Tag Archives: current affairs

Could there ever be a Christian suicide bomber? Done already.

imageJRR Tolkien once wrote about the dangers of adventures that potentially lie ahead when you dare to step outside your front door and follow the road…any road…to see where it goes. So here’s an unexpected road my fingers took me on as I opened my digital front door to Googleland this week.

I have no idea why the old 1960s ‘Supermarionation’ TV puppet series sprung back to mind this week. Along with Joe 90 it was the lesser known of the genre after the still highly popular Thunderbirds, which has seen a modern revival. Personally, I think Scarlet would do very well if brought into the 21st Century and there’s some irony in that considering it was set in a century yet to come.

While I’ve never forgotten the classic theme tune sung by The Spectrum, I had forgotten how Captain Scarlet had become the ‘indestructible Man’ the Mysterons couldn’t kill. So I set off into Googleland to find out and came back with more than I bargained for.

imageI found the very first episode on YouTube via Google and watched it through and now recall how Scarlet gained his secret powers which again make sense of the opening credits. The episode was first broadcast in 1967. I never saw it then but like Thunderbirds, the series was repeated many times in later years. So I watched it again and found myself entertained but then shocked to see a suicide bombing and attempted assassination as the plot unfolded. A suicide bombing as we know it today back in 1967? How far sighted were the show producers? I had to find out.

imageBack out into Googleland I soon discovered to my horror that suicide bombings are not a 21st Century phenomena. It is centuries old and one of its most infamous occurrences was in the name of Christianity. I uncovered a number of references to an incident during the Tenth Crusade as Christianity and Islam fought bloodily over the Holy City of Jerusalem. In a sea battle the Knights Templar, a mysterious Sect which historians attribute to Christianity, but which no Christian denomination would own today, sacrificed 140 of their number by blowing up one of their own ships in the midst of enemy ships to take many more of them out.

I also discovered an interesting article in the Sky News archives which claims suicide bombing is recorded in and therefore seemingly sanctioned by the Bible. Well not quite. They refer to the death of Samson as recorded in the Book of Judges 16:30 who took his own life while inflicting death on many more as he destroyed a pagan temple.

imageWe ought to know from living history that suicide bombings are not a 21st Century phenomenon, even if they are far more common place than ever before. The Japanese military inflicted the first 9/11 with Kamikaze pilots ploughing into the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour in 1941. The first modern day suicide bombing was recorded in the 1980s in Lebanon and they became most frequently used to kill and maim in Israel but also Sri Lanka by Tamil rebels.

I don’t believe Christians invoked the first suicide bomb. I know of the Knights Templar from a while back as I delved into their links with the Illuminati (go Google) who were most certainly nothing to do with my faith. I have, however, long held the fear that sooner or later an atrocity will be committed in the name of Christianity whether by a deluded individual or by others wishing to ignite inter-communal strife with a deliberate act to tar all Christians but then that reality is being experienced by the majority of moderate Muslims today.

Singing La Marseillaise…

imageRegardless of whether you are young or old, if you are too ignorant not to have watched or know of one of the most iconic movies of all time then this post is quite rightly way above your head so best head back to whatever Simon Cowell is eating your brains with at the moment, arse head.

I’m talking about Casablanca. Bogart, Bergman, As Time Goes By, black and white and that foggy airport runway to Lisbon. If you know the film then you will no doubt remember above all the defiant singing of La Marseillaise, the free French national anthem in Rick’s Bar as a spit in the face of the German NAZI occupation. The empassioned, defiant rendition in the face of swaggering overloads was struck up by a hunted freedom fighter by the Nazis who ruled Casablanca in French Morocco as a captured territory of a defeated France.

imageThisweek I gathered in the Winter night cold in London’s Trafalgar Square with a few hundred people, mostly French. That number grew significantly to thousands after I left. I was there as part of the impromptu vigil organised just 2 hours previous by some of London’s considerably large French community. We were there because Nous sommes tous Charlie. We were there on France’s 9/11 to stand with our chief rival and arch enemy of old on the historical imperial battlefields that have divided yet united us for centuries. We were there to express our…I don’t know what. Shock? Outrage? Despair? at the butchering of cartoonists, journalists and expressionists among our Western media.

