Hamas says ‘Israel failed in its goals’, thanks Iran

Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal said on Wednesday that Israel had “failed in all its goals” after a Gaza truce deal came into effect, while thanking Egypt and Iran for their support during the conflict.

“After eight days, God stayed their hand from the people of Gaza, and they were compelled to submit to the conditions of the resistance,” Meshaal said.

“Israel has failed in all its goals,” he told reporters in a Cairo hotel.

Meshaal also thanked ceasefire mediator Egypt, as well as Iran, which he said “had a role in arming” his Islamist movement during the conflict.

“I would like to thank our dear Egypt, aided by the brave elected President Mohamed Morsi… Egypt acted responsibly and understood the demands of the resistance and the Palestinian people,” he said.

Meshaal also praised Iran, despite “disagreements on the situation in Syria”.

And the Hamas leader warned Israel against violating the agreement.

“If you commit, we will commit. If you do not commit, the rifles are in our hands,” he said.

Earlier, Egypt announced the ceasefire agreement would come into effect at 1900 GMT on the eighth day of Gaza-linked violence that has killed at least 155 Palestinians and five Israelis.

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EGYPT BROTHERHOOD LEADER BLASTS PEACE WITH ISRAEL

The top leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood denounced peace efforts with Israel and urged holy war to liberate Palestinian territories on Thursday – one day after the country’s president, who hails from the movement, mediated a cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians to end eight days of fierce fighting.

“The enemy knows nothing but the language of force,” said Mohammed Badie. “Be aware of the game of grand deception with which they depict peace accords,” he said in a statement carried on the group’s website and emailed to reporters.

His statement was a sharp deviation from the role played by President Mohammed Morsi in the last week. Egypt’s role in brokering the deal has been hailed by U.S. officials.

The Brotherhood sometimes delivers conflicting messages, depending on its audience. There are also ideological and generational divisions within the movement, with older leaders like Badie often seen as more conservative.

The Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t recognize Israel and – at least officially – its members refuse to hold direct talks with Israeli officials. But Morsi has said that he will abide by the terms of Egypt’s 1979 treaty with Israel, and many members say they are in little hurry to enter into armed conflict with the Jewish state.

Badie declared that “jihad is obligatory” for Muslims. But he also said that taking up arms would be the “last stage,” only after Muslims achieved unity. “The use of force and arms while the group is fragmented and disconnected, unorganized, weak in conviction, with faint faith – this will be destined for death.”

In the meantime, he called on Muslims to “back your brothers in Palestine. Supply them with what they need, seek victory for them in all international arenas.” Badie’s title – General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood – also implies a leadership role in the Islamist group’s sister movements across the world.

Under the deal, Gaza’s ruling Hamas is to stop rocket fire into Israel while Israel is to cease attacks and allow the opening of the strip’s long-blockaded borders.

The Hamas-Israel fighting was the first major international test for Morsi, who was caught between either supporting Hamas, one of the Egyptian Brotherhood’s sister movements, and Cairo’s regional and international commitments.

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Morsi Asserts New Powers and Orders Ex-Officials Retried

Egypt’s Islamist president unilaterally decreed greater authorities for himself Thursday and effectively neutralized a judicial system that had emerged as a key opponent by declaring that the courts are barred from challenging his decisions.

Riding high on U.S. and international praise for mediating a Gaza cease-fire, Mohammed Morsi put himself above oversight and gave protection to the Islamist-led assembly writing a new constitution from a looming threat of dissolution by court order.

But the move is likely to fuel growing public anger that he and his Muslim Brotherhood are seizing too much power.

In what was interpreted by rights activists as a de facto declaration of emergency law, one of Morsi’s decrees gave him the power to take “due measures and steps” to deal with any “threat” to the revolution, national unity and safety or anything that obstructs the work of state institutions.

Morsi framed his decisions as necessary to protect the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago and to cement the nation’s transition to democratic rule. Many activists, including opponents of the Brotherhood, criticize the judiciary as packed with judges and prosecutors sympathetic to Mubarak. Brotherhood supporters accuse the courts of trying to block their agenda.

