The Israel Brief- 24-27 January 2022

The Israel Brief – 24 January 2022 – Lapid meets PA official. Israel mulls Russia-Ukrainian crisis. 2021 most antisemitic year. Remembering Daniel Pearl.

The Israel Brief – 25 January 2022 – Recommendation for 4th jab. Israel braces for Storm Elpis. Extremist violence growing. The Guardian newspaper accuses Israel of Sports Washing.

The Israel Brief – 26 January 2022 – Israel braces for Elpis. UN Chief laments antisemitism. President Herzog makes history next week. How many Holocaust Survivors are living in Israel today.

The Israel Brief – 27 January 2022 – International Holocaust Memorial Day. Ofcom to investigate the BBC. A new dawn between Israel and Turkey? Jerusalem of Snow.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

When Jews Thrive, the World Thrives

Surviving the Shoah and its impact on human survival today

By David E. kaplan

Interviewed from the USA on Israel’s Channel 12, only a few days before Holocaust Memorial Day on the 27 January 2022, this year’s Genesis Prize recipient – dubbed Israel’s “Jewish Nobel” -gave an answer to a particular question that was touchingly telling.

Savior from Salonica. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, who as chairman and CEO of Pfizer pharmaceutical company helped develop the lifesaving COVID vaccine, owes much to the valiant efforts of others to save the lives of Greek Jews during the Holocaust. His mother and father were among the very few to survive the Nazi occupation of Salonica, the ancient Greek city where he was born.

Dr. Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, was asked whether – because of Covid –  he would be travelling to Israel to accept his $1 million prize from President Isaac Herzog at a ceremony in Jerusalem to be held on June 29, to which he replied with an engaging smile:

 “Well, there is the incentive for me to work even harder.”

And work hard he has.

Not only has the Pfizer vaccine protected tens of millions of people around the world and prevented even more, from suffering severe illness or even death from the coronavirus infection, it may have also saved the global economy.

The Pfizer CEO took over at the 173-year-old pharma giant just a year before the pandemic when the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 surfaced. When Bourla was confronted about taking on the world-crippling coronavirus, there wasn’t the vaccine technology yet for the job that lay ahead, but he trusted his scientists. 

Disappointed but Undeterred. While “disappointed” during 2020 by COVID vaccine rhetoric, Pfizer CEO Bourla wrote that Pfizer is “moving at the speed of science,” driven by the deadliness of the disease and urgent need for a vaccine. 

It was here that Israel’s Genesis committee recognized Dr. Bourla for his “leadership, determination, and especially for his willingness to assume great risks”. Unlike CEOs of most other major companies working on developing COVID-19 vaccines, Dr. Bourla declined billions of dollars in US federal subsidies in order to avoid government bureaucracy and expedite development and production of the vaccine. As a result, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was ready in record time –  MONTHS instead of YEARS!

However, let us remember that if Hitler had his diabolical way,   the health of the world today would not be so secure.

Born in Thessaloniki, Greece, Dr. Bourla was raised in a family that faced the horrors of the Holocaust first-hand. His parents were among only 2,000 survivors out of a once-thriving, ancient Jewish community of 50,000, almost completely wiped out by the Nazis.

Precious Few. The parents of Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla were among only 2,000 of Salonika’s once-thriving Jewish community to survive the Holocaust.

A year ago on January 27th for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Dr. Bourla joined the Sephardic Heritage International where he shared his Greek Sephardic family’s story of tragedy and survival.

My father’s family, like so many others, had been forced from their homes and taken to a crowded house within one of the Jewish ghettos. It was a house they had to share with several other Jewish families. They could circulate in and out of the ghetto as long as they were wearing the yellow star.

But one day in March 1943, the ghetto was surrounded by occupational forces and the exit was blocked. My father and his brother (my uncle) were outside when it happened. Their father (my grandfather) met them outside, told them what was happening and asked them to leave the ghetto and hide because he had to go back inside as his wife and two other children were home. So later that day, my grandfather, Abraham Bourla, his wife Rachel, his daughter Graziella and his youngest son David were taken to a camp outside the train station and from there, left for Auschwitz. My father and uncle never saw them again.”

He explained how his father and uncle were able to escape to Athens. Thanks to local police who were helping Jews escape from the Nazis, they were able to obtain fake IDs with Christian names.

When the Germans had left, they went back to Thessaloniki and found that all of their property and belongings had been stolen or sold. With nothing to their name, they started from scratch, becoming partners at a successful liquor business that they ran together until they both retired.”

Greek Tragedy. The Greek city of Thessaloniki  (Salonika) under occupation by German troops. Bourla’s parents were among only 2,000 survivors out of  a once-thriving, ancient Jewish community of 50,000 that survived the Holocaust.

Then followed Bourla relating the harrowing story of his mother who was also saved in miraculous circumstances. 

So well-known in the town, she was afraid to venture outside her house for fear of being recognized on the street and turned over to the Germans. She essentially stayed at home “24 hours a day“, said Bourla.

However, on one of her rare ventures outside, she was recognised and forcibly escorted to a local prison.

My Christian uncle, my mother’s brother-in-law, Costas de Madis approached a Nazi official and paid him a ransom in exchange for a promise that my mother would be spared.

However, my mother’s sister, my aunt, didn’t trust the Germans. So she would go to the prison every day at noon to watch as they loaded the truck of prisoners. One day, her fear had been realised, and my mom was put on the truck. She ran home and told her husband, who then called the Nazi official and reminded him of their agreement – who said he would look into it. That night was the longest night in my aunt and uncle’s life because they knew that next morning, my Mom would likely be executed.    

The next day, my Mom was lined up with other prisoners against a brick wall. And moments before she would have been executed, a German soldier on a motorcycle arrived and handed some papers to the men in charge of the firing squad. They removed my mother from the line. As they rode away, my Mom could hear the machine gun slaughtering those that were left behind. Two or three days later, she was released from prison after the Germans left Greece.”

Eight years after narrowly escaping death, Bourla’s parents met by way of matchmaking and were married.

My father had two dreams – one, that I would become a scientist and two, that I would marry a nice Jewish girl. I’m happy to say he lived long enough to see both dreams come true.”