And so we sang La Marseillaise.

Quite because of Casablanca, I can sing by heart the French national song, never taught to me in school and I have to say I was a better singer than many of the French around me (or perhaps they were just sympathetic Belgians)?

So why were we there? We gathered firstly in shock and then in defiance as the events were unfolding in Paris that day. This before the twin hostage situations that followed yesterday. One girl and one boy were stood singing songs of peace, mainly the boy. The rest of us kind of huddled in a widening group as media started to take pictures of people carrying Je Suis Charlie placards in memory of those butchered in the name of Islam at the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices, hastily photocopied or self drawn. Then the girl started alone to sing La Marseillaise.

When the national anthem was done, silence fell on all gathered that night as the rain started to pour in Trafalgar Square. I could not count the time we all stayed silent. I work in radio and so I know in my head how long the standard thirty seconds is. I lost count of how many of those passed as we stood in silence holding up placards or pens signifying that the pen is mightier than the sword.

I only got to know of this gathering via Twitter but wanted to be there to represent the media company I work for, though our editorial outlook is 180 degrees away from that of the Charlie Hebdo magazine that had been so brutally attacked. I wanted to be there and know that the media company I work for was there because ALL media was attacked this week. All of us were attacked this week. All.

The media company I work for is at high risk because of the nature of what we broadcast. We are a MAINSTREAM Christian broadcaster, so non fundamentalist, charity owned and regulated by Ofcom (the UK media regulators for overseas chums). We are continuing to broadcast, post and publish as normal and I hope that continues. But what we broadcast is the antithesis to what the murderers in Paris or IS or any Islamic fundamentalist believes.

I sang La Marseillaise for and with our French friends across the water. I also sang it for us, freedom of speech and freedom for our media.

I also sang in the hope that freedom will not die in Europe as some media pundits are sadly predicting.

R.I.P UK?

imageTwo weeks from today just over 4 million people north of the English border will be voting in an election that could have the most profound impact on my life. I’m powerless to do anything about it and not allowed a say on the matter. The matter being decided is the life or death of my country, the United Kingdom. Two weeks from tomorrow I will have not long landed in a foreign capital on the passport of a country that may no longer exist.

This post is not about the arguments for and against Scottish independence. It’s also not my perspective on the valid reasons the Scots have for seeking independence I believe they have. I am a unionist. It’s about the lack of realisation of what could be in store I perceive from the rest of the country, the other 55 million whose lives may be impacted. I can understand the lethargy in some ways. Not being able to have a say in the matter is incentive enough to want to disengage. The real shock is that the British Government has admitted it has no Plan B if the Scots vote to leave the Union. As the polls stand now, the long-standing ‘No’ majority has been whittled away to just a 6 point lead: 53% over 47% in the Yes camp. All either side needs to win is 51% and there are still 2 weeks to go. For our Government to have no Plan B is evidence of breath-taking arrogance and complacency in their disbelief such a state of play would exist as I’ve always suspected could.