“He had to act to save the country and protect the course of the revolution,” said one of Morsi’s aides, Pakinam al-Sharqawi, speaking on Al-Jazeera. “It is a major stage in the process of completing the January 25th revolution,” she said, alluding to the starting day of last year’s uprising against Mubarak.

In a nod to revolutionary sentiment, Morsi also ordered the retrial of Mubarak and top aides on charges of killing protesters during the uprising. He also created a new “protection of the revolution” judicial body to swiftly carry out the prosecutions. But he did not order retrials for lower-level police acquitted of such killings, another widespread popular demand that would disillusion the security forces if carried out.

Liberal politicians immediately criticized the decrees as dictatorial and destined to divide a nation already reeling from months of turmoil following Mubarak’s ouster. Some said they exceeded the powers once enjoyed by Mubarak.

“Morsi today usurped all state powers & appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh,” pro-reform leader Mohamed ElBaradei wrote on Twitter. “A major blow to the revolution that could have dire consequences.”

ElBaradei later addressed a news conference flanked by other prominent politicians from outside the Brotherhood, including two presidential candidates who ran against Morsi, Amr Moussa and Hamdeen Sabahi.

They pledged to cooperate to force Morsi to rescind his assumption of greater powers. “We will work together as Egyptians until we achieve the goals of our revolution,” said ElBaradei, a former director of the U.N.’s nuclear agency and Nobel peace laureate.

They called for mass protests Friday to demand the dissolution of the declarations. The audience interrupted the press conference, chanting “Down with the Guide’s rule,” referring to the Supreme Guide of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group, Mohammed Badie.

The prospect of large rival protests involving Morsi’s opponents and supporters in Cairo on Friday raises the likelihood of clashes.

Thousands from the rival camps were already out on the streets of Cairo late Thursday in an increasingly charged atmosphere.

A crowd of Brotherhood supporters massed outside the Supreme Court building and offices of the prosecutor general — whom Morsi removed in Thursday’s edict. They chanted slogans for “the cleansing of the judiciary,” shouting, “The people support the president’s decisions.” Leading Brotherhood member Mohammed el-Beltagi, attending the rally, singled out several critics of Morsi from among the ranks of the judiciary for criticism.

Meanwhile, blocks away near Tahrir Square, hundreds of demonstrators held a fourth straight day of protests against Morsi and the Brotherhood. “Brotherhood is banned from entry,” declared a large banner at the protest.

Wael Ghonim, an icon of the anti-Mubarak uprising, rejected Morsi’s decisions, arguing the president could have protected the revolution without concentrating so much power in his hands.

“The revolution was not staged in search for a benign dictator, there is a difference between revolutionary decisions and dictatorial decisions. God is the only one whose decisions are not questioned.”

The Egyptian leader decreed that all decisions he has made since taking office in June and until a new constitution is adopted and a new parliament is elected cannot be appealed in court or by any other authority. Parliamentary elections are not likely before next spring.

The decree also barred the courts from dissolving the controversy-plagued assembly writing the new constitution. Several courts have been looking into lawsuits demanding the panel be disbanded.

The Brotherhood and Morsi allies who dominate the assembly have pushed to give the draft an Islamist slant that opponents fear would marginalize women and minority Christians, infringe on personal liberties and even give Muslim clerics a say in lawmaking. Liberal and Christian members withdrew from the assembly during the past week to protest what they say is the hijacking of the process by Morsi’s allies.

Morsi on Thursday extended by two months, until February, the deadline for the assembly to produce a draft, apparently to give members more time to iron out their differences.

He also barred any court from dissolving the Islamist-led upper house of parliament, a largely toothless body that has also faced court cases.

The president made most of the changes Thursday in a declaration amending an interim constitution that has been in effect since shortly after Mubarak’s fall and has over time become a ramshackle patchwork. The military, which took power after Mubarak, set the precedent for the executive unilaterally issuing constitutional changes, which it did several times during its 16-month rule.

