Obama’s Middle East (Part One)
The modern Middle East was the creation of three heads of state following in the aftermath of World War I. President Woodrow Wilson (USA), Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau (France) and Prime Minister Lloyd George (UK) gathered in Paris in 1919 and essentially redrew many of the world’s borders. Both the French and the British had long standing interests in the Middle East, and once the Middle East power, the Ottoman Empire, collapsed, both countries saw opportunities. Coupled with these blatant political aspirations was President Wilson’s insistence upon implementing his vision for world peace, encapsulated in his 14 points for world peace. One of these, the right of self-determination, became and continues to be a driving force in modern national development.
The problem arose in the Middle East and elsewhere that borders that were ultimately drawn creating new nations covered different and often very competitive ethnic groups. As an example, the new nation of Iraq included three major ethnic/religious groups, Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims and Kurds, all of whom had their unique histories and identities. Following the creation of most of the new Middle Eastern countries, the democratic ideals embodied in other sections of Wilson’s 14 points were ignored, and the new countries were ultimately taken over by autocrats.
Throughout the years US and European policy towards Middle East governments were harmonious as autocrats were placated to ensure free flowing and cheap oil. That began to change with the frequent Israeli/Arab wars as Arab countries ultimately used their combined clout following the 1973 Yom Kippur War to pressure US policy by limiting oil production and embargoing US imports, dramatically driving up oil prices.
Two unrelated events in 1979-80, however, sparked changes in the Middle East that have reverberated since: 1) 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran (overthrowing an important US ally) and 2) the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan to quell rising Islamic unrest in the southern Soviet republics. In the case of Iran, for the first time in the modern era one of the Middle Eastern countries was now led by Islamic fundamentalists, whose goal, in part, was to spread that fundamentalism far and wide. The US now became the “Great Satan” with Israel dubbed the “Little Satan.” Suffice it to say, US influence with Iran was now minimal.
With the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the US saw an opportunity to undermine Soviet ambitions by arming and training Afghan resistance groups. On the surface the US efforts were successful, and the Soviet Union got bogged down in Afghanistan. However, one of the Afghan resistance groups later morphed into Al Qaida, a sad example of the law of unintended consequences. In the vacuum of post Soviet war effort, another radical Afghani Islamic ethnic group arose to conquer the country, the Taliban, which granted sanctuary to the more radical Al Qaida operatives.
Also, during the 1980’s Iran and Iraq fought a long and bloody war. US policy supported Iraq. In 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait, later pushed back by a quick US led coalition of forces invasion. The world altering event, however, occurred on September 11, 2001, when Al Qaida operatives attacked critical US institutions on her homeland, killing more Americans on US soil than anytime since Pearl Harbor, 1941. The response by the US was overwhelming. Quickly, the Afghan government (Taliban) was confronted by the US with relinquishing the Al Qaida network. The government refused, so the US invaded. US forces combined with other Afghani resistance groups to quickly smash the Taliban and put Al Qaida on the run. Many Al Qaida operatives were killed or captured. Some escaped, including the leader Osama Bin Laden, and were later hunted down.
Unfortunately, the attack on US soil put the US on a war footing, ultimately leading to relying on poor intelligence and strategic planning. Iraq was now seen as another fomenter of terror and the destruction of the world order, especially with the false claim that Iraq was harboring weapons of mass destruction. Consequently, the US again led a coalition of forces to attack and ultimately overthrow the Iraqi regime. The result was the unleashing of ethnic forces in Iraq bottled up for decades by the brutal regime of former dictator Sadaam Hussein. The US cobbled together a “democratic” government, brought some semblance of civil order, trained a new and “enlightened” Iraqi military and gradually began to reduce forces. However, with the US withdrawal came an increasing Iranian influence, using its connections to the large Iraqi Shiite Muslim community, previously severely persecuted by Sadaam Hussein.
The 2008 US Presidential election was a watershed election. US citizens were sick of war and the then collapsing economy and voted for a young, inexperienced African-American US Senator from Illinois to be the new President, Barak Obama. Obama promised early on to change international perceptions of US power and “exceptionalism,” including its perception in the Muslim world. Obama’s father was an African Muslim, and although some claimed the President himself is one, he was raised and identifies as a Christian.
Jamie Cowen is a Partner at Cohen, Decker, Pex, Brosh Law Offices, Petach Tikvah, Israel; Former Rabbi, Tikvat Israel Congregation, Richmond, Viriginia; Former President, Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations; Former Chief Counsel, US Senate Subcommittee 1978-1986
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What’s the difference between Apocalyptic Islam & the “last days” according to Bible prophecy? Glad you asked….
