“Shitty Jew”

By Rolene Marks

This is a personal account of a grossly antisemitic incident and the events that followed. It is important to share these stories, especially at a time when levels of antisemitism are rising to alarming levels around the world. We can no longer be silent in the face of hatred

Yes, you read the title correctly. This is not an easy story to share with you but at a time when hatred and vile invective against Jews is rising alarmingly across the globe, I feel the need to rise above my own personal humiliation and hurt and allow myself the vulnerability of sharing this very personal story with you.

Today, it is more important than ever to expose racism and bigotry wherever it rears its ugly head and send a message that antisemitism will no longer go unchecked. It is no longer okay to gaslight the concerns of Jews and we will no longer suffer in silence.

This story takes place in race sensitive South Africa and exposes a diabolical double standard that exists on issues pertaining to racism. The democratic rainbow nation that enjoys what is arguably the most progressive Constitution in the world, sets the bar when comes to calling out the bigots and haters but when it comes to the oldest hatred in the world, is oddly silent. Has the current political climate with the ruling ANC’s almost rabid disdain for the State of Israel filtered down and is clouding human decency?

South Africans are all too familiar with cases like Penny Sparrow, Adam Catzavelos and others who have made repugnant racist comments and are paying the price but there seems to be no punishment for antisemitism – only avoidance.

I guess when it comes to equal opportunity hatred, the South African media are not as “woke” as they purport to be. Cry the beloved country.

What happened?image001 (14).png

It all started with a letter.

In my capacity as co-founder of the South Africa-Israel Policy Forum, I responded to both a letter written by Gunvant Govinjee and an article written by Alexander O’Riordan that featured in the Business Day and The Daily Maverick respectively. Regrettably, my opening line that stated unequivocally that my letter was in response to both the letter AND the article, was omitted in both publications.

O’Riordan erroneously interpreted some of my comments as a direct attack on him, and proceeded to call me a liar both in a letter of response in the Business Day as well as on my Facebook page. The latter followed an invitation into my personal space after a well-meaning acquaintance suggested that if we spoke to each other, we might find middle ground.

It was not to be!

O’Riordan unleashed venomous invective, calling me a liar multiple times, alleging that I called him a racist (there is a BIG difference between calling someone a racist and saying comments are such) and demanding an apology. Although acknowledging that ‘perhaps’ he had reacted wrongly, he STILL persisted in calling me a liar. I had all the facts so wasn’t as bothered by those accusations as I was by what followed.

When I replied to him by saying that I was a proud Jew, his only response is to resort to personal attack and things took a profound turn for the worse.

O’Riordan responded by calling me a “shitty Jew” no less than four times and his final punch was comparing me to Harvey Weinstein and Bernie Madoff. Now, while I cannot testify to Madoff or Weinstein’s levels of religious observance, I can ask why is religion a factor on what kind of a person they are? We don’t judge other criminals by their religion n’est-ce pas?

O’Riordan then went on to clarify who he deems “decidedly unshitty”. Those Jews that are “good” i.e. anti-Zionist or anti-Israel like Ronnie Kasrils or Joe Slovo. Good Jews vs Bad Jews – a distinction which antisemites are weaponising in order to sow division and try rationalise their hate-driven behaviour.

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O’Riordan claims that Ronnie Kasrils, a former Minister of Intelligence is a “good Jew” but please allow me to remind readers that this is a man who in an Op-ed for the Daily Maverick on the 20th of April this year, made the following comments referring to the development of business ties with Israel as “crony capitalists within the ANC” who were more than ready to have “their palms greased like Judas with silver coins“.

Today, the word ‘Israel’ or ‘Zionist’ has replaced ‘Jew’, and Kasrils, despite his Jewish roots, is trafficking in nasty antisemitic tropes. While O’Riordan – a self-proclaimed atheist – further states that there are “shitty people” of other religions, it is the focus on Jews and his propensity to make divisions that is decidedly dangerous and must be called out.

Good Jew vs Shitty Jew – this is not criticism of Israeli policy, which is legitimate and which Israelis have elevated to a national sport. This is where the line has been crossed and a further line drawn in the sand.

We, the Jewish people will decide what is offensive to us and making these despicable distinctions offends us to the core. Must we be punished and isolated for having and supporting a state of our own? Those like O’Riordan who make these distinctions believe so.

Following this, I sent an official letter of complaint to both editors, thinking that they do would share my disgust and act. To date I have had no response – not even an acknowledgement  of receipt  – from either of the editors.

Radio silence!

