Common Grounds

Our Friday News Analysis | What the World Reads Now!

November 03, 2023


How Do You Love Your ENEMIES? Have NONE!


The Hague, 03 November 2023 | If you know of any story that is decisive, tell the world. We're still searching.

Our Friday News Analysis | What the World Reads Now!

If you want, I can quote you the scripture on 'loving your enemies' from the Christian gospels (confirmed and accepted by Islam) or from the Old Testament or Tanakh, a collection of writings first compiled and preserved as the sacred books of the Jewish people. Check it out by clicking on Leviticus 19: 18 in the Tanakh and the Gospel of Matthew 5:43-48 in the New Testament.


What do Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe to be true? HAVE NO ENEMIES! Work with your enemies! To quote Abraham Lincoln: "Destroy your enemies by becoming friends."


What is the Side of the Story that is Not Yet Decisive? Edited by Abraham A. van Kempen.



The Qur'an, A Contemporary Understanding, with References to the Bible,’ Co-authored by my friend, Safi Kaskas, and the late David Hungerford.


My friend, Safi Kaskas, who co-authored with David Hungerford, ‘The Qur'an, A Contemporary Understanding, with References to the Bible,’ stated in his article: ‘Is Forgiving My Enemy a Muslim Tradition?

               “A few years ago, I was speaking to a group of Muslims about forgiving your enemy, and a young lady said to me, ‘But forgiving your enemy is a Christian tradition, and it’s not for Muslims.’


               Her statement shook me to my core as it contradicted many basic concepts I had found in the Qur’an after spending more than six years translating it from the original Arabic into simple English.


               The first of these concepts is that the Qur’an confirms previous books such as the Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospels [1].


               The second concept I learned from the Qur’an is that the Holy Spirit supported Jesus from birth. As such, every word he uttered was Gospel. He was the Injeel, as the Qur’an calls the Gospels.


               Hence, we Muslims revere Jesus and consider every one of Jesus’ principles worth following because it is confirmed in the Qur’an [2].


               The third concept is that forgiving transgressors is integral to the Qur’an, and believers are always urged to forgive [3]. This was confirmed by the daily practice of the Prophet (PBUH) any chance he had. A prime example is when he entered Mecca, which rejected him and tortured him for eleven years with a large army. He forgave all of its population, including those sworn enemies who waged war against him and wanted to kill him.


               If this is my understanding of the Qur’an, why is it not that young lady’s understanding? Are there verses in the Qur’an calling on Muslims to forgive their enemies?


               I started hearing Jesus saying: ‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. He makes his sun rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust. What reward do you have if you love those who love you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

               These words of Jesus were echoed by the sounds of these verses from the Qur’an: “Good and evil are never equal. Repel evil with good, and your enemy will become like an intimate friend.” (41:34) and the second one was: ‘The retribution for a bad deed is one like it, but whoever forgives and makes peace will have his reward with God.’ (42:40)


               If you want to be healthy, forgive your enemies and leave the judgment to the ultimate Judge. Otherwise, how can you expect God to protect you from the next enemy who is undoubtedly there and desires to harm you?

               ‘If you pardon, overlook, and forgive, God is forgiving and Merciful-to-all.’ (Qur’an 64:14)

               [1] 2:97 ‘he (the holy spirit) has brought it [the Qur’an] down to your heart by God’s permission, confirming what is already revealed and a guidance and good news to believers.” (02:97) and “He has sent down the Book to you with the Truth to confirm what is available of other revelations, as it is He who sent down the Torah and the Gospel (03:03) beforehand as guidance to people, and He revealed the Standard by which we judge right from wrong.’ (03:04)


               [2] Especially those found in the synoptic Gospels.


               [3] ‘If you pardon, overlook, and forgive, God is forgiving and Merciful-to-all.’ (Qur’an, 64:14)


               ‘Hold to forgiveness, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant.’ (Qur’an, 7: 199)


               ‘They should rather pardon and overlook. Would you not love God to forgive you? God is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’ (Qur’an, 24:22)


               ‘The retribution for a bad deed is one like it, but whoever forgives and makes peace will be rewarded with God. He certainly does not like those who do wrong.’” (42:40)





The peaceful nature of the mass mobilization reflects a growing trend to renounce violence


By Amr Hamzawy
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
02 November 2023


Once again, the Arab street is the epicenter of peaceful demands for change.

Protests have swept across the region—including notable demonstrations in Casablanca, Algiers, Tunis, Cairo, Amman, Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, and Manama—in support of the Palestinians in Gaza and their fundamental human rights in the face of an ongoing Israeli military assault and horrifying living conditions.


