A Call to Doctors in Israel – are you ‘game’ to enjoy the best of South Africa’s superlative nature while volunteering your medical expertise?
By David E. Kaplan
They say, ‘South Africans may leave South Africa, but it never leaves them’. This was so for Neil Tabatznik originally from Johannesburg and today living in Toronto who has “returned” with a difference, offering doctors across the world an experience of a lifetime.
“Imagine a luxurious five-star lodge where you can braai (barbeque) under a star-filled sky and watch game having a drink while relaxing in the pool after your day at the hospital or a clinic,” said Alan Epstein of Tel Aviv and head of Tshemba PR in Israel.
You don’t have to imagine!
“Whether you are a GP, a gynecologist, pediatrician, cardiologist, endocrinologist, orthopod, optician or dentist – you name it – whether in practice or retired, you can take up this offer of a lifetime of enjoying in luxury the incomparable beauty of the Limpopo region, what used to be known as the Eastern Transvaal, a stone throw from the Kruger National Park and close to Blyde River Canyon.”
For a minimum of two weeks or six months or more, this is available to doctors by volunteering their expertise at a nearby hospital or local clinics. “And of course, this includes doctors bringing their spouses or partners.”
It all began when Alan’s lifelong friend, Neil Tabatznik, on a trip some years ago to South Africa from Canada, visited a game lodge in the Hoedspruit area.
It introduced an awakening that transformed his life from successful businessman to inspired philanthropist and fulfilling the ancient aspiration in Judaism of Tikun Olam (“Correcting the world”).
Out On The Range
While sitting up front in a Range Rover and mesmerised by the beauty of the terrain and wildlife, Neil was also struck that beneath the veneer of this beauty there were also serious challenges in this exquisite region. As if reading his thoughts, the game ranger enquired whether Neil would consider building a school for young children.
“He explained the community had built a room and found a headmaster but was far from adequate,” reveals Neil.
Following the school being built and flourishing with young pupils, Neil felt the need to do more and sat down with the local tribal chief and asked:
“How else can I help?”
“We need drastically to improve our health services in the area,” replied the chief. “To say it’s inadequate would be an understatement and because we are far from the major urban areas, my people are suffering from being denied access to specialised medical treatment.”
Visiting a local dental clinic, the chief’s word struck home. “The clinic was a fine facility but there were no dentists!”
This was a microcosm of the problem – while there were sufficient structures there were too few qualified medical practitioners to staff them.
So the idea was conceived not to build unnecessary structures but to recruit qualified personnel.
What Neil witnessed in his extensive touring of the region “was so tragic”, the more so because much of the tragedy was preventable – “its man made and can be man corrected.”
Failing to provide access to adequate medical services “meant that people’s health was always at risk and getting sick or injured could so easily lead to tragic consequences – a result that would not happen in a city,” lamented Neil.
This he was determined to change!
And so, the Tshemba Foundation was established on the premise that if a patient could not get to a health service in a faraway urban area the health service will come to the patient.
Tshemba, which means “believe” in local parlance, recruits doctors and healthcare professionals from all across the world to provide lifesaving medical care to the local community and training to local healthcare providers. A key component of the volunteer experience “is to ensure skill transfer to these local medical providers to provide long-term sustainability,” says Neil. “In this way, every volunteer practitioner creates a lasting legacy – a legacy of saving lives.”
“There are so many South Africans in the medical field in Israel – many also that have retired – who I am sure would relish this opportunity of enriching South Africa and in the process, enrich themselves,” says Alan Epstein, who emigrated from South Africa to Israel in 1978 and who owns and operates Anglo-Saxon real estate in Savyon. Alan is the oldest franchise holder of the Israeli company that was established in 1964 by another South African, the late Dave Blumberg.
“South African doctors have made an enormous contribution to medicine in Israel and I feel many of them would enjoy giving back to South Africa while at the same time enjoying the experience with the 5-star luxury on offer.”
He invites all interested to be in touch with him.
Tshemba needs doctors, both general practitioners and specialists, as well as professionals with healthcare experience and expertise.
All medical volunteers must be fully licensed to practice in South Africa but those who are not, “we will do our best to obtain all necessary permits and licenses on your behalf,” explains Barbara McGorian, the CEO of Tshemba Foundation. “If we receive all the right documentation, the process usually takes only about three weeks.”
“Tshemba will place you where you are most needed,” says Barbara, “whether at the Tintswalo Hospital, a 20-minute drive away, or in one of the many clinics spread throughout the community.” Tintswalo is a 423-bedded acute hospital providing maternity, psychiatric, orthopedic, surgical and general medical care to the community. The hospital is also responsible for providing medical staff to several community clinics in the area.
Tshemba also funded the Hlokomela Women’s Centre – a pioneering healthcare project which provides breast and cervical cancer screening as well as treatment to local farm workers and their families. It is the first of its kind in the region.
Leaving a Legacy
In order to maintain the appropriate level of care once the volunteer experience is over, it is imperative that skills and expertise are transferred to the local healthcare providers.
In pursuit of this aim, says Barbara, “Be prepared to teach and to train the local personnel you work with, encourage training, motivate them to actively continue their skill acquisitions and wherever possible, stay in touch with the doctors or nurses left behind after your departure.”
A visit to the Tshemba website, acquaints one with one of Muhammad Ali’s most famous quotes:
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room on earth.”