Afraim Katzir, Director of the Sephardic Heritage International, said at the time that “It is very inspiring that it is the son of Holocaust survivors who is on the front line of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

A year and more variants of covid later, the Genesis committee recognised the role of Bourla in leading the development of a COVID-19 vaccine and will be awarding him $1 million in prize money.

A Light unto the Nations. This year’s virtual lighting of the Chanukah candles at Israel’s embassy in Washington, D.C., was led by Albert Bourla.

And what does Bourla intend to do with this money? He is donating it to projects aimed at preserving the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, with a particular emphasis on the tragedy suffered by the Greek Jewish community.

In welcoming Dr. Albert Bourla to the distinguished family of Genesis Prize Laureates, Co-Founder and Chairman of The Genesis Prize Foundation Stan Polovets said that:

 “Dr. Bourla personifies two of the most fundamental Jewish values: the commitment to the sanctity of life and to repairing the world.  And while the pandemic is far from over, millions of people are alive and healthy because of what Dr. Bourla and his team at Pfizer have accomplished.”

So while Dr. Bourla is praised for his services in fighting Corona,  2021 was recorded at the most antisemitic year in the last decade, fueled by the very pandemic he was fighting against. Even in in his native Greece, which should have taken pride in Bourla’s achievements, there were those in media that instead perverted the facts in order to fuel antisemitism.

The Good, Bad and the Ugly. Pfizer CEO albert Bourla was attacked by a Greek newspaper –  the Makeleio daily  – with horrific antisemitic Nazi tropes. November 10, 2020. (Courtesy/Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece via JTA)

There was Bourla educated at the university in Salonika and who after graduation joined Pfizer in Greece to begin his steady climb through the executive ranks of the multinational corporation and is generally credited with driving the company to develop the two-shot COVID vaccine in record time, and what do they do?

Following in November 2020 the welcome announcement by Pfiser of promising results in clinical trials, Greece’s Makeleio newspaper claimed that “Bourla is evil” and the vaccine that “Pfizer is working on is actually deadly.” The paper juxtaposed a photograph of Bourla with that of Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele, who conducted gruesome experiments on Jewish prisoners. Albert Bourla wants to “stick the needle” into Greeks, delivering what the paper described as “poison” in the guise of a vaccine.

Despite some criticism from the Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs calling it “most vile anti-Semitism reminiscent of the Middle Ages”, the unrepentant newspaper responded by publishing another hate-filled article three days later, describing Bourla as a “Greek Jew” who was under the control of a sinister-sounding “Israel Council”.

In its annual report on the eve of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021, Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry found that antisemitic conspiracy theories blossomed as soon as the coronavirus began spreading around the world in February 2020.

According to its report, the false theories circulating went on the lines as follows:

Jews and Israelis created and spread the virus so that they could rescue the world with lucrative vaccines.

The report said:

The advent of the vaccines, coupled with Israel’s vast vaccination campaign, assisted by Israelis and Jews who hold prominent positions in the companies that produce these vaccines (such as Tal Zaks, Chief Medical Officer at Moderna, and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla), was used to reinforce these accusations: Israelis and Jews join hands so that Israel may be the first to recover from the pandemic, while the rest of the world stands in line and begs the Jews for help.”

Writing on the Wall. Anti-Semitic graffiti scrawled in a UK stairwell in this undated photo juxtaposes Holocaust imagery with the current coronavirus crisis. (Community Security Trust)

Contrast the hate of the antisemites with the words of the Genesis Prize recipient, which explains not only Jewish survival but why an unappreciated world is forever enriched by Jewish survival:

Says Bourla:

I was brought up in a Jewish family who believed that each of us is only as strong as the bonds of our community; and that we are all called upon by God to repair the world. I look forward to being in Jerusalem to accept this honour in person, which symbolizes the triumph of science and a great hope for our future.”

Israel President Isaac Herzog

Watch the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s global program, in partnership with The King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence, featuring leaders and peacemakers from the Gulf, Indonesia, Israel, and the United States, commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

The Importance of Memory

By Karen Pollock CBE, Chief Executive, Holocaust Educational Trust

Today we mark Holocaust Memorial Day on the 77th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the infamous Nazi concentration and death camp.

On Holocaust Memorial Day, we remember the 6 million Jewish men, women and children who were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. We remember them as the people they were before they were victims – as members of families and communities, as teachers or doctors, people who dreamed of travelling, or playing football for their favourite team. Ordinary people with lives ahead of them

Jewish life before the Holocaust

And we can’t help but remember what happened to them – how they were marked out and identified as Jewish, how they were stripped of their property and their rights, how they were stripped of their citizenship and forced out of their homes. How they were forced into ghettos, and starved and beaten and tortured. And how, eventually, they were taken to ravines and fields and purpose-built death camps across Europe and murdered, in their millions, simply because they were Jewish.

For decades after the war, the human stories of the Holocaust were missing from the public discourse. People knew about the Nazis, they knew about Hitler, they knew that there had been gas chambers. But they didn’t know the human face of those whose lives ended in those gas chambers. The victims were alien, abstract, a homogenous group of 6 million. And they certainly didn’t know the stories of the survivors.

Smiling faces of Jewish kids before the horror was to befall them.

There were lots of reasons – survivors were rebuilding their lives; they did not want to keep reopening their deepest and darkest wounds. And even when survivors did speak, they were met with disbelief, or simply with disinterest. Across the world, countries were rebuilding and trying to move on from the war, and stories of the atrocities faced by survivors were a painful reminder of a past that everyone wanted to forget.

Two of the five girls in this photograph—taken in Humenné, Slovakia, around 1936—are known to have been sent to Auschwitz, Poland, on March 25, 1942, as part of the first official transport of Jews to the death camp. Neither Anna Herskovic (second from left) nor Lea Friedman (fourth from left) survived. (Photo courtesy the Grossman and Gross families)

How times have changed.

