What’s the Score?

By David E. Kaplan

Israel takes on BDS in a cerebral brawl  at TbT’s 2018 debate at Beth Protea

Words Words Words,” expressed the Great Barb in Hamlet.  They can bring joy or can cause anguish. They can convey truth, or they can tell lies. They can inspire a nation, or they can bring them down.

Words can be pearls of prose and poetry – but they can equally be POISON.

As Jews we have known this for over 2000 years, as Israelis we know it for seventy.

So began the introduction by this writer and debate moderator at the start of Truth be Told (TbT) annual’s The Great Debate held on October 16 at Beth Protea in Herzliya in central Israel.

While disparaging words towards Jews may over the millennia change, not however the mendacious mindset spawning this noxious nomenclature. A new and popular addition arrived early in this 21st century – the 3-letter abbreviation BDS.

A few years ago, if writing about BDS, writers would pen in full  – ‘Boycott Divestment Sanctions’ – because too few of their readers would know what it stood for. Today the abbreviation is part of the everyday lexicon in the ‘War of Words’ against Israel and is weaponized no less than the Qassems, Katushas, Mortars or Grads – aimed at the Jewish state. While these missiles have a prescribed geographic outreach, words have no such strategic limitation.  Their target is not Ashdod, Sderot, Ashkelon or Tel Aviv but all of Israel – not just physical Israel but the very IDEA of Israel.

The members of the panel debating were Harvard graduate Dan Diker, Director of the programme to counter Political Warfare and BDS at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), Gilad Kabilo, the Public Affairs Director of StandWithUs who coordinates worldwide activist campaigns, and Paula Slier an international TV war correspondent.

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The Great Debate. The panelists (l-r) Paula Slier, Gilad Kabilo and Dan Diker.

With Israel’s situation with Gaza on a knife’s edge – within hours following the debate, a home in Beersheba was destroyed when it suffered a direct hit from a Palestinian rocket attack from Gaza – the opening question set the tone as it was timely.

Why in any military conflict either with Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon, it is always a case of Israel having to wrap up the war quickly before losing traction with a world audience? In other words, why are Israel’s strategic aims held hostage to the power of the media to demonize Israel in order mobilize global opposition to Israel rightfully defending itself?

“The motto in the industry,” answered Paula, “is a sign on the wall of the TV network I first started working in and applies in any studio everywhere today: “If It Bleeds, It Leads”.  In other words, where the blood is, the cameras roll; and to Israel’s credit, its defenses are so effective that Palestinians bleed more than Israelis so where do you think the cameras are facing; and what do you think the audiences around the world are watching? Israel’s success in war translates in its failure to win the narrative.” It’s a conundrum!

To the question of whether Israel – far accustomed to quick physical wars – has the psychological stamina for a ‘War of Words that is open-ended, Gilad Kabido, who with StandWithUs is daily engaged on multiple fronts in the cerebral trenches particularly on university campuses around the world, gave an account of his organisation’s impressive successes in taking on Israel’s enemies.

And so, the debate raged on for nearly two hours covering such issues whether anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism; whether the difficulty of reaching a ‘Two State Solution” complicates Israel efforts in getting its narrative across; and the use of the word ‘Apartheid’ by BDS in stigmatizing Israel as South Africa once was. While Kabido declines to use the word Apartheid or even BDS as “it provides oxygen”, Diker, who has written a book “Unmasking BDS”, launched into an animated attack that the very use of the word Apartheid in describing Israel “is an INSULT” to the multi-millions who suffered under South Africa’s racist tyranny. “As an 11-year-old, I was exposed to the ugly South Africa when I visited that country as part of a junior tennis delegation from the USA.  I was in Africa and I asked, “Where are the Blacks my age?” “Why are they not playing with us?” Even for someone as young as me at the time, I was struck by the brutality of Apartheid and to even suggest that Israel is associated with the A-word, is an OUTRAGE. The purveyors of this modern-day libel seek to demonise and delegitimise the only Jewish state in the world.”

Rolene Marks, who was the evenings emcee, presented TbT’s Maurice Ostroff Award to Gilad Kabido representing StandWithUs.  Ostroff, who passed away in 2015, was a founding member of TbT that has as its standard: From truth denied to truth be told

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Fighting Back. Rolene Marks presenting the TbT Maurice Ostroff Award to Gilad Kabilo on behalf of StandWithUs.

Monumental Maurice

If in 1948, this South Africa Machal volunteer commandeered a strategically important mobile radar unit near the Weizmann Institute during Israel’s War of Independence, six decades later until his parting breath, Maurice Ostroff still had his antennae out. Operating from “my ops room” on the fifth floor of Beth Protea – the Southern African Retirement Home in Herzliya – he tracked the movements of Israel’s enemies with his overworked computer challenging the lies and distortions of journalists, jurists, academicians and politicians around the world. “Morrie” was unafraid to take on the mighty and prick their puffed-up libelous bubbles. Always respectful, never personal, but always hitting his target with pin-point verbal accuracy, this exceptional commentator on current affairs had the knack to marshal the English language and send it forth into battle on behalf of the Jewish State.

Maurice would be so proud as I hand you this award,” said Marks presenting it to the 2018 recepient.

Mighty Maurice. A warrior who died with his boots on, Maurice Ostroff manning a radar station during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.

What’s Cooking in South Africa?

Following the presentation of the award, Marks welcomed to the podium from South Africa, Melissa Goldberg (New Relationship and development Director of the United Communal Fund) who was vising Israel with Bev Schneider representing the IUA (Israel United Appeal).

While the situation in South Africa for the Jewish community, was “unpredictable” citing the concern of the ANC government possibly downgrading its diplomatic relations with Israel, “Not all is doom and gloom,” said Goldberg. “We are resilient and fighting hard for the rights and protection of our community and our love of Israel.” She cited two case where the communal leadership had taken two high profile political leaders to the Constitution Court for antisemitism and won both cases. “It took us years, but we tenaciously persevered and it payed off.  The message is clear – if antisemitic leaders offend the Jewish community, we will respond.”

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The Future Is Not Ours To See. Director of the UCF, Melissa Goldberg addresses the audience of over 220 on the situation of the Jewish community in an unpredictable South Africa.

Music To Our Ears

Let’s get things in perspective!

The same week as the TbT debate, Israel’s financial daily, Globes  posted the headline:

BDS has zero impact on Israeli businesses”.

A study of the impact of BDS on the Israeli economy estimated the damage at a paltry 0.004%, while some companies in fact benefited from the boycott. How so?

CEO of retailers in Europe with Israeli products on their shelves reported that consumers were buying out of support for Israel and registering their opposition to BDS.

This is music to our ears as was the music prior to the debate by the Etz Chaim Choir with cantor Barry Braun, a new South African immigrant and formally the cantor at the Milnerton synagogue near Cape Town.

A colourful addition to the event was the IDC Herzliya information booth. Manning it was an animated Storme Eberlin, a second-year economics student from Cape Town. Fascinated by the debate, she felt “more of our young South African students need to hear these issues. I found it riveting.”

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Tomorrow’s Leaders. Cape Town economics IDC Herzliya student Storme Eberlin manning the university’s booth at ‘The Great Debate’.

Adding to our armoury against BDS, Dan Diker announced the launch of the Israel South Africa Policy Forum (SAIP) with himself, Rolene Marks and the writer as founding members and invited members of the audience to support the Forum in pursuit of its mission.

The SAIPF will research and analyze key issues of mutual concern and work towards improving an overall understanding of the historical record and current trends in South Africa and Israel,” said Diker adding that “With greater understanding, context, perspectives and truth, we can work for greater cooperation to the mutual benefit of both countries.”

Before the singing of Hatikva (Israel’s national anthem) led by the Etz Chaim Choir, the writer concluded that while the evening has been all about WORDS, “It was not words but sounds that most resonated for me as the most Zionistic message of 2018 and in Israel’s 70th year. It was the first cries I heard outside the delivery rooms of the maternity wards at Meir Hospital in December and then Tel Hashomer Hospital in May as my first two grandchildren, Ariel and Yali, came into the world.  Their cries were their grandparent’s joy and echoed the words of Israel’s illustrious Foreign Minister –Israel’s future will be longer than its past.”

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Food for Thought. Engaging in the post-debate party on the patio (l-r), Paul Hirschon, recently returned Israeli Ambassador to Senegal, Rolene Marks, Melissa Goldberg, Paula Slier, Bev Schneider and Wendi Kark

Muddling ‘Mandla’

Importing Conflict, Creating Dissent

By Rolene Marks

Fewer names inspire as much respect, recognition and awe as the moniker, ‘Mandela’.

The Mandela family name is iconic. In the annals of history, the name Mandela will be synonymous with human rights, endurance, fortitude and reconciliation. Brand Mandela is universal and inclusive, conciliatory and noble. Nelson Mandela remains one of the world’s greatest human rights advocates and South Africa’s most beloved son.

His grandson, Mandla, is quite different to his legendary grandfather.