The moves come as Morsi basks in lavish praise from President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for mediating an end to eight days of fighting between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers. Clinton was in Cairo on Wednesday, when she held extensive talks with Morsi.

Morsi not only holds executive power, he also has legislative authority after a previous court ruling just before he took office on June 30 dissolved the powerful lower house of parliament, which was led by the Brotherhood. With two branches of power in his hands, Morsi effectively took away many prerogatives of the third, the judiciary.

The provision for a retrial of Mubarak appeared to be a gesture to public opinion. The decree called for “new investigations and trials” against those who held “political or executive” positions in the old regime and who are accused of killing protesters.

Mubarak was convicted in June to life in prison for failing to stop the killing of protesters during last year’s uprising against his rule, but many Egyptians were angered that he wasn’t convicted of actually ordering the crackdown and that his security chief, Habib el-Adly, was not sentenced to death. Several top police commanders were acquitted, and Mubarak and his sons were found not guilty of corruption charges.

But the decree would not mean retrials for the dozens of lower-level police officers who have been acquitted or received suspended sentences in trials for killing protesters — verdicts that have outraged many Egyptians. That exclusion will guarantee Morsi the loyalty of the powerful but hated police force.

Morsi on Thursday also fired the country’s top prosecutor, Abdel-Maguid Mahmoud. A Mubarak-era appointee, Mahmoud has faced widespread accusations that his office did a shoddy job collecting evidence against Mubarak, el-Adly and the police in trials.

Morsi first fired Mahmoud in October but had to rescind his decision when he found that the powers of his office do not empower him to do so. So on Thursday, he decreed that the prosecutor general could serve in office only for four years, with immediate effect on Mahmoud, who had held the post since 2006. Morsi replaced Mahmoud with Talaat Abdullah, a career judge, and swiftly swore him in.

Thursday’s decisions were read on state television by Morsi’s spokesman, Yasser Ali. In a throwback to the days of the authoritarian Mubarak and his predecessors Anwar Sadat and Gamal Abdel-Nasser, the television followed up with a slew of nationalist songs.

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Torah Commentary – Vayetze “And he went out”

Torah Commentary  

Vayetze “And he went out”
Genesis 28:10-32:3
Hosea 12:12-14:10

John 1:43-51

Just In Case

It is said that truth is far stranger than fiction. Nowhere is that statement more true that in the life of Jacob. The account of his life during the years with Laban, the marriages to Leah and Rachael and the birth of the first children is a story no one could have ever dreamed up! The twists and turns of this man’s life at times make you sit just shaking your head in disbelief. When we consider that this man is one of the Patriarchs and that his sons are the ones whose names are inscribed on the gates of the New Jerusalem … well, let’s just say it gives us hope for our lives today.

Yes, this is the story of those whose family we are grafted into. And we wonder why we look a bit dysfunctional at times. Looks like the nuts did not fall too far from the tree on this one!

In the account, Jacob has finally had enough of Mr. Nose Ring, Laban, and decides it is high time for him to take his family and head back to the home he has been promised. But will the story of his return be any more normal than his life to this point? Of course not!

Another saying that comes into play this week is that “Love is blind.” This is certainly true in Jacob’s relationship with his favored wife Rachael. It has been over fourteen years that he has been in love with her, and in fourteen years he has been blinded to a part of her life that we will read in coming weeks would continue to bring heartache to his life and to his family. What is this part of Rachael’s life? We find it in Genesis 31:19 when Rachael steals the household idols of her father, Laban.

To understand this act we have to understand what these idols were all about. These idols were carvings of false gods which Laban worshipped. He had no doubt taught his family they were bringing blessings and some sort of “luck” to his family. Rachael had seen her father trust in these little idols and had heard him tell stories of giving them credit for the blessings of his life. Rachael bought into this and accepted it all as truth.