Well, for voluntary service at Tshemba, the “room” one receives is the ultimate in luxurious accommodation at a scenic hideaway surrounded by the lowveld bush filled with an array of game, bird species, fauna and flora.
The five-star lodge boasts nine stand-alone en-suite chalets that can accommodate up to 18 volunteers in total. Each chalet has a private deck with a breathtaking view of the bush, a tea and coffee nook and a small lounge area. All the rooms are self-catering, although there is also a communal area for dining and socializing featuring two comfortable lounge areas with a fireplace, a fully-equipped, state-of-the-art kitchen and scullery and a spacious dining room, a TV room and a gym.
“Best of all,” says Epstein who was there recently with his wife, “you can relax outside by the wooden deck and infinity pool and enjoy the superb views of the Klein Drakensberg Mountains and a watering hole that draws the animals of Moditlo Private Game Reserve.”
Also on offer are:
Self-drive game viewing in the Kruger National Park
Guided expeditions on private game reserves
Wildlife photography tours
The Moholoholo Animal Rehabilitation Centre
The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre & Cheetah Project
The Khamai Reptile Park
Hiking, driving, boat or air Blyde Canyon tours
White river rafting
Hot air ballooning
Handcraft curio shops
Best Of Both Worlds
“What motivates doctors to volunteer?” I ask.
“It’s an amalgam of love of medicine, a love of South Africa and the yearning to give back to society,” says the CEO.
The general response from volunteers, many of whom choose to return, is “we get the best of both worlds. We are able to enjoy a beautiful game reserve while at the same time make a difference with our skills and expertise as doctors to a community in need.”
Says Dr. Kate Meyer from the UK, “I loved every moment of it. It was a privilege to have participated in the project, which I think is an incredible gift to the community.”
Volunteers are essentially providing ‘first world’ care to a ‘third world’ area.
“It was a wonderful experience both socially and professionally,” expressed Dr. Paul Deveux from South Africa who worked at the hospital and was also thankful for his hours at the Hlokomela Women’s Centre, “which is an extremely well organized.” Praising the local staff, “I felt I made my best contribution there because I was able to see psychiatric patients with longstanding anxiety disorders, some which could be managed and others who needed further intense assessments.”
For nurse Maureen Dunnett, specialising in Midwifery who traveled with the hardworking Hlokomela Clinic staff to farms and other clinics said, “Every day was a different experience for me. The time spent around HIV-testing and treating was illuminating.”
“I would not change it for anything and would definitely come back,” said Dr. Tienie Theunissen, also from within South Africa.
“All the volunteers find it rewarding,” says Barbara. “We recently had a German couple; she was a gynecologist and he a banker. So while she worked at the hospital, he volunteered teaching math at a local school and found the experience as rewarding as his wife.”
The hospital can deliver anywhere between 13 to 20 babies a day; we brought in thirteen babies on Christmas day.”
Going on ‘Jobbymoon’
Located in what many would describe as one of the most beautiful areas in South Africa, it’s understandable how the sobriquet “JOBBYMOON” has caught on.
If newlyweds go on honeymoons and parents-to-be take babymoons -– so why not a ‘Jobbymoon’ for couples desiring that totally out-of-the-ordinary working holiday in the most idyllic location.
The Tshemba lodge is located midway between the world-famous Kruger National Park and the world’s largest green canyon, the Blyde River Canyon. “Thus, if you or your partner want to go exploring during your downtime, we assure you you’ll find something spectacular to do,” says Barbara. The ‘jobbymooners’ are free to explore Hoedspruit and surroundings, to re-energise before returning home “with a fresh mindset, ready to tackle new challenges, focused and refreshed.”
Says Dr. Hennie Nortje a Diabetologist, “Although the staff is completely overwhelmed by the amount of work, they are hungry for knowledge and incredibly friendly. Even the patients are humble, friendly and unbelievably grateful. The whole experience left me in awe. I’m excited to see how the new diabetic educators are doing and my wife enjoyed teaching at the preschool at Hlokomela.”
Dentist, Maria Pestana felt blessed by the Tshemba experience. “When I saw an article on this unique project, I knew Tshemba might offer a very different experience – to help people in rural areas while at the same time enjoying the bush. It’s a balance between the beauty of nature and the reality of life.”
For former South Africans now living in Australia, Gerrit Burger, a physician volunteered and his wife Diana, a General Practitioner, felt” humbled by the sense that we received so much more blessing from this experience than those we sought to help.”
Gerrit feels convinced that “Tintswalo hospital and district can be developed into a model of healthcare with far-reaching effects, well beyond South Africa itself. Without fear of exaggeration, we see a time when Tshemba and Tintswalo will be ‘ideas’ rather than ‘names’.”
“Amazing things” are happening every day at Tshemba.
Tshemba’s Project Specialist, Lexi Cohen says: “I interact with most of the volunteers and each one has found the experience to be rewarding and very fulfilling whether in patient care, skills transfer or general contact with staff.”
Israeli Arab professor in the vanguard of ‘sniffing’ out diseases
By David E. Kaplan
We’ve all heard expressions “a nose for detective work” or “follow your nose” implying some instinctive investigative characteristic of one’s nostrils. However one Israeli scientist looked beyond the abstract metaphor and discovered a concrete truth:
The award was for his invention of the SNIFFPHONE, a device that uses nanotechnology sensors to analyze particles on the breath and is able to pinpoint to exact diseases, like certain kinds of cancer, pulmonary and even the early stages of neurodegenerative diseases.