 At first, I was angry and then I thought, perhaps there is something more to this. Were the editors afraid of taking a stand or drawing attention to this issue? I really don’t believe it is anything personal or anti-Israel on behalf of the editors; on the contrary, I think the political climate in South Africa is such that it could invite a lot of hate-filled invective.image005 (5).png

Has the climate become such that when it comes to rising antisemitism in South Africa, people are too scared to take a stand? The recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the ruling ANC and terror organization, Hamas as well as the renaming of Sandton Drive after arch terrorist, Leila Khaled, has firmly cemented where South Africa’s alliances fall. The trafficking in antisemitic tropes by ANC and other party leaders such as the EFF who made this statement “We also call on the international community to remember the people of Palestine, the birth and death place of Jesus Christ. They represent the suffering, the permanently crucified, disfigured and humiliated body of Christ hanging on the summit for all shame. The Palestinians suffer racial discrimination, colonization and apartheid in the hands of the apartheid state of Israel” or former Foreign Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu who wished the “Israeli Embassy was in the Dead Sea” only adds fuel to the fire.

O’Riordan’s comments I find racist and offensive and the subsequent editorial silence of the respected Business Day and Daily Maverick, I find worrying, especially in today’s climate. My concern is compounded by these publications offering a platform to a professional propagandist who when unable to establish facts, resorts to racism, when referring to me as a “shitty Jew”!shitty Jew4.JPG

If he had made these comments about another race or religion, it would be equally intolerable and someone like this who trafficks in racism should be publicly shunned and exposed. O’Riordan should be held to the same standards as any racist.

If it is not going to happen in a country like South Africa that purports to be a liberal democracy to take a stand of racism in any of its ugly forms then it is up to us as individuals. Failure to do so allows for hatred to flourish.

I won’t be silent or silenced. Not on my watch.

In a democracy there should not be any place for intolerance and racism in a civilized society.shitty Jew5.JPG

Israel’s “Iron Dome” For Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes aren’t just annoying, they spread killer diseases and are often called one of the most dangerous animals on the planet

By David E. Kaplan

Many Israelis are alive today ONLY because of the country’s penchant for finding solutions to existential problems. A classic example is the ‘Iron Dome’ – a mobile all-weather air defense system designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets  from 4 kilometres to 70 kilometres away and whose trajectory would take them to an area populated with Israeli civilians. 

Its success has been proven in battle. The Iron Dome hits 90% of rockets aimed at populated areas.

However, there are “populated areas” all over the world  under daily threat for incoming aerial attacks of a totally different kind – the dreaded mosquito, and Israeli ingenuity have these critters now firmly ‘in their sights’.

Mosquitoes have killed many more humans than all wars in history.

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The Mean Machine. Mean and deadly, the mosquito about to penetrate human flesh.

It is the most dangerous creature in Africa responsible for killing more Africans than any other through the spread of malaria, dengue and other diseases. Malaria kills over a million on the African continent every year, most of these are children under the age of five.

While the threat in Israel is less lethal, they are super annoying. Who is unfamiliar with them buzzing around your bed keeping you awake all night with their infernal whining sound as they dive into attack like the once-feared WWII German Stuka dive bomber! For those that penetrate your ‘Home Guard” defense system – from protective clothing,  mosquito repellents, mosquito killer lamps to even eating garlic – the aftermath of an assault results in bites, itches, endless scratching, and finally sores  or what I describe as “my battle scars”!

The best defense against mosquitoes is making sure they can’t get to your skin and an Israeli start-up Bzigo has developed a device that scans and locates the biting insects in a room, sending a message to a phone app allowing you to easily kill them.  A future model will be capable of eliminating them as well!

This is like a computer game  but for real!

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Fighting Back. Taking down the enemy mosquitoes are Israeli startup Bzigo cofounders, Saar Wilf and Nadav Benedek.

Action Stations

Developed over the three years, the Bzigo device looks like a box the size of a compact smartphone that can be connected to the wall or stand-alone on a flat surface. It uses  infrared camera that marks the mosquito’s exact location with a red laser once it lands providing the essential ‘intelligence’ to the disgruntled humans to kill them.

Although the current model only helps locate the mosquito, Bzigo CEO, Nadav Benedek says “we are working a future model that will be able to eliminate the mosquito on its own. In reality, killing a mosquito is the easy part – the real challenge is in detecting them. Mosquitoes are adept at avoiding human vision, attacking us when we don’t notice them. But once you know a mosquito is in the room and see where it landed, killing it is simple.”

The technology is based on an algorithm that can detect the movements of a mosquito with a wide-angle high-resolution camera that constantly photographs the walls and ceiling of a room to locate the pest, before sending a message via Wi-Fi to the homeowner’s smartphone.