There is a lot that paved the way for the change we now see – the televised trial of Eichmann, Schindler’s List in cinemas around the world, survivors gathering in Israel for the first time – and the passage of time. But today, looking back, what I see is the tenacity of survivors who, in their retirement especially, were determined that the world would know what happened to them. In the years since they have been tireless in their efforts to affect change, and to ensure that the horrors of the past would never be forgotten.

Two young Jewish women wearing the yellow star in Paris. Wearing of the star was made compulsory in occupied France in 1942. (PHOTO: KEYSTONE-FRANCE/GAMMA-KEYSTONE VIA GETTY IMAGES)

Today, around the world, communities of all faiths and none, of all backgrounds, in countries who were once occupied by the Nazis and those who were not, will pause for a moment to remember the Holocaust. They will remember the horrors of the past, and they will commit to ensuring its legacy continues. Holocaust Memorial Day has become internationally recognised and integrated into calendars across the globe.

And today those survivors who were not heard for so many years are in the spotlight. Their stories are being told, their voices are being heard, and their legacy is being cemented.

That is not to say that our work is done. Antisemitism continues to be an issue globally. Holocaust distortion continues to grow more prevalent, whether in the rhetoric surrounding the pandemic, in social media ‘jokes’, or in the comparisons of Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto. There is a huge amount of work to be done to ensure that the hatred that led to the Holocaust is understood and addressed, and that the integrity and truth of the past is preserved.

Elie Wiesel once said that to forget the dead is akin to killing them a second time. Today on Holocaust Memorial Day, they are not forgotten.

About the writer:

Karen Pollock CBE, Chief Executive, Holocaust Educational Trust. She started her professional life working for the Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism (PCAA), where she became Director. She joined the Holocaust Educational Trust as Communications Director in 1998 and became the Trust’s Chief Executive in 2000. She was a founding Trustee of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and is a member of the Council of the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust Council at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. She is a Vice President of the Jewish Leadership Council, a trustee of the Community Security Trust and an Advisor to the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation. In 2012 Karen was awarded an MBE for her services to education in the UK. In 2020, she was awarded a CBE for services to Holocaust education.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

Survivor to ex-Nazi camp guard:

‘You’ve lived 100 times longer than baby Erika’

The 27th of  January marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. Every year on that day, International Holocaust Memorial Day takes place. This is a day designated by the United Nations for remembrance, memory and education about the Holocaust. Today we read about a Holocaust survivor facing a concentration camp tormentor more than seven decades after World War II, in a court in Germany.

Israeli Holocaust survivor Emil Farkas gave gut-wrenching testimony in the trial of an S.S. guard who served in Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

By Dr. Efraim Zuroff

(courtesy of Times of Israel)

Holocaust survivor Emil Farkas of Haifa was one of the best gymnasts in Israeli sports history. He was Israeli National champion twice and won multiple medals in the Maccabiah Games. But his greatest badge of honor may be the testimony he gave in a German court earlier this month.

At nearly 93, Farkas was the first witness to testify in person — and, apparently, the only Israeli survivor who will do so — at the trial of former S.S. guard Josef Schuetz, who served for almost three years in the notorious Sachsenhausen Nazi concentration camp.

Time to Testify. Holocaust survivor 93-year-old Emil Farkas from Israel, testifies at the trial of former S.S. guard Josef Schütz, who served in the notorious Sachsenhausen Nazi concentration camp. (Screenshot from Nov. 4, 2021 Kan11 news broadcast)

Emil was born in February 1929 in Zilina, then Czechoslovakia and today Slovakia, to a middle-class Orthodox Jewish family. His father managed a shoe store that sold orthopedic shoes, and his mother was a nurse. He was the youngest of five siblings: four brothers and a married sister, who was the mother of a one-year-old daughter named Erika.

In the wake of the Nazi invasion of Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939, Slovakia became a separate political entity, ruled by the fascist Slovak Hlinka Guard, in effect a satellite state of the Third Reich. Restrictions on Jewish life became increasingly severe: the yellow badge was made obligatory, and, in March 1942, the first deportations to Auschwitz and Majdanek began, as did the tragedy of Emil’s family.

Among the deportees to Auschwitz were his brothers Bela and Arpad, his sister Peppi and her husband and infant daughter, all of whom were murdered there. Emil was soon sent to two Slovak forced labor camps, first to Novacky and later to Sered, and from there in 1943 or 1944 to three German concentration camps in which the conditions for the prisoners were much harsher, and the chances of survival much slimmer.

Emil’s ‘Home’. A roll call in the early morning or late evening inside the Nazi concentration camp Sachsenhausen in Oranienburg on the outskirts of Berlin, Germany. (AP Photo, file)

The first was Sachsenhausen, where by sheer luck his athletic prowess helped save his life. Every day Emil would get up an hour or so before rollcall, wash himself with snow (in the winter) and do gymnastic exercises with incredible precision. The S.S. guards were shocked by his performance and reported him to the camp commander, who transferred him to work on the “Shoe-Testing Commando”, a group of political prisoners (all non-Jews), whose task was to break in new army boots for the S.S. They did so by marching 30-40 kilometers from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day in a brand new pair of boots, while singing German military songs. Their reward was an extra piece of bread, which helped Emil survive, but if not for his physical strength and stamina, he may have shared the fate of other prisoners who died in the course of these grueling marches.

Surviving to Thriving. One of Israel’s finest gymnasts having been national champion twice and winning multiple medals, Holocaust survivor 93-year old Emil Farkas of Haifa  – seen here (centre) at a Maccabiah, the Jewish world’s Olympic Games – was the first witness to testify at the trial of former S.S. guard at Sachsenhausen, Josef Schuetz.

From there, he was deported to Bergen-Belsen, where he barely survived a savage beating by camp commandant Josef Kramer, a notorious sadist who was hanged by the British after the camp’s liberation. From Bergen-Belsen, Emil was sent to Dachau, where he was liberated by American soldiers, and nursed back to health with the special assistance of a Jewish US Army officer.

Beast of Belsen”.  Following his ‘residency’ at Sachsenhausen concentration camp, Emil Farkas  was deported to Belsen-Belsen where he barely survived a savage beating by the camp’s commandant, Josef Kramer, a notorious sadist who was later executed by the British after the camp’s liberation.

