Trump’s national security advisers have told him U.S. forces should stay in small numbers for at least a couple of years to make sure gains against the militants are held and ensure Syria does not essentially become a permanent Iranian base.

Top national security aides discussed Syria in a White House meeting recently but have yet to settle on a strategy for U.S. forces in Syria to recommend to Trump going forward, the official said.

“So far he has not given an order to just get out,” the official said.About 2,000 U.S. troops are deployed in Syria.

An American service member was among two people killed on Thursday by improvised explosive device in Syria, two U.S. officials told Reuters.

Four officials at the State and Defense Departments and the CIA said on Friday they were surprised by Trump’s Syria remarks, which one senior intelligence official said “appeared to be completely off the cuff.”

They added, speaking on the condition of anonymity, that Trump’s comments also appear to be part of a pattern that includes questioning the U.S. commitment to Article 5 of the NATO Charter and suggesting the Pentagon will pay for a border wall with Mexico, positions that many or most national security officials opposed.

Trump last year went through a similar wrenching debate over whether to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan, ultimately agreeing to keep them there but only after repeatedly raising questions of why they should stay.

Trump’s view on Syria may put him at odds with those of former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, named by Trump a week ago to replace H.R. McMaster as White House national security adviser.”The caliphate in Syria & Iraq is gone, but #ISIS’s terrorist activities will continue and #Iran is becoming a bigger player in the region,” Bolton tweeted last Oct. 20 when he was a national security analyst.

Reporting By Steve Holland and John Walcott; Editing by David Gregorio

 

At least 15 Palestinians killed in Land Day protests

More than 1,400 others wounded by Israeli forces during march calling for return of Palestinian refugees to their lands.

March 30, 2018

AlJazeera

At least 15 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,400 others wounded by Israeli forces as thousands marched near Gaza’s border with Israel in a major demonstration marking the 42nd anniversary of Land Day.

Mohammed Najjar, 25, was shot in the stomach in a clash east of Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, while Mahmoud Muammar, 38, and Mohammed Abu Omar, 22, were both shot dead in Rafah, the Palestinian health ministry said in a statement on Friday.

The other 11 victims were identified as Ahmed Odeh, 19, Jihad Freneh, 33, Mahmoud Saadi Rahmi, 33, Abdelfattah Abdelnabi, 22, Ibrahim Abu Shaar, 20, Abdelqader al-Hawajiri, Sari Abu Odeh, Hamdan Abu Amsheh, Jihad Abu Jamous, Bader al-Sabbagh and Naji Abu Hjair, whose ages remain unknown.

Earlier on Friday, Omar Waheed Abu Samour, a farmer from Gaza, was also killed by Israeli artillery fire while standing in his land near Khan Younis, just hours before the demonstrations.

There has been no confirmation from the Israeli army of the attack that killed Samour.

More than 1,400 others were also wounded after Israeli forces fired live ammunition at protesters and used tear gas to push them back from a heavily fortified fence, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

According to the ministry, the majority were injured in live fire, rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas inhalation.

Protesters in Gaza gathered in five different spots along the border, originally positioned about 700 metres away from the fence.

In response to the killings, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared Saturday, March 31, a day of national mourning.

Adalah, a legal centre for Palestinian rights in Israel, condemned the Israeli army’s use of force, calling it a violation of international law.

“Live gunfire on unarmed civilians constitutes a brutal violation of the international legal obligation to distinguish between civilians and combatants,” the group said in a statement.

It also said that it would launch an investigation to “demand that those found responsible for the killings be brought to justice”.

Land Day

Friday’s demonstration commemorates Land Day, which marks the day – March 30, 1976 – when six unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli forces during protests against the Israeli government’s decision to expropriate massive tracts of Palestinian land.

According to Israeli media, Israel’s army deployed more than 100 snipers on the other side of the border with permission to fire.

The march was called for by all political factions and several Palestinian civil society organisations in the besieged enclave.

Protesters said the main message of the march was to call for the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Some 70 percent of Gaza’s two million population are descendants of Palestinians who were driven from their homes in the territories taken over by Israel during the 1948 war, known to Arabs as the Nakba.

Speaking to the protesters, Hamas leader Ismail Haniya said: “The Palestinian people have proved time after time that they can take the initiative and do great things. This march is the beginning of the return to all of Palestine.”

Friday’s protest also kicked off a six-week sit-in demonstration along the border leading up to the commemoration of the Nakba on May 15.

It is expected that the United States will be transferring its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem around the same time, following President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017.

 

 

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