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Fighting Back. Taking down the enemy mosquitoes are Israeli startup Bzigo cofounders, Saar Wilf and Nadav Benedek.

The brains behind this potential “Iron Dome” against mosquitoes is Saar Wilf, 45, and company CEO Nadav Benedek, 38, both of whom served in the elite IDF intelligence unit 8200. They are trained to zero in on the enemy and firmly in their crosshairs is the mosquito.

To date, we have carried out hundreds of tests with live mosquitos,” says Benedek. “At first, Saar would spend hours trapping them with containers and nets, but then we found a supplier from the Emek Hefer region.”

Asked by YNet.news.com why they chose to focus on mosquitos, Wilf replied that “anyone with a technological inclination, has at some point in their life thought to find a technological solution to this annoying problem; we were just persistent.”

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Caught Red Handed. The Bzigo device monitors a room using an infrared camera and marks the mosquito’s exact location with a red laser once it lands. (Photo: Courtesy)

Benedek described how growing up in the central Israeli town of Pardes Hana, the home was surrounded by netting and recollects how “my Dad always checked my room before bedtime in summer for ten minutes to find and kill mosquitos.”

The Tel Aviv based start-up assures that its device is safe to use near children, food and in hospitals and although the initial model is made for home use, the plan is to produce a model suitable for industrial use, such as to kill pests on farms and in hothouses.

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Most Willful. Bzigo cofounder, Saar Wilf explaining the device programmed to take out mosquitoes. . Photo: Orel Cohen

The device is expected to be available on the market in 2021 and will sell for about $170.

Mosquitoes don’t play fair: They target some people more than others and I am one of them and welcome any addition to my arsenal to take on these critters.

Whatever it takes, the battle is on.

The Israel Brief- 03-06 June 2019

The Israel Brief – 03 June 2019 – Election updates. Israel strikes Syria? Kushner says Palestinians not ready to govern themselves.

The Israel Brief – 04 June 2019 – Israel mourns Nechama Rivlin. Blair on Corbyn and Smotrich will not get justice ministry.

 

 

The Israel Brief – 05 June 2019 – Netanyahu mulls Ohana for Justice Ministry. Nechama Rivlin z”l to be laid to rest. George Galloway fired for anti-Semitic comments.

 

 

The Israel Brief – 06 June 2019 – Salute D-Day veterans. Ohana is Justice Minister. Firefighting drone and IDF Military intelligence Chief talks Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

 

 

Mothers With Meaning

Meaningful ties with a sacred mission

By Rolene Marks

Few things in the world are more sacred than the bonds between mothers and daughters.  

This is a bond that is only made even more special with shared experiences.  Now imagine this incredible experience while exploring your heritage and roots as well as growing your special bond as you step back in time and follow in the footsteps of the matriarchs and then get a glimpse into the future as one can do in Israel.

It is with this in mind that Michelle Melamed Cohen who recently passed away from cancer formed Mothers with Meaning.

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The MAD’ing Crowd. A mother and daughter (MaD) proudly experiencing Israel’s enriching history – together.

Mothers with Meaning is an extraordinary organization that aims to grow the bonds between mothers and daughters while giving them the unique experience of forging unbreakable ties with Israel.

So where did this all start?

Melamed Cohen had a vision to create a programme which would create a space for secular women to form a sense of community in Israel.  She felt that the more religious women already had events and structures in place that connected them to Israel and their Jewish roots, so why not create the same for their secular sisters?

And so, Mothers with Meaning was born.

This vibrant not-for-profit was founded with the aim to connect women to their Jewish roots, Israeli history and the Land of Israel. Something great and bigger than them that they could feel a part of. The best way to do this was to create national and local events that would be meaningful, unique and above all create community.  Melamed Cohen believed that connecting hearts and brining Israeli women together through fun and meaningful activities was the best way to grow unity between Israel’s myriad of different cultures.

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Resounding Message. Ask this crowd of mothers and daughters and they will bellow: “We’re MAD about Israel”

It is heartbreaking to note that Melamed Cohen passed away before she would see the organization grow as it has, but she left a tremendous legacy.

Creativity is a great motivator and Melamed Cohen’s enthusiasm and passion for her vision proved infectious. This motivated one of the Israeli members of  Mothers with Meaning member, Orly Tesler, to come up with an idea that could include future generations. And so, the Batmitzvah programme for mothers and daughters was started.

https://www.facebook.com/MADaboutIsrael/videos/325452814524477/?t=10

There are three parts to this programme – the opportunity connects with your daughter, your Judaism and to Israel”, says Tesler. Orly was motivated to include women from abroad. “This is about connecting them to Israel from an earlier age and is totally non-political – it is about their identity as a Jewish woman,” says Tesler

Yehudit Novick agrees, “Going on this mothers and daughters tour was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life – what a privilege to be able to wake up every day with just me and my youngest daughter sharing a hotel room, and then sharing breakfast together. Even though I have been to Israel so many times, we experienced so many activities I have never done before. I loved every moment, from the inspirational and moving talks, to dancing, laughing and even crying together.”