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Was the grandfather disappointed already with his grandson?

A polarizing figure in South Africa, Mandla Mandela is no stranger to controversy and is proof that there is such a thing as bad press.

Grandson Mandela is a frequent flier in the news headlines.

He has been the subject of much derision from his family for his moving his late grandfather’s remains from their peaceful resting place without consulting the family.  The family laid criminal charges of tampering with a grave and South African High Court Judge, Judge Lusindiso Phakade, ruled in favour of the complainants and ordered Mandela to exhume and rebury the body.

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Courting Trouble. While the grandfather found himself in court fighting for the rights of his people, the grandson Mandla Mandela, appeared in courts fighting members of his own family.

Criminal allegations were again levelled at the younger Mandela when he was charged with pointing a firearm and assaulting, a man. He was found guilty of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. Mandela’s private life could also rival a soap opera. Tales of annulment and affairs, blazing arguments and paternity suits abound and after converting to Islam, Mandela married his fourth wife.

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Who’s Next? The Four Wives Of Mandla Mandela.

Soap opera shenanigans aside, where Mandela does create concern is his penchant for importing conflict into South Africa.

Mandla Mandela is an extremely divisive figure in South Africa. While his grandfather was a symbol of peace and reconciliation, the younger Mandela has aligned himself with a movement that is at once, anti-dialogue and normalization, anti-peace and flagrantly anti-Semitic – BDS. In short, Mandla Mandela has become a poster child for this movement that advocates terrorism and states the end of the Jewish state as its goal. This is, of course, wrapped up in the seductive language of concern for human rights.

BDS are well aware of the power of “Brand Mandela” and trot him out in order to gain legitimacy. Mandla Mandela is happy to be gaining headlines for something other than his unsavory exploits. And so, it is a match made in heaven.

Nelson Mandela’s position on the Middle East is well documented.

In the spirit of engagement, he spoke to Arafat and while supporting the national aspirations of Palestinians stating that “we cannot be free until the Palestinians are free”, he astutely added that he could not conceive of Israel withdrawing if Arab states did not recognize Israel within secure borders.

This has not yet happened!

By comparison, Mandla Mandela is not carrying on the family tradition, choosing instead to endorse slap-happy would-be terrorist teenagers like Ahed Tamimi who endorse violence. “Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine,” said Tamimi on a Facebook live transmission filmed by her mother.

Instead of condemning these calls for violence and murder, Mandla Mandela intends to award her for her “bravery, resistance and being a symbol of hope for millions.”

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Mandla Mandela

Purveyor of Lies

Mandela has drunk the BDS Kool-aid and has accused the State of Israel of practicing “the worst version of Apartheid”. He has drawn these conclusions without any engagement with the Jewish state. But he knows where his bread is buttered – and statements like these are useful when it comes to shoring up Muslim votes in areas where South Africa’s ruling ANC party may not enjoy much support.

Instead of standing for justice, he is fanning the flames of hatred and divisiveness in a country where race relations are growing increasingly tense and anti-Semitism is rising. Unlike his grandfather who advocated dialogue, understanding the other side, and who very importantly recognized that Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people.

Mandla Mandela steadily advocates for breaking off bilateral ties between Israel and South Africa and backs this up with vicious accusations like the one below:

“Freedom loving people all over the world and activists in the International Solidarity Movement that stood by us in our darkest days of the anti-apartheid struggle are looking to South Africa for leadership in the call to isolate Apartheid Israel for its crimes against humanity and continued pogrom of Palestinians, many of whom have been shot, maimed or killed indiscriminately. They don’t spare the elderly, women or young children.”

Devious & Deceitful. He that should know better, Mandla defiles the Mandela surname when he falsely declares Israel “to be the worst apartheid regime.”

By inciting this kind of hatred and importing conflict into South Africa, Mandla Mandela has effectively removed the African state’s ability to try and broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians and is sowing dangerous division at a time when the country desperately needs unity. The elder statesman Mandela would be horrified.


What’s With Wakanda & Zion?

By Benji Shulman

On 1st May 2018 the citizens of Addis Ababa received an unusual visitor.  Israeli president Reuven Rivlin touched down in Ethiopia becoming the first occupant of his office ever to make an official visit to the country. In his wake came a bevy of business people, NGO’s, government officials, and even Ethiopian-Israeli popstar Estrada. The event was just the latest in several Africa-Israel related initiatives over the last few years, including three trips to the continent by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. President Rivlin joked that he was “returning the visit of Queen Sheba to King Solomon” and much like the original biblical visit, key items on the agenda included trade, culture and security.

President Reuven Rivlin at the “Impact for Good” conference in Ethiopia
President Reuven Rivlin at the “Impact for Good” conference in Ethiopia (Copyright: GPO/Mark Neiman)

Some pundits have tended to view this diplomatic engagement as something new or unusual. However, relations between Zion and ‘Wakanda’ actually have a considerable pedigree and also extends to the African American community. As the process evolves it is worth knowing some of the history.

Although Africa- Israel relations go back to the bible, the story really picks up around the late 1890’s. At the time, both Africans and Jews were the wretched peoples of the earth, victims of anti-Semitism, slavery, colonialism, racism and dispersion. It is therefore unsurprising that solutions in the form of Zionism and African Nationalism evolved simultaneously. The founder of Zionism, journalist Theodor Herzl, wrote in his seminal book, Altneuland (1902), “Once I have witnessed the redemption of the Jews, my people, I wish to also assist in the redemption of the Africans”. In African intellectual circles, the idea of a national Jewish liberation was a popular one. For instance, the founder of Pan-Africanism Marcus Garvey, referenced the Jewish national experience when he asserted that “many white men have tried to uplift them, but the only way is for the Negroes to have a nation of their own is like the Jews, that will command the respect of the nations of the world with its achievements.”

Model for Africa

Thus, the idea of Jews having their own state was viewed with favour by early Pan-Africanists. Garvey championed what was known as “Black Zionism” and Liberian diplomat/journalist Edmon Wilmot Blyden referred to “that marvelous movement called Zionism” as a model for African emancipation.

The impact of this sentiment would find its way into the civil rights movement in America.  Hence the words of Martin Luther King Jr:  “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews You’re talking anti-Semitism”. The real impact of these ideas, however, were in Africa, where newly independent African states were being created in the 1960’s. History and ideology combined, becoming a compelling driver for co-operation and understanding between the two groups. Kwame Nkrumah President of Ghana expressed it best in 1961, when he said:

We understand one another, Jews and Negroes. We were both oppressed for a long time and now we both have our own independent states.”

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Time for Ties. Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman (r) listens to a group of local farmers in Nairobi on September 6, 2009. Lieberman and a large business and military delegation began a five-nation Africa tour on September 2, 2009 stopping in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria.

It was more than just commonalities between national ideologies, however, that drove the early Africa-Israel relationship.  At the beginning of the 1950s, the new-born Jewish state found itself with few friends.  The soon-to-be independent African states provided Israel with an opportunity to shore up its diplomatic defenses. Israel made an attractive diplomatic partner in Africa. As such, a small country, Israel, was in no position to be an agent of neo-colonialism. In fact, having recently overthrown the British, Israel was a good example of a successful liberation struggle.

Moreover, African state builders appreciated the Zionist institutions that had brought about the creation of the country, and they sought to adapt them for their own projects. The Pan-Africanist journalist George Padmore, for instance, believed that Africa’s development could be fostered using organised infusions of funding from the African-American Diaspora, along the same lines as the United Israel Appeal In the defense sphere, early Zionist military formations were the inspiration for the concept and structure of Umkhonto we Sizw (MK), the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC).

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Israel’s Helping Hand. Israeli drip irrigation educational programme in South Africa. (Photo – Israeli MFA)

In planning MK, Nelson Mandela leaned on the experience of anti-apartheid activist Arthur Goldreich who had fought as a member of the Palmach, the elite military wing of the Haganah in Israel’s War of Independence. Goldreich, who escaped from a South African prison at the time of Mandela’s arrest, and settled in Israel, had drafted the military code for Umkhonto we Sizw. After he went underground in 1960, Mandela also credits “The Revolt” by Menachem Begin as being among the books he used in planning the ANC’s guerilla campaign against the Apartheid government.

When ANC leader Walter Sisulu visited Israel on his five-nation tour, he flew on Israel’s national carrier El Al. It was the only the airline in the world that would take the black South African passenger, since the Apartheid government had denied him a passport. Israel also contributed to building the defense infrastructure in many other African countries, especially training their military and police. The first pilots of the Kenyan and Tanzanian Air Forces were all trained by Israel; and it was Israel that built Ghana’s first naval academy.

Finally, African states and Israel shared many of the same developmental challenges. President Julius Nyerere observed in 1957 that, “Israel is a small country… but it can offer a lot to a country like mine. We can learn a great deal because the problems of Tanganika are similar to Israels.” This resulted in a vast array of joint projects across the continent including construction, agriculture, aquaculture, health care, hydrology, youth movements, regional planning, engineering, community services and many others. John Tettegah, Secretary General of Ghana’s Trade Union movement, said his visit to Israel had “given me more in eight days than I could obtain from a British university in two years”.   Some of the more interesting projects included giving assistance in building the parliament in Sierra Leone and the creation of Ghana’s Black Star line shipping company.