The peaceful nature of this wave of Arab mass mobilization reflects a growing trend to renounce violence to pursue political objectives and a desire for stability following the turbulent years following the 2011 Arab Spring.


The initial Arab public response to Hamas’s acts of terror set a secular and moderate tone. Hamas’s 07 October actions conflated the boundaries between legitimate resistance to the Israeli occupation and siege of the Palestinian territories, which categorically does not include targeting civilians and crimes of terrorism. In response, Arab governments, civil society organizations, several media outlets, and some influential social media accounts were quick to condemn the violence and call for the protection of life on both sides.


When governmental and nongovernmental voices ignored the targeting of Israeli civilians, their one-sided opinions were quickly marginalized. On 26 October, as Israeli bombardment of Gaza intensified, nine Arab foreign ministers issued a statement reaffirming their opposition to violence and the killing of civilians.

Together, the mainstream Arab public space put forward pro-peace and pro-life values without any attempt to justify Hamas actions—neither with references to the ongoing occupation and siege of the Palestinian territories nor by evoking militant Islamist anti-Jewish rhetoric that has lost its popular appeal in recent years. Instead, many Arab commentators and influencers placed the occupation and siege as crucial facts in the persistent denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination. They also highlighted the daily struggles of Palestinians in the West Bank due to the aggressive expansion of the Jewish settlements, in East Jerusalem because of the forced displacement, and in Gaza as a result of the inhumane siege.


Despite a shocking trend to dehumanize Palestinians in Israeli media and policy circles, parallel narratives dehumanizing Israeli civilians have not gained popularity among Arabs. In the first hours following the Hamas attack, mainstream Arab voices showed no appetite for condoning or justifying the violence.


This initial nonviolent and humanist response has held its ground with the emergence of pro-Palestine mass mobilization in several Arab countries. The Arab street has watched as the civilian population in Gaza falls victim to Israeli attacks and is left without international protection or aid amid a humanitarian catastrophe. As Arab citizens have taken to public spaces to protest the Israeli aggression, they have focused on the Tel Aviv war cabinet’s decision to launch a ground invasion of Gazato displace Palestinians within the strip, and to punish them collectively by cutting off water, electricity, and fuel. The demands that arose from these demonstrations have not called on Arab governments to attack Israel. They instead prioritized protecting the Palestinian people from Israeli aggression, ensuring that humanitarian aid gets into the strip, and denouncing plans to displace a population that has been dispossessed numerous times since 1948.


These mass mobilizations have also aimed to expose and condemn Western double standards and collaboration in the ongoing occupation and current onslaught on Gaza. Protesters have emphasized the US and others’ unconditional support for Israel—despite a Palestinian death toll in the thousands, the destruction of critical civilian infrastructure, the displacement of over 1 million Palestinians within Gaza, and the obstruction of access to humanitarian aid. Scenes of protesters burning the Israeli and the US flags and expressing sympathies to Hamas militants have surfaced on social media. Still, they account for a tiny fraction of the Arab street movement. The overwhelming majority have stayed on the nonviolent course.


The trend toward renouncing violence in the mainstream Arab public space and the Arab street has been on the rise. Data from the Arab Barometer, a Princeton University-based public opinion surveying project, documents a decrease in the widespread acceptance of violence and its use for internal or external purposes. In recent years, an overwhelming majority of respondents— including those from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Tunisia, and Libya—have stated their rejection of the use of force or violence for political causes. Additionally, Arab Barometer surveys have documented that the sheer majority of Arabs—on average over 90 percent— disapprove of extremist organizations and condemn their acts of terror. Although Hamas and other Palestinian groups are predominantly seen in the Arab world as resistance movements, their violence against Israeli civilians has mainly been condemned. A clear preference for peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on the two-state solution has been on the rise.


But this support for nonviolence can be fragile, especially if protesters’ demands aren’t addressed. I’ve witnessed these changes firsthand. I participated in the peaceful 2011 movement in Egypt, as nonviolent demonstrators took to the streets there—as well as in Tunisia and other Arab countries—to call for more rights and freedoms and to demand an orderly transition to democracy. I watched as demonstrators’ hopes and aspirations withered away, and some countries degenerated to violence and militant activism. Now, I fear we may observe a similar development in the making.


But in the current trend to renounce violence in the Arab street and the collective rejection of dehumanizing narratives in the mainstream public space, I see the launchpad for a possible revival of the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, with wide Arab backing for the first time.


Will Israel play along? Will Arab majorities stick to nonviolence to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? I truly hope. And I pray that our region can avoid the fate of failed transitions and lost peace this time.