The SNIFFPHONE includes the NaNose, developed in 2014 by Haick in collaboration with Professor Nir Peled of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine. It is a microchip incorporated into a breathalyzer-like device, capable of diagnosing various diseases. The device uses the presence of specific volatile organic compounds, which are unique fingerprints for various forms of diseases.
A Nosy Parker
“We look for what are called volatile organic compounds, or biomarkers, on the breath. These biomarkers are chemical compounds that are imitated from the source of the disease and, as a result, are diffused within the bloodstream. Of course, the bloodstream is in contact with the skin and the lungs, which is why our test is able to detect them,” Haick in 2015 told NoCamels.com, a leading news website covering breakthrough innovation from Israel based at Israel’s Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC).
The SNIFFPHONE and NaNose are among a long list of achievements for the award-winning scientist. He holds dozens of patents and made it into a number of notable lists, including the “World’s 35 leading young scientists” by the MIT Technology Review for his research in non-invasive disease detection methods, and a list of 100 most influential inventors by several international agencies between 2015-2018.
With a ‘nose’ to eyeing out a sure bet, the European Commission previously awarded Prof. Haik, $6.8 million for further development of the NaNose.
Haik has been the recipient of an array of prizes and medals, including Knight in Order of the Academic Palms by the French Government, the Humboldt Award, the Bill and Melinda Gates Prize and the Herschel Ritz Innovation Award.
A Star Is Born
Born in 1975 into an Arab Christian family in Nazareth, Haick graduated from the city’s Catholic school St. Joseph Seminary and High School. He began his university studies at Ben Gurion University, where he received his B.Sc. in chemical engineering in 1998 on route to a Full Professor at the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute at the Technion where he received his PH.D. in 2002.
Haick, who was interested in science as a young boy, hails from a family of academics that includes a doctor, an electronics engineer and a mathematics teacher.
At the age of 33, he was included as one of the world’s 35 “most-promising young scientists” in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s “TR35” list in its Technology Review magazine.
“I never wanted to be a physician,” he recalled. “I regard the practice of medicine as static. I prefer research, as it produces new technologies to treat patients.”
And that is exactly what he has achieved.
The international SniffPhone consortium that he heads, integrates a breath analysis system into smartphones so that the data can be uploaded to a “cloud” in cyberspace for analysis by qualified medical personnel.
Seeing The Light
Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus and a centre of Christian pilgrimage is where Prof. Haick and his family live and from where his genius is impacting the world.
Haick took a close look at a 2,400-year-old medical hypothesis – that various diseases carry “chemical seals” identifiable in breath samples – and believed that exhaled breath would be an excellent raw material for diagnosis. A huge plus was that it did not require any invasive or unpleasant tests and hence posed no danger.
He used special sensors combined in his “Nano-Electric Nose” to study 1,404 patients, reaching a diagnostic accuracy rate of 86 % of 17 chronic diseases that have no connection to each other. Those included: cancer of the colon, lung, prostate, head and neck, ovaries, stomach and bladder; Parkinson’s disease; Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis; irritable bowel syndrome; multiple sclerosis; pulmonary hypertension; pre-eclampsia and chronic kidney disease.
“Each of the sensors responds to a wide range of breath components,” he explains, “And the integration of information provides detailed data on the signature unique disease characteristics. Some of the sensors are made of layers of nanometric gold particles, while others have a network of nanometric carbon tubes coated with an organic layer for sensing and identification.”
“Our system has made the discovery and classification of various diseases with exactitude averaging 86 percent. So this is a newdirection and ensures the diagnosis and classification of diseases at low cost, low power consumption, miniaturization, comfort and the possibility to repeat the test easily.”
New Horizons in Healthcare
This high-accuracy, low-cost, non-invasive and easy to use device for early diagnosis integrates micro- and nano-technologies to create an autonomous system, connects to smart devices that can analyze disease markers from exhaled breath.
The breath sample is tested via a miniaturized array of highly sensitive nano-sensors and processed by a microfluidic lab-on-a-chip. The electrical signals are transferred via the smart device to a server. Statistical pattern recognition is applied to the received data and a clinical report including the screening results is sent back to the attending medical professional. SniffPhone represents a new concept in healthcare.
Haick says his success as an Arab citizen of Israel proves that education knows no boundaries and is key to improving his community’s advancement. Towards this end, he teaches a popular online course in his spare time to thousands of students across the Arab world from his lab at Israel’s oldest university, the Technion, which was established in 1912 during the Ottoman Empire.
“He is an extraordinary talent,” said Peretz Lavie, the president of the Technion. “He serves as a role model to youth in the Arab sector, that if they invest in education they can go far.”
Through his online course in nanotechnology — one of the first ever to be taught in Arabic — Haick is reaching out to students from Syria, Yemen, Qatar and beyond. He reveals that over 14,000 students have signed up since its launch in 2013.
He teaches another online class in English, where some 76,000 students from 127 countries have enrolled, among them 900 Iranians.
While Haick sees the venture as a way to build bridges, his affiliation with an Israeli institution did deter some students who had enrolled and later cancelled, citing the Israeli connection as a reason.
“Some people told me to remove this certificate from my resume. They said that I might face some problems,” said Zyad Shehata, an Egyptian student who completed the course.
