German police said on Saturday they were heightening security at Cologne Cathedral following indications of an attack planned for New Year’s Eve and in the wake of government warnings in recent weeks about the rising threat of Islamist violence.
The police said in a statement they would use tracker dogs to check the cathedral after evening mass and then close it off. On Sunday, Christmas Eve, they would carry out a security check on all visitors, and recommended they get to services early.
Police said they could not elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation.
German newspaper Bild earlier reported that security authorities in Austria, Germany and Spain had received indications an Islamist group wants to carry out attacks during the Christmas and New Year festivities.
In recent weeks Interior Minister Nancy Faeser has warned of the rising threat of Islamist violence in Germany and elsewhere in Europe as the Israel-Hamas war increases the risk of radicalization.
Austrian police said in a statement they were increasing security on churches and Christmas markets given a heightened state of alert.
“Given that terrorist actors throughout Europe are calling for attacks on Christian events, especially around Dec. 24, the security authorities have taken the corresponding protection measures in public spaces,” the police said.
The Spanish Interior Ministry announced at the beginning of December a reinforcement of security measures from Dec. 18 for the Christmas holidays, with the anti-terrorism alert at level 4 or “high risk,” as it has been since June 2015.
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We Need a Ceasefire Based on Reality, Not Fantasy
The prime ministers of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada have issued a joint statement calling on Israel not to enter Rafah, saying the “military operation would be devastating.” Instead, they are pushing for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire.” In doing so, they have joined many other international voices calling for Israel to stop its defensive actions against Hamas, arguing that Israel “must listen to the international community.”
While their statement does eventually call for Hamas to “lay down its arms and release all hostages immediately,” this part only appears in the fifth paragraph, making Israel the focus of opprobrium and criticism.
This statement — and the similar calls for a ceasefire made by so many over the past few weeks — betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation in Israel, and blames Israel for the actions it is taking to defend its people from murder and mass destruction.
This war only came about because Hamas broke the “ceasefire” that existed on October 6, when it launched a genocidal attack on Israel on October 7 that included rape, mutilation, torture, and the murder of 1,200 men, women, and children as well as kidnapping more than 240 people.
Every single death that has occurred since that day in Gaza is directly attributable to Hamas’ actions.
Yet, despite the abundance of evidence, including interviews with Hamas officials, testimonies of survivors, and video of the atrocities taken by the terrorists themselves, much of the world still quite inexplicably fails to understand and accept the true nature of Hamas and its intentions.
The very idea that a genocidal terror organization can sit down with a democratic, free country and negotiate some kind of lasting truce — leading to a peaceful outcome — is so preposterous and ludicrous that it defies common sense.
There is zero-chance that Hamas will listen to Western governments and lay down its arms permanently. And there is zero-chance that Hamas will free all the hostages, unless faced with overwhelming coercion.
Hamas’ very existence is predicated on the condition that Israel and its Jewish residents must be annihilated, as stated clearly in its founding document. Hamas’ fundamentalist and extremist ideology doesn’t allow for long-term compromise, and those who think it does are kidding themselves.
Yet those who call for ceasefires ignore this reality, effectively placing the onus on Israel alone to halt its activities and initiate an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in order to save lives — knowing that Hamas will never do the same.
Israel is implored to “listen” to the international community. Yet that same international community refuses to listen to Hamas itself, which has shown quite unequivocally through its human shield strategy, and genocidal actions against Israel, that it does not care about saving civilian lives.
Israel does indeed want a ceasefire, but one that is based on the reality of the threat it faces, not the fantasy of those whose “virtuous” calls for peace actually invite and encourage more conflict and death — both in Israel and in Gaza.
It is shameful and morally repugnant that Israel is expected to stop defending its citizens and abandon its hostages, allowing Hamas to survive to commit genocidal acts again and again, as it has promised it will do.
The world can be extremely generous with Jewish lives. But Israel cannot.
For Israel, every civilian death is a tragedy, but for Hamas, every civilian death is a strategy. The world cannot be allowed to ignore the fact Hamas has turned Gaza into the largest terror state in history, where so many buildings, schools, and hospitals are terror structures designed to wage war on Israel. What the world refuses to acknowledge is that a structure of terrorism has been embedded into all aspects of Gazan society and infrastructure. And Hamas did this right under the nose of the international community, which continued to pump money into the terror enclave through corrupt United Nations organizations and others.
Israel is on the front-lines of the global battle for peaceful coexistence, human rights, and the sanctity of life. Just as the Nazis and ISIS had to be destroyed, so too must Hamas. The future of Israel — and the free world — depends on it.
Justin Amler is a Policy Analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC).
ACLU Threatens Lawsuit Against Columbia University
The New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a far-left nonprofit, is threatening to sue Columbia University unless the school nullifies disciplinary sanctions which temporarily suspended anti-Zionist groups that staged unauthorized demonstrations on campus.
“The referenced ‘unauthorized event’ was a peaceful demonstration and temporary art installation advocating for the end of Israel’s current military campaign in the Gaza strip,” the group wrote in a letter to Columbia University president Minouche Shafik. “Columbia’s actions suggest impermissible and pretextual motives for sanctioning the student groups.”
The ACLU also accused the university, which is being sued for allegedly standing by while pro-Hamas students beat up Jews and screamed antisemitic slogans, of perpetuating “already pervasive dangerous stereotypes about Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims” and other minority groups.
“These student groups were peacefully speaking out on a critical global conflict, only to have Columbia University ignore their own longstanding, existing rules and abruptly suspended the organizations,” ACLU executive director Donna Lieberman said in a press release issued on Friday. “That’s retaliatory, it’s targeted, and it flies in the face of the free speech principles that institutes of higher learning should be defending.”