Health and Wealth of a Nation

To ensure the ongoing success of these initiatives, many Israelis came to live in Africa to assist with programmes, particularly in health care. Through these engagements, a specialist eye clinic was established in Sierra Leone and social work training provided in Machakos, Kenya. Many African citizens, in turn, went to Israel to study at its tertiary institutions, including the Weitzman Institute, the Hebrew University, and the Mount Carmel Centre which was dedicated to training women in the developing world.

Societal cohesion was also on the agenda. Kenya’s President Jomo Kenyatta argued that, “You have built a nation with Jews coming from all corners of the world; we want to build a unified Kenya of a multitude of tribes joined together through Harambee (working together)”.  By 1965, most major Africa leaders had visited Israel, coming from the Central African Republic, Chad, Dahomey (Benin), the Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Madagascar, Uganda, Mali and Upper Volta (Burkina Faso).  Israel’s friends included President William Tubman’s, Liberia (who had voted for the establishment of the state in 1947 at the UN) and Emperor Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia.

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Forging Ties. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. The Israeli and Kenyan leaders signed a joint statement that will foster cooperation on water and agriculture.

By 1973, Israel had established relations with 32 African states. Many opened embassies in Israel of which ten were based in Jerusalem, well before America had the idea. Included on this list were those of the Ivory Coast and Kenya. Israel also gained observer status on the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). It was the golden age of ‘Wakanda & Zion’.

(Wakanda is a fictional country located in Sub-Saharan Africa created by Marvel Comics and home to the superhero Black Panther.)

Not everyone, however, was delighted by the increased Africa-Israel co-operation. The power of the Arab states in international diplomacy was growing, and their official policy position on Israel was annihilation. Watching the growing African-Israel relationship with concern, they did what they could to impede it. Championed by Egypt, they attempted to ferment anti-Zionist rhetoric onto the agenda of multi-lateral bodies such as the OAU.

These were backed-up by punitive economic actions.  The first serious attacks in these forums were taken in the early 1960s but were strongly rebuffed by the African states. As Julius Nyerere, expressed, “We are not going to let our friends determine who our enemies are.” Besides the risk of losing their friendship with Israel, African leaders were apprehensive about Arab inference in their domestic affairs, and they had bitter memories of the sub-Saharan slave trade.

Agricultural training in Cameroon
Coming To Cameroon. Israel agricultural training in Cameroon.

Recalling the Slave Trade

At one point during a UN debate, a Saudi Arabian delegate accused the Ivory Coast of “selling out” to Israel, to which the Ivorian delegate responded, “The representative of Saudi Arabia may be used to buying Negroes, but he can never buy us.” So, despite Arab pressure, African delegations helped put Israeli representatives on boards of the World Health Organisation and UNICEF. In return Israel was a regular backer of anti-Apartheid resolutions at the UN, eventually having the most votes against Apartheid of any western nation.

Notwithstanding this success, however, all was not a bed of roses in the Israel-Africa relationship, and by the late 1960s, the relationship became strained. Much of this had to do with the familiar problems that bedeviled the field of international aid, including the lack of large-scale capital and effective technical transfer, solutions for long term sustainability and some focus shift by Israel to other continents such as South America.  This was added to a relentless Arab propaganda machine urging all countries to end ties with Israel. The situation began to take its toll and in the wake of the Six Day War, four countries cut ties.

Pouring Oil on Troubled Waters

The real change, however, started in October 1973 when Arab nations, led by Egypt, launched a surprise attack on Israel on the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur. Although the attack would eventually fail, it introduced a new powerful weapon into the world of diplomacy: the global oil boycott.

The Arab states threatened any country which had relations with Israel with an oil embargo. They also promised aid to those African countries that broke ties with Israel. The strategy sent the oil price rocketing, leading to a global economic crisis, but proving strategically successful.

The combination of economic coercion and continuous propaganda added to the already strained Israel-Africa relationship. This was too much for African states to bear and they began abandoning Israel en masse. President Senghor of Senegal stated the situation plainly: “The Arabs have the numbers, space and oil. In the third world, they outweigh Israel.” By the end of 1973, Israel found itself with only four official friends in Africa. The golden age of ‘Wakanda & Zion’ was over.

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Turning A New Leaf. Growing lettuce in Senegal using Israeli drip-irrigation (Photo: MASHAV)

This situation remained as such until 1978 and the signing of the world’s first Arab-Israeli peace with Egypt. Although it took time, Africa-Israel relations began to slowly be restored. Israel now has as many as forty diplomatic relationships in Africa with growing security, development and trade ties. Israel is looking for friends in Africa and observer status at the OAU while the continent is looking to take advantage of Israeli technology in development and security. There remain threats to the relationship with countries like South Africa and Morocco in the vanguard against Israeli interests on the continent.

Despite this, a new chapter in the saga of ‘Wakanda & Zion’ is evolving, and if all goes well, perhaps we may be on our way to a new Golden Age.

Israeli aid to Cameroon
Seeing Eye To Eye. In 2012, the Israeli Embassy initiated a project involving free cataract operations for dozens of Cameroonian patients in Bamenda, as a result of which – their eyesight was restored. Likewise, plastic treatments were offered to patients who had suffered from disfiguring facial burns. The project involved eye specialists from the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, a donation of medical equipment from “Eye From Zion” NGO and support from the MFA’s MASHAV division.



headshot1 (1).jpgBenji Shulman, Executive Director  South Africa Israel Forum, is from Johannesburg, South Africa. He has a master’s degree in Geography and has worked in a range of fields in the Jewish community including education, advocacy, environment and outreach. He loves radio and has a hosted numerous shows on 101.9 ChaiFm in the last decade.






Peace for the Middle East, Prosperity in Africa

By Ben Swartz, National Head of the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF)

The ‘Smart’ Way to Go

Shannon Ebrahim’s sympathies to BDS “activism” and their political agenda are well known by most. So, it may surprise this virulently anti-Israel freelance journalist to realise that her solicitude for the plight of the Palestinians is shared by most Israelis and this is borne out by the myriad of Israelis who demonstrate their concern in the most practical way imaginable: care of the sick (especially children), the elderly and women.”

Shannon EbrahimGroup Foreign Editor
Face of Fury. Venomous anti-Israel journalist Shannon Ebrahim.

This fact is not always realised by her when she targets Israel either by implication or overtly, and places that country in the cross-hairs of her ire. Strangely she chastises a democracy, which Israel is, and her opponents are not. *In her latest article, those that she champions as victims of “colonialism” in fact bear the trappings of colonial Middle Eastern oligarchies that hold their people hostage.  Libya, Syria, and Saudi are brutal dictatorships, far more than even those of Egypt or Jordan. “Parliaments” in Iran, Morocco, and on the West Bank are not freely democratic. In all of them, candidates for office are either screened, preselected, or coerced. Daily television and newspapers are subject to restrictions and censorship; “elected” leaders are not open to public audit and censure. Death, not voters, brings changes of rule in the Middle East.

Ebrahim talks of Mandela: does she know he encouraged peace and went to Israel himself and that Ramaphosa is on record supporting dialogue? She mentions the “progressive nations” taking a stand but does not name them. I am curious to know who they might be.

True freedom and democracy that the people of the Middle East do indeed deserve and from which the entire world would benefit – demands cultural tolerance, widespread literacy, and free markets, something few of them have with the notable exception of Israel.

Only in secular Israel can one find free speech and liberality of custom and religion, much more so, than say, in Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Palestine. Coexistence is found in Israel, very rarely so in the Arab world.

We see in Israel spirited debate, home-grown criticism and differing advocacy from Left and Right. Israeli newspapers and television reflect a diversity of views, from rabid Zionism to almost suicidal pacifism. There are Arab-Israeli legislators and plenty of Jewish intellectuals who openly write and broadcast in opposition to the government of the day – a freedom not available in Palestine.

Where The Truth Lies

It is patently obvious from hateful rhetoric daily fed to compliant populations that wars in the Middle East are not fought to return the West Bank or Gaza, but to finish off what Hitler could not.

Israel, its GNP, free society, and liberal press, is a wound to the psyche, not a physical threat to the Arab world. Israel did not murder the Kurds or Shiites. It does not butcher Islam’s children in Syria. Yet both the victims and the perpetrators of those horrendous crimes by Muslims against Muslims answer “Israel” when blame is sought!

Any honest assessment will show that the blame lies elsewhere. As has been demonstrated in many countries in Africa, Israel has the ability and a willingness to alleviate hunger, drought, disease and other social ills for the Palestinians and the people of Africa.