Needless to say, testifying at the trial was not an easy task for Emil. Preparing a chronologically accurate narrative of all the different camps and important incidents would have been a challenge for someone half his age, let alone a nonagenarian of almost 93. Luckily, German lawyer Thomas Walther was leading the Farkas “team” — Emil’s relatives and myself invited to accompany him to the trial. Walther, who together with his colleague Kirsten Goetze is responsible for the dramatic change in German prosecution policy vis-à-vis Nazi war criminals that facilitated the belated German trials of the last decade, crafted a dramatic statement for Emil to deliver at the trial.

Return to Hell. Having survived the horrors, Holocaust survivor Emil Farkas from Israel, speaks to a reporter at Sachsenhausen Memorial (Photo Ilana Dreyer)

After relating the major details of his travails in the camps in which he was incarcerated, with a special emphasis on Sachsenhausen, Emil addressed the defendant directly:

“I am sure you must have seen me many times running with the ‘Shoe Commando.’ Today I came to Brandenburg to see you. And therefore I want to ask you: At the end of your one-hundredth year, is your dark secret worth so much to you, that you cannot bring yourself to apologize for your contribution to my suffering? Isn’t it time for you to be brave?

“You didn’t only see me, you also always heard me sing the song I was forced to sing. The name of the song was ‘Erika.’ And thus you heard me sing the second stanza again and again…as I thought about my sister Peppi’s one-year-old daughter, whose name was Erika.

“You Mr. Schütz, you became an adult, living 100 times longer than Erika!”

Hearing that testimony in Hebrew in a German courtroom, read by Emil’s granddaughter’s husband Doron Ben-Ari who had to replace Emil for technical reasons, was an unforgettable experience and one which I found extremely moving.

Emil gave an equally poignant speech on Friday night at the main Berlin synagogue and magnified the impact of his presence at the trial through powerful interviews with the media in which he emphasized the importance he attributes to trials of elderly perpetrators like Schütz, even this many years after the crimes were committed. Our visit with him to Sachsenhausen with Dr. Astrid Ley, the director of the memorial site, also received extensive media coverage.

Nazi Track Record. The location of the shoe testing track at Sachsenhausen alongside a memorial.

The hospitality extended by the German government was remarkably gracious — everything possible was done to make Emil and our group feel that we were honored guests. Even more striking was the camaraderie that developed within our delegation under the leadership of Walther, a Righteous Among the Nations German lawyer who has devoted his life to a shared cause. We were a group of Israelis of different persuasions, ages and religious observance, united by our commitment to the mission and thrilled to be able to participate in achieving justice for Holocaust victims and survivors.

Facing his Evil Past. The accused S.S. guard Josef Schuetz covers his face as he sits at the court room in Brandenburg, Germany, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

About the author:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Distorting-the-Truth2.jpg

Dr. Efraim Zuroff is the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the director of the Center’s Israel Office and Eastern European Affairs.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

Ballad of the Social Justice Warrior

By Tyler Samuels

In an ever-changing society, we see the rise of the “Social Justice Warrior” – a warrior with no face or intended goal. In my eyes, they are a social activist just for the sake of being a social activist, fighting a cause they most likely wouldn’t care about if it wasn’t put before them by the news media. I have had various experiences with these argumentative people: personal friends, online with total strangers or in public places. In general, most of them wage their fight from behind a keyboard.

The Social Justice Warrior is usually a part of Generations Y and Z. It comprises of those who try to emulate their older and wiser elders in the movement. Malcolm X, MLK Jr, Angela Davis, Lily Montagu or even Edward Said. Their heroes are social justice activists who are different from social justice warriors. A social justice activist responds to situations of injustice to restore justice to those being affected. However, their activism has not transformed into the “I am right, you are the wrong movement”. The latter attitude characterizes the social justice warrior movement, founded by my generation and those entering high school and secondary education.

My interaction with the social justice warriors has always been negative. Perhaps this is due to my moderate views on specific issues or my utter passion as a Jewish Zionist. For example, the latter seems to enrage the social justice warriors to their core. During Israel’s recent conflict with Hamas, we saw a passionate outcry of anger from those who opposed Israel’s defensive actions in Gaza during Operation Guardians of the Wall.

Skewered Narrative. Totally focused on Israel’s retaliation to a barrage of rockets, Social Justice Warriors in the West prefer to ignore the morality of Hamas instigating the conflict as seen here firing rockets from a civilian area in Gaza towards Israel’s civilian population.(photo Wall Street Journal)

Some of the criticism I supported was legitimate, however the social justice warriors were the loudest voices concerning that conflict. They burdened constructive disagreement about that conflict with absurd accusations such as “ethnic cleansing” or even more disgusting terms like genocide. The definition of genocide according to the United Nations Genocide Convention is any of the following acts with the intent to destroy, in whole, or a part of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. Would this correctly describe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

No Jews Involved – No Interest! Obsessed with Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza, where were the “Social Justice Warriors” to the horrors in Syria as depicted in this photo showing people searching through the debris of destroyed buildings in the aftermath of a strike by Syrian government forces, in the neighborhood of Jabal Bedro, Aleppo, Syria.

We have even heard Israel referred to as Nazi Germany or called Nazis throughout the war. One university friend of mine passionately asked:

 “Why do Jews who endured the Holocaust, commit Nazi crimes of the Palestinians?”

It has become increasingly apparent to me that not just with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but with other social justice movement such as Occupy Wall Street, that these social justice warriors lack education around these issues that they so passionately argue about. Meanwhile, in compliance with the lack of media attention to the devastation in Syria or massacres from groups like Boko Haram, I find it astounding how silent the normally outspoken social media warriors are when it comes to these atrocities. Seemingly, when they perceive injustice between Israel and the Palestinians, they are enraged but are silent in the face of Syria or Nigeria’s large-scale bloodshed against innocents.

Like many of their counterparts, they only join in when the story is famous and focused on by the international media and celebrities.

“Social justice” is a term coined by the 18th century Jesuit philosopher Father Luigi Taparelli, misused today as frequently as used. It encompassed the idea of “generally used to refer to a set of institutions which will enable people to lead a fulfilling life and be active contributors to their community”, as quoted by John Rawls in his book, “A Theory of Justice”.