On the morning the results are announced, the media group I work for will, like very many others, be broadcasting live from Scotland. I may not know the results until My flight touches down. Only then will I know whether I still have the same nation to belong to, the same flag to be proud of, the same passport to travel by or whether it will all be about to change. My employer will contemplate whether it can carry on broadcasting to Scotland or not. Every British bank will know whether it’s business as usual or profound volatility on the Stock Markets and a possible run on the pound sterling. Every business in the UK that has a dot.co.uk domain will be assessing the financial costs of reprinting corporate stationery should ‘dot anything dot UK’ be no longer valid. The Northern Irish may be re-assessing their own place in the Union as Irish Republicans may gain momentum for a vote to join with Ireland. The Welsh, for me a country with a far more obvious national identity and language than the Scots, will be rethinking their place in the Union. The British Labour Party may be assessing the loss of 50 Labour MPs that Scotland currently sends to Westminster to bolster their numbers and that impact on the political landscape south of the border which grows more Conservative the further south you go. The Queen may be re-assessing what her role will be north of the border if any at all. Our military personnel employed to run our Nuclear Deterrent based in Scotland will be wondering whether they still have jobs seeing that becoming a nuclear free zone is part and parcel of an independent Scotland. With that comes the possibility of a UK exit from having a nuclear deterrent altogether as there is no Plan B to move the naval facilities elsewhere and no obvious replacement to the Faslane naval base.

Further afield, the remnant UK (or whatever we might be called) will be contemplating less voting power in Europe, a potential loss of seat at the top table of the UN. The USA maybe contemplating life without the guaranteed assistance of its strongest and most dependable ally. NATO will be assessing the risks to its North Atlantic defences capabilities. Governments in Madrid, Rome and Brussels who face similar rumbling sentiments for national break up (most pressing in Spain) will also be watching the results of the Scottish vote very closely.

I’m aware that some or much of the above might not necessarily be bad outcomes to the rest of the UK for some. Fair do’s. There are myriads of other minutiae none of us know yet that will affect us both north and south if Scotland is to become like the Irish Republic: in close proximity and culturally more like brothers yet nonetheless foreigners and no longer part of our national psyche.

Fellow Brits in the other 3 Home Nations: if you have thought up to now that the vote in Scotland in 14 days time is just a matter for them and not us…think again. We are 14 days away from possibly the most seismic shift in our lives any of us have ever known and I include all wars in that assessment. A seismic shift of such great magnitude than our 4 united nations have known for many centuries. A seismic shift that will extend beyond our borders and ripple across the world. That is not me being grandiose and over-stating our significance. It’s just the way it will be.

Son of Hamas

imageTo some he was known as the ‘Green Prince’, the son and heir to a father much beloved by a suffering people. His father was one of the seven men who founded the entity we know today as Hamas – leaders of the Palestinian people in Gaza, classified in the West as one of the world’s most deadly terror organisations. He was raised from childhood living and breathing the mind and soul of Hamas and was expected to be among its next generation of leaders who would continue the struggle against Israeli oppression. He is now living in exile in California under a death sentence from his own people, publicly disowned by the father he worshipped whom he betrayed by secretly working for Israeli Intelligence for a decade before turning his back on violence and hatred for good. He now spends his time speaking out for peace and reconciliation. How is it possible anyone in the boiling pit of Middle Eastern hatred centuries old could do this?

People who know me or anyone who has read this blog will know that I am an avid Middle East watcher and have been most of my life. It would be fair to say I am openly pro-Israel but never label me a Non-critic also. As I write, war rages in Gaza. In the lead up to and during I have consumed far more information, news and opinions on the situation than the average Joe. That’s not a boast, it’s fact. I am a news junkie – news and opinions from all angles, not just mine, and I’ve read the thoughts of those closer to me whose opinions matter more because they are in my social media circles. Until now I’ve not really posted up my own thoughts in any great depth and not because I haven’t wanted to. I felt a very firm nudge in my spirit not to…until now. The reason was because of a book that came back to mind I started reading I’d heard about but never read called ‘The Son of Hamas’ by Mosab Hassan Yousef.

A shameful admission for an Arts graduate is that I hate reading (books, that is). Can read all day stuff online or in newspapers so for any book to get my attention is going some. I’m late coming to this book. It came out in 2010 and been reprinted with a postscript since. It came across my desk at work some time ago and I can’t remember in what context. Don’t think I read more than the back cover. As the situation in Israel/Gaza looked set to blow big I felt prompted to get the book and from the first paragraph I was hooked.

I have never read a book that has done my head in so much.