Columbia University suspended Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) in Nov., explaining in a statement that the groups had “repeatedly violated university policies related to holding campus events, culminating in an unauthorized event Thursday afternoon that proceeded despite warnings and included threatening rhetoric and intimidation.” Both SJP and JVP have been instrumental in organizing disruptive anti-Israel protests on Columbia’s campus since Hamas invaded Israel on Oct. 7 and killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.
“Lifting the suspension will be contingent on the two groups demonstrating a commitment to compliance with university policies and engaging in consultations at a group leadership level with university officials,” a campus official said at the time, adding that the groups will be ineligible to hold events on campus or receive university funding for the duration of the punishment.
Even after being disciplined, however, SJP members continued their activities in front groups — such as Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), a non-campus affiliated group that supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement — staging more protests in flagrant violation of the terms of its suspension.
ACLU’s portrayal of pro-Hamas students as peaceful and artistic victims of racism is in tension with how Jewish Columbia students have described their behavior and the university’s response to it.
“F— the Jews,” “Death to Jews,” “Jews will not defeat us,” and “From water to water, Palestine will be Arab,” they have chanted on campus grounds since Oct. 7, violating the school’s code of conduct, a lawsuit filed against Columbia University by last week says. In other incidents, they beat up five Jewish students in Columbia’s Butler Library and attacked another with a stick, lacerating his head and breaking his finger.
Anti-Jewish violence and hatred became so common, the lawsuit alleged, that Columbia told Jewish students that campus security could no longer guarantee their safety.
SJP insisted in Friday’s press release that its members are the victims and suggested that those claiming to be advocates of social justice are beyond reproach.
“Columbia University likes to showcase itself to the world as a champion of student protest, equality, justice, and free speech — but the university’s actions in the lead up to our suspension, and its targeted punishment of our student groups, showed that it is all a farce,” SJP member Safiya O’Brien said. “As students of conscience, we know injustice when we see it. The university’s priorities are not with its student body — certainly not with its Palestinian students and the overwhelming number of those that advocate for them.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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Low Expectations Ahead of Palestinian ‘Unity’ Talks in Moscow Convened by Russian Regime
Representatives of Palestinian factions are traveling to Moscow this week for talks aimed at forging a greater degree of unity, but analysts remained skeptical that the Russian initiative is likely to register progress.
The talks, which are scheduled to begin on Wednesday, will bring together officials of the Islamist terrorist organizations Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) with representatives of PLO factions including Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). Announcing the talks last week, Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov told pro-regime media outlets that “all Palestinian representatives who are located in different countries, in particular in Syria and Lebanon, other countries in the region,” would be invited to the Moscow parley, emphasizing at the same time that Russia’s rulers continue to regard the PLO — the main power in the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) — as “the sole legal representative of the Palestinian people.”
Several regional policy analysts argued that expectations from the talks should be necessarily limited, especially as Russia has failed in past efforts to bring rival Palestinian factions closer together.
“Russia does not have any road map for the Palestinian file, especially for the Gaza Strip as it would be necessary to have mediation functions and maintain good contacts with both Israel and the paramilitary wing of Hamas in Gaza,” Ruslan Suleymanov — an independent Middle East expert based in Baku, Azerbaijan — told the German broadcaster DW on Monday.
Suleymanov said that the talks were primarily an opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to showcase Russia’s geopolitical clout amid its ongoing invasion of Ukraine and with elections — which Putin is expected to win easily — on the calendar in March.
“It’s really just dialogue for dialogue’s sake,” Suleymanov remarked.
Hugh Lovatt — senior policy fellow with the Middle East and North Africa Program at the European Council on Foreign Relations — offered a similar perspective.
“This Russian summit is a way to show that Russia has the diplomatic capacity to play a hands-on role in supporting Palestinian national unity,” he told DW. However, previous reconciliation talks that were hosted in Moscow, Algiers and Cairo have “also not succeeded in brokering a lasting reconciliation deal between the rivals,” he said.
A potential obstacle to the talks emerged on Monday with the resignation of the PA’s Prime Minister, Muhammad Shtayyeh, who had enthusiastically backed the Moscow talks in a speech at the Munich Security Conference earlier this month. The PA has been under increasing pressure from the US to form a more representative government that would be in a position to manage the Gaza Strip once hostilities end.
“The decision to resign came in light of the unprecedented escalation in the West Bank and Jerusalem and the war, genocide and starvation in the Gaza Strip,” Shtayyeh told PA President Mahmoud Abbas in a formal letter.
“I see that the next stage and its challenges require new governmental and political arrangements that take into account the new reality in Gaza and the need for a Palestinian-Palestinian consensus based on Palestinian unity and the extension of unity of authority over the land of Palestine,” he added.
A Hamas spokesman told the Saudi channel Al Arabiya on Sunday that the terrorist group wants to form “an impartial national government based on the consensus of the Palestinian factions,” adding that the talks in Moscow would focus only on “a certain period and clear tasks.”
Separately, Hamas politburo member Muhammad Nazzal told the pro-Hamas website Middle East Monitor that the Moscow meeting was necessary because there had been “no official communication” with the PA on the subject of post-war planning.
Nazal claimed in the same interview that Hamas remained a powerful force in the Gaza Strip, where it continues to hold hostage more than 100 of the 240 people seized during its pogrom in southern Israel on Oct. 7. “Rumours of Rafah in the south of being the last stronghold of Hamas are false; the resistance exists across the entire Gaza Strip,” Nazzal said. “Moreover, the movement is fighting a fierce political negotiating battle, no less than the battle it is waging on the ground.”
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