One of the most shocking aspects of the murderous attack on a Jerusalem synagogue this morning by men with guns and axes is not the attack itself—we’ve seen, from time to time, this sort of sectarian barbarism take place in places like Jerusalem, and Hebron. The most shocking aspect is the wholesale endorsement of this slaughter by Hamas, a group that, during this summer’s war in Gaza, half-succeeded in convincing the world that it wasn’t what it actually is: a group with actual genocidal intentions.
According to witnesses, the two attackers entered the synagogue, in the Har Nof neighborhood, and began killing worshipers with pistols and axes. (Both assailants were killed by police, but not before they murdered four worshipers and injured at least six others, including two police officers.)
“To see Jews wearing tefillin [phylacteries] and wrapped in the tallit [prayer shawls] lying in pools of blood, I wondered if I was imagining scenes from the Holocaust,” said Yehuda Meshi Zahav, who leads an emergency-response team, according to The New York Times. “It was a massacre of Jews at prayer.”
This is how a Hamas spokesman reacted to the massacre of Jews at prayer: “The new operation is heroic and a natural reaction to Zionist criminality against our people and our holy places. We have the full right to revenge for the blood of our martyrs in all possible means.”
Twenty years ago, shortly after the Jewish fanatic Baruch Goldstein massacred Muslims at prayer in Hebron, the then-prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, said of the killer, “You are not part of the community of Israel. … You are a foreign implant. You are an errant weed. Sensible Judaism spits you out.”
Hamas’s endorsement of the massacre of Jews at prayer in their holy city confirms—as if we needed confirming—that its goal is the eradication of Israel and its Jews. We should pray for the day when the leaders of Gaza react to this sort of massacre in the manner of Yitzhak Rabin.
The Palestinian Authority leader, the more moderate Mahmoud Abbas, has condemned the attack, but it is also fair to say that he helped create the atmosphere in which attacks like this one become more likely. As the Times reports, the attackers “were described as being motivated by what they saw as threats to the revered plateau [the Temple Mount] that contains Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has repeatedly asserted that he will not alter the status quo at the site, where non-Muslims can visit but not openly pray, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has called on his people to protect the area and has warned of a ‘holy war’ if it is ‘contaminated’ by Jews.”
Mass shootings have been increasing even as more NRA members are openly and concealed carrying and even while there are more legal guns on the street than ever before. Something must be wrong with Wayne LaPierre’s “Good guys with guns” hypothesis.
The gut-wrenching shock of the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14 wasn’t just due to the 20 unthinkably young victims. It was also due to the realization that this specific, painfully familiar nightmare was unfolding yet again.
As the scope of the massacre in Newtown became clear, some news accounts suggested that mass shootings in the United States have not increased, based on a broad definition of them. But in fact 2012 has been unprecedented for a particular kind of horror that’s been on the rise in recent years, from Virginia Tech to Tucson to Aurora to Oak Creek to Newtown. There have been at least 62 such mass shootings in the last three decades, attacks in which the killer took the lives of four or more people (the FBI’s baseline for mass murder) in a public place—a school, a workplace, a mall, a religious building. Seven of them have occurred this year alone.
Along with three other similar though less lethal rampages—at a Portland shopping mall, a Milwaukee spa, and a Cleveland high school—2012 has been the worst year for these events in modern US history, with 151 victims injured and killed. More than a quarter of them were young children and teenagers.
The National Rifle Association and its allies would have us believe that the solution to this epidemic, itself but a sliver of America’s overall gun violence, is to put firearms in the hands of as many citizens as possible. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” declared the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre in a press conference a week after Newtown, the same day bells tolled at the National Cathedral and the devastated town mourned its 28 dead. (That day a gunman in Pennsylvania also murdered three people and wounded a state trooper shortly before LaPierre gave his remarks.) LaPierre explained that it was a travesty for a school principal to face evil unarmed, and he called for gun-wielding security officers to be deployed in every school in America.
As many commentators noted, it was particularly callous of the NRA to double down on its long-standing proposal to fight gun violence with more guns while parents in Newtown were burying their first graders.
President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner are continuing their talks, but key officials in both parties now believe that Washington will be unable to avoid some mix of the tax increases and automatic spending cuts mandated next month by the austerity measures known as the “fiscal cliff.”
Senior Democratic and Republican officials say the best-case scenario will be for a less ambitious deal to extend middle-class tax cuts and forestall tax hikes on most Americans.
