The Israel Brief- 19-22 July 2021

The Israel Brief – 19 July 2021 – Tension on Temple Mount on Tisha B’Av. Ben Gurion Airport not to close decides Health Minister. Human Rights Watch’s Ken Roth blames Israeli government for surge in. antisemitism.

The Israel Brief – 20 July 2021 – Ben & Jerry’s brouhaha. Rockets fired from Lebanon? Gantz and Abbas speak.

The Israel Brief – 21 July 2021 – US State Department stands with Israel. IDF reenact historic jump. Ken Roth deletes despicable tweet but does not apologise.

The Israel Brief – 22 July 2021 – Will Texas blacklist B&J? Israel to rejoin AU and more. Iranian delegation welcomed to 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).

On High Ground

The Hills of Yodfat are Alive with the Sound of Hebrew

By David E. Kaplan

It is a Kaplan family Bar Mitzvah in the quant intimate shul (synagogue) at Yodfat, a moshav in northern Israel in the picturesque high mountains of the Lower Galilee. The shul is packed – mostly with animated children of all ages. Following my brother Sidney  as both a Cohen and grandfather to the Barmitzvah boy Yoav being called up first for an Aliyah  – I followed.

The Children are our Future. The children of Yodfat singing a song to the Bar Mitzvah boy – Yoav Kaplan. His grandsfather, Sidney Kaplan (right) was a founding member of the nearby South African moshav – Manof.

I made my way, maneuvering the short joyful journey between children sitting on bunk benches in the isle, I ascend the Bimah and before reciting the blessing for the reading of the Torah, I look up and to the right of the ark out a wide window and saw the green valley leading to the mountain-top fortresses of Yodfat.

It is no ordinary vista that this shul looks out on!

Embedded into the physical landscape of modern Israel, it is in the psychological landscape that this ancient Jewish fortress  stands as a stark and dark reminder of those enemies that may come to try erase Jewish life from this land. It happened 2000 years ago and began the process of exile until 1948, but the same battle persists. “Rome” has other names today.

I recite the prayer; the Barmitzvah boy reads from the Torah and I smile as I look at all the children who are armed to their teeth with sweets to later throw at Yoav when he has completed his Haftarah, to wish him a “sweet” life as he makes the transition to adulthood. I then momentarily reflect on who was armed to the teeth at this very same spot 2000 years earlier – ROMANS – and not with sweets!

War and Peace. Looking out from where the Roman legions were positioned 2000 years ago to modern day moshav Yodfat in the background where the synagogue is perched on the crest of the hill.

What bloodily played out on these ochre hilltops created a narrative that continues to caution and inspire ensuing generations of Israelis.

Walking to the shul earlier, I breathed in the fresh country air and feasted my eyes on the valley with its vineyards and orchards, olive trees, and goats roaming in the distance tended by a young shepherd. The scene was pastoral and peaceful – a far cry from the cataclysmic clash of arms that occurred at this exact spot in 67 CE when heroic Jewish fighters took on the might of the Roman Empire.

Time to Rejoice. Grandfather Sydney Kaplan speaking in Hebrew to his grandson Yoav at the Bar Mizvah reception in a garden overlooking the site of the tragic Roman siege 2000 years earlier.

In early June of that year, a force of 1,000 Roman cavalrymen arrived at Yodfat to seal off the town, defended by Jewish forces commanded by Yosef Ben Matityahu (the future Flavius Josephus). Prior to the Roman assault, Ben Matityahu had fortified nineteen of the most important towns of the region, including Yodfat.After a failed attempt to confront the Roman army at Tzipori, he retired to Tiberias, but soon thereafter established himself at Yodfat, drawing the Roman legions to the town. A day later at the foothills not far from the shul where we were proudly celebrating Yoav’s Barmitzvah, stood the amassed Roman legions of the Fifth, Tenth and Fifteenth as well as auxiliaries consisting of Arabian archers and Syrian slingers led by General Vespasian and supported by his son Titus, who would both emerge as future emperors of Rome.

These Roman “occupiers” meant business. Literally ‘Dressed to kill’, they aspired to crush an uprising that would become known in history as “The Great Jewish revolt” or “The Jewish War”. This was 2000 years ago and long before anyone ever heard of Palestinians!