Instead of accepting the willingness of Israel to play a peaceful role in the region, Ebrahim defines herself as the saviour of the Palestinians. She cries out that she is against racism, colonialism, ethnic cleansing, police states and anti-Semitism but she advocates for those who do.

But the goal of the current Palestinian leadership is the colonial conquest of another people’s country. That country is the State of Israel, the homeland of the Jews legally, historically and emotionally.

Mahmoud Abbas has explicitly rejected Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. The Palestinian Authority indoctrinates its children to terrorism. The insignia and maps show that the land they demand for a state includes the whole of Israel.

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Telling The Truth. The very ‘idea’ of Israel is unacceptable.

Therefore, what the anti-racist, anti-colonialist, anti ethnic-cleansing, pro-democracy Ebrahim, the ANC, and the newspapers of the INL, players whose reputation rests on a proud record of balance and fairness, should condemn is this Palestinian agenda and not point fingers at the only constitutional democracy in the entire Middle East.

Palestinians should see in its policy toward Israel their future hope, rather than their present despair. Israel is based on true democracy that can evolve to the benefit of all those in the Middle East and bring deserved peace to everyone who lives there, rather than resort to race, religion or language that more often cannot. If the Palestinians really wish to become accepted as a participant in peace, then regular elections, a free press, an open and honest economy, and religious tolerance alone would do what suicide bombers and a duplicitous terror-supporting leader could not.

Ben Shwartz
Addressing the Issues. Article’s author and National Chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, Ben Swartz.

Ben Swartz is the National Chairman of the SAZF. He is also the Co-chairman of SAFI (South African Friends of Israel), a SAZF initiative.








*Refers to Shannon Ebrahims:UN failing those nations struggling for freedom

The King Is Dead

By David E. Kaplan

Legendary SA ocean swimmer known as the “King of Robben Island’’ dies suddenly in Cape Town

Swimming in the ocean is my ultimate joy,” he once said of his favourite pastime. “There are no boundaries, no lane ropes to constrain me and very few people to disturb me.”

Having faced off the perils of the open sea from dangerous currents, Great White sharks, poisonous giant jelly fish and sheer exhaustion,  it was  a routine check-up in Cape Town  on the 17 October for asthma that surprisingly struck down South Africa’s legendary ocean swimmer Theodore Yach at the young age of 60.

Holding the record for the most crossings to Robben Island – hence his nickname in the ocean swimming fraternity as “The King of Robben Island” –  Yach made quite a splash in Israel in 2016 when he swam across the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee)  “not the width like most long-distance swimmers but the LENGTH – 22 kilometres from south to north,” says Stanley Milliner from Kfar Saba Israel who has been a friend of the Yach family since childhood.

“It was a tough swim because he was more accustomed to swimming in the cold temperatures off the Atlantic Cape coast and not the 26 degrees of the Kinneret and thus took him over 8 hours,” recalls Milliner. “There was great excitement at the time as members of the Israeli Swimming Association joined him for sections along the way.” Apart from the famed St. Peter’s fish, “He appreciated the human company.”

“It’s been such an unexpected shock for his friends and fans. He was a titan in the water and an example to future generations of ocean swimmers.”

Away from the water, the Yach family name on terra firma is synonymous with philanthropy supporting causes both in South Africa and Israel.

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Theodore Yach (right) with Stanley Milliner at the 2005 Maccabi Games in Israel

Leading Light

A leading member of Cape Town’s general and Jewish communities and an inspiring role model of philanthropy, Theodore Yach’s mother, Estelle has been a devoted friend of Israel and the Hebrew University whose benevolence significantly advanced the University and enabled hundreds of its students to pursue a higher education.

It all began in 1938, when Theodor’s grandfather, Morris Mauerberger, established the Mauerberger Foundation Fund, which his son-in-law and Theodore’s late father Solm Yach went on to head. His mother chaired the Foundation for over twenty years; thereafter passing over the reins to his sister, Dianna Yach.

Since the 1960s, the Mauerberger Foundation has lent its support to a wide range of projects at the Hebrew University, including the Mauerberger Medical Bursaries, the Morris and Helen Mauerberger Chair in Agricultural Entomology, research projects in diverse areas and, notably, numerous research fellowships and scholarships for Israeli and international students, many from underprivileged backgrounds.

Africa Israel – A Pulsating Partnership

Africa is benefiting today from the launch in 2017 of a prize by Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology together with the Mauerberger Foundation Fund in South Africa. Each year, Israeli scientists now compete for a $500,000 prize for suggesting ways of addressing a major development priority in the African continent – and in doing so, also advance the role of women in science.

Dianne Yach called on scientists to collaborate in tackling impediments to the full development of people and societies, while Technion president, Prof. Peretz Lavie committed the Technion to fostering Israel-African partnerships “with purpose and impact.”

The new prize builds on 80 years of the Mauerberger Foundation Fund support for those areas in Israel and South Africa that include the initial support for the Technion’s Soil Engineering Building in 1955; chairs in nursing, preventive cardiology and neurosurgery at the University of Cape Town; and the advancement of public health at the University of the Western Cape.

Theodore’s grandfather and founder of the Fund first visited the Technion in 1955.


Today, the Helen and Morris Mauerberger Soil Engineering Building is home to ‘Engineers without Borders’, a programme that the fund continues to support, and that enables Technion students to initiate community projects in Israel and abroad and promote the University’s goodwill in Africa.

In Cape Town, Theodore Yach with his expertise in property development, was one of the key strategists behind the Central City Improvement District, “which helped the city avoid the inner-city decay that has affected so many other cities in South Africa and across the world.” In keeping with the family tradition of Tikkun Olam (Hebrew: “repairing the world”), Theodore Yach has over the years, raised millions of Rands for various charities.

During office hours, Yach was a divisional director at Zenprop, one of South Africa’s top property development and investment companies. He has also been a director of his family’s philanthropic Mauerberger Foundation and supporter of the Cadiz Open Water Swimming Development Trust.

The Cadiz Freedom Swim is an extreme 7.5 kilometres open water swimming race from Robben Island to Big Bay, Bloubergstrand. It takes place annually close to Freedom Day  – the 27th  April, the date of SA’s first democratic elections in 1994 when Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa, marking the end of Apartheid.

The Cadiz Freedom Swim is recognised as one of the world’s most extreme sea races due to the extremely cold water characteristics of the Atlantic Ocean, unpredictable sea and weather conditions, and the presence of the Great White Shark.

Legacy of a Legend

Deserving of the moniker “The King of Robben Island”, Yach had at the time of his passing, 108 Robben Island crossings to his name – more than any other swimmer in the world. He has also swum across the English Channel, and he is the first person to swim from Cape Town around Robben Island and back, taking 11 hours. Despite the freezing temperature of the water, the area is popular for sharks, including the Great White. This never deterred Yach who always took the necessary precautions.

Yach comes from a family of swimmers and his love for swimming was nurtured from an early age.

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Theodore the Titan. Theodore Yach emerges from the water after his epic 30km Ultra Swim from Three Achor Bay, around Robben Island and back in a trip that took approximately 11 hours wearing only a regulation swimsuit, cap and goggles while being totally exposed to the elements. (Stephen Williams, Gallo Images, Foto24, file)

In His Element

Theodore’s late father Solly, himself a champion swimmer, “told me as a kid to keep a record of my swimming achievements, which I did,” and led to his internationally acclaimed autobiography.

Titled, ‘In My Element’, it is an inspiring story that brings alive the sport of open water swimming and reveals how the boy matured to a man with every stroke.

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“I planned a simple paperback book until my editor looked at all the photographs and material I had, and she convinced me otherwise,” he reveals in his preface to the book.

The world of ocean swimming in South Africa is not for the faint of heart. “It requires guts, training and a sense of adventure, all of which characterized Theo,” says Milliner.  “It was no wonder,” continues Milliner, “that his book was nominated in the ‘World Open Water Swimming Offering’ of the year category,” which recognises innovative products or services that have made a positive impact on the world of open water swimming.

Set in the backdrop of the wild waters off the South African coast, In My Element is filled with photographs, memories and personal highlights of his often-risky open water sea-swimming exploits undertaken since the 1980s, including stories about swimming with sea life such as sharks, seals and dolphins.

The autobiographical book sets out to motivate other swimmers and offers training advice.

An unrivalled pastime

“Swimming in the ocean is my ultimate joy; there are no boundaries, no lane ropes to constrain me and very few people to disturb me.”

Long distance open water swimmers are always exposed to the threat of hypothermia, jellyfish stings, bluebottles and the ever-present danger of sharks, yet Yach enjoyed every opportunity to get into the water.

“The best part of swimming in open water is that it isn’t structured. I don’t want structure in my leisure time,” he said. “I like the solitude and the fact that I am in the middle of nature and I like the possibility of a Great White that can come visit!”

But he was never reckless. He always swam within two metres of his support crew and with a shark shield that hung off the boat. The device created an electronic force field around him that kept sharks away.

He maintained that open water swimming was a tough sport that involves as much psychological preparation as physical endurance.