“I have no interest in whether it is an Israeli university or not; I’m very proud of Professor Haick and I see him as a leader.”
And leader he is from medical science to bridging divides.
One of the world’s most famous human rights icons and uber-Zionist, Natan Sharansky, theorised that you can measure anti-Semitism through what he calls “the 3-d lens”. It is not a fabulous accessory for your eyes but rather a logical checklist to measure anti-Semitism.
The world seems to be suffering from an age-old disease for which there seems to be no cure – anti-Semitism. Often lying dormant until it can manifest in whatever trendy guise is part of the current zeitgeist, anti-Semitism has currently reared its ugly head as hatred against the Jewish state, Israel. The 3-d lens has helped define this ugly phenomenon a lot more clearly. It seems that lately that you cannot open a newspaper or scroll through your social media news feed without mention of an anti-Semitic incident somewhere in the world. The ominous site of the Nazi swastika is now common on university campuses across the USA and other parts of the world with its appalling message – Jews not welcome!
Recently, Jews around the world commemorated 80 years since the horrific events of Kristallnacht on the 9th of November 1938. Kristallnacht is a brutal reminder that the Holocaust did not start with gas chambers and Auschwitz. It started with words.
Many believed that after the atrocities of the Holocaust were made public, anti-Semitism would have ended. Today it is manifesting in new forms. In the past, anti-Semitism has revealed itself “traditionally” in ugly caricatures and stereotypes, the desecration of cemeteries and places of worship and discrimination against Jews. I remember a time in my life when sports clubs and organisations where what we called “JNA” – Jews not Allowed.
Today it is different – and no less malignant.
It has become a gross and dangerous global phenomenon – France reported a 69% growth in anti-Semitic attacks in 2018 and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has issued her own caution against growing levels, and in the United Kingdom, concern that it has been given a tailwind by Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn has given rise to yet another manifestation – that of political anti-Semitism.
It is often said that when the world is in a time of chaos the first scapegoats to bear the brunt of peoples’ frustration and anger are the Jews. Images of the new ‘yellow vest’ phenomena in France with their virulent indictment against what they see as wealthy Jews responsible for their misfortune does not happen in a vacuum. It happens when we fail to examine anti-Semitism through the 3D lens.
It is not specific to the European continent either. This cancer is prevalent in the USA as well.
The horrific events in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh where 11 people, with an average age of 73, were slaughtered during Shabbat prayers simply because they were Jewish, has exposed startling levels of anti-Semitism in the United States. Their killer clearly stated on more than one occasion that “All Jews must die”. This horrific attack has been termed the worst anti-Semitic incident in US Jewish history.
Anti-Semitism is spreading its tentacles in a variety of forms. It is present in the far-right to far-left, from the lowest of the low KKK member to the upper echelons of the political establishment. It is also present in a new trend called Intersectionality – which can basically be defined as all suffering or oppression is linked. In other words, if you feel discriminated against as a woman or for your sexual orientation, you could immediately identify with oppressed Palestinians. Context and nuance be damned! This is impacting on the Jewish community as the message is simple – all are equal, all are welcome, except Zionists.
In a world where women’s rights and gender equality is growing in the collective global consciousness, spurred on by movements like the Women’s March, one would think that these seemingly progressive organizations would embrace diversity. And they do. Except if you are a Jewish woman who identifies as Zionist!
This is where intersectionality is finding a support base. The leaders of the Women’s March have come under increasing criticism for their support of arch anti-Semite, nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan meets all 3 of the d’s in Sharansky’s lens. He demonises – having referred to Jews as “termites” or “satanic” and “have infected the whole world with poison and deceit.” He questions Israel’s legitimacy (de-legitimization) by calling or the destruction of the Jewish state. At the end of a talk to students at the University of Tehran law school, Farrakhan led the chanting of the common Iranian refrains “Death to Israel” and “Death to America,” and was joined by members of the audience. Farrakhan also displays an appalling double standard when it comes to racism. An “advocate” for racism, he employs the grossest vitriol against Jews – “The Jews have been so bad at politics they lost half their population in the Holocaust. They thought they could trust in Hitler, and they helped him get the Third Reich on the road.”
This is a man that Tamika Mallory, one the leaders of the Woman’s march declared “GOAT- Greatest of all time” and that her colleagues Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour proudly align themselves with. What could have been a revolutionary movement for women, has descended into a cesspit of hatred and discrimination that is resulting in chapter after chapter cancelling their solidarity marches because of accusations of Anti-Semitism.
Anti-Semitism has found fertile ground on the African continent as well. Once the economic powerhouse of the continent, South Africa and in particular its ruling ANC (African National Congress) party, have created an environment that is allowing the seeds of hatred to firmly take route. The ANC have cemented their relationship with international terror organization, Hamas. The irony of it all is that the Charters of these two organisations could not be more different but yet they have found common ground, signing a Memorandum of Agreement to increase co-operation and entrench their mutual solidarity against the State of Israel. Apart from the absurdity of this alliance, this has a knock-on effect and is evident in the increased vitriol on social media, support for BDS and amongst populist groups like Black Land First and the EFF (Economic Freedom Front). It is deeply worrying that the Rainbow Nation is forgetting the lessons of its past and descending into a cesspit of intolerance – especially since the rest of the continent is opening up to and warming ties with Israel.