Hill of Hereos. The ancient town of Yodfat was positioned on this isolated hill hidden between high peaks, surrounded on three sides by steep ravines.  During the “Great Revolt” in year 67 CE – Yodfat, the last stronghold of Jewish resistance after the fall of Zippori – was besieged by three Roman legions and resisted for 47 days before the city fell.  

I return from the Bimah to take my seat next to my brother. We exchange comments about the lively atmosphere with loving parents battling to keep some decorum amongst their animated kids – mostly friends of the Barmitzvah boy. It’s a sheer Shabbos delight. And then I contrast this image of an imagined one of Jewish kids 2000 years earlier looking down at the Roman legions with their frightening coloured attire and menacing siege machines. It was laughter today; it was fear then. It should never again be the other way around – ever!

Romans came Prepared. A typical Roman siege machine that the defenders at Yodfat would have faced.

Vespasian had pitched his own camp north of the town, facing  the only accessible side, while his forces surrounded the city. An assault against the wall on the second day of the siege failed, and after several days in which the Jewish defenders made a number of successful sorties against his forces, Vespasian changed tactics.  He instructed for the building of a siege ramp against the city walls, and when these works were disrupted by the Jews, Vespasian set 160 engines, catapults and ballistas  – backed by lightly armed troops, slingers and archers – to dislodge the defiant defenders from the walls. These were in turn met with repeated sallies by the besieged, but work on the ramp continued, raising it to the height of the battlements and forcing Ben Matityahu to have the walls themselves raised.  Roman measure was met with Jewish countermeasure and the battle ebbed and flowed…..

Peace and Tranquility. The only connection today of Yodfat to the times of conquering Rome is that its pastoral beauty is often described as “Shades of Tuscany”.

As always with such sieges, water was an issue for the defenders on top of a high hill so Ben Matityahu had Yodfat’s limited supply of water rationed before the siege began. The Romans had heard of this and began to use their artillery to target any efforts to draw water, hoping to exacerbate an already difficult situation and bring a swift end to the siege. The defenders, in a far-in-the-future future Mossad type of maneuver, cunningly confounded the Romans by wringing out their clothes over the battlements until the walls were running with water, leading the Romans to believe the Jews had some hidden supply of water.

According to Ben Matityahu, later writing as Josephus, this taunting had a twin effect – one negative and one positive. It strengthened Roman resolve but it also steeled the mettle of the defenders to fight, preferring to die by the sword than from thirst or starvation.

Man with Menace. A statue of Emperor Vespasian who in 66 AD was appointed to suppress the Jewish revolt underway in Judea.

There was of course an atmosphere of inevitability where this was ultimately heading. “Proportionality” was never a consideration in Vespasian’s battle plans to expunge a Jewish presence at Yodfat.

With the completion of the assault ramp, Vespasian ordered a battering ram  brought up against the wall. The defenders responded with ingenuity.  They lowered sacks filled with chaff to absorb the blows, they set fire to the ram and as chronicled by Josephus, one of the defenders, renowned for his strength, cast a huge stone on the ram from above, breaking off its head.

This infuriated the Romans. A physical act but it was also symbolic – decapitating the “head” of a war machine. This shortly took on a new meaning when the “head” – the future Emperor Vespasian himself was wounded by a defender’s dart. The Romans were so incensed driving their assault to a fever pitch but still were beaten back.

Eventually, on July 20, 67, a band of Romans reportedly led by Titus himself, stealthily scaled the walls, cut the throats of the watch and opened the gates, letting in the entire Roman army.

What followed was a slaughter. While the descendants today of some of Rome’s conquered like in modern day Britton may cherish the famed Roman baths, Yodfat records only a Roman blood bath!

According to Josephus, 40,000 were slain or committed suicide and 1,200 women and infants were taken into slavery. Vespasian ordered the town demolished and its walls torn down and prohibited burial of the fallen. It was only a year or more later when Jews were allowed to return to bury the remains in caves and cisterns.