Mothers with Meaning aims to stress the importance of Israel as a Jewish homeland. Over the last couple of years, many tours to Israel have become highly politicised and in the current climate where showing a proud Zionist identity often leads to intimidation and harassment, Mothers with Meaning hope to instill a sense of pride and confidence in identity. The hope is that participants on returning home will become involved in women’s Zionists organisations and  in their communities.

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Reaching New Heights Together. Mothers and daughters on the top of the ancient fortress of Masada in southern Israel’s Judean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea.

Some of the young girls who have participated have been so impressed and turned on by what they have seen and experienced  that they are making plans for their futures in Israel. They have expressed hope to either study or join the army!

Throughout the programme, they are encouraged to come out from their comfort zones and enjoy unique and enriching encounters  from training at army bases to meeting with Holocaust survivors.  These unforgettable events have been life-changing and have only enhanced the ties that bind generation to generation.

Everything is about connection – Shabbat at the Kotel, exploring Israel’s future in Tel Aviv, learning the importance of continuity and bearing witness with Holocaust survivors and so much more.

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The Young Ones. An experience that will impact on their lives forever.

Israel is more than simply a country that has conflict with her neighbours. There is a rich tapestry of cultures and history and while some may not be attracted to religious aspects, there is something for everyone.

Michelle Melamed Cohen may not have lived long enough to enjoy the rich fruits of her vision but the gift that she has created will pass down from generation to generation. Mothers with Meaning is transforming lives and building last bonds between moms and their daughters and instilling love for Israel – there is no greater legacy than that.

For more information about Mothers with Meaning visit: https://www.facebook.com/mwmisrael/

 

 

Times Are A’changing

In Europe, now South Africa – Jews are feeling uneasy

By David E. Kaplan

The recent spat between the South African Jewish Board of Deputies’ vice president, Zev Krengel and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Lindiwe Sisulu, illustrates not only the widening chasm  between South Africa’s ruling party and its Jewish community but something far more alarming.

It exposes an increasing unease Jews are feeling with their position in South Africa today.

The “issue” is not over anything pertaining to Jewish wellbeing in their country – the primary concern of Krengel’s organisation the SAJBOD – but over South Africa’s relationship with the Jewish State – Israel.

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Satisfying Selfie. SAJBD National Director Wendy Kahn, SAJBOD’s vice president Zev Krengel and SA President Cyril Ramaphosa are all smiles following post-election celebrations held at the IEC (Independent Electoral Commission’s) Results Gala.

Once a  ‘sign’ of inclusivity, the much touted “Rainbow Nation” image of the Mandela era has lost its sparkle. That inclusivity  comes today  for South Africa’s Jews  with a price tag:

Stop Supporting Israel.”

Can this really be expected as an option for a People who have repeated for over 3500 years from the Psalm of King David:

 “If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem! let my right hand forget its skill!”

Zionism –  the nationalist movement of the Jewish people that supports the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland in the territory defined as the historic Land of Israel – is in the DNA of South African Jewry. Well over a half century before the Holocaust in Europe, Zionism arrived in South Africa  “in the knapsacks of the Litvak Jews.”

Many of the young new arrivals from the late nineteenth century  had been members of Hovevei Zion societies in Eastern Europe – the forerunners and foundation-builders of modern Zionism. These societies aimed to promote Jewish immigration to their ancestral homeland in Ottoman ruled Palestine, and advance Jewish settlement there, particularly in agriculture.

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Fundraising For Palestine. A 1922 pledge of 175 by a Cape Town Jew. South African Jewry’s contribution in absolute figures was second only to Jewry in the USA in the first two decades of Keren Hayesod (Foundation Fund) that was established in 1922. By 1939, with a Jewish population of 90,700 South Africa’s per capita record was extraordinary when compared to a Jewish population of nearly 5,000,000 in the United States.

It was therefore no surprise the South African Zionist Federation was established as early as 1898 – over a decade before there was even a Union of South Africa –  followed by the Board of Deputies in 1903. Nine years later the ANC was founded in 1912, with the aim of fighting for the rights of black South Africans.

Now the organisations tasked with fighting for the rights of Jews and Blacks are facing off over an issue a continent away!