The book is an autobiography by Mosab co-written with American freelance journalist, Ron Brackin. On its release it made the top of several international Best Seller lists. Mosab tells his story in an un-emotive yet instantly engaging way. Case in hand, I was reading it on my iPad on the Tube on the way to work one day and noticed the young, smart Muslim guy next to me start leave off what he was doing on his smart phone and I could sense him reading my iPad over my shoulder several times. I didn’t let on I knew this but later caught a glimpse of his phone screen where he had Googled and found the book and author and was taking a read through. I wonder if he ever bought it. It will not be the read he may have been expecting from the part of the story I was up to at that point that’s for sure.

imageThe autobiography charts Mosab’s childhood in the West Bank and what life was/is like for Palestinians. The perpetual struggle against Israel and Israel’s iron fist intelligence activities to stay ahead of terrorism. The account of his abduction and torture by Israel when only 18 is brutal and not a one-off occurrence for him, his father, brothers or many of his people. Yet, without giving anything away you will not read on the back cover, Mosab eventually agrees to work covertly for the Shin Bet, Israel’s notoriously ruthless intelligence arm. Was this through a sheer and understandable desire for self-preservation or had the Israelis brainwashed him to such a degree? You’ll have to read it to come to your own conclusion.

When I say that this book did my head in, I meant it. There were many times where what I was reading seemed so hard to comprehend or believe that I was many times tempted to abandon it. It also got to a point just before the end that I almost came to the conclusion that I did not trust the author anymore. I certainly could not comprehend how this man could apparently make a 180 turn from hating Israel to willingly working for it to protect Israelis at the expense of his own people. I Googled around to find out more about him, asked former colleagues who worked in publishing what they knew of him, asked Facebookers and Tweeters based in Israel what they knew of him. Even asked my friend on the staff of the Israeli Embassy in London what she knew. I got positive responses but not yet come across anyone who met him. Despite this and up to almost the end of the book I still had my doubts.

One person who I trust implicitly that I consulted as I tried to find out more on Mosab is a former colleague and current friend who has written a number of books on the lives of ordinary people out there on all sides of the divides. She managed to visit the West Bank for the first time this year. I emailed her on my angst at what I was reading and was it possible for this man to make such a volte face? Had she met him at all? Interviewed him? She hadn’t but had reliable friends who reported on his sincerity. In almost a scold at my lack of willingness to believe the impossible, she told me she has met other Palestinians who have made similar life-changing decisions in their regard toward Israel but who now live covert lives for fear of death if they speak out.

I pressed on with the book to the end. Just as well I did but also just as well I read the book now and not when it was first published. The postscript written in 2011 answered many of my questions on the author’s sincerity I still would have been left with after the first edition.

As the current situation in Gaza has intensified, I have had one eye on my TV screen and one on this book. I’ve read the blatherings and bleatings of the emotionally stimulated but uneducated and ignorant in both traditional and social media. I’ve seen the gathering pace of the global movement to ostracize and demonize Israel. Because I have watched this area for so long I can honestly say this is not a surprise to me nor should be to any Christian who has read to the end of that other Book. It is especially some of these people who need to read Son of Hamas.

Leaving aside all my doubts over Mosab, this book opened my eyes wider to my understanding and empathy with the plight of the Palestinians. Mosab took me deeper into the understanding of their mentality and culture. Moreover I got to understand the very many different ideologies that war with each other for control of the minds and souls of the Palestinians. Ask yourself this question: if what is going on in Gaza is war between Israel and the Palestinians, why is it that the far more numerous Palestinians on the West Bank are not up in arms too? What is the difference between those who lead the Palestinians of Gaza (Hamas) and those who lead the Palestinians of the West Bank (Fatah)? This is one of the many huge revelations Mosab reveals along with many, many others which will surprise and shock.

imageIn this book, the Son of Hamas or the Green Prince as was his code name while working for the Shin Bet, a man raised from childhood to eventually aspire to Jihad (Holy War against non-Muslims) reveals the mind and psychology of extreme Islam. If for no other reason than to gain an understanding of the global threat we all face by the Jihadis of ISIS and how they think and what their end goal is then you need to read this book. Hamas is aligned in thought, practice, hope and aspiration to ISIS, Hezbollah, Boko Haram and all the other extremists that threaten ANY culture that has not bowed the knee to radical Islam. I blogged on the coming creation of a pan-national Islamic Caliphate over a year before any of us heard of ISIS.