Yodfat Today.  Enjoy the fun of Yodfat today by visiting “Boacha Yodfat” (literally, “As you approach Yodfat”) – a recreation and shopping center, located in a grove of oaks, providing stunning views. Here you will find stores, a gallery, a jewelry studio, a delicatessen, a dairy café, a bakery and a nearby “Monkey Forest”.

So even on this day 2000 years later, the sound of innocent chatter and laughter soliciting reprimands from the rabbi, were to me like music to the ears.

If the few surviving children of ancient Yodfat were cruelly sold off into slavery never to return, Jews did RETURN and today’s young children in the shul of modern Yodfat on this Shabbat were sending a strong message – this was our home 2000 years ago and is our home today.

Nothing more audibly conveys this message than that Latin  – the language of Rome –  is today a dead language while the hills of Yodfat are alive with the sound of Hebrew!

L’Chaim – “to Life”. Two thousand years later, there is much to toast about at Yodfaf as seen by these visitors enjoying the good life at “Boacha Yodfat”

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).

“But You Don’t Look Jewish!”

By Rolene Marks

Antisemitism takes on an additional and sometimes distinctly misogynistic element when aimed at Jewish women. *Warning – contains language some may find offensive.

“But you don’t look Jewish”. I have lost count how many times I have heard this. I normally respond by asking the protagonist what they think a Jew looks like. “You don’t have a Jewish nose” is often the response. Epic face-palm moment.

There is a perception that Jews fit a certain stereotype in the way we look. Over the last year or so, as antisemitism rises, so this has come more to the fore and ugly stereotypes are rearing their heads. This time there is a new iteration – singling out Jewish women.

Hurtful Humorist. Comedian Seth Rogan sparked outrage after mocking a Jewish journalist Eve Barlow who wrote an article expressing concern about the rise of anti-Semitism.

Following the recent conflagration between Israel and Hamas, there has been a misogynistic element to the antisemitism that women are experiencing. Movie star joker, Seth Rogan, most famous for toilet humour type antics and smoking his fair share of wacky baccy, piled into journalist, Eve Barlow, after she wrote an op-ed for Tablet Magazine describing how some of the anti-Semitic invective online resembled an “online pogrom”. Barlow was vulnerable, sharing some of the horrendous messages she and many of us who are active online, receive on an almost daily basis.

Rogan’s response was to trivialize and mock this by commenting “Eve Fartlow” – with a fart emoji.

Mature, isn’t he?

Many were quick to defend Barlow, calling out Rogan’s rather flatulent response.

Barlow wasn’t alone. In an op-ed for Tablet Magazine, fierce and fabulous social media maven, Emily Schrader, describes her experience with some of the online trolls. She shares some of her “messages” here:

Go suck Netanyahu’s ball [sic] … Hey slut I will bomb your house.”

Another stated, “Your vagina is so dirty and disgusting, I can assure that it was a rape of an Israeli dog [sic].”

Hmmmm, classy.

An ill Wind. Following twitter users writing “Eve Fartlow” in response to a recent article  by Jewish reporter Eve Barlow (above) on antisemitism,  actor Seth Rogan then climbed into the act  by posting a “gust of wind” emoji commonly used to represent flatulence, further mocking the journalist.

During the height of the conflict with Hamas, a convoy of pro-Palestinian goons drove through suburbs of London where there are large concentrations of Jews screaming:

 “F*** the Jews, rape their women”. Because raping Jewish women is going to “Free Palestine”?

But last week there was an incident that really motivated this article. Fashion designer and podcaster, Recho Omondi, who hosts the show “The Cutting Room Floor”, trotted out some distinctly anti-Semitic stereotypes to “call out” (yes this is a verb from the dictionary of Woke)  ManRepeller Founder, Leandra Medine Cohen for her “privileged upbringing”.

Omondi in this episode, in which Cohen discussed not realizing until recently that she “actually grew up rich” despite being raised in a “privileged environment” on the Upper East Side.

I couldn’t stomach another white assimilated Jewish American Princess who is wildly privileged but thinks she’s oppressed,” Omondi said on the episode after ending the interview with Medine Cohen, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.

At the end of the day you guys are going to get your nose jobs and your keratin treatments and change your last name from Ralph Lifshitz to Ralph Lauren and you will be fine.”

Sorry, what? 