Whenever the world seems to be in chaos, Jews are blamed for this and today anti-Semitism is embarking on a dangerous world tour. It can no longer be viewed as solely a Jewish issue or a left- or right-wing phenomenon. Eighty years after Kristallnacht, we are reminded that the Holocaust started with words and not gas chambers and if we treat all forms of racism as equal, then we all need to start looking at anti-Semitism through Sharansky’s 3-d lens.
It is often said that Jews are the proverbial canaries in a coalmine and that what starts with the Jews does not end with the Jews. In times of turbulence, Jews are often the first scapegoat but very rarely the last.
For anyone who deigns to deny that anti-Semitism is a growing international problem, perhaps they need to borrow Sharansky’s 3D glasses.
Israeli technology rescues London’s second busiest Airport
By David E. Kaplan
South Africa take note; If Israeli technology saved the day in Great Britain, look what it can contribute in your neck of the African woods facing enormous challenges.
A tiny country, Israel’s expertise in technology shows – “size does not matter”. Ask the hundreds of thousands of travelers that were piling up and stranded at Gatwick Airport in December 2018 that was until the British ‘cavalry’ arrived equipped with Israeli technology.
It all started with the skies over the United Kingdom’s second busiest airport threatened by mysterious unmanned aerial vehicles. After 36 hours of airport paralysis the week before Christmas, stranding over 100,000 travelers, the British military arrived with one of six “Drone Domes” it had purchased a few months earlier from Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
Established in 1948, the same year as Israel’s independence, Rafael “develops, manufactures and supplies a wide range of high-tech defense systems for air, land, sea and space applications.”
The Israeli Drone Dome rescued Gatwick from continued shutdown when it pinpointed the suspicious invader and jammed the radio frequencies used by its operator to control it, rendering the UAV unable to move.
This ended the airport’s 36-hour shutdown that had caused havoc to air travel and discomfort to thousands of passengers.
Thanks to Israel, Gatwick was again open for business.
The UK’s Daily Mail reported that the British Army bought six Drone Dome systems for £15.8 million in 2018, and the technology was used by its Army in Syria and Iraq to take down UAVs flown by the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group.
So even though Israel’s immense contributions in fighting global threats are kept below the ‘radar’ – seldom revealed in the world media – the skies of Iraq and London can be thankful of the Jewish state’s impressive technology.
The British police had tried first to use its own technology which proved useless, hence ‘dialing’ in for Israel’s unique Drone Dome system.
“Very pleased to see Israeli technology being used at Gatwick airport to make flights possible again,” tweeted the former Chairman of the Conservative Party Lord Eric Pickles. “This is GOOD news for travelers and BAD news for those peddling a boycott of Israeli goods,” added the current chairman of the of Conservative Friends of Israel.
Rafael describes the system as “designed to provide effective airspace defense against hostile drones used by terrorists to perform aerial attacks, collect intelligence, and other intimidating activities.” It uses four radars providing full 360-degree coverage to scan the entire skyline.
The Drone Dome system which has reportedly been used to protect against hostile drones during battles against ISIS in Mosul and eastern Syria, can be operated from a stationary or mobile position. The UK Ministry of Defense was its first foreign customer.
Game of Drones
Using its 360-degree detection technology, the system can identify drones from 3-5 kilometers away and then uses its electro-optical sensors to jam the radio frequencies being used by the enemy drone’s operator to control it, making the UAV inoperable and bringing it down in a so-called “soft-kill.”
The Israeli system also has a laser that can melt drones, although this technology was not purchased by Britain according to the Daily Mail.
Britain’s Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told the BBC that there had been about 40 sightings of “a small number of drones” causing a disruption at Gatwick that was “unprecedented anywhere in the world.”
The airport – about 45 kilometers south of central London -processes over 43 million passengers a year so that any runway closure cannot avoid a disastrous spillover impact on the international air travel system. This was precisely what occurred with many holiday plans disrupted and travelers stuck at Gatwick until – sorry to “Drone On” – they sent in Israel’s counter drone.
While Israel is the world’s largest exporter of military drones, the Startup Nation is also emerging a powerhouse in the development of commercial drones and related technologies. A growing number of drone startups – 64 of them are listed on Start-Up Nation Central’s website — focus on civilian needs from delivering pizza to monitoring industrial environments and now airports.
When it comes to Drone vs Drone, Israel is ‘flying high’!
Without a knockout punch, this ‘war’ will continue as Israel waits an eventual victor. There can be no realistic peace overture until Palestine civil war ends.
By David E. Kaplan
Israel will go to elections in April 2019 and a major issue will be the Peace Process. Within this perennial debate will be the much trumpeted ‘Two State Solution’, supported by a majority of Israelis, with the proviso “if we have a partner to negotiate with.”
Commentators and world leaders around the world frequently chastise Israeli leaders that this proviso is baseless and “a ruse to avoid negotiating.”
You have a partner they counsel like a school master, and his name is Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority.
If Israel is to negotiate it must do so with the duly elected leader of the Palestinian people otherwise the agreement would be worthless. Lacking the support of a majority of the electorate, any peace agreement could be jettisoned by the next Dictator-in-Chief.
After 2000 years of exile and repeated fatal failures in reading shifting political landscapes, the Jews of Israel are reluctant to take existential risks.
It is not a Left or Right issue – it is an existential issue.