But even all the above is not the lasting core message Mosab wrote this book to leave the reader with. What was it that enabled a man of war to lay down his weapons and make it his mission in life to minister peace and reconciliation? What drastically life-changing experience did it take to bring him to forgive his enemies? What extreme antidote did it take to neutralise the deep poison of hatred birthed between two related peoples centuries ago? It is that tale that is the lasting legacy of this son of Hamas.

Son of Hamas is available in print at Amazon and is downloadable for e-readers.

Dawsons Field: Part 1

EL ALThe Pilot suddenly plunged the airliner into a steep nosedive throwing the two hijackers off their feet. Back in the passenger cabin, Flight Attendants grappled with the female on the floor. Also thrown, the male in desperation hurled his hand grenade down the aisle. By some miracle it failed to explode. As he pulled his gun and shot and wounded a Cabin Steward, he was hit over the head with a whisky bottle by a passenger. The last thing he heard was the bullet from the gun of the Sky Marshall that brought the heist to and end. With all passengers shaken but safe, the airliner made an emergency landing at London Heathrow and the hijack was over.

No, not snippet from a thriller novel or my first attempt at a short story but what really happened on EL AL Israel Airlines flight 219 from Tel Aviv to New York via Amsterdam with 148 on board in September 1970. If you have forgotten or are too young to know, 9/11 was not the world’s first spectacular multiple hijacking. Why September seems to be the optimum month for such events I do not know and how much a part the events of 1970 had to play on the timing and style of 9/11 can only be guessed at. As events unfolded, they threw the world at the time into chaos causing acrimony between the UK and the USA, leading an Arab state to implore Israel to strike other Arab states on its behalf, almost bringing the entire Middle East to war, superpowers to loggerheads and shaping the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict as it stands today.

imageEL AL 219 was one of three international flights originally targeted for hijack along with TWA 741 from Frankfurt to New York with 155 on and Swissair 100 also with 155 on heading from Z├╝rich to New York. What is it about New York and hijacks? The Israeli plane was seized shortly after leaving Amsterdam and due the swift actions of the Flight and Cabin crews the male hijacker was killed in the air and the female, a Leila Khaled, was overcome and handed to the UK authorities where she was interned. What no-one knew, and again in a chilling similarity with 9/11, was that not all the hijackers had made it on board. Two were left at the gate in Amsterdam. Not to be thwarted, these two bought tickets to board Pan American 93 heading from Amsterdam to New York with 162 on board. Seems like hijacking planes was as easy as stealing cars in those days.

Dawsons field

Dawsons Field

With the EL AL jet safe on the ground in London, the TWA and Swissair flights headed to a little known former Royal Air Force Base in Jordan known then as Dawsons Field (Zarka today). The Pan American flight, a Boeing 747 and the largest of the 3 airliners captured, needed a longer runway to land on than Dawsons Field offered. The flight touched down in Beirut to pick up additional hijackers and explosives, and then headed for Cairo. All in a 1970’s hijackerman’s normal working day really.

The last and unexpected piece of the puzzle was the taking of British flight BOAC 775 heading to London from Bahrain with 114 on board. 775 joined the party with the Swiss and American flights at Dawsons Field while Pan Am 93 sat on its lonesome in Cairo.

And so the eyes of the world focused on the remote and little known former RAF base in the deserts of Jordan known as Dawsons Field from where ripples would spiral bringing superpowers and global allies to logger heads and the armies of the Middle East mobilising for war.

(to be continued…)