Amr Hamzawy is a senior fellow and the Carnegie Middle East Program director. His research and writings focus on governance in the Middle East and North Africa, social vulnerability, and the different roles of governments and civil societies in the region.





A Game Changer



By Abraham A. van Kempen


About a year ago, I met 'Rich' on the phone. I think that's his name. It could have been 'Ralph.' I never met him. I've neither seen him before nor since. He called me to sell me something. I can't even remember what. He's retired in Florida and has 79 years of street-wise smarts inside his soul. I told him I was working on my book.


               "The common thread, the overall theme will be about dignity … to dignify God, you must dignify the other … we're all created in His image.

               And I will do my best to convince the 70 million Evangelicals in the United States and their 600+ million followers worldwide to get off the Israeli bandwagon to stop supporting Israeli atrocities against the indigenous people of Palestine ... because Israel's crimes against humanity are anti-Christian … what's more, Rich, this will be the game changer.


Suppose the Evangelicals join me in rebuking Israel's criminal misconduct against a defenseless people. What would happen to the $6 million a week 'defense' package from the United States that aids and abets Israel's brutalities and the $500 million of direct donations to Israel from Christians throughout the United States?"

               "Well, good luck," was Rich's response.

               "From the tone of your voice, it sounds like you think I'm dreaming," I countered.

               "Rich," I continued, "many Palestinians are more genetically connected to the Ancient Israelites than most European Jews who wandered into the region, especially after World War II … most Christians view Modern Israel as Ancient Israel. They are clueless when it comes to what's happening in Israel-Palestine and, you know what, I've done my homework, I know what I'm talking about … most Christians are clueless when it comes to understanding the fullness of Christianity … and the Second Coming is less about Israel and more about becoming Christ-like, to be witnesses of Christ … the WALK, not the talk … just walk the talk 'in every nation' (Matthew 24: 14)."

Smell the Stench


That fired him up. "Abraham," he said, "Don't write the same superfluities (speaking in a pronounced New York-Irish accent, he uses a more guttural term, the 's' word). "You want to write a game changer, a bestseller?


               Expose Israel! Name one by one the manure (he uses that same 's' word again) that you just can't put back into the horse and let people smell the stench." Wow! That got me thinking of my childhood … the scent of manure in the early morning dew above the meadows with the water vapor still hanging above the ground. We were on the phone for at least an hour and a half.

               "I'm not going to tell you how to write your book, but I want you to bulldoze through the brick wall of 'anti-Semitism.' They'll rake you over the coals … but I've done my homework, too. Nothing is more anti-Semitic than Zionism."


That was not a slap in the face. It felt more like a ton of bricks or, worse, a kick in where it would hurt me the most. And then Rich started to rub it in even more.


Nothing is More Godless than …

"In fact,' he says, "it's worse than that. Are you ready?


               Nothing is more anti-Christian than Zionism.


               Nothing is more anti-Muslim than Zionism.


               Nothing is more godless, inhumane, heartless, merciless, brutal, ruthless, vicious, and indecent than Zionism. Now, do your research.


And if your findings corroborate with what I just said, shout from the mountain tops, tell the world … you're a Jew … prove your case … at most, they'll vilify you as 'Judenrat'… me, they'd charge me with anti-Semitism, and they might even slap me with some hate crime."


I had one other meaningful telephone conversation with the woman who became my wife 34 years ago. We just had our first date, a disaster. Our second date was an impromptu phone call. We didn't know what was in store for us. My mother badgered me for days: "Have you thanked her yet?" My future wife painstakingly prepared lunch, which, an hour or so later, I vomited out, all of it, thank goodness, into the toilet. How does one say: "I'm sorry I threw up all your food … it isn't the food, it's me … maybe I was sick or something …?" I blew it. My macho self-image imploded right in front of her.

Finally, on a Wednesday night at 21.00 hours (9 P.M.) I thought, "Let me get this over and done with and swallow my pride." It turned out to be the serendipity of serendipities. The phone call lasted from 9.00 P.M. until 3.30 A.M., 6.5 hours. Our conversation was open and honest, exuberant and exhilarating. If we discussed the puking incident, it was hardly a talking point. At around 3.15 A.M.– and this is all I can still remember – I asked, "If I were to ask you to marry me, how would you respond?"

She said, "Yes."

"Really? You mean that?"