With Palestinian elections last held in 2006 and repeatedly delayed with one excuse after another, Abbas prefers remaining permanently at the helm than rolling the dice with democracy and losing to his rival Hamas as the polls predict.
So, with his faction Fatah in an open-ended war with Hamas who is there for Israel to negotiate?
The Palestinian national movement may by the end of 2018 have reached the lowest ebb in its history.
Look what has transpired between Christmas and New Year regarding Israel’s “partner for peace” in the West Bank and his arch-rival in Gaza.
For more than a quarter of a century, the Palestinian movement has been split into two increasingly irreconcilable ideological factions – Fatah and Hamas – entrenched further by the geographic split of the West Bank and Gaza.
While tensions between Fatah and Hamas are always at boiling point, 2018 was a year that the two rivals were at each other’s throats – literally.
During the non-democratic takeover of Gaza by Hamas in 2007, a number of Fatah officials were sent to their grizzly deaths in public by being thrown off high-rise apartment buildings. The message was clear: Hamas was demonstrating its brand of political discourse.
The relationship has hardly improved but, in an effort, to reach some semblance of unity – a representative leadership that Israel could hopefully negotiate with – in March 2018, the prime minister of the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority Rami Hamdallah, bravely visited Gaza – to attempt a reconciliation.
He did not get very far – neither politically nor physically!
No sooner had his motorcade left the Israel border crossing and entered Gaza, a roadside bomb exploded alongside the convoy.
Hamdallah luckily escaped without a wound. Not so lucky was the relationship between Fatah and Hamas – it exposed ‘wounds’ that seem to be resistant to healing.
Which begs the question, how is Israel expected to reach an agreement with Palestinian leaders when these same leaders are unable to reach agreements between themselves and are quite happy to kill each other in the process?
It became quite farcical when following Fatah accusing Hamas for the attempted assassination of its Prime Minister, Hamas counter-punched by claiming that the PA bombed its own prime minister to ‘kill reconciliation’.
This would be a comedy if the plot was not so tragic.
In this ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ of Palestinian politics, the most essential qualification for a family-man aspiring to be a politician, is a life insurance policy!
Animosity over Anniversaries
Fast forward from March 2018 to December 2018, why were 500 PA supporters in Gaza arrested?
Depends who you ask.
According to a Fatah spokesman, the arrests were aimed to prevent “our supporters from celebrating the 54th anniversary” of the launching of its first attack against Israel.
“Our sons have been arrested by Hamas because of celebrating this anniversary,” said Atef Abu Seif, a senior Fatah official in the Gaza Strip. Hamas, he added, was “kidnapping Fatah men from the streets, raiding their homes and confiscating posters and other material that were supposed to be used during our rallies.”
Abu Seif further accused Hamas of torturing some of the detainees.
This followed the PA security forces earlier using force to disperse Hamas supporters who took to the streets of Hebron and Nablus to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the founding of Hamas.
This tit for tat culminated with the Hamas crackdown in Gaza enraging Fatah leaders in Ramallah. President Mahmoud Abbas – who also serves as chairman of Fatah – denounced Hamas going so far as to incredulously accuse it of working for Israel.
“Those who prevent us from marking this occasion are spies,” he said referring to Hamas. “We have been suffering from the spies here and there, and they will end up in the dustbin of history.”
Abbas used the Arabic word ‘jasous’ when he talked about the “spies.” Palestinians often use the word to label those who collaborate with or serve as informants of Israel.
So Hamas, whose sole aim is the destruction of Israel and whom only two months earlier were responsible for firing 500 missiles at civilian areas in Israel are, according to the Fatah leader “spying” for Israel?
Can anyone make any ‘sense’ of this?
Senseless in Gaza
Well this accusation made no sense even to Hamas which responded by hinting that the 83-year-old Abbas was “senile” and “talking nonsense”.
“Abbas’s speech is trivial,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. “The real spy is not the Gaza Strip, which has dazed the occupation – rather, it’s the man who was described by Yasser Arafat as the Karzai of Palestine.”
The Hamas spokesman was referring to Hamid Karzai, who became Afghanistan’s head of state in 2001 after the Taliban government was overthrown and was regularly referred to by Arabs and Muslims as a puppet in the hands of the USA.
So now it is suggested by Hamas that Abbas is an American stooge, the same ‘stooge’ that is refusing to accept the USA as a mediator ridiculing the administrations peacemaking efforts calling it a continuation of the Balfour Declaration “conspiracy.”
As if articulating in an alternate universe, Abbas only a month before, proclaimed on the 14th anniversary of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death that “Our national unity is the most precious thing we have.”
What unity was he referring to?
The PA President pressed on:
“Unity is our strongest weapon to face the plans for liquidation and conspiracies that are being waged against our national cause.”
Clearly his words found no traction with Hamas who continued calling him a “dictator”, “senile”, “mentally unstable”, “traitor”, “collaborator” and “liar”.
Hamas has also denied Fatah’s claim that it had detained 500 of its men but admitted that it had “summoned” 38 senior Fatah men only “for questioning to maintain calm and order.”
Fatah was not buying this.
An official response from the West Bank indicated that there’s was no chance that the two parties “could ever resolve their differences.”
This was only three weeks after BDS in South Africa welcomed in December 2018, the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between a visiting Hamas delegation from Gaza and an ANC parliamentary caucus in Cape Town, calling it “a success for Palestine solidarity”.