So, what does the social justice warrior hope to accomplish when they swear, insult or drown out the opposing view? An example would be a friend of mine who while not supporting the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed, stated that there is no possible way to agree to free speech by banning speech that offends a particular religion.

Selective Morality. What the UN described in November 2020 of a killing of farmers harvesting their crops a in northeastern Nigeria as “gruesome”,  seemed to escape the attention of the passionate “Social Justice Warriors”.

This friend’s opinion was verbally attacked and harassed over Facebook with comments like “bitch”, “white cracker” or “you should go to a concentration camp”. These comments were from those who disagreed with her. How can those who claim to stand for social justice use such unjust means of discourse to make a point about justice? Does the end justify the means? How can their approach accomplish anything, or is their manner of dismissing differing opinions reflective of a perception of their self-righteousness?

It concerns me that this movement of social justice warriors will be the new generation fighting for change.

About the writer:

Tyler Samuels is the social media coordinator for Hasbara Fellowships Canada. Tyler has been a vocal presence in Canada’s Jewish community, speaking out against implicit antisemitism and racism from both sides of the political spectrum and within the non-Jewish world.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

“What are you doing here?”

A South African photojournalist living in Johannesburg recounts a harrowing “close shave”  in his chilling exposé of  life in Soweto during the brutal days of Apartheid

By Ilan Ossendryver

(Photos by Ilan Ossendryver )

The day could be described as gray. Too gray. Wintry days take hold of a blueness, as though the ocean, turned upside-down and its cold hue of late afternoon, had begun to drip down on the location – but just that, it couldn’t make it – today, tomorrow. It was winter blue if you had a secure house in the northern suburbs away from that wretched gray. In fact, gray was seldom seen there; the awarded privilege when the sun decided to show face or slowly slip down in a multicolored dusk. Even the sun had been told to stay away from the confines of the location, never to please, make the grass grow, or allow the flowers to blossom. A visit to the land of emptiness.

The location’s coldness wrapped you in, in a strangling vice-tight hold, but at the same time, tried to squeeze you out, not wanting you, warning you to move on. I hated the streets but I had to be there, to report on a nation’s uprising.

The streets are cruel here, just muddy foot-thick strips of slush in the rainy season and suffocating dust in the dry.

The pavements of cracking bricks, formed a wall continuing forever. They separate rows of prison-style houses that kept the residents of the location. There was no time here – I learned – unless someone died, when that house became different, an appealing gesture of difference, with the other houses of the accordion-shape formation squashing from both sides, inwards, towards the house that claimed death. It became a show of concern, to break the monotony.

Only then did time perhaps move on, in slow mourning, until death had become a forgotten drama, the accordion of houses slowly taking their previous pattern. Mass produced houses designed in minutes, thousands of on both sides of the strip, separated by another strip and another and another. In each, hundreds of thousands of Blacks coming and going, entering and disappearing, in and out of stark, white-washed houses of deceptive purity.

A young woman sits knitting. At her feet are bundles of wool, bright red with strands of blue. Her eyes gaze downwards to the silvery knitting needles speeding away, her mind wandering in deep concentration. No-one can disturb her hour. Her mind lost in fantasy perhaps, forgetting all, oblivious to the harsh surroundings in which she is confined.

On the same street a baby cries out, stops in a while as her mother leans forward, thrusting her nipple into his mouth. She smiles and begins a lullaby, beautiful but eerie, as though not fit for this place. A precious moment, a face of pride directed to her suckling baby, only. She has for this instant forgotten the future. It doesn’t exist, the hateful past, but only the wonderful seconds of present time; time that is only temporary. The baby falls asleep, satisfied; the lullaby lingers on for a few minutes more, and then silence.

She too fades into a sleep.

Further down another strip, I spot four men huddled together, trying hard to keep the cold air out, their mouths allowing for drifts of cold steam to wander while staring at the cards in their chapped shaky hands. As each speaks, a puff of cold misty hue clouds the air, as a steam locomotive would spit out in gaining power to produce movement. They too are deeply engrossed in what they are doing. There is a quick chuckle from the winner, a choir of despondent cries of disbelief from the losers. The next hand is dealt quickly, taken with a swig of the bottle and the lighting of homemade cigarettes. Then all is quiet in deep concentration until the next victory. The stillness, this quietness seems so false, so reassuring that everything here is fine.

I keep moving.

At the junction of the strips, stand two youths, one dressed in jeans, faded and ripped, his T-shirt bearing the initials UDF; the other in garage light brown overalls. Each stands like a newly-elected politician after a successful election campaign. But these teenagers are far from the avenues of a regular job, let alone important decision-making. Their existence in a racially classed country has reduced them to attacking the equally destitute who may have money in their purses at the end of the month. Someone who is too old to fight back, who will give in easily without defense. Blood will be drawn today, each day, the faces of those countless young, disappearing into rows of block houses, grinning with location achievement. They look at me with hateful eyes as I pass guardedly, knowing the passions of their minds.

I turn quickly into a new street. One with the attributes of a political catastrophe in the making, by a government ruthlessly bent on suppressing the black masses, shaping them according to its will.

Soul-impassioned rhythmic beats of township jazz/gospel usually loud, blaring from decaying radios wrecked of age, has changed channel to sounds of trepidation. The number one song has been scored by many an oppressive government; deadly bullets slamming into human flesh with a thud of an old bass drum while others off their marks, zip into walls sculpturing violence. The added notes – cries of agony as whips come down, lifting sprays of blood into the air. The song is played over and over until its melody is memorized and sang out in nightmares.

The calmness on the other side of the strip seemed like an illusion, a front to turn back visitors seeking answers to questions. The vans spill out uniformed men in blue and brown, charging with ferocity, unleashing powerful terror on children, men and women who fight back the pain with cries of pain. They run with outstanding courage.

Others stand firm with dignity.

Many fall.

Houses are entered and the struggling dragged out, rammed forcefully into waiting vans – struggling men, women and children, the strong, the blind and the crippled dragged from their homes…struggling.