What has startled the Jewish community even more, was the rebuke Krengel and the SAJBOD received as if they had no right to criticize the ANC member.

The criticism in question was Krengel referring  to Minister Lindiwe Sisulu as “the single biggest enemy” in government to South African Jewry. This was in response for her crusade for South Africa to sever diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.

Krengel had every right to articulate his concerns particularly following the Minister’s ignorance, bias and antisemitism all evident in her accusing “the Israeli government of funding WITS” (University of the Witwatersrand) and adding to her accusation “This was a fact that must be taken into account when implementing the proposed downgrade of the South African embassy in Israel.”

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Down With Israel. Diplomatic downgrade crusader, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu. Picture: GCIS.

If the British Labour Party, once the political home for much of Britain’s Jewish community is being investigated for institutional antisemitism – why should senior members of the ANC be free of similar rebuke?

The Jewish leadership would have been remiss in not taking the minister to task.

As national vice chairman of the South Africa Zionist Federation Ben Levitas in Politicalweb expressed:

the SAJBOD did what they were elected to do by opposing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s decision to act on the ANC’s 54th National Conference resolution “to immediately and unconditionally downgrade the South African Embassy in Israel”. The Boards mandate is to guard and protect the interests of the Jewish community and the downgrade of relations with Israel most certainly impacts on the well-being of the community.”

While the cracks have been paved over following the recent national election, some members within the community are seeing through the façade of rainbow-nation-like unity and camaraderie. A May 23 letter by Brian Josselowitz to the editor the SA Jewish Report is revealing:

You can schmooze with the political elite, and even take selfies with ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa, but he serves at the pleasure of the national executive committee, and he will not vote against ANC policy, especially on the question of Israel.

The SA Jewish Report (SAJR) gave him its unqualified backing when he won the ANC presidency at the party’s last elective conference, and if he has, as the SAJR would have us believe, an open mind about the conflict, why didn’t he take cabinet colleagues Naledi Pandor and Sisulu to task, in public, for their anti-Semitic remarks? Why has he allowed Sisulu to say that all relations with Israel are being severed, and the embassy will be downgraded to a visa office, without repudiating her in public?”

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Soothing In Synagogue. President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing the Jewish New Year’s prayer session at the Gardens Synagogue in Cape Town, September 12, 2018. Picture: GCIS

A Deep Sense Of Foreboding

What is happening to freedom of speech in South Africa  when the Board’s director, Wendy Kahn, feels the need to defend  her organisation’s right to criticise government.

 “…I think the Jewish community, as with all citizens of South Africa have got a right to criticise and condemn statements and actions of government.”

All this follows:

  • in 2018 the ANC put out the red carpet in Parliament for the terror organisation Hamas that had only weeks before   fired close to 500 rockets from Gaza into southern Israel with the intention of endangering the lives of Israelis. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was co-signed by the ANC and Hamas that supported – inter alia – “the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel” and ensured that “ANC leaders and government officials do not visit Israel
  • The ongoing crusade of South Africa’s premier university – the University of Cape Town (UCT) – to boycott academic institutions in Israel
  • The passing of a motion brought to the Johannesburg council by the ANC, Al-Jamaah and EFF to rename one of the city’s prominent roads, Sandton Drive, after Leila Khaled. While glorified as the “poster girl of the Palestinian struggle”, this is the same Leila Khaled who, holding two hand-grenades in her hands in 1970, terrified a planeload of passengers on an EL AL Flight from Amsterdam to New York City and who the previous year, in 1969, had hijacked a TWA Flight from Rome to Tel Aviv diverting it to Damascus International Airport, where together with her partner, blew up the nose section of the Boeing 707. These are South Africa’s role models today – dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel. Khaled was not hijacking civilian aircraft in support for a Two-State Solution:

        In 1970, there were only 1,514 Jews living in the West Bank!

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Explosive Personality. TWA Flight 840 being blown up on August 29th 1969 by Leila Khaled and her fellow hijackers. Source: adst.org

Is it any wonder that Jews in South Africa are questioning the direction of their country, the policies of its political leaders and the nagging thorn pricking daily, whether it is a suitable place for their children and grandchildren?

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Sign Of The Times. PFPL plane hijacker Leila Khaled (centre) warmly received in South Africa in 2015, might soon have a street in Johannesburg named after her. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA)

An old acquaintance in Cape Town who recently put his property on the market remarked:

 “It’s now just a house; it’s no more a home!”

 

 

* Feature Picture:  Cyril Ramaphosa chating to Lindiwe Sisulu on the last day of the ANC National Conference on December 20, 2012 in Mangaung, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Foto24 / Felix Dlangamandla)