UPDATED: Shana Tova! Sunday evening at sundown in Israel begins a new Jewish year. And as we begin, the region is full of anxiety over what the future holds.
The good news is that the God of the Bible is the God who knows the future, is all sovereign over the past, present and future, and even gives us a glimpse into the future through prophecy. This year, more than ever, I encourage you to read through — and study careful — the entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments, and especially the prophecies that tell us what the future holds.
- Don’t Christians and Jews also believe in the End of Days?
- Are you criticizing all people who study, believe in, teach, or live according to eschatology (the study of things pertaining to the End of Days)?
- Is the study of eschatology inherently dangerous?
- What are some of the similarities between Shia and Sunni eschatology and Biblical eschatology?
- What are some of the main differences between Shia and Sunni eschatology and Biblical eschatology?
These are good and important questions. I’m glad people are asking, especially as we begin a new year. So let me provide some concise answers. I also provide links to more resources below that I think you’ll find helpful.
- Yes, many devout Christians and Jews also believe in various prophecies about the End of Days.
- JEWISH ESCHATOLOGY: Religious Jews believe the Messiah will come in the End of Days, will establish His global Kingdom upon the Earth (based in Jerusalem), and will rule the entire world with justice and righteousness. Such prophecies are described in the Hebrew Bible books of Daniel (7:9-14, for example), Isaiah, Jeremiah, as well as in the writings of other Hebrew prophets in the Bible.
- CHRISTIAN ESCHATOLOGY: Those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah (born again Christians, as well as Messianic Jews) believe we are currently living in the End of Days, that the Lord Jesus will come back to Earth very soon, He will establish His global Kingdom upon the Earth (based in Jerusalem), and He will rule the entire world with justice and righteousness. We also base our beliefs on the Old Testament prophecies, as well as the Gospels, the New Testament epistles, and the Book of Revelation. Many followers of Jesus also believe that prior to the “Second Coming” when He establishes His official Kingdom on Earth, the Messiah will come in the air and “snatch away” or “Rapture” His true followers in “the twinkling of an eye” to be with Him in heaven while He pours out judgment on the nations. We base these beliefs on passages such as I Thessalonians 4:13-5:28, I Corinthians 15:50-58, and John 14:1-6. [NOTE: I Thessalonians chapter 5 explains that the Rapture will take place at a time when most people don’t expect it to happen and they will be caught unawares. “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly.” This is a curious passage in light of how many world leaders are currently describing the Iran nuclear deal as putting the world on the path to “peace and safety.”]
- No, I am not criticizing everyone who studies, believes in, teaches or lives according to prophecy and eschatology. As a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ — as an Evangelical who studies and believes and tries to obey the Bible — I believe very deeply in what the Bible teaches about the End Times and how we are to live as we await the Rapture, the Tribulation and the Second Coming. Indeed, I have written and taught extensively on the importance of rediscovering the purpose and power of Bible prophecy. (see various resources below)
- Not all versions of eschatology are dangerous — but some are. The versions of eschatology believed, taught and practiced by the leaders of Iran and the Islamic State are very dangerous, as I have sought to explain.
- Some of the core similarities between Biblical eschatology and Sunni & Shia eschatology are these:
- Devout Christians and Muslims believe that there will be a period known as the “End Times” or “End of Days” or “Last Days” where God will consummate history as we have known it thus far, and then God will begin a new period of history.
- Devout Christians and Muslims that the Messiah is coming in the End Times to establish his kingdom over the entire world.
- Devout Christians and Muslims believe that Jesus is coming.
- Devout Christians and Muslims believe that time is short and that we need to living differently in light of the coming of the messiah and his kingdom.
- Some of the core differences between Biblical and Islamic eschatology are:
- While devout Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the crucified and resurrected Son of God, and thus the Messiah, the Savior, and the King who will reign over the world, devout Muslims believe Jesus was merely a prophet, that he did not die on the cross and was not raised from the dead, and that he is coming not to be the King but rather as the deputy to their messiah, known as the Mahdi.
- Biblical eschatology teaches devout Christians to love their enemy and seek to persuade unbelievers to repent of their sins and receive Jesus as the Messiah or Christ by faith for the forgiveness of their sins and to be adopted into God’s family and granted eternal life with God. If unbelievers refuse to receive Christ, Christians are still to love them, but they will be judged by God when they die and go to Hell forever. Islamic eschatology teaches Apocalyptic Muslims to give unbelievers an opportunity to repent. But if they don’t repent, Muslims are instructed to execute such “infidels.”