I am witnessing it, my eyes trapdoor shut, now only allowing for the sounds of repression to enter my mind. It is a reminder that I’m not supposed to see it; off limits to Whites. The truth is jailing me. I must hide.

The cops are closing in fast and when they see me, for seeing them, the knife will come down hard – slashing. “Can you hide me?

Sorry, there’s no room, you see it’s a tiny place I have here.”

But they will be here soon!”

I know, they always come eventually.”

What can I do?”

There is nothing to do but wait.”

Where can I hide this?”

You see the room is empty.”

The room is foreboding, empty of happiness. Only a few wobbly stools, a table and in a corner, an ancient oven. A bright clean cross hangs on a wall. The oven. I can put my camera bag there.

Where are they now Mrs. Batshala?”

Soon they will be here. They are in my neighbor’s house.”

The wait was short-lived. Four blues crashed inside. Catching sight of me brings them to a sudden halt.

What are you doing here?”

Where’s your permit allowing you to be in a Black area?” asked the other cop aggressively, leaving me no time to answer the first question.

We want an answer now!’

Please let me explain. My reason for being here is that I came to tell Mrs. Batshala here that her mother died of illness last night and that she must arrange the funeral. That is why I’m here.”

Ja, nee man, that’s okay. We thought you were one of those journalists who writes lies about our country.”

Me? Oh no Sir, I don’t even have a pen.”

The cops laugh and warn me to leave immediately. The calm resumes.

Nervously I turn to Mrs. Batshala. “That was close.”

Yes it was.” Nods Mrs. Batshala.

Mrs. Batshala, don’t worry, I’ll get the photos of the police murdering your daughter to the newspaper. Tomorrow the world will know.”

Outside life is slowly returning to normal as I make my way through the street. An old man with an evenly cut beard, a gnarled stick in one hand, his legs struggling forward, turns to stare at me. Children in a resumed game laugh loudly in pure delight. They stop, look at me and continue their laughter. Nothing can stop them.

No to Apartheid !

About the writer:

Ilan Ossendryver has been a photojournalist for over 35 years having covered international news events such as the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, the Gulf War, War in Lebanon, the Israeli Jordanian Peace agreement, the first meeting between Yitzchak Rabin and Yasser Arafat at Hosni Mubarak’s palace in Cairo and the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin.  He was one of the official photographers during the Ethiopian airlift operation missions – “Operation Solomon” and “Operation Moses”  – as well as documenting the mass arrivals to Israel of Russian Jewry. as well as documenting the arrival to Israel of the Russian Jewry.

His photographs have appeared in many international newspapers such as CNN,  New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Forbes, Der Spiegel, South China Morning Post, The Times of London, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, Yedioth Acharanot, Maariv, The Star of Johannesburg and many more as well as magazines.

Widely published in books about Israel and South Africa, Ilan is currently the resident photographer in  Johannesburg of the South African Jewish Report and conducts photographic trips into Soweto where he helps local communities and supports a soccer team.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter- 23 January 2021

Unveiling the contours and contrasts of an ever-changing Middle East landscape

Reliable reportage and insightful commentary on the Middle East by seasoned journalists from the region and beyond


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What’s happening in Israel today?  See from every Monday – Thursday LotL’s “The Israel Brief” broadcasts and on our Facebook page and  YouTube by seasoned TV & radio broadcaster, Rolene Marks familiar to Chai FM listeners in South Africa and millions of American listeners to the News/Talk/Sports radio station  WINA, broadcasting out of Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Israel Brief

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Pin it on the Jews

By David E. Kaplan

Blame the Jews. This flyer blaming Jews for covid delivered to homes across the USA.

If covid is infecting bodies it is also infecting minds as it provides another perfect pretext to blame Jews for global suffering. Following a widely distributed flyer pinpointing specific American Jews responsible for “every single aspect of the covid agenda”,is it any wonder that US antisemitism has frighteningly shifted from rhetoric to violence!

Pin it on the Jews

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Ire

Harry Potter star and Gringotts Goblins create an uproar to rival the Dementors

By Rolene Marks

Get Real.  Middle East politics is confusing enough without the social media rants of  ‘graduates’ from Hogwarts.

What do Harry Potter stars and Gringott’s Goblins have to do with antisemitism? Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling and star, Emma Watson made news headlines recently – for the wrong reasons. What does the bestselling children’s author of all time, a star of the movie franchise and cancel culture all have in common?

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Ire

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From Open Windows to Opening Doors

Diplomatic tiptoeing  from Dhaka to Jerusalem

By Adv. Craig Snoyman

Story of Jacob. An Indian Jewish hero who distinguished himself in the war for Bangladesh independence

Disquieting revelations from his Bangladeshi clients that they not only firmly disapproved of Israel but also did not distinguish between Jews and Israelis, the writer – a lawyer – delved into the relatively unknown history of Bangladesh, to discover there exists a Jewish-Israeli dimension that may  ease the way to normalising relations between the two countries.

From Open Windows to Opening Doors

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The United Nations Is Giving the Names of Uyghur Dissidents to China

By  Josh Feldman

(Article appears courtesyof Newsweek)

Dead in its Tracks. UN assisting in the murder of Uyghurs by helping Chinese leadership cover its genocidal tracks.

How is this for irony? With increasing exposure of the Chinese government violently oppressing its Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang – described as a “genocide” – why is the very international body charged with protecting human rights – the United Nations –   lending them a hand!

The United Nations Is Giving the Names of Uyghur Dissidents to China
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LOTL Cofounders David E. Kaplan (Editor), Rolene Marks and Yair Chelouche

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While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

Pin it on the Jews

Covid, like plagues before will pass unlike the 2000-year-old persistent plague of antisemitism that defies antidotes

By David E. Kaplan

It was not some low life crazy but a founder and board chair of a Utah tech company Entrata that claimed in an email that the COVID-19 vaccine is part of a genocidal plot by “the Jews” to exterminate people.

David Bateman – who  had to resign his position after his online diatribe attacking the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine  – urged people not to get it as it would lead to the “systematic extermination of billions of people” and ultimately “consolidate all the countries in the world under a single flag with totalitarian rule.”