“The mental aspect of ocean swimming is more important than physical preparation because you are dealing with the sea, the cold water, currents, sea life and the fear of what is under the water.”

“Hypothermia and heart failure are biggest risks for open water swimmers – even more than shark attacks.”

Yach noted that South Africa was becoming the preferred destination for top open water swimmers to train, “as the water on the Cape coast is so cold.”

He explained that training in water with optimal temperatures was critical for open water swimmers who were preparing for races. “A swimmer’s ability to cope with cold water is essential and this is why they train in our waters for races such as the English Channel.”

The cold water of the Cape has lost its warm friend.


By David Saks

To mark the 70th anniversary of the birth of the State of Israel, the editorial board of Jewish Affairs, a journal published under the auspices of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies since 1941, decided to devote the Rosh Hashanah 2018 issue of the journal to the topic. Contributions, particularly personal memories relating to the founding and early years of the Jewish state, were invited, and people, both from the local Jewish community and former community members now living abroad, took up the invitation. The result was a true landmark issue of the journal, one providing much original material and many fascinating new insights into Israel’s establishment and the noteworthy role that South African Jews played in its birth and early struggle for survival.

Fighters and Founders’

The first section features first-hand accounts of South Africans (mainly, but not exclusively Jewish) who participated in the tumultuous early months of Israel’s existence, when the fledgling Jewish state was faced with critical challenges from both within and without its borders. All of them volunteers, they included soldiers, kibbutz workers and medical personnel. The section includes the memories of six South African Machalniks – foreign volunteers who fought in the Israeli War of Independence – namely Leslie Marcus (as recorded and written up by Leila Bloch), Eddie Magid (based on extracts from a recent biography on him by Michael and Suzanne Belling), Ellie Isserow, Audrey (Benedict) Meyersfeld, Henia Bryer (by Veronica Belling) and Elie Zagoria (with an introduction by David Solly Sandler). Marge Clouts records what it was like to work on a kibbutz in the years 1948-9.

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Leslie Marcus (left) and Mike Isaacson as Mahal volunteers serving in Moshe Dayan’s battalion in 1948.

Some excerpts:

Says Leslie Marcus: “My late brother Sam had a clothing shop, so I got a few shmattes together in a suitcase. There was a fellow called Solly Levin (from Claremont kosher butchery) who had a car; he came and fetched me at six the next morning and took us to the airport.

There were two of us, me and Max Korensky from Paarl. I had never been on a plane before It took us four days to get to Israel We had to stop every four hours to refuel. When we landed…we were taken straight away to some camp in Haifa. Two days later I was in the army, fighting. I was all of 21 but I was ready for it.

There were 32 of us in our unit of various nationalities. I was second in command. There were eight South Africans. We were the first to go into battle. Why did we go into battle first?

Because we were the most trained.”

 Marge Clouts who spent two and a half years in Israel soon after the founding of the state records: “The excitement of landing in Israel was intense. We did not land at Lod (now Ben Gurion Airport) but on some very small airstrip. We were then transported by truck to the army base at Tel Levitsky. A few days later, in Tel Aviv, we visited the welcoming and comforting South Africa office. The kibbutz they found for us was called Bet Keshet, a four-year-old basic settlement of about seventy Sabras located in the foothills of Mount Tabor in the lower Galilee. The settlement had recently been traumatised by the deaths in an ambush of seven of its leading members.

Our first Sunday at Bet Keshet we heard the church bells of the monastery on Mount Tabor, and at the same time the ominous sounds of distant gunfire.”

“One Sunday Morning in May 1948…”

Part II looks at perspectives from Diaspora Jewry in the period leading up to Israel’s establishment. Glenda Woolf’s memoir of how Bloemfontein Jewry celebrated the inauguration of Israel’s independence is reflective of how South Africa’s fervently Zionistic Jewish community will have greeted the much longed and hoped-for occasion.

I remember waking up early one Sunday Morning in May 1948, and hearing, “Wake up. Quickly, get up. Today is a very special day. We Jews have our own country again. Soon we are going to shul to celebrate. The children must wear fancy dress. Hurry, we don’t want to be late.”

Glenda continues, “….The flag was raised. We sang Hatikva, and slowly a murmur of sobs came from here and there among the crowd. It was then that my mother said, “You must always remember this day. For the first time in thousands of years we Jews have our very own country. Your generation will be different to our generation.”

Veteran contributor and editorial board member Gwynne Schrire has made available the recollections of her mother, Mary, a stalwart worker for the women’s Zionist movement first in Kimberley and later in Cape Town. Florrie Cohen recalls her days on hachshara – an agricultural training programme for prospective olim – in the English countryside in the early days of World War II. As with all the memoirs in this issue, one gets a sense of the powerful spirit of idealism and self-sacrifice that underpinned the Zionist movement during those crucial years. Another veteran JA contributor, Cecil Bloom, evaluates the impact made on Zionism in the UK by Haham Moses Gaster, at the time a prominent figure in the Zionist movement but today largely forgotten.

The deeper significance of Eretz Yisrael in Jewish religious thinking, as well as how this history is being distorted by those driven by an implacable hatred for the reborn Jewish state, are the subjects of Part III of this issue. Artist and poet Abigail Sarah Bagraim reflects on the meaning of the Patriarch Abraham’s spiritual journey and connection to the Holy Land, a thoughtful piece complemented by one of the writer’s most recent paintings on Jewish religious for which she is justly renowned. (As will be recalled, another of A. S. Bagraim’s paintings, “The Welcoming of Shabbat”, graced the front cover of the Pesach 2018 issue of Jewish Affairs. The artist’s work can be viewed, and prints ordered, at www.abigailsarah.co.za).

We next have reprinted an address given by the late Chief Rabbi B M Casper on the spiritual and historical connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem, an analysis that is both erudite and deeply felt. Finally, Rodney Mazinter, also a regular JA contributor, considers how contemporary antisemitism and hard-line anti-Zionism – to the extent that they can be separated at all – overlap with and inform one another. It is a sobering reminder that while Israel has to date emerged triumphant in its battle for survival, final victory in that struggle is still to be achieved.

Writes Mazinter: “Antisemitism did not just disappear with the end of World War II. Like most Jews, we got used to having ugly things said about us from time to time. Mostly we were lucky and grateful for the many Christian friends who stood up for us, and still do. But nothing prepared us for today’s misinformation, demonization of Israel, and the gut-wrenching anti-Israel, antisemitic hostility expressed by many students, professors, church members and even established “liberal” newspapers – and now, even Jews who act out their anti-Israel stance for whatever reason. The new form of bigotry against Israel is called the :new antisemitism” which replaces “Israel” with “Jew”…”

On a more positive note, Mazinter continues, “Meanwhile, venture capital continues to pour into Israel. The business world, the engine of growth, education and prosperity, is voting with its feet to seek investments in the only reliable country that constantly points the way for the future of humanity.”

The special “Israel at 70” issue of Jewish Affairs, as well as all previous issues of the journal from the beginning of 2009, can be freely accessed on http://www.sajbd.org/pages/jewish-affairs. Those with a particular interest in Israel are referred to the Rosh Hashanah 2017 issue, which likewise is very much focused on the Israel-themes.





David saks

David Saks is Associate Director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and Editor of Jewish Affairs.


Feature picture: South African volunteers, engineers at the Sodom Camp, meeting with some of the 7th Battalion Infantry soldiers who walked down to Sodom through the waids and reached it a while before our jeeps did. First and second on left – Dov Golanty and Zvi Sikoler (Israelis), third on left – Hymie Kurgan (SA), extreme right – Sydney Bellon.




Monumental Man

By Terri Levin

SA Jewish community pays Tribute to Mangosuthu Buthelezi on his 90th birthday

On Monday 8th October 2018 at Yeshiva College in Johannesburg, the Jewish community gathered to pay tribute to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi in celebration of his 90th Birthday. The SA Jewish Board of Deputies, together with the SA Zionist Federation, SA Friends of Israel, and the Office of the Chief Rabbi – hosted the event of a man who has always been a warm friend of the Jewish community, not only in his home province of Kwazulu-Natal, but also at the national level.

At a time when standing up for Israel has become increasingly unfashionable, Prince Buthelezi’s staunch opposition to anti-Israel bias in the political arena, his advocacy of closer ties between Israel and South Africa, and his consistent support for a peaceful, negotiated solution to the Middle East conflict has earned him the gratitude of the South African Jewish community.

“Brothers in suffering”

Following South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, Buthelezi led his Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) to join the government of national unity, led by Nelson Mandela. Buthelezi would serve as Minister of Home Affairs until 2004 and continued to serve as both leader of the IFP and an MP, retaining his seat in the 2014 general election.

A less well-known fact is that Prince Buthelezi’s maternal great-grandfather was none other than King Cetshwayo kaMpande who was the king of the Zulu Kingdom from 1873 to 1879 and its leader during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. He famously led the Zulu nation to victory against the British in the Battle of Isandlwana. An even less well-known fact is that Prince Buthelezi played his illustrious ancestor in the 1964 blockbuster, “Zulu” which was Michael Cain’s first starring role in a major movie.