But such a deal would still set in motion a series of steep spending cuts at some federal agencies and allow key tax provisions to expire, raising taxes for many. “I don’t know if we fall off the cliff, but I think we’re at least going to jump out of a tree,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).
That assessment hasn’t stopped Obama and Boehner (R-Ohio) from trying to reach a broader pact before year’s end. The two spoke by phone Friday afternoon, after news broke of the massacre at an elementary school in Connecticut, and officials in both parties confirmed that Boehner was considering allowing tax rates to rise for those earning more than $1 million annually, in exchange for cuts in entitlement programs.
Nobody back then contemplated 30-round magazines. An assault weapon would have been considered an unnecessary squanderer of costly ammo.
Which brings us to the mowing down of 20 first-graders, four teachers, a psychologist and the principal at that suburban Connecticut school.
Besides the massacre, two little things particularly grated.
One was White House spokesman Jay Carney, in the hours after the mass killings, declaring that there’d be a day in the future to discuss strengthening gun controls, but “I don’t think today is that day.”
Yeah, well, it seemed like the logical day to me.
The other irritation was the common refrain among politicians and commentators that “No words are adequate.”
No? How about: “This is unacceptable.”
Thank you, President Obama, for saying that Sunday night. “We can’t tolerate this any more,” he told a memorial service. “We must change.”
Slaughtering 6- and 7-year-olds at school. Christmas shoppers in a mall. Moviegoers in a theater. Mass killings — plain and simple — should not be regarded as acceptable in America, 2nd Amendment or not.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) put it this way Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “The [gun] rights of the few override the safety of the majority? I don’t think so.”
Military sources late Friday identified Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales as the name of the 38-year-old suspect accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians in a Sunday rampage. Bales has not yet been charged in the case. He was flown to the U.S. military maximum security prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas from Kuwait Friday.
“I can confirm” the name of the suspect is Robert Bales, a U.S. official told Yahoo News on condition of anonymity.
Bales’ Seattle-area celebrity lawyer, John Henry Browne, said Friday that his client is in shock.
“He is in shock, kind of like a deer in headlights at the moment,” Browne said Friday morning, a local station near Joint Base Lewis-McChord King 5 News, reported. “I told him not to talk about the allegations at all, so I cannot tell you how he is responding because I told him not to talk about it.”
Browne earlier told reporters at a news conference Thursday that the decorated soldier wasn’t happy that he had been deployed a fourth time despite sustaining two injuries, including a traumatic head injury and the partial loss of his foot in Iraq. Browne dismissed rumors that the soldier had marital troubles, and said he had two young children.
“He did not want to deploy,” Browne told the Seattle Times. “In fact he was told he was not going to go. Then, really almost overnight, that changed.” Browne told the paper that a soldier in his unit had lost a leg in combat the day before the alleged shooting.
The New York Times quoted a “senior” American official saying the soldier had been drinking before the alleged shooting.”When it all comes out, it will be a combination of stress, alcohol and domestic issues — he just snapped,” the anonymous official told the paper.
The soldier was one of 4,000 soldiers in the 3rd (Stryker) Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division stationed at Lewis-McChord in Washington state. The base’s medical center is being investigated for allegedly down-grading post traumatic stress diagnoses to other mental illnesses that do not prevent deployment or qualify soldiers for disability payments.
Obama blasts Assad, Syrian Government for ‘Unspeakable Assault’, Urges Security Council End of ‘Killing Machine’
Speaking ahead of the UN Security council vote calling for a transfer of power in Syria, in the wake of the massacre in the Syrian city of Homs - where more than 300 have been reported killed and over 1,000 injured - US President Barack Obama called on the UN to take action against the Syrian killing machine:
US President Barack Obama on Saturday urged the UN Security Council to take a stand against what he called the “relentless brutality” of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
After activists reported that more than 200 people were killed in shelling by government troops in Homs, Obama said the attack was an “unspeakable assault” and urged Assad to step down from power.
“Yesterday the Syrian government murdered hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women and children, in Homs through shelling and other indiscriminate violence, and Syrian forces continue to prevent hundreds of injured civilians from seeking medical help,” Obama said in a written statement.
“Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now. He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately,” he said.
The Homs was the bloodiest day of an 11-month uprising and it gave new urgency to a push by the Arab League, the United States and a UN resolution calling for Assad to cede power.