Even Egyptian officials have admitted that they have given up on their repeated attempts to end the Hamas-Fatah rift.
“That’s it: There will be no dialogue with Hamas,” said Hussein al-Shiekh, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank. “We have notified Egypt and Qatar that their efforts to achieve have reached a dead end.”
Maybe South Africa should be notified as well!
Judging from the actions and words of Fatah and Hamas, it now seems that the chances of ending the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are virtually zero.
The question for Israel is if Hamas calls the President of the Palestinian people, Mahmoud Abbas a “dictator”, “senile”, “mentally unstable”, “traitor”, “collaborator” and “liar”, and Abbas says that Hamas “will end up in the dustbin of history”, who is Israel expected to be realistically talking to in its quest for peace?
I entered your site of the British Quakers, the Society of Friends and was impressed by your clearly stated aims of “justice, equality and peace” and your exhortation for “spiritual exploration“. These concepts are most noble and laudatory and should be adopted by us all, no matter what our denominations.
Whilst perusing the site, I also read of your call to divest from all companies “that profit from the occupation of Palestine”, in other words, knowingly or not, to be part of and encourage others to join the BDS movement that openly seeks to vilify, demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel. You also place the State of Israel on a time continuum that links it with Apartheid South Africa and as far back as the slave trade.
Now, as a citizen of Israel, not being a member of your Society of Friends and consequently not being endowed with your heightened morality and your vaunted keen sense of “justice, equality and peace” that proudly flutters on your banner, I wish to, if I may, speak plainly to point out some pertinent facts and ask you some relevant questions to which I would greatly appreciate answers.
Firstly, your equation of the actions of the Israeli government and its citizens with those of Apartheid South Africa and the slave trade is inaccurate, misleading, inept, repugnant and odious. As a citizen of the only democratic state in the Middle East and while having my own criticism of certain of my government’s policies, I find it simplistic in the extreme that you think by your call to divestment, that this will end a conflict in this region, particularly where you indulge in double standards by focusing on and judging Israel while blithely ignoring its mortal enemies.
If you recall, following the victory in the Six Day War in 1967 when its enemies persevered to wipe the Jewish state off the face of the map and Israel responded by offering to return the territories conquered in return for a peace treaty, the Arab reply was unambiguous:
“No recognition and no negotiations and no peace“.
Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2008 with the hope that its newly gained autonomy would lead it to develop its economy, improve the life of its inhabitants and lead a peaceful coexistence.
Unfortunately, the opposite occurred!
All the agricultural infrastructure that would have been of benefit to its inhabitants was rapidly dismantled and the extremist Islamist party, Hamas – an internationally recognized terror organization – with its clear ant-Semitic, terrorist and genocidal agenda – was voted in. The results are plain to see. The billions of dollars donated by the EU, Britain included, intended for schools, hospitals, housing and infrastructure, have been spent on armaments and the digging of tunnels into Israel. Thousands of rockets with the ultimate aim of killing and maiming Israeli civilians have rained down on my country. Democracy has been extinguished with critics hunted and brutally silenced and religious minorities persecuted.
In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority encourages terrorism by paying a generous monthly salary to terrorists in Israeli prisons. This ‘Pay for Slay’ policy that entails huge sums of money and is funded by the EU and your government that annually pour billions into the bottomless hole of the Palestinian Authority’s coffers – an administration notorious for its corruption and silencing of critics.
In the light of these facts, your simplistic panacea of simply blaming Israel for the ills in the region by its “military occupation” is patently untenable. Will Israel’s complete withdrawal from the West Bank put an end to Arab terrorism and engender its neighbours’ desire to recognize its existence and live in peaceful coexistence? Will Hamas and Hezbollah lay aside their weapons and beat their swords into plowshares? Will the Palestinian Authority cease all its anti-Semitic indoctrination?
Why have you not in the name of justice, equality and peace, condemned all the terrorist attacks in my country?
I can only surmise that the silence of your on-line site serves as testimony to the double set of British Quakers’ values.
Turkey in the 1970’s – in clear violation of international law – invaded Cyprus dispossessing and expelling many Greek Cypriots from their homes and permanently dividing the island into two with a wall of barbed wire.
Has this unjust military occupation perhaps escaped your notice?
Under Erdogan, Turkey has one of the worst human rights records, jailing putative opponents, discriminating against Christians and persecuting their missionaries, conducting a massive purge of the military and civil service that would have done Stalin proud and waging a merciless war against the Kurds. Lest we forget, Turkey has vociferously denied its role in the ‘Armenian Genocide’ and has helped prop up the despicable regime of Basher Assad in Syria.
Have you called for divestment from Turkey and those that trade with it?
In Syria, the vicious regime of Basher Assad, using all means possible including devastating cities and using poison gas, has slaughtered over half-a-million of its citizens and forced millions more to flee for their lives. The death toll rises daily.
In the name of peace and justice, why have you been silent?
Why haven’t you called for divestment from Syria and all the countries that support and trade with that murderous regime?
With its rich experience in Afghanistan and Chechnya, Assad’s henchman Russia, has increased its military presence in Syria aiding and abetting that murderous regime and playing an active part in the bombing of innocent civilians.
Have you called for divestment in companies dealing with Russia?