Prince Buthelezi has consistently refuted the baseless lie that Israel is an Apartheid state. As Chief Minister of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government, he visited Israel at the invitation of then Prime Minister Shimon Peres in August of 1985, where he met with Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and former Foreign Minister Abba Eban, whose birthplace was Cape Town.

“I will never forget the words of Prime Minister Peres spoken to me in private, when he told me, “We are brothers in suffering”,” he later wrote.

He (Peres) understood the shared pathos that linked our people. He understood that just as we suffered one another’s suffering, we should celebrate one another’s victories. It was a poignant moment, realising that he understood my struggle for South Africa.”

Prince Buthelezi wrote of KwaZulu’s appreciation to “the Israeli Government for providing agricultural aid, leadership training and assistance to women-led cooperatives in KwaZulu. We were deeply appreciative of the partnership that developed between the KwaZulu Government and the Government of Israel.”

In a later interview with the Israeli left wing Haaretz on the occasion of Shimon Peres’ 80th birthday, he emphatically refuted the lie of Israel being an Apartheid regime stating on the contrary, “It is a unique case of democracy.” He added that if he would be asked by the Palestinians for advice, “I would tell them to avoid violence and to prefer negotiations. Armed struggle and violence do not solve problems, only create them, and generate more violence.”

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Forging Ties. South African Zionist Federation in Israel (Telfed) members Leon Charney and wife Menorah and Telfed Director, Sidney Shapiro meet with Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi on his official visit to Israel in 1985 at the invitation of Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

Honouring the Prince on his 90th, were stirring tributes by Avrom Krengel (President of SAZF), Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein, who delivered a Dvar Torah, Shaun Zagnoev (Chairman of SAJBD) and Ben Swartz (Chairman of SAZF), who recounted inspiring moments “we shared on our trip to Israel in 2014.”

Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, Lior Keinan, brought greetings from Israel, stating that “You have a place of honour not only in South Africa, but in Israel, too”

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Buthelezi’s Boisterous Bash. An animated Yeshiva’ College honouring Buthelezi turning ninety (Photo Alon).

Presenting the Prince with a Menorah, Rabbi Avraham Tanzer (Glenhazel Shul and Rosh Yeshiva) noted that like the Menorah – “you bring light unto the nation.” Memory and melody meshed with the Grade 1 pupils, leading the entire gathering in the singing of “Happy Birthday”.

Illuminating. A ‘light unto his nation’, Buthelezi receives Menorah from Rabbi Avraham Tanzer (Photo Alon)

Poised at the Podium

Upright, defiant and proud, the ninety-year old prince, took more than a physical stand at the podium; he took a stand against the ANC – notably its skewered position on Israel.

“From the start, I disagree with the decision taken by the ANC to downgrade South Africa’s embassy in Israel. It is short-sighted and regressive. Moreover, it stands in opposition to our country’s role as a mediator for peace.”

Following the loud applause, he then regaled his long and enriching friendships with such Jewish families, as Arnold and Rosemary Zulman and Dr Mosie and Helen Suzman (anti-apartheid activist and politician), who “opened their homes and hearts to my family during the Apartheid struggle.”

Closing his address, Prince Buthelezi unapologetically asserted:

“I have no shame in telling the truth about Israel or about my friendship with the Jewish community. Indeed, I am proud.”

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Tall and Proud. “I have no shame in telling the truth about Israel. Indeed, I am proud,” says Mangosuthu Buthelezi from the podium at Yeshiva College celebrating his 90th birthday with Johannesburg’s Jewish community (Photo Alon).
Terri Levin
Terri Levin

Terri Levin, Media Liaison Officer of the South African Zionist Federation contributed to this article. Edited by David E. Kaplan

South African ‘Flower’ Flourishes in Israel

By David E. Kaplan

As Beth Protea Retirement Home Celebrates 26 years it’s a story not about bricks and mortar but about people.

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For the Young at Heart. The outdoor patio of Beth Protea

What are you guys planning to serve for lunch?”

“Can you believe it? That was the first question asked by a bunch of South Africans at our first fundraising campaign in Haifa in 1985. We had no land to build on; we hadn’t raised a dime, and people wanted to know what we would serve for lunch,” relates Walter Robinson the founding chairman of Beth Protea, a retirement home in Herzliya primarily for the Southern African community in Israel. Dublin-born Robinson was quick off the mark.

Well, if you don’t start donating, there will be no dining room in which to serve lunch!”  replied the masterful fundraiser.

Nearly three decades later, and today himself a resident at Beth Protea, it is now Walter who asks:

What’s for lunch?”

In October 2018, Beth Protea celebrates its 26th year.

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Dynamic Duo. Joel Katz (left) and Walter Robinson

South Africans in Israel have every reason to be proud. For a community that was the first to establish an immigrant organization (Telfed); pioneered the concepts of Absorption Centers and acquiring property to rent to their new Southern African immigrants at below market rentals, as well as initiating and promoting housing projects from the city of Ashkelon in the 1950s to the town of Kochav Yair and the community village (Moshav) of Manof in the 1980s, it was only natural, that at the dawn of the 1980s, serious thought was given to leaders in the community for the wellbeing of their seniors.

At that time there was a group who were “toying with the idea” – mainly to cater for parents who were left behind in South Africa. The concept found little traction until Robinson made Aliyah (immigrated) from Cape Town in 1981. Well known and respected for his communal work back in his adopted South Africa, the ad hoc group roped him in and within a few months of his arrival in Israel, he was chairman of a steering committee. “They allowed me to unpack my suitcases first,” he bellows with a boisterous Dublin guffaw.

 Right Man For The Job

Walter once nearly ended up in jail and was rightly proud of it!

The year was 1944 and Walter and his Zionist chums at the university in Dublin started a newspaper called the Dublin Jewish Youth Magazine. One day, Walter opens the evening paper, and “I see this MP, Oliver Flanagan, questioning whether the directors of the DJYM have a license to publish and whether our articles had been submitted for censorship as required by wartime regulations. Both were serious offences, carrying prison sentences. Of course the answer to both was – NO,” says Walter, delighting in his mischievous past. Flanagan was a notorious anti-Semite who in his maiden speech in the Irish Lower House the previous year, had urged the government “to rout the Jews out of the country.”

Well Flanagan was not about to “rout” Robinson. “The owner of the paper’s printers was a great friend of Prime Minister Eamon de Valera and so if the printer could not go to prison, neither could we.” Walter’s Zionism continued to soar, culminating nearly fifty years later in his finest communal achievement – the opening of Beth Protea in 1992.

“We quickly changed the focus – not a retirement home for prospective immigrants but for the community in Israel. People, who had quite literally rolled up their sleeves and helped build this country.”

Now it was time to build a home for them. However not just a home,  “but one that’s DNA was South African,’ said Robinson, “a home that felt like home.”

Benchmark of Excellence

Robinson quickly roped in a younger feller “who had a knack of asking the most intelligent questions.” And so began the partnership between Walter Robinson and Joel Katz that would steer the Beth Protea project in its formative years.

Bricks and motor ‘sprouted’, and like the ‘protea’, started to grow. The architect was another South African, Gert Gutman and while still  under construction, South Africa’s State President, F.W. de Klerk visited where he was wined and dined in a ‘dining room’ on a floor of cardboard over sand and mud and between mounds of rubble.

While in the throws himself in transforming South Africa, de Klerk predicted amongst the rubble “this South African community is transforming the landscape of Israel.”

How right he was.

Beth Protea in Herzliya became the benchmark  of excellence in caring for seniors, and in a few years the name ‘protea’ resonated across the land as its ‘seeds’ sprouted with other retirement complexes carrying the brand name –  such as Protea Village further north and Protea Hills near Jerusalem.

Entertainment nearly every night, residents enjoy an outside concert on the patio.

 The Magnificent Many

Joel Katz would become the first chairman of the Management Board and at the official opening in 1992, the guest of honor was the President of Israel, Chaim Herzog who expressed:

One is never surprised at the admirable level of volunteering and performance on the part of South Africans in Israel. You have done it again by establishing Beth Protea, a golden retirement home for those in their golden years.”  Paying tribute to the volunteers over the years, Katz spoke of the “lonely few” that grew to become “the magnificent many.” This 1992 observation holds even more so today as “volunteers from all walks of life continue to give freely of their time, energy, expertise and of course, their generosity, to upholding Beth Protea as a glowing example of retirement living and private initiative,” says current chairman Michael Silver.

Sensitive to the initial apprehension that the project would become elitist and only available to the wealthy – a feature of most new retirements homes in Israel today –  the founders were determined that Beth Protea would be a non-profit association and  established a  fund, Keren Beth Protea to assist those in financial need. This is what distinguishes a community project such as Beth Protea from commercial, profit-motivated senior citizen facilities. The total financial assistance given by Keren Beth Protea over the last 26 years, is in itself a revelation of beauty.