But Russia has resisted the resolution, saying the Security Council must avoid taking sides in a civil war.
“The council now has an opportunity to stand against the Assad regime’s relentless brutality and to demonstrate that it is a credible advocate for the universal rights that are written into the UN Charter,” Obama said.
In a drastic attempt to quell the unending civil unrest, Syrian armed forces have been pouring in with troops, tanks and heavy artillery, overrunning the streets of Homs Friday evening (local time) and carrying out what at best can be called a flat-out massacre.
Official and semi-official reports are putting the number of dead at slightly above the figure of 220, with as many as 500 injured and with entire buildings reported as having been razed. Many of the casualties are being reported as having originated from just the lone neighborhood of Khalidiya, where two of the more prominent opposition groups resided. However, unofficial details coming in from various sources place the figures higher; According to one source, the death toll may be closer to 300 and counting, with the number of injured people near the figure of 900, perhaps even crossing 1000.
At least 217 people were killed in shelling by Syrian forces in the city of Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human rights said on Saturday.
“The death toll is now at least 217 people killed in Homs, 138 of them killed in the Khalidiya district,” Rami Abdulrahman, head of the British-based group, told Reuters, citing witnesses.
The Local Coordination Committees cited witnesses on the ground, who said the regime used tanks and heavy machine-guns.
It was not possible to verify activist or state media reports as Syria restricts access for independent media.
Meanwhile, U.N. Security Council members announced Friday that the council will meet on Saturday morning to vote on a European-Arab draft resolution endorsing an Arab League plan calling for Syrian President Bashar Assad to give up power.
“UN Security Council is set to meet 9:00 A.M. Saturday,” Britain’s UN mission announced on Twitter on Friday. “Plan is to vote on Syria resolution.” Other missions confirmed the announcement.
Diplomats said that the meeting was tentatively scheduled for 9:00 A.M. EST (1400 GMT), though Russia had requested that it be pushed back to 11:00 A.M.
Diplomats said it was unclear if Russia, which has opposed significant council action on Syria since an uprising started there 11 months ago, would vote in favor, abstain or veto the resolution.
The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have died in attempts by Syrian government forces to crush anti-Assad protests across the country.
In the wake of these events, protests have been taking place in front of Syrian embassies across the world, including the UK, Greece, Egypt and more, with many of the protesters calling global intervention in Syria. In France, about 10 protesters gathered in front of the Syrian embassy, with some trying to breach the embassy compound. In Germany, anti-Syrian protesters broke into the embassy in Berlin and set pictures of Syrian President Assad on fire.
A Nazi swastika is seen in Jedwabne, Poland, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011, on the monument dedicated to Jews from the town of Jedwabne burned to death by their Polish neighbors in 1941. Police are trying to find the unknown perpetrators who desecrated the monument.
An inscription reading “They were Flammable” and a Nazi swastika are seen in Jedwabne, Poland, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011, on the monument dedicated to Jews from the town of Jedwabne burned to death by their Polish neighbors in 1941. Police are trying to find the unknown perpetrators who desecrated the monument. AP Photo.
WARSAW (Reuters) - Vandals destroyed a monument to victims of a World War Two pogrom against Jews in Poland, covering it with racist inscriptions and swastikas in green paint, police said on Thursday.
It was the latest in a recent series of racist and xenophobic acts of vandalism targeting the small Jewish and Muslim communities in eastern Poland as well as the tiny Lithuanian minority.
At least 340 Jews were burned alive by their Polish neighbors in a barn in the 1941 pogrom in the eastern town of Jedwabne. The site was later turned into a memorial.
“On Wednesday a police patrol ran into the devastated site. We immediately started an investigation,” said Andrzej Baranowski, police spokesman in the nearby city of Bialystok.
Vandals also smeared a wall surrounding the memorial with signs saying “I’m not sorry for Jedwabne” and “They were highly flammable.” They obscured the Hebrew and Polish signs on the memorial itself with paint.
“This is a perfect example of vandalism and stupidity, but we don’t know the exact motives yet,” Baranowski added. [I think we can take a good guess. VB]
All the recent anti-Semitic and xenophobic incidents were probably perpetrated by the same people, Poland’s interior ministry said this week, and they are all under investigation by the Bialystok police.
A 2001 Polish investigation concluded that the Jedwabne pogrom was inspired by Poland’s then-Nazi occupiers and the case remains a traumatic memory for Jews and many Poles today.