From where I write this in the diverse state of Israel, Jews are a kaleidoscope of multiple ethnicities. We are blonde hair (dye not withstanding!) blue-eyed like me, we are Jews from Ethiopia and India, South America and Scandinavia, the USA and Europe. I thought the term “Jewish American Princess” went out in the 90’s like stone-washed jeans and boy bands but evidently not. We are not all “spoilt princesses”. Some of us fled Arab persecution, survived fascism, walked from Ethiopia through the Sudan to freedom and are the descendants of names of relatives that echo through the generations, names of relatives who perished in the Holocaust. To diminish us like Omondi did to nose jobs and hair treatments, negates our noble, proud and more often than not, tragic history.

Picture Imperfect. Recho Omondi (right) was accused of antisemitism for calling Leandra Medine Cohen (left) a “Jewish American Princess.” (Getty Images)

It made me think about a time in my own history when I was personally diminished as a Jewish woman. At the age of about 20, I worked for a radio station. This was a time that long preceded the “Me Too” movement and sexist comments towards female staff was just another day in the office. I was the youngest and only Jew and the running joke used to be that if you broke a mirror or needed to break a curse of sorts, then one should “F*** a Jewish woman – then you will have good luck”.


Without the wisdom and confidence of age, my reaction was to look slightly uncomfortable, say nothing and cry in the car as I drove home, feeling humiliated and diminished.

Speaking about my experiences, and these are just a few of many, is deeply painful – but an absolute necessity. We are having important conversations about tolerance and racial discrimination. Not all discrimination or racism is experienced in the same way. For Jewish women, the reduction of us to mere sex objects to be derided or spoilt princesses with bad noses coupled with the usual gross hate invective that is the every-day experience of Jews is untenable.

The Price of Being a Zionist Woman on Twitter. “These days the worst social media crime is daring to be a pro-Israel woman,” writes Emily Shraeder, the founder of Social Lite Creative, a political marketing consultancy firm.

We need to be included in the conversation and we need to be taken seriously – not reduced to fart emojis. This is our lived experience – online and off. We need to summon the courage of our ancestors, because that stubborn, brave, will to survive that was in them is inside us as well and remember who we are. The descendants of queens, matriarchs, priestesses, mothers, pioneers, trailblazers, judges, warriors and Zionesses.

The time for us to roar back is now.

And if my nose is not petite enough for some, it is time they checked their moral compass.

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).


It is important to say consistently Israel is a racist, ethno-supremist, settler-colonial state set on ethnic cleansing,” writes Jon Fish Hodgson in an outrageous article, published this month in South Africa’s Independent (*See original article below).

Adv. Craig Snoyman responds

A’le’lay li, woe is me.  Once again I have struck out. Once again, an article  of mine was submitted  to a South African newspaper  and has been rejected and once again I was hopeful and now thankful that Lay Of  The Land saw the need to publish.  This time my article was in response to a three-quarter page spread in the national fleet  of  Independent Newspapers, published on Saturday 3 July 2021. It was written by a certain Jon Fish Hodgson, who does not appear to have any recognised credentials that would suggest his article should have been published or given such prominence.  To me, it appears that he was published purely on the basis that he is a Jew.  Jews make great news, particularly when they malign Israel.

Hodgson makes great news.

In an article entitled “Palestinian conflict “not complex”” Hodgson’s bias shines through like a 5000-watt spot -light beamed into a tiny room. Issues that have eluded solution by many of the brightest minds on the planet over the last one-and-a-half centuries, he regards as  “not complex”! 

Hodgson seeks to take the simplistic attitude that the intersectional custom-designed “settler colony” theory solves everything and nothing else  is relevant to Israel. He dumps in  a couple of  other derogatory opinions of Israel at the same time. He views  Israel as  irredeemably bad and committed to the oppression of innocent good Palestinians.  By endorsing this one-dimensional concept, and by following this uni-directional, biased  approach, Hodgson concludes that the Israel-Palestine conflict is not complex. His  solution to  “Israel bad, Palestine good” is to boycott the current State of Israel and to replace Jewish Israel with  a Palestinian State.   On the face of it, this  over-simplistic view does not warrant a three-quarter page opinion piece.