Out of Africa

Wanting to learn firsthand about Israel’s specialized health care of its seniors, Dr. Harriet Chapasuka, a doctor from a clinic in South Africa’s northernmost province Limpopo, visited Beth Protea. Her husband Pastor Reuben Chapasuka, is President of the Cape to Cairo Israel Mission with churches across Africa that welcomes the Blue & White flag of Israeli innovation and ingenuity flying in the African breeze. “When I visit Israel,” says Pastor Reuben, “I always return to South Africa not with Israel’s ‘holy water’ but Israel’s ‘holy ingenuity’.”

Harriet, who shares her husband’s desire of tapping into Israel’s expertise “for our people”, visited Israel to explore its best practices of health care that could be replicated in rural South Africa.

With so many of the residents and staff at Beth Protea being former South Africans, Dr. Chapasuka felt, “quite at home.” Taken on a tour by the Director Lynn Lochoff, she visited the three sections: independent, the assisted living, and frail care unit. She met doctors and nurses and learnt about Israel’s unique health system where everyone is covered.

She visited the art studio and was amazed to see many of the paintings and sculpture reflecting the memories of the artist’s South Africa. “We remain so connected,’ she remarked and hoped the connection will be strengthened, particularly in the field of medical health.”

And the best answer to the first question asked way back in 1985, Dr. Harriette Chapasuka answered it after a desert, “the lunch – WOW! I loved it.”

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The South African Connection. Dr. Harriet Chapasuka who runs a family clinic in Limpopo South Africa engages in some ‘rigorous’ exercise in Beth Protea’s gym with Director Lynn Lockoff (right) before enjoying a sumptuous lunch in the dining room.

Living History

For this writer, it’s the residents that makes Beth Protea special. Having interviewed many of them over the years, they all represent a microcosm of the history of modern Israel. There was the late Julie Slonimnée Levinson) who arrived in 1946 from Johannesburg and recalls the day Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, declared Israel’s independence in Tel Aviv. Newly married to a lawyer, “we joined in the festive mood that had gripped the city and on Allenby Street’s Moghrabi Square, masses of people were dancing and shouting. Later we went to the fashionable Café Pilz overlooking the sea where we danced on the tables and our partners lifted us into the air.”

Reality set in on the drive back home to Haifa “where we were shot at by Arab snipers. Luckily we escaped harm. The coastal road between Tel Aviv and Haifa was no longer safe, and motorists were suddenly running the gauntlet. There we were earlier dancing with joy and now we were now officially at war.”

When Beth Protea opened its doors in 1992, one of its first residents was Rona Baram née Moss-Morris), a law student and trained nurse, who arrived in Palestine from South Africa in the mid-forties. A member of the Habonim youth movement, she joined Kibbutz Kfar Blum in the northern Galilee. During 1948, settlements in “our area were like fortresses, surrounded by trenches and barbed wire,” says Baram. “The Arabs ran a water canal across the only approach road to our kibbutz cutting us off entirely from the outside world. Post, food and medicine were dropped from a single engine plane that flew in low. Aside from having to deliver babies and care for the sick and wounded, it was a cold winter and we didn’t have enough food or fuel.” Baram recalls the letter from her parents in Durban, with the memorable line “We hope you’ve dug yourself in Rona and have enough ammo to last out the siege.”  Baram would go on to establish Tipat Chalav, the first child-care clinic in Kiryat Shmona.

On the 6th June 1948, the late Maurice Ostroff, and fellow ‘Machalniks’ from South Africa, all volunteers responding to the call to fight in Israel’s War of Independence, were flying into Israel in a P.A.A.C. Dakota. Not sure of his position, the pilot radioed in that he was coming in on an emergency landing. Of all the places to land, he brought the plane down at the last remaining British-controlled enclave of Haifa.  “The British officer on duty was baffled by the arrival of these “tourists” and asked Ostroff:

“Whatever makes you want to come to Palestine at this time. Are you crazy!”

“Just passing through,” replied Ostroff.

“We are pulling out of here,” the officer shouted, “but it won’t be more than two weeks before the bloody Jews will be yelling at us to come back.”  While the British officer soon left never to return, Ostroff would serve out the war as a signaler, commanding a radio station near the Weizmann Institute. Nearly six decades later, Ostroff still had his antennae out and still locking horns with Israel’s enemies. From his fifth floor apartment in Beth Protea he daily monitored the world media on its coverage on Israel, responding to unfair bias by writing to newspapers, TV networks and political leaders around the world.

The late Sam Solomon was another first resident to Beth Protea. He had little interest in  Zionism, but “I did have an interest in girls.”  In the late 1930’s he was a young man living in Bloemfontein in South Africa. “I asked a pretty girl out on a date, but she told me she would only go out with me if I picked her up after  a meeting at the Zionist Hall where an important leader from Palestine was talking. I was not keen to attend thinking it would be boring, but I arrived early and so with nothing to do, I sat in and was so taken up with what I heard about the Halutzchik (pioneering) way of life that three weeks later I was on a plane to Palestine.”

“Whatever happened to the girl?” I asked.

“Who knows”” replied Solomon. “After that night, I never saw her again and my first job in arriving in Palestine was building the road from Tel Aviv to Haifa.”

At a special Beth Protea event some years ago, the late Herman Musikanth, a “financial whiz” who worked very closely with Walter to get Beth Protea literally “off the ground”, quoted the words of Albert Price written in the early 1800s:

What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and this world is – and remains – immortal.”

He concluded with, “I believe that Beth Protea is probably as immortal as one can get.”

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Beth Protea. Pride of the Southern African community of Israel.
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The writer, David Kaplan (left) conversing with President F.W. de Klerk on his visit to Beth Protea still under construction in 1991.

The End to US Funding to UNRWA- Opportunity or Threat?

 Michal Hatuel-RadoshitzkyKobi Michael

INSS Insight No. 1093, September 6, 2018

On August 31 2018, the Trump administration announced that the United States will cease funding UNRWA  – the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Created in 1949 to support some 650,000 – 850,000 Palestinians who fled or were driven from their homes in the hostilities surrounding the establishment of the State of Israel, the agency operates schools and provides food, health care, and other social services to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. All other refugees from other conflicts are aided by a different UN Agency: UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).

In support of its decision to defund, the US described the organisation’s operational-business model as “unsustainable” given its “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries.”

This decision is a game-changer!

Wake Up Call?

The  Palestinians view the US’s new policy as a serious blow particularly as it follows:

– an American budget cut to UNRWA in January 2018

– the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

– a $200 million American budget cut in Palestinian assistance

–  reports speculating that the US intends to recognize only half a million out of over 5 million UNRWA-recognized Palestinian refugees.

While the above moves may serve as a wake-up call to the Palestinian leadership, the decision has the potential to hasten a path to Palestinian statehood.

With serious Israeli, American and international incentives and policy initiatives, the US decision to cease funding UNRWA can potentially inject new life into the Israeli-Palestinian process.

Poisoning Pupils. Education in UNWRA’s school – a curriculum of hate. According to textbooks being read by half a million Palestinian children, the only solution available is victory via resistance, jihad, radical Islamism and defeating Israel once and for all.


Comparing the work of both agencies highlights three central differences. The first is how UNRWA and UNHCR define refugees:

UNHCR does not automatically grant refugee status to descendants of refugees, and may weigh the revocation of refugee status in light of socio-economic considerations, the acquisition of citizenship in another country, and involvement in crimes against humanity or war crimes.

UNRWA, however:

adds some 10,000 new fifth and sixth generation refugees to its lists per month; recognizes some two million Jordanian citizens of Palestinian descent as Palestinian refugees; and grants refugee status to convicted terrorists.

The second difference concerns the agencies’ operational and budgetary infrastructure – with UNRWA employing nearly 30,000 employees (the clear majority of whom are Palestinian) to care for 5.6 million Palestinian refugees; and UNHCR employing 9,300 people (the clear majority of whom are nationals of host countries) to address the needs of 39 million refugees and displaced persons.

In addition, the budget allocated to each Palestinian refugee under the auspices of UNRWA is 40 percent higher than the budget allocated to refugees under UNHCR auspices.

The third difference concerns the agencies’ respective objectives:

while UNHCR strives to resettle refugees under its care and thus reduce their numbers, UNRWA’s operational framework reinforces the paradigm that the situation of Palestinian refugees (and their descendants) can only be improved upon return to their ancestral homes. It also appears that in Gaza, UNRWA facilities have been used by Hamas to stockpile weapons and launch rockets on Israeli population centers.

United States contributions to UNRWA exceeded those of any other country, and were three times the sum contributed by the European Union. One tangible manifestation of the US budgetary cutback to date is UNRWA‘s warning that while half a million Palestinian students in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have returned to the 700 UNRWA-operated schools after the summer break, the current budget reportedly does not suffice to keep the schools open past the current month.