Bateman’s primary motivation for writing this lethal nonsense was:

I believe the Jews are behind this.”

When it comes to antisemitism – history always repeats itself. Grotesque caricature reminiscent of the Nazi era depicting the evil Jew as responsible for the global pandemic.

When faced with having to make an apology to safeguard the company’s brand and reputation, Bateman tried to extricate  himself on his Instagram account that he was not blaming “all” Jews who “I have a great love for” but more specifically a Jewish “secret society” for the genocidal conspiracy.

My beef is with the khabbalist (sic) central banking, secret society Jews.”

To support his diabolical false accusation, he digs even deeper with further horrendous and odious lies:

 “No one is reporting on it, but the Hasidic Jews in the US instituted a law for their people that they are not to be vaccinated for any reason.”

Two decades earlier there were similar style allegations in the Arab media blaming the Jewish state for 9/11 couched in a question as to  why Jews suddenly did not pitch up for work in the Twin Towers that fateful day?

And then a century earlier, a far greater entrepreneur than Bateman disseminated similar notions. That man was Henry Ford and if Bateman was concerned that “no-one was reporting” on Jewish culpability, Ford made sure he was by acquiring in 1918 a struggling newspaper – the Dearborn Independent – to spread his brand of antisemitism.

Inflicted with the same malicious malady as Bateman, Ford believed that Jewish people had “international control over unions, banks and the media”, and that all were out to get him.

Wrong; Ford was out to get the Jews!

If Bateman’s abuse of the covid pandemic to attack Jews in the USA was an isolated incident – it would be partly digestible.

It’s not! It’s rife.

On a Sunday morning in early December 2021, Charles Kaufman, a resident in Austin Texas, found on his doorstep, a few feet away from his expected bundled-up daily newspaper, an unexpected small plastic bag containing some rocks and a folded flyer.

Like David Bateman’s diatribe in Utah, this flyer also blamed Jews for the new surge of the virus. However, this same flyer was not restricted to the recipient’s home state of Texas but has been disseminated across the country appearing on doorsteps  to homes  in the states of California, North Carolina and Maryland. The virus is spreading and we are not talking about covid!

Blame the Jews. The antisemitic flyer Charles Kaufman and many households across America received, blaming Jews for the new surge of COVID-19 (Photo: Courtesy )

Maybe 100 or so people received it on my street, Jewish and non-Jewish,” said Kaufman.

The flyer was headed: “EVERY SINGLE ASPECT OF THE COVID AGENDA IS JEWISH” and goes on to list the names of Jews who although professionally associated with finding the solution to COVID-19, instead targets them for antisemitic abuse – verbal and physical.

In case there is any misunderstanding as to the role model of the flyer’s authors, the red and black logo mimicking a swastika makes it crystal clear.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, the group responsible, is a “loose network of individuals connected by their virulent antisemitism”. Founded in 2020, they also operate a video platform that streams antisemitic content to their thousands of followers.

Ancient Mythology joins Forces with Ancient Virus. Antisemitic ‘Trojan Horse’ caricature suggesting that Jews cunningly introduced COVID-19 into an unsuspecting world. (credit: COURTESY/ADL)

The ADL warns that its “most zealous and visible actors” are in California, Colorado, Florida and New York.

According to the Deputy Regional Director of New York/New Jersey at the Anti-Defamation League, Alex Rosemberg, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided a perfect storm for antisemites to blame Jews, reminiscent of the Black Death of the Middle Ages that resulted in the massacre of Jews across Europe.

It’s either the idea that the Jews generated the virus so that they can then generate the vaccine and create the profit as a result,” said Rosenberg, “or the other aspect of this is extremist groups using symbology from the Holocaust to protest mandates.”

This “duality”, he asserts, has historically been a recurring characteristic throughout history. No matter what side of a crisis, Jews can always be blamed and consequently condemned.

In Search of the Cure! Since he received the virulently antisemitic flyer, Charles Kaufman – seen here at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC – has been working to put together an educational campaign “explaining antisemitism and its various forms.” (Photo: Courtesy )

In the current scenario, “If you are a white supremacist, then Jews are a weak-link group of people that don’t deserve to be a part of general, strong society or on the flip side, if you are more of a left-wing individual, then Jews are this all-powerful group controlling the universe.”

From the bubonic plague to corona, “antisemitism is somehow always,” says Rosemberg, “at the end of the scapegoat route.”

Experiencing Rosemberg’s words first hand is Eli Steinberg an Orthodox Jewish resident of the rapidly growing Orthodox community of Lakewood in New Jersey with its Beth Medrash Govoha yeshiva, the largest in the US. “Anything that can be exploited to hate Jews will be used to hate Jews at this point,” says Steinberg.

That “anything” today is covid!

The Writing is on the Wall. Preceding the arrival of covid, “Synagogue of Satan” graffiti was found on the yeshiva building at the Chabad of Staten Island on May 23, 2019. (Staten Island Advance/Shira Stoll)

Many in Steinberg’s community have encountered antisemitism from their neighbours in person and online.

Following the ugly Europe trend, is it any wonder that antisemitism in the USA has shifted from rhetoric to violence!

Is it surprising that US Jews are feeling exposed?

While throughout history, Jews have always found themselves cast as evil villains especially during times of unrest and uncertainty, Chaskel Bennett, an Orthodox Jewish community leader in New York, says, “The latest COVID variant is just a continuing trend of this ugly time,” believing that antisemites are “the proverbial hammer in search of a nail”.

Whether its economic difficulties or a pandemic, “haters will always find any pretext to imprint and disseminate their hateful ideology on the more than willing masses.”

Well now into the twenty-first century, history has shown that while mankind will likely discover vaccines to contain contagious diseases, it is unlikely there will ever be a cure for the ancient plague of antisemitism.

At least today there is a haven – the Jewish state of Israel.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

The Israel Brief- 17-20 January 2022

The Israel Brief – 17 January 2022 – Colleyville hostage updates. Attempted stabbing. Honouring MLK. Tu’Bishvat.