Just like that. Six weeks later, we were on our honeymoon. We're still together through thick and thin with all the ups and downs. Of course, it was a marriage made in heaven. We recognized it. We went for it in faith. Don't think for one moment it's been an easy ride. To give you an idea, it took us one week to negotiate our eldest son's name. He was nameless for a week. She is strong-willed; me, too; and so are our children. What a family!



Israel targets the Hamas tunnel system under Gaza City


Flares dropped by Israeli forces above the Gaza Strip on 31 October 2023, viewed from a position near Sderot along the Israeli border. / Photo by Yuri Cortez/AFP via Getty Images.


By Seymour Hersh
1 November 2023


The Israeli leadership is continuing its all-out war against Hamas—a war being played out in the air above Gaza City, at street level, where tanks have entered the zone, and underground in a labyrinth of tunnels under Gaza—as the death toll from its constant bombing and shelling mounts. More than 8,000 residents of the Gaza Strip have been killed so far, forty percent of them children, according to the international aid group Defense for Children, in retaliation for Hamas’s terrorist attack on an all-night Israeli dance party, kibbutzim and small farming villages in the south of Israel on 7 October. Hamas still holds more than 230 Israeli hostages it seized on that murderous Saturday when scarcely any Israeli forces appeared on the scene for as long as ten hours.


The Israeli death count for the Hamas attack of 7 October now stands at 1,400. He includes 317 members of the Israeli military—some of those victims may be military contractors—and 58 police officers. At least thirty Americans, according to the State Department, many of them working for NGOs, were also killed, and thirteen Americans are still unaccounted for. Dozens of those captured by Hamas—among them the very young and the very old—never made it to its tunnel system because they fell or, more likely, were flung off the bicycles or motorcycles that were carrying them and were immediately executed.


In the last few days, the Israeli Defense Force has escalated its ground operations against Hamas by sending tank columns directly into Gaza and firing from a distance at targets in Gaza City. I was told by a military expert who has served in combat with the IDF that the tank movements were the beginning of a second phase of its combat operations against Hamas. The goal, he said, is to break Hamas’s defensive perimeter around its main bunkers and tunnels in the center of Gaza City. The tank columns “are not rushing into the center. Rather, they stay put on the perimeters, firing in from a distance.”


Such tactics, the expert said, minimize Israeli casualties while also producing hundreds of enemy kills: “The soldiers don’t rush in, and they don’t fight face to face with terrorists.” The downside to such tactics, he said, is that buildings and neighborhoods are “flattened . . . whether or not civilians are inside these buildings.” Israel has consistently told journalists that Gaza City residents are provided with warnings before their buildings are attacked.


There is a second downside, he added: “The slow approach takes time. How much time does Israel have to pursue this war?” He was referring to the growing worldwide protests calling for a ceasefire.


There are two more concerns facing the bitterly divided Israeli leadership, now led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: to negotiate the return from Hamas of its more than 230 hostages, who include at least sixteen and perhaps a dozen more active duty members of the IDF; and to destroy the extensive Hamas tunnel system that provides for exits and entrances underneath the thousands of residential and office buildings in Gaza City that are the main targets of the Israeli Air Force. At this point, I have been told close to 50 percent of the targeted buildings inside Gaza City have been destroyed, and the bombing is scheduled to continue until the Israeli Air Force reaches its goal of wiping out 65 percent of the possible citywide escape routes for the Hamas leadership and its fighters.


Israel’s insistence that all residents of the targeted buildings were given notice of the pending destruction has done little to lessen the international outrage at what is seen as a grossly disproportionate response by Israel to the Hamas terrorist attacks.


The Hamas tunnels “were dazzling in their ingenuity,” I was told by an official who helped Israel map the tunnels and come to grips with the threat posed by easy citywide access for Hamas fighters. “There were administrative tunnels, command-and-control tunnels, and storage tunnels throughout Gaza City,” he said, with hundreds of entry points. It was decided after the 7 October attack that “all buildings with terminal exits and entry points had to be bombed.”


The official said the amount of dirt and debris removed for the underground construction in Gaza City was estimated to amount to 75 million cubic feet—a total whose disposal would require 140,000 dumpsters. The official used an analogy to describe the project, which was closely monitored for years by outside experts working with Israeli intelligence: enough material was removed to build the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.


There is no sign, well-informed Americans and Israelis have told me, that the Israeli leadership will stop the nearly round-the-clock bombing campaign until 65 percent of the targets for destruction have been hit. The bombing has turned long-deprived Gaza City into a deadly wasteland.


In my recent reporting, I’ve been told that at the time of the October raid, as many as 15,000 to 20,000 fighters were living and training in the vast system, which included heat, light, and ventilation, even air-conditioning. The citywide access allowed many to come and go to their families in Gaza City.