- Biblical eschatology teaches that in the last days — particularly during a period of time known as the “Tribulation” — God will pour out His judgment on all the nations of the Earth. During this period, individuals can repent and receive Christ as Savior by faith. However, the Bible teaches that they will go through the worst period of war, famine, natural disasters and many other traumas in all of human history. Followers of Christ are not to cause or lead such wars and traumas. Rather they are to love their neighbors and enemies and preach the Gospel to everyone. But the Bible explains that such wars are coming as a result of leaders and forces obedient to Satan and that many Christians will be martyred during this period. Apocalyptic Muslims, on the other hand, believe that in the last days it is their God-given duty to foment and lead genocidal wars against all unbelieving nations, and to violently establish their kingdom or caliphate on earth. They are specifically instructed to slaughter Jews and Christians in the last days.
- A careful study of Biblical eschatology reveals that it does not create a dangerous movement, but rather one motivated by love, mercy, forgiveness, compassion and a desire to create peace. It is given to us to motivate us to live more holy lives and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with people in all nations, and care for the poor and needy, and follow more faithfully the teachings and example of Jesus as His return for us draws near. A careful study of Islamic eschatology practiced by Iranian and ISIS leaders, on the other hand, reveals that it creates a dangerous, violent, genocidal movement.
I hope you find this helpful in understanding and explaining important distinctions between Biblical eschatology and that of Apocalyptic Muslims. What follows are various resources to help you, and any of your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers who might be interested in understanding various issues concerning Biblical prophecy — such as the “Rapture” — and how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
LEARN MORE ABOUT BIBLE PROPHECY:
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE GOSPEL:
- “My Spiritual Journey” — audio and text versions of how my parents and I became followers of Jesus the Messiah
- Would you like to know God personally? (a simple explanation of the Gospel in English)
- Read a simple explanation of the Gospel in Hebrew. …. or in Arabic. …. or in other languages.
- Watch on-line videos of Jewish people from all walks of life who came to know Jesus as Messiah. (over 8 million individuals have watched these videos so far)
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The Feast of Trumpets
On Sunday night, the Feast of Trumpets blasts its way into the new Jewish year. Today it is known as Rosh HaShana, the “Head of the Year”, even though it’s not really the start of the Biblical year at all, according to Exodus 12:2. The calendar year was supposed to start in the month of Passover in the spring, and the Feast of Trumpets comes at the beginning of the seventh month. Like all the other "Feasts of the Lord", it is full of significance and meaning for us today, as well as prophetic meaning about what is to come.
Rosh HaShana is the first of the three fall holidays – the Feast Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. The ten days between the Feast of Trumpets and Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, are called the “Days of Awe”, where people are encouraged to contemplate their position before God, and it’s a very special time in Israel.
Just as the Spring feasts of Passover, Firstfruits and Shavuot (or Pentecost) all prophetically related to the death, resurrection and ascension of Yeshua, the Fall feasts pertain to his second coming. The Feast of Trumpets relates to the last trumpet that shall sound when he comes again in glory. Here’s what Paul writes about that trumpet blast:
"Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:51-57)
Here’s what the Bible instructs about the Feast of Trumpets:
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month,
on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest,
a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation.
You shall not do any ordinary work,
and you shall present a food offering to the Lord.”’ (Leviticus 23-25)
“On the first day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work.
It is a day for you to blow the trumpets, and you shall offer a burnt offering, for a pleasing aroma to the Lord.”
It was intended by God to be a day of rest, a day to blow trumpets, and to offer sacrifices over and above the usual sacrifices for the new month for making atonement for the people.
What does blowing a trumpet mean?
Trumpets in Biblical times were either made from rams’ horns (shofars) or from silver, and could be blown by the priests and leaders. There were different sounds for different purposes:
- Time to pack up camp and move on, when the Israelites were traveling in the desert
- Time to gather the people and call an assembly
- To mark a sacrifice on a feast day
- A warning of war or danger
- To praise
- To declare a procession or feast
- Proclaiming a king
- Assembling the troops for battle
- To be used in battle
- To declare victory
It can be the sound of worship or a battle cry. A practical device for the twelve tribes on the march, and makers of special days and times of celebration.
It sound of the trumpet also has other connotations in the Bible :
- God’s power to raise the dead (1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16)
- The proclamation of the gospel (Psalms 89:15)
- The bold and faithful preaching of prophets (Isaiah 58:1, Hosea 8:1, Joel 2:1)
- The latter day judgments (Revelation 8:2 and 13)
Shana Tova! (Happy New Year!)
As we come into this new Jewish year, everyone will wish each other “Shana tova!” and that their name would be written in the Book of Life. It is customary to eat sweet foods like apples, honey and chocolate, and to give such gifts for a sweet new year.