Along comes Jacob and during the years of work and marriage to Rachael, he tells her of this “New God,” the God of his father and his grandfather. When it comes time to leave Rachael is in a bit of a spot. Does she forsake her father and his gods to follow her husband and his God? What if we just appear on the surface to be following the God of Jacob, but just in case He does not come through, we reserve something to fall back on? Now that sounds like a good idea, does it not?

About this time, we should all be staring at these words and asking ourselves a very serious question, “Just how much of Rachael’s attitude is in our lives today?” Yes, “OUCH” is a very appropriate word to use here!

Through the years that I have been pursuing Torah, I have seen a multitude of people come and go. Many have come in with the attitude of “I will give this ‘Torah Thing’ a try, but if it does not work out for me, I can still go back to the way I grew up.” Or better yet, they decide to carry both at the same time, just seeing which one will work out better for their needs in the end.

We will see in coming weeks how riding the fence did not work out very well for Rachael. In fact, as we continue to read the Torah, we will find this approach does not work out very well for anyone.

This is not a day to be found wavering. It is a day to make clear choices of just which direction we are going in life. Will we truly serve the Elohim of the Scriptures or will we serve the lies and falsehoods that have been handed down through the past centuries? Many still need to make that decision! I can think of no better month to decide our path than the one which we enter next Shabbat. Will we stand with the Torah faithful during the time of Hanukah or will we trust in idols of trees, ornaments and lights of the false gods? To quote Joshua out of next week’s readings, “As for me and my house …” I hope you know the answer.

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THE JOYFUL SOUND OF FREEDOM

THE JOYFUL SOUND OF FREEDOM
by David Wilkerson
[May 19, 1931 – April 27, 2011]

When the year of Jubilee came, every debt was wiped out. All leases and
possessions reverted back to the original leaseholder, which meant that the
farmer would get his land and his family back. Read about it in Leviticus 25.

You can imagine the rejoicing that took place in Israel and Judah when the
trumpets sounded. At that moment, on the tenth day of the seventh month, while
the high priest was making atonement, every bondservant who had been sold into
slavery was set free. And every person who had lost property was given back
everything. Families were reunited. Homes were restored. It was a time of
liberty, freedom, deliverance!

I picture destitute farmers standing along the demarcation lines of their old
property, waiting to step over as soon as the trumpets sounded. They had been
waiting ten years . . . then five . . . then one . . . and now they counted the
minutes to hear the joyful sound. They must have thought, “I’m getting back
everything I lost. It’s mine again—because this is the year of Jubilee!”

There was to be no planting or harvesting during the year of Jubilee. Instead,
the time was to be spent rejoicing. Jubilee was an entire year of Christmas
every day, of praising God for His grace, provision and freedom.

Please understand, the liberty proclaimed at Jubilee was not some nebulous idea
founded on faith alone. It was the law of the land. All a debtor needed to do to
have the law enforced was to stand on it. The Levites acted as monitors, or
sheriffs, so that everyone was assured justice.

Occasionally, a master might say to a bondservant, “You’re not leaving; you’re
still my servant! Get back to your labors.” But that servant could laugh in the
master’s face and say, “We both know what that trumpet sound means. It’s the
joyful sound of my freedom. You have no legal rights to me anymore. I’m free!”

How the people waited and longed to hear that joyful sound. It meant having the
freedom to say, “Nothing in my past can be held against me. I’ve been delivered
and no one can rob me of my inheritance.” Yet the person in bondage had to act
in order to take possession of his freedom or his lost property. He could dance
and shout in the synagogue all he wanted, crying, “I’m free! Everything has been
restored!” But until he stepped out and claimed his rights, he could not enjoy
any of it. Do you see the significance here? Most Christians have not claimed
the Jubilee that Jesus Christ has given them. Many think the “joyful sound”
today is merely hand-clapping or dancing in an emotional time of praise. But it
is so much more. God calls us to appropriate the freedom, peace and glory He has
provided for us through the forgiveness of sins. We are to step out and claim
it!
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