The Israel Brief – 18 January 2022 – Colleyville update. Has Israel reached the Omicron peak? Bennett, Lapid condemn drone attack on Abu Dhabi. Afghan refugees meet Israeli rescuers.

The Israel Brief – 19 January 2022 – Sheikh Jarrah update. Pres Herzog to visit Turkey? CDC travel warning. Aid to Tonga.

The Israel Brief – 20 January 2022 – Texas hostage taking update. Bennett to mediate between Russia and Ukraine? Israel promotes resolution at UN. 80 years since Wannsee.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

From Open Windows to Opening Doors

Diplomatic tiptoeing  from Dhaka to Jerusalem

By Adv. Craig Snoyman

I came across an article in this week’s news in which there were suggestions that Bangladesh might open diplomatic relations with Israel.  This reminded me of a recent consultation in which I had occasion to consult with some Bangladeshis or Banglis, as they call themselves. My principal client was not fluent in English and had brought an interpreter with him. After having concluded our legal business the conversation moved to the issue of Israel,  as it almost inevitably seems to do when Muslims and Jews get together.

My clients seemed to see little difference between Jews and Israelis and offended my five-generation South African lineage by asking if I was born in Israel. Banglis were not supporters of Israel, he told me, they supported the Palestinians.  As proud Banglis, they explained just how widely dispersed the Bangli diaspora was and how successful they were. Then from diasporas of the Bangli and Jewish nature, we moved onto the topic of Bangladeshi-Israeli relationship. It started with my principal client telling me that the Banglis did not particularly like the Israelis. And then I received a quick crash course in Bangli history. Originally referred to as East Pakistan, it was separated from West Pakistan by a huge swath of the Indian sub-continent. (interesting fact – he told me that Bangladesh is the most densely populated country on earth – so move over Gaza!) In the early 1970’s, West Pakistan mounted an operation to eliminate the Bengali nationalist movement. This resulted in millions of refugees fleeing into India and to the Bangladeshi war of independence against Pakistan, in which India took part.

Man on a Mission. Lt. Gen. (retd) Jack Farj Rafael (JFR) Jacob was head of the Indian Army’s eastern command during the 1971 India-Pakistan war that resulted in the creation of Bangladesh.

It was at this that the interpreter stepped in and introduced a Jewish -Israeli dimension to the history lesson. There was a Jew by the name of General “Farj Jacobjee” ( I  subsequently found out his name was Jack Farj Jacob,  the “jee”  attached to the name as a sign of respect) who was the head of the Indian Army (or something like that) that fought against the Pakistanis on the side of the Bangladeshis. He took his troops and carefully avoided fighting in the little cities and attacked the capital, Dhaka, directly. This surprise strategy resulted in the quick defeat of Pakistan and the independence of Bangladesh. The interpreter  continued with more amazing details. The Israelis had been supportive of Bangladesh, while the Palestinians had been supporting Pakistan. The “Israeli woman prime minister” immediately recognised the independent state of Bangladesh, but Bangladesh would not recognise Israel.

Golda Meir (1898-1978) Was an Israeli politician, teacher who served as the fourth prime minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974. 

Now with  talks of recognition between Dhaka and Jerusalem, will it be that General Jack Farj Raphael Jacob  may be one of the forgotten men who is instrumental  in advancing the cause of Israeli diplomacy? After all,  how many people still remember the names of  Eddie Jacobson and  Ivan Maisky?

Surprise Support. Ivan Mikhailovich Maisky (1884 – 1975), the Soviet Ambassador to the Court of St James may have been instrumental in influencing Josef Stalin to support a vote at the UN surprising in favour of a Jewish state.

In the desperate times when the Zionists were seeking the independence of Palestine, many people – some now only  vague footnotes to history – strove very hard to make this ideal a reality. One tends to forget that the United States of America was not particularly in favour of the independence of Palestine.  General George Marshall, the great WWII military general, father of the Marshall Plan, and Secretary of State to President Harry S Truman was adamantly opposed to the recognition of a Jewish State. This position was supported by the Foreign Office as well as the CIA. Truman refused to even meet with the Zionist delegation. As Golda Meir states in her biography, it was only because he agreed to meet with his old war-buddy and business partner, Eddie Jacobson, that Truman had a change of heart (it appears that Marshall and the Foreign Office did not) One crucial but relatively unknown meeting resulted in  the USA crucially voted for Israel’s  independence.

Ivan Maisky, Russian ambassador of the Court of St James, may also have been instrumental in obtaining the consent of the virulently anti-Zionist Josef Stalin of the USSR to give a favourable vote.  In trying to gain support, Chaim Weizmann may have suggested that an independent Jewish State would move out the sphere of the detested British to a more socialist outlook, but Maisky seems to have played a part in Stalin’s inexplicable decision so surprisingly announced at the United Nations by Andrei Gromyko. A Jew, and a Russian diplomat, being pushed by Weizmann, Maisky also  visited Palestine and then submitted a secret memorandum to Lenin. While the details still remain unknown, the change of stance by the USSR occurred shortly after the delivery of that memo. Its effect may have impacted the politburo, but it was also strongly felt in the heart of the British Empire  where  Harold Laski, the British socialist leader, later told Ben-Gurion that “I read Maisky’s secret report, and I became a Zionist.”

Missouri Men Making History – Together . Former President Harry S. Truman (left) with Eddie Jacobson (right) in Kansas City, Missouri.

My favourite historian Paul Johnson wrote “in terms both of Soviet and of American policy, Israel slipped into existence through a window that briefly opened, and just as suddenly closed. Once again, timing—or, if one likes, providence—was of the essence.”

In the delicate negotiations that are no doubt going on behind closed doors, one hopes that the late General Jack Farj Raphael Jacob may yet serve proverbially and ‘providentially’ to  hold open another window to reshape history.

Story of Jacob. A file picture from 2015 of Lt Gen JFR Jacob on Israel’s Independence day celebrations. Lt. Gen. (retd) Jack Farj Rafael (JFR) Jacob was one of the most prominent members of India’s relatively small Jewish community, serving as a Lieutenant General in the Indian Army and later as a Governor of two Indian states-Goa and Punjab.

About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).