Iran, which openly declares its policy to obliterate the State of Israel, trains, supplies arms and funds its proxies towards that aim – Hamas and Hezbollah. It promotes Holocaust denial and unashamedly hosts an annual cartoon competition mocking the tragedy. On the home front it suppresses human rights, indiscriminately jailing and torturing all those who have dared to raise their voices. Amongst its other doings, it has viciously persecuted the Bahá’í faith.
Whilst clandestinely pursuing its nuclear programme, the Revolutionary Guard continues to spread terror beyond its borders including actively aiding the regime of Assad.
Has your organization called to divest from firms dealing with this international pariah?
China invaded and annexed Tibet, imposing its own bogus Llama and flooding it with Chinese settlers. It is presently “re-educating” over a million Muslims and is viciously persecuting the Falun Gong sect, incarcerating, torturing and murdering its members who have proved a source for organ harvesting. The country has a huge penal gulag that arbitrarily imprisons after fixed trials. Its actions fly in the face of all that is ethical.
Have you ever protested? Have you called for divestment? Have you raised your voices at all?
The term “Apartheid” has been so widely bandied about by all and sundry that it has lost its original meaning which was a state legislated and executed policy of discrimination against a group of its citizens, denying them basic rights and services, barring them from residence in certain areas and practicing certain professions. Palestinians in Lebanon are barred from 36 legal or syndicated professions, prohibited from acquiring or inheriting property and restricted to refugee camps. Recently, a three-year-old Palestinian child died when a Lebanese hospital refused to receive him.
Is this not Apartheid? Does this not recall the notorious Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany? Society of Friends, where is your concern for the Palestinians’ welfare? Where are your protests? Where is your action?
The plight of your fellow Christians in Muslim lands is a dire one with many living in fear of their lives and forced to convert to Islam. There is Christian genocide in Nigeria with Boko Haram and other related groups burning churches, slaughtering believers and kidnapping young girls who are then forcibly converted and married off. Copts in Egypt fare badly with churches bombed, congregants discriminated against and murdered whilst many local authorities turn a blind eye. Since the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Christians have been abducted, enslaved, raped and slaughtered, sometimes by crucifixion.
The city of Bethlehem once had a thriving Christian population and a Christian mayor. Since the Israeli withdrawal in 2001, the former Christian majority has shrunk to a minority as many have left. It is pretty simple to draw the conclusion!
Quakers of England, your official site that voices your policies and activities is conspicuously devoid of any mention of your fellow Christian’s persecution.
Where is your compassion? Where is your charity? Where is your love? Where is your morality? Where is your conscience?
Sudan engages in systematic persecution of Christians while Pakistan is notorious for its virulence. Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five has been incarcerated for ten years under appalling conditions after having been falsely accused of blasphemy. During this period, this brave lady has faithfully and tenaciously adhered to her faith and despite all dire threats and coercions, refused to convert to Islam. Due to her religious persuasion, her word carries no weight against that of her Moslem accusers. She has now been acquitted but the mobs are howling for her death. It is no secret what fate awaits her and her family on her release from prison!
Great Britain charitably extended its hand to Muslim Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani activist and youngest Nobel Prize Lauriette after she was shot and gravely wounded by the Taliban in retaliation for her campaigning for female education. While Malala was medically treated and granted asylum to live in the UK, it was not so charitable in the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy by a Pakistani court and sentenced to death by hanging in 2010 but recently acquitted on appeal “due to lack of evidence.” Bibi is prevented from leaving Pakistan until the verdict is again reviewed – a process that can take years.
While having granted asylum to Muslim Malala, Great Britain shamefully denied asylum to the equally courageous and deserving Christian Asia on the grounds that it “will upset community relations.”.” Simply put, your once proud country has committed a disgraceful act of political expediency.
Have British Quakers campaigned for this heroic soul or publicly decried this outrage against all common decency?
In your own backyard, Jeremy Corbyn has elevated his anti-Semitism to main stream politics and made it socially acceptable. Roger Waters is virulently anti-Semitic and continues on his unabated tirades. Acts against Jewish communities and citizens is on the rise.
Where are your voices for social equality and justice?
I perceive only a mute silence.
Quakers of Britain – Society of friends, I accuse you of moral turpitude and of a double set of values. Jumping on the present ‘politically correct’ bandwagon, you seek only to single out and unfairly judge Israel and yet remain silent, willfully ignoring rampant global injustices.
Your site provides ample proof!
Not one voice of protest, not a bleat, not a squeak, not even a faint whimper! Your moral myopia and blinkered ethics speak volumes. Nevertheless, to salve your consciences, you choose to solely focus on the State of Israel, the sole country in the Middle East that practices democracy and enshrines freedom of religion.
You are well aware of this truth. The British Quakers have had a proud history of helping their fellow men – the involvement with saving children from the Nazis in the Kindertransport is a shining example.
However, this was in the past.
Today, I see you mouthing empty platitudes and detect the rank stench of hypocrisy. Your site carries your aims of “spiritual exploration”. I suggest that you carry out a thorough spiritual housecleaning and sweep the stables clean.
Society of Friends, I have levelled serious accusations against you. If I have erred in some, I shall willingly stand to be corrected. I look forward to receiving replies to my questions but if none are forthcoming, I shall understand you have no answers.
Ramat Hasharon, Israel
Stephen Schulman, is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist Youth Movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. Stephen, who has a Master’s Degree in Education, was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.