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UNhappy with UNwra. UNRWA employees in Gaza protest funding cuts

Implications of Pullout

President Trump’s aims with the cessation of funds to UNRWA include two non-mutually exclusive alternatives.

The first is consistent with the President’s “America First” policy and the desire to see other governments help cover UNRWA’s costs. Should US cuts indeed be covered by other players, such a scenario is unlikely to harbor change in UNRWA‘s mandate and performance, other than a potential decrease in the scope of the organization’s activities and an increase in its beneficiaries’ sense of insecurity.

The second alternative is that the current administration wants to see UNRWA reformed or completely dismantled. Such a scenario may be motivated by an American desire to pressure the Palestinians to reverse their decision not to cooperate with Trump’s Middle East team, which followed the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. It could also be part of a larger move to prepare Israelis and Palestinians for the President’s ultimate peace deal – which continues to hover above the region yet whose details and announcement date remain unknown. Either way, should such a scenario play out, the US has already emphasized that it will intensify dialogue with the UN and relevant players regarding new models to address the issue of Palestinian refugees.

To Perpetuate or Diffuse the Conflict?

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken against UNRWA and supports the American policy, Israel’s security establishment has reacted to the US move with concern. UNRWA provides an essential humanitarian lifeline to Gazans; is an instrumental stabilizing force; provides Israel with an important point of contact bypassing Hamas; and enables Israel’s security apparatus to monitor the entrance of construction and dual-use substances into Gaza.

However, the security establishment’s concerns, legitimate as they are, serve short-term interests.

UNRWA in its current format is designed to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee status and cultivate the next generation of Palestinians on the ethos of returning to their ancestral homes in Israel. While dismantling UNRWA will not change the Palestinian narrative, prolonging the agency’s current operational framework sends a message that does not help narrow conceptual gaps between the sides.

In any case, the dire humanitarian situation on the ground, particularly in Gaza, demands that alternatives to UNRWA be devised if and when it is dismantled. Despite anticipated antagonism from certain players in the international community, and the pledges of some states to fill the UNRWA budget vacuum, the current situation could be leveraged to create a better alternative. At the very least, several guidelines could help contain the potential damage.

Defining a Refugee

First, there should be new criteria for determining who are Palestinian refugees. Palestinians residing in Gaza and the West Bank in areas that presumably would be part of a future Palestinian state, as well as Palestinians with Jordanian citizenship can no longer be accounted for as refugees. As such, humanitarian aid to Palestinians living in these areas should be granted depending on each person’s actual needs, and not as a product of one’s refugee status.

Second, funds for Palestinians in these areas should be channeled to the Palestinian Authority and the Jordanian government. The original Palestinian refugees in Syria and in Lebanon – who have not been granted citizenship in these states and have not been able to become integrated into the general society – should be transferred to the care of UNHCR. This will improve their chances of bettering, rather than prolonging their dire situation, and will simultaneously help deflate the narrative that millions of Palestinians will one day return to live in Israel.

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School for Scandal. An UNWRA school were rockets ‘Destination Israel’ were stored.

Third, a centralized UNRWA should be replaced gradually by different modular agencies: UNHCR in Lebanon and Syria; organizations under the official Jordanian and Palestinian leaderships in Jordan and the West Bank, respectively; and an alternative humanitarian organization in Gaza. Such a move should be complemented by political and economic initiatives to neutralize antagonism and increase the likelihood of leveraging the single step into a comprehensive political process.

The US decision to cease funding UNRWA is historic. Although the Palestinians view such a step as a serious blow, if it is presented as a necessary step on the path to Palestinian statehood, it has the potential to harbor long term, positive implications. While Israel should certainly prepare for negative scenarios that such a policy move may generate in the near term, it is unwise to cling to the current paradigm that distances the Palestinian leadership’s pragmatic and ethical responsibility for rehabilitating and resettling Palestinian refugees within the Palestinian territories. With serious Israeli, American, and international incentives and policy initiatives, the US decision to cease funding UNRWA can serve as a wake-up call to the Palestinian leadership and potentially inject new life into the Israeli-Palestinian process.



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Michal Hatuel-Radoshitzky

Research Fellow

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Kobi Michael

Senior Research Fellow


Feature picture credit: AP

Cashing in on Terror

By Rolene Marks

A perverted “pay for slay” scheme sponsors environment of terror.

It takes a lot to fell a lion. Several weeks ago, a 17 year old terrorist felled one of Israel and the Jewish world’s most recognized activists, the Lion of Zion, Ari Fuld.  Ari Fuld, was 45 years old, a father of four, slain while he shopped in a nearby supermarket. Mortally wounded from the stab wound in his back that hit a major artery, Fuld managed to chase and shoot his murderer before succumbing to his wounds.

The Lion of Zion, who roared his support for Israel across social media and inspired legions of activists was no more.

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Lion of Zion. Ari Fuld at the Western Wall, Photo, FB

Teenage Terrorists

Teenage terrorists are sadly, not a new or unusual phenomenon. Over the last two years this has been a common occurrence. Motivated by a growing hatred that is indoctrinated into them from baby-hood, these killers have claimed many innocent lives.

It is not just the steady diet of hatred that is consumed but a whole industry has grown around terrorism. It even has a fancy name that rhymes – “pay for slay”. In a nutshell, there is a scale “of benefits” that determine how much of a monthly stipend the family of a terrorist receive.

If you kill a Jew AND get killed then  – jackpot – you get the most cash. If you stab a Jew and kill him/her but are merely wounded then second prize, a lot less money.

It is money for jam for aspiring terrorists – and this comes with an instructional “how to stab for maximum casualties” videos.

The “pay for slay” industry is growing so much that the Palestinian Authority even has a name for the millions of dollars in supposed aid that they have re-budgeted to pay their young terrorists – The Martyr’s Fund.

Death Dollars

Foreign aid that countries earnestly donate to the Palestinians with the hope that it will go towards improving the lives of Palestinians is re-routed to the Martyr’s Fund to support this “pay for slay” economy. This is a rough breakdown of how the economy of terror funds are allocated according to an expose published in the Washington Post:

The Washington Post’s analysis showed that in 2017, $160 million was paid to 13,000 beneficiaries of “prisoner payments” ($12,307 per person) and $183 million was paid to 33,700 families in about in “martyr payments” ($5,430 per family), of which:

  • $36 million is estimated to be paid to prisoners serving sentences of >20 years
  • $10 million is paid to former members of the security forces
  • $1 million is estimated to be paid to families of the 200 suicide bombers
  • $10 million is paid to the families of the Palestinians with life terms, lengthy sentences and in the security forces
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Pay to Slay. The PA paid almost $300,000 to Muslim terrorists behind the Sbarro restaurant massacre in Jerusalem with the family of Izz al-Din Al-Masri receiving $50,124 as a reward for his suicide bombing. The dead Israelis included seven children.

Economy of Death

Stipends are paid to families of both prisoners and Palestinians killed in political demonstrations that turn violent where protesters are killed by non-lethal riot control methods (such as being hit by a tear gas canister) and to individuals imprisoned for “common crimes”. The fund also pays $106 a month in “canteen money” to all imprisoned Palestinians, including those imprisoned for non-political crimes such as car theft and drug dealing, for prisoners to spend in the prison canteen. This must be where Marwan Barghouti got his money for his chocolate he was eating during his hunger strike…

Families of individuals killed by Israeli security forces are paid stipends of about $800 to $1,000 per month. The families of convicted Palestinians serving time in Israeli prisons receive $3,000 or higher per month.

Yossi Kuperwasser, an analyst with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, estimated that in 2017 half of the $693 million that the Palestinian Authority receives as foreign aid, $345 million, was paid out as stipends to convicted terrorists and their families

How many schools, hospitals and other infrastructure that would be beneficial could be built with this money? Asking for a friend….

Instead, this money continues to fuel terror. Incitement to hate and kill Jews is manifesting itself in these ongoing spates of stabbings and shootings perpetrated by teenage terrorists.

Incitement of hatred that motivates children to become stealthy killers and not nation builders falls under the remit of child abuse and the international community is starting to take notice.  The United States has started to cut funding dramatically. On 23 March 2018, U.S. President, Donald Trump, signed the Taylor Force Act (named for victim of terror, Taylor Force) into law, which will cut about a third of US foreign aid payments to the Palestinian Authority. This is on the provision that the PA ceases making payment of stipends to terrorists and their surviving families and Australia has followed suit. In July 2018, Australia stopped the A$10M (US$7.5M) in funding that had been sent to the PA via the World Bank, and have decided to send it instead to the UN Humanitarian Fund for the Palestinian Territories. The reason given was that Australia did not want the PA to use the funds to assist Palestinians convicted of politically motivated violence. Other governments are starting to review their funding as well.

The Lion of Zion may have been silenced but in his memory and for those who have been slain our voices will not be. We say loud and clear the jig is up – perpetuating a cycle of violence and terror is no longer going to be profitable.

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It’s All About The Money. Palestinian contribution to the future – Pay to Slay


Feature picture credit: Yishai Fleisher