Antisemitism ‘for show’ – from South Africa to Jordan.
Are we living in a post-truth world?
By David E. Kaplan
Seething at the recent false and inflammatory accusations emanating from the leaders of Israel’s neighbour – the Kingdom of Jordan – reminded me of my late father’s cautionary account of a chilling conversation he had at a government-sponsored businessmen’s luncheon in Cape Town, South Africa during the 1950s with the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eric Louw, who had a reputation as an outspoken antisemite.
Standing and sipping wine with a group of Jewish businessman, Louw, who had previously been his country’s Minister of Finance, appealed in a contrived conciliatory tone to:
“please understand – despite what you hear – that I am not really an antisemite. It’s only for show!”
The government minister went to great pains, recalled Solly Kaplan, to assure that his offensive public statements relating to Jews, “were not his true beliefs but was popular with his voters”. In today’s political parlance, Louw was “playing to his base” but what was particularly galling was his expectation from the people he so despicably maligned – South Africa’s Jews – to show him “understanding”!
Just so that there is no MISunderstanding, before and during WWII – like many within his Nationalist Party – Louw was pro-Nazi and these sentiments persisted. In 1945, when members of the Jewish community in Johannesburg offered to sponsor a delegation of South African MPs to inspect the recently liberated concentration camps of Buchenwald and Dachau, Louw was vehemently opposed to such a tour claiming the “newsreels and photographs” of starving concentration camp survivors were “fake” propaganda designed to discredit Nazi Germany.
He suggested that instead of sponsoring such a tour, the ‘Jewish money’ would be better spent republishing Emily Hobhouse‘s 1927 book War Without Glamour, which covered the British treatment of Afrikaners during the Boer War, which he argued was the “real” holocaust.
No, my father and the Jews listening to Louw were not fooled by his glib talk and neither should anyone be fooled by the devious lies of Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the kingdom’s Prime Minister Bishar Al-Khasawneh relating to the recent unrest in the Old City in Jerusalem.
Couched behind the façade of public position and religious pretention, their words were venom.
These influential leaders know only to too well the combustible danger of words in a volatile region during the highly sensitive religious period – Ramadan for Muslims, Passover for Jews. Nevertheless, instead of trying to lower the temperature, the Jordanians responded by pouring oil on the fire.
The facts were well known that tens of thousands of boulders and rocks had been stockpiled inside the al-Aqsa Mosque for pre-meditated attacks against Jews, which would predicably necessitate Israeli forces being brought in to restore security.
Despite this, the Jordanian leadership falsely blamed Israel.
Worse, they encouraged it!
During the height of the contrived unrest at the site holy to both Jews (Temple Mount) and Arabs (al-Aqsa Mosque), Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh saluted the Palestinian rioters who he said:
“proudly stand like minarets, hurling their stones in a volley of clay at the Zionist sympathizers defiling al-Aqsa Mosque under the protection of the Israeli occupation government.”
A Prime Minister of a country at peace with Israel that can refer to its citizens as “defilers” when the Jewish state has gone far and beyond to maintain the political status quo and respect for the sanctity of this Muslim holy site that Jews no less hold holy is reminiscent of the malady that inflicted South Africa’s late Foreign Minister, Eric Louw.
Al-Khasawneh’s outburst undoubtedly found resonance to a fired up Palestinian community. After all, their own leader had back in September 2015, given the ‘blessing’ to perpetrate violence when Mahmoud Abbas bellowed:
“Al-Aqsa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. They (the Jews) have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet. We won’t allow them to do so, and we will do whatever we can to defend Jerusalem.”
In the ensuing years of repeated false and inflammatory rhetoric about Jews “storming” Al-Aqsa and “slaughtering” Muslims at prayer, one would expect responsible leaders to try tone down the toxic atmosphere
It was not to be.
Enter the King of Jordan in a role of inciter-in-chief who rather than call Al-Khasawneh to task for openly inciting violence, Abdullah II complained to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Israel was committing:
“provocative acts that violated the legal and historic status quo” of the compound.
Exploiting the volatile situation, the King was sending a royal message rejecting ancient Jewish ties to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.
He was also obfuscating the fact that Israeli security forces were dispatched to the area solely to prevent the very deadly activities that Jordan’s premier was unabashedly encouraging and most of all, was fanning Muslim flames within and beyond Israel’s borders trying to undermine genuine peace efforts in the region that has embraced the Abraham Accords.
Playing fast and loose with the truth, it had just that effect.
Although it was Palestinians and radical Arab Israelis who spent three days desecrating the mosque trampling on the carpets of the hallowed house of worship with their shoes and playing soccer amid the rubble – all recorded in widely circulated video footage – the Jordanian Prime Minister chose to champion these young men – making out they were doing:
Is it any wonder then when on Wednesday night, while Holocaust survivors lit memorial candles at Yad Vashem, commemorating the six million Jews murdered in the Shoah, thousands of Arab men shouted “Khaybar, Khaybar ya Yahood” – a call to massacre the Jews – outside al-Aqsa Mosque!
These calls to kill Jews coupled with the earlier stockpiling of rocks and firebombs inside al-Aqsa all took place under the watchful eye of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf! This made it all the more galling for Jordan to demand that Israel relinquish more control of the mosque to the Wakf when it knew where the responsibly for the violence lay.
Jordan played two sides of the same coin. Following Jerusalem’s policy of bolstering ties with Jordan in tandem with the Abraham Accords countries as demonstrated over the past year with visits to Amman by Prime Minister Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz – the latter two trying to work with King Abdullah to maintain calm in Jerusalem ahead of Ramadan, which this year overlapped with Passover – Jordan did everything to undermine all that sought for calm. Instead of being helpful, Jordan turned out to be, in the words of Senior Contributing Editor of The Jerusalem Post, Lahav Harkov:
“two-faced; lobbying all the Arab countries with Israeli ties to speak out against Israel.”
Some did, notably the UAE. Not only did the Gulf state summon its first-ever Israeli ambassador, Amir Hayek, for a dressing-down, but the two Emirati airlines – Etihad Airways and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi – that were slated to participate in Israel’s Independence Day civil flyover, canceled.
Reflecting on the lies that fueled the unrest in Jerusalem, coupled with my recollections of those my father was subjected to from the antisemite Eric Louw, there was a ray of personal light earlier this month when I watched my two grandchildren, Ariel, aged four and Yali, aged 3 – both perched on my swivel chair watching on my computer, Israel’s second astronaut in history, Eytan Stibbe read from space in Hebrew from Paul Kor‘s ‘What a Beautiful World’.
Yes, despite the lies, deceit and unrelenting hate against Jews – despite the protestations from some that “Its only for show” – Israel is reaching out to the stars so that its astronaut can speak with Israeli children and reminding us all before Israel’s 74th birthday on Wednesday night, May 4:
“What a beautiful world”
That’s the message the world should be sending to its children.
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