Unfortunately, it received national prominence!

Mission Reprehensible. Jon Fish Hodgson, a Jew set on undermining the legitimacy of the Jewish state.

I had always understood that if an opinion was to be expressed in the media, it should be  based on fact, with justifying comments permitted within reasonable limits. When reading  this article, I question whether I have been labouring under a misapprehension. Hodgson’s blinkered approach is visible from the very first paragraphs. He   commences by stating that “the profound political  and ethnic dimensions of the “so-called” conflict are plain”  and then lists adjectives of opprobrium, which he states apply  to  Israel. He refers to Israel as a “racist, ethno-supremacist, settler- colonial state set on ethnic cleansing” which is based on a Zionist “might makes right” ideology and which it teaches to its children. He states it is hypocritical that the innocent Palestinian victims should be “vilified  and victim-blamed if they dare fight for liberation”  and they are in death spiral “struggling for liberation and life” (note the order). He seems to question whether a conflict actually exists.

Massacre Mastermind. Israel Defense Minister, Moshe Dayan (left), at the terminal at Lod Airport immediately after the terrorist attack on May 31, 1972 that killed 26. The “Lod Airport Massacre” was co-masterminded by Ghassan Kanafani who Hodgon’s quotes to support his case against Israel.

It would be quite simple, although rather tedious,  to rip Hodgson’s article apart paragraph by paragraph, line by line, misquote by misquote,  starting from his first quote, one from Netanyahu, who uses the  “Strong Horse” theory, first set out by  the Medieval Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun  about the weak and the strong surviving and making alliances. Rather than researching, he lazily parrots a comment which compares Netanyahu’s speech to one of Hitler’s. Unfortunately,  this lack of original thought permeates the entire article. For instance, he elects to quote Ghassan Kanafani, a terrorist and writer,  whose writings  reflect the simplistic dualism of the evil Zionist aggressor and the good Palestinian victim. A leading member  and   spokesman for the PLFP, Kanafani is believed to have masterminded together with the Japanese Red Army the  Lod airport massacre in 1972 killing 26 people and injuring 80 others.

In the absence of proper research, he also falsely attributed the death of Kanafani to inspire of Palestinians to join the liberation struggle.

Plotting with Prose. Writer and killer, Ghassan Kanafani at his Beirut office. (Assafir)

Kanafani is widely believed to have been killed by another terrorist, Abu Ahmed Yunis who in turn was eliminated by other PLFP terrorists.  Hodgson similarly inverts the concept of  children who go to Hamas vacation camps to learn how to become terrorists and Palestinian school books filled with anti-Semitism by stating that it is the Israelis who teach their children hate.  Allegations of double standards, child-killing, victim blaming, dropping bombs on innocent Palestinians, silencing dissent, Zionism being anti-Semitic and allegations of racism, including the intersectional  “constitutive racism” roll off his pen. All of these allegations have been debunked hundreds of time in numerous  articles written by experts in the field.  But another article, this time from a layperson,  is just one in a continuous succession of nauseous invective.  

 A simple reading of Hodgson’s article should suffice to show that there is little fact in the article, and that which there is, is usually not accurate. A simple examination of the first few paragraphs is sufficient to show up a deficient and misguided ideology. 

His article commences by stating that “Palestine’s history” is “long and detailed”. No detail of this history is given, thus avoiding the inconvenient intimate link between Jews and  the land of Israel and Jerusalem. The simple truth is that the “long and detailed history of Palestine” has always been  inter-twined with the Jews. The Jewish  connection to Israel appears thorough the bible and is acknowledged by Jews, Christians and Muslims. After the ill-fated Bar Kochba rebellion in 136CE,  Jerusalem  was renamed Aelia Capitolina and Israel became part of Syria Palaestina. Both the names “Aelia Capitolina” and “Syria Palaestina” were introduced to try and remove the Jewish link to the land. The Ottoman Turkish Empire, probably the world’s greatest coloniser, included the biblical Israel within Greater Syria, which was an Eyalet, or province of the Empire. The name “Palestine” was not used. In fact, from the fall of Rome until the early twentieth century, the name “Palestine” was used virtually only by the Jews, who sought to return to their homeland. Only when Great  Britain was granted  a mandate by the League of Nations in 1922,  did the  name  “Palestine”  re-enter  international  discourse. The Jews  referred to themselves as Palestinians until the State of Israel’s Declaration  of Independence in 1948. The Arab occupants of Palestine (including  the portion of the Palestinian mandate that Great Britain gave to the Arabs in 1922, which became known as Jordan) regarded themselves as Arabs, not as Palestinians.  In February 1949, shortly after having captured  the West Bank in the Independence War,  King Abdullah I of Jordan  banned  official usage of the word “Palestinian”.   Renowned historian Efraim Karshi states that the Arabs only started identifying themselves as Palestinian and making regular use of the name “Palestinian” for political identification with the land, after the Six Day War of 1967.  With  the strong Jewish link to  the land of Palestine and the name “Palestine” and the lack of an Arab attachment to Palestine  is not a convenient dialogue to raise, if you are anti-Israel. 

It  is far easier to gloss  over history by referring to it as “long and detailed”.

Hodgson’s article then  proceeds to  the  demonisation of  Israel.

He refers to Israel as racist. To evaluate this claim objectively, it is appropriate to refer to an internationally recognised definition of racism. Defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary, racism is “a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race”. When one looks at Israeli society, there is no evidence of a reliance on the inherent superiority of a particular group of people in that society. People of  all races, colour and religion are entitled to the same schooling and tertiary education, the same political and social rights. Minority grouping fill the  same ranks as other groups  in fields such as medicine, law (both as lawyers and as judges), big business, politics and even members of cabinet. One cannot say with any degree of honesty that  Israel subscribes to, or is dependent upon,  the belief that only certain people can perform specific jobs because of their inherent racial traits and capacities which made them superior to other groups of people in that society. 

Hodgson’s next  allegation is one of ethno-supremacy. This can be repudiated on the same grounds as his  claim made in respect of racism. The aspect of ethnicity should however be addressed. In modern era, when  Jews  from all over the world  move to Israel, no matter their background, they still all share common ethnic characteristics  which were handed down by their forefathers and whose practices are found in their bible. It was no different with the earlier immigrants to and Jewish occupants of Israel. They were and are not settlers. Their ethnicity and history link them to the land.  Ethnology and anthropology and other histological  facts place  the Jews as an indigenous population. It is actually the Arabs from the time of the Ottoman Empire that became the settler-colonialist rulers, expelling  and re-admitting the indigenous occupants. Pinhas Inbari’s Review of the History of Palestine clearly identifies the genealogies of many of the Palestinian clans and tribes, showing them to have originated outside the Southern Levant. Former Hamas Minister Fathi Hammad proclaimed on television that “Personally, half my family is Egyptian. We are all like that. More than 30 families in the Gaza Strip are called Al-Masri [“Egyptian”]. Brothers, half of the Palestinians are Egyptians and the other half are Saudis.” The Jew’s  ethnicity does not create a supremacy, it merely  created a strong claim to the land.  Be that as it may, ethnicity in Israel has not created a superior class; all citizens have equal rights. It does raise the issue as to  validity of the grounds upon which the Palestinians lay claim to the land. Once again, Hodgson’s allegation doesn’t fit the internationally accepted definition.

On a point of Clarification. Hamas Minister of the Interior and of National Security Fathi Hammad slams Egypt over fuel shortage in Gaza Strip, and says: “Half of the Palestinians Are Egyptians and the Other Half Are Saudis.”

The third allegation that Hodgson makes is that of settler-colonialism.  This is a theory-nouveau, introduced  and applied because the theory of colonialism didn’t quite fit the Jew-Israel  paradigm. Allegations of  substantial  Arab  colonisation of  Israel  only start during the Ottoman Empire period when it  cannot be shown that the Jews have a single sovereign or colonising county, the colonial theory starts hitting problems.

By the addition of  “settler” to colonialism, a new less problematic paradigm than the coloniser theory is created. Settler-Colonialism “seeks to replace the original population of the colonized territory with a new society of settlers” . This fits in well with the current academic trend toward a global oppressor-oppressed paradigm, which has already spawned  intersectionality and critic race theory. It allows the  “Israel bad, Palestine good” narrative to be placed  in a settler-colonial exemplar.

The argument of  settler – colonialism only works if it can be shown that  the Palestinians have  a better  historical title to the land  than the Jews. To provide substance to this position,  the Palestinians have claimed that they are directly descended from the biblical Canaanites. Muslim scholar,  Zakariyya Muhammad, has effectively refuted  this position. He points out the critical weakness of  this so-called  “Canaanite ideology” is that  this Canaanism  cancels the assumption that Zionism is a European coloniser movement. It completely negates the “coloniser” argument. This is the same flaw that exists in the “colonial theory” – the settler, who is a settler and when does one become a settler.  The anti-Israel lobby needs to rely on the Canaanist argument, but equally needs to rely on the mutually destructive  Euro-Zionist coloniser argument.  

The third  flaw of the theory relates to the lack of Palestinian ethno-national consciousness.  Karshi makes the point that  these Arab occupants of Israel and the Territories, post 1967,  had no common ethnic distinction other than their Arab heritage. So the settler-colonial doesn’t  fit the unique Israeli situation, even with its own set of designer requirements.  Intersectional academia is  redefining  “settler colonialist” as the modern day “Israeli settlers” but continues to  ignore the history of  Zionism and the development of Israel or  even whether it is possible for  Israel to colonise itself. This boutique-designed, secular supersessionist  theory continues to mutate in order to  falsely replace the account of the return of the Jewish people to its land.  

Lastly, on Hodgson’s  list of bald allegations is that “Israel is set on ethnic cleansing”. (note the present tense) It is a regrettable fact that the world is presently witnessing ethnic cleansing. Myanmar exterminating and/or expelling its Rohingya, Ethiopia – as I write- is ethnically cleansing its Tigray population. The rapes, deaths, brutality, destruction, expulsion, and  mass-terror that attach to ethnic cleansing are terrifying viewing, if you have the stomach to watch. There can be no mistake, ethnic cleansing is one of the most graphically horrifying events of our time. Ethnic Cleansing or “the mass expulsion or killing of members of one ethnic or religious group in an area by those of another” does not embody the full barbarity  of this conduct. Yet Hodgson states, apparently without qualm, and without any factual basis, that Israel is guilty of  ethnic cleansing. Both the Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in  the Palestinian Territories have continued to be fruitful and multiplied. Israel is continually in the spotlight of hundreds of NGO’s and is the virtual headquarters of a global press, with probably more civil-rights representatives and journalists per square kilometre than anywhere else in the world. Many are hostile to Israel. Yet with all of this, there are no allegations by any of them of mass killings or mass expulsions. No front page headlines and no international reports from Human Rights Organisations.  Unless Hodgson has somehow divined the intention of the Israeli government (because it’s not complex?),  this can only be viewed as another perversion of the facts and another diabolical attempt to vilify Israel.

In his next paragraph, Hodgson seeks to deal with the issue of Zionism. Hodgson again provides no facts, quite irrationally, and in his “not-complex” manner, chooses to  redefine  Zionism.  He states that Zionism has been concisely articulated in a quote from Netanyahu (whose name for some reason  he chooses not mention, which in itself is strange if this is the person that you are relying on for a definition.) His definition, again, is a risible calumny. Netanyahu (without reference to context) is quoted as stating:  “There is no place for the weak. The weak crumble, are slaughtered and erased from history,  while the strong, for good or ill survive. The strong are respected and alliances are made with the strong and in the end  peace is made with the strong.”  This is an observation that one might expect find in  Pliny or Cicero. Instead Hodgson seeks to demonise Netanyahu by linking the quote to Hitler. With just less lazy parroting and a little better research, he could have found this concept in the works of  Ibn Khaldun. Netanyahu’s quote  may articulate many things,  but it certainly does not articulate Zionism – or as Hodgson has referred to it: “Israeli Zionism” (the latter being an unfamiliar animal, which  Hodgson seems to imply is different from common or garden-variety Zionism). 

Netanyahu’s  use of  the  “strong horse” theory  was also articulated by Yasser Arafat at a mosque in Johannesburg in May 1994.  Having just concluded a historic  agreement with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