Modern Judaism has a concept of your good and bad deeds being weighed on the scales to see if you’re good enough to be written in the Book of LIfe at this time leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. I always tell people that I’m sure my name will be in there because I’m good friends with the author of the Book! The meaning of complete forgiveness and atonement for sin due the sacrifice a sinless other has been lost somewhere down the line.
In reality, the trumpets signal the sacrifice for atonement which Yeshua fulfilled. They convey the preaching of the word and victory over death.
The sacrfice has been paid.
The battle has been won.
We can freely enter into his precious rest and feast with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Now that’s worth blowing a trumpet about.
ONE FOR ISRAEL strives to be the leading organization in sharing the Gospel of Yeshua the Messiah with Israeli Jews and Arabs in the Hebrew language. Our staff is comprised of both Jewish and Arab Israelis, with the shared belief that true peace in the Middle East can only come into existence under Yeshua.
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On Rosh Hashanah, It’s Netanyahu VS the Media
It is customary for Israel’s prime minister to give an interview to major media outlets before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This past Tuesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu canceled his customary annual press conference, and instead released a YouTube video entitled "Things You Will Not Hear in the Media" enumerating his government’s achievements.
Netanyahu has long sought to avoid Israel’s mainstream media, which he views as hostile toward him, and not without justification. Yotam Zimri, a local Facebook celebrity, criticized Netanyahu for this attitude, but not before acknowledging, "I read the questions intended to be asked by Channel 2 TV. We are talking about a typical interview that looks as if the questions were written by Netanyahu’s most bitter political opponents. They were concerned about minutia, gossip … not a single question about personal safety, stone throwing in Judea and Samaria."
The schism, however, exists not only between Netanyahu and the media. As a "Vigo" survey conducted on behalf of the Walla! news portal is proving, there is a deepening rift between the media, perceived as biased and liberal, and the Israeli public at large.
"Vigo," which monitors Israeli social media, reveals that what normally should have been seen as disrespectful behavior on the part of Netanyahu was actually applauded on social media. The unacceptable gap between old media establishments and Israeli society was previously exposed in Netanyahu’s landslide victory in the last election, which shocked many journalist who had prophesied his demise.
According to "Vigo," 72% of social media comments favored Netanyahu’s "Things You Will Not Hear in the Media." Furthermore, greater than 70% of the comments on Netanyahu’s Facebook page, the third most watched page in Israel, are positive toward the prime minister.
Netanyahu’s Facebook page has some 900,000 followers, 200,000 of whom are Israelis and the rest being Americans. "Vigo" noted that since the last election, some 150,000 new followers were added to Netanyahu’s Facebook page.
"Vigo" provides only a partial picture of the widening gap between Israel’s big media outlets and the Israeli public. Since the elections, countless social media groups have come into being challenging radio, TV stations and major news portals like "ynet" for the attention of the Israeli public. So, too, have new alternative news portals like "news 0404," which are attracting more and more people who are fed up with a media so demonstrably hostile toward Israel’s pro-Jewish and patriotic majority.
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What every presidential candidate & policymaker needs to know about Apocalyptic Islam.
Today, we remember the horrific attacks by al-Qaeda on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania and all the effort that has been made to defeat — or at least contain — the forces of Radical Islam.
But fourteen years after 9/11, the nature of the threats we face in and from the Middle East have significantly changed. The forces of Radical Islam still pose a serious danger, to be sure. But an even more serious threat is emerging from a movement I call “Apocalyptic Islam,” led by Iran and ISIS.
While I have raised such issues in a range of novels over the years — from The Twelfth Imam to The Third Target (and its forthcoming sequel, The First Hostage) — it is vital at this moment for the public and our leaders to understand the facts. Indeed, much of the confusion in Washington over just how dangerous the Iran nuclear deal is stems from a deep misunderstanding of what is truly motivating the leaders in Tehran.
Thus, in this column published today by National Review, I explain what Apocalyptic Islam is, how the Shia and Sunni versions are similar and how they differ, who believes it, and why it matters. I also ask, “Do U.S. policymakers and the presidential candidates understand the nature of this threat? If they do, they should explain how they would counter it before it’s too late.”
This week, I have also published two fact sheets that provide more details:
- FACT SHEET: The Iranian Leadership’s Apocalyptic Beliefs
- FACT SHEET: The Islamic State’s Apocalyptic Beliefs
Given the seriousness of the threats facing us, I hope you find such material helpful.
Radical Islam? Apocalyptic Islam Poses The Greater Threat
Fourteen years ago — on September 11, 2001 — America was blindsided by the forces of radical Islam. Pre-9/11, American leaders rightly understood that the vast majority of the world’s Muslims were generally peace-loving people who posed no threat to our homeland. But they failed to adequately comprehend, much less counter, the theology, political ideology, and operational strategy of men like Osama bin Laden.