The many thousands of Gazan workers who held jobs inside Israel are now understood by Israeli intelligence to have provided the Hamas planners with a core of data and photographs, many sent on mobile phones via WhatsApp, about the Israeli kibbutzim and local villages that were attacked on 7 October.


Meanwhile, serious talks are continuing between Israel and the Hamas leadership. Hamas is aware that the Israeli leadership, which failed to protect its citizens on 7 October, is eager to rescue the hostages through a prisoner swap, as has occurred before. Public discussion of those talks has not come from Tel Aviv but from Yahya Sinwar, the feared and hated leader of Hamas in Gaza, whose spokesman issued a statement Saturday to Hamas’s al-Aqsa television station declaring that his movement was ready for an “immediate” swap of the Israeli hostages for all of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Sinwar himself was sentenced to life in prison in 1999 for the murder of four suspected Palestinian informers and two Israeli soldiers but was released, along with more than a thousand fellow inmates, in a prisoner exchange in 2011 for a single captured Israeli soldier named Gilad Shalit.


I have been told—the details are complicated—that Sinwar, who reportedly learned Hebrew while in prison, has expressed willingness to discuss an exchange of prisoners that would include the release of thousands of Hamas prisoners now in Israeli jails. The freed prisoners would perhaps be relocated to Qatar. However, I was also told that there was an impasse: Sinwar refuses to include the captured Israeli soldiers in the deal, and he insists that the male Israeli hostages between the ages of 17 and 45—their numbers could total thirty or more—should be considered soldiers because of their automatic status as IDF reservists until the age of forty-five.


The talks, as described by an Israeli source, are underway even as Israeli special forces and regular army soldiers are in the Gaza Strip, penetrating tunnels from known access points and destroying exits and ventilation ducts as they move. The main goal of the penetrations thus far has been to determine where the hostages are being held. I have been told there has been little resistance, with only one significant casualty as of Sunday. At this point, no major Israeli army ground invasion of Gaza City is imminent, but the Israeli air and ground campaign is gaining traction. Many of the tunnels are believed to have collapsed as a result of the heavy bombing, and it is not clear how long the Hamas fighters can survive despite its heavy stockpiling of food and water. I also have been told that there is no power throughout the underground tunnel system, and all the fighters and hostages are living in the dark.


Given all the obstacles to their rescue, the fate of the hostages is uncertain. The Hamas leaders have refused to allow the International Red Cross to visit the hostages. And I was told by a well-informed Israeli that two weeks ago, Netanyahu instructed Israel’s foreign and domestic intelligence agencies “to hunt down and kill every single Hamas political and military leader” in the Middle East.


“Israel, ruthlessly,” I was told, “is going after the families, wives, kids, brothers, sisters, and parents of Hamas political and military leaders.” He said fourteen members of the family of Ismail Haniya, the political leader of Hamas based in Qatar, had already been killed. Within two days of the 7 October raid, he said, the widow of Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi, a Hamas co-founder who was assassinated in 2004, was killed. Similarly, he said, eight members of the family of Muhammed Deif, the Hamas military leader, were killed in safe homes.


“From Israel’s perspective,” the Israeli told me, “It is now a no-holds-barred war.”


EDITORIAL | The Israeli House of Cards


The Israeli House of Cards, fabricated and shaped on ideas envisaged during post-revolutionary Russia that also trickled into the ideological mindset of post-World War I Germany26, can and will eventually collapse, preferably democratically from within; otherwise, inescapably from without.


If only the people of Israel were mature and free enough of the frenzy of nationalism to vote their self-perpetuating, inveterate government out and choose humane, regular, and peaceful representatives who would come to terms with the harsh realities, the growing power, and growing tempers of the whole Arab and Muslim world.


A shift of balance of power, a secret military alliance, a new lethal weapon; and then, given an atmosphere overstrained because of some border incident— a shepherd, a dam, a water pipeline, fishing rights or marsh draining, and the David Ben-Gurion to Binyamin Netanyahu jingoists rushing in with their garish One Thousand-Eyes-for- ONE-eye surprise attacks— and a brush fire may turn into a holocaust. Israel-Palestine is the world's most dangerous powder keg.27 Enemies who are enemies against a common enemy could become, geopolitically, comrades in arms.


Would the EU-US-led Western Alliance risk World War III if Tel Aviv becomes another Aleppo?


van Kempen, Abraham. Christian Zionism ... Enraptured Around a Golden Calf, 2nd Edition (Kindle Location 2137). The 3rd Edition will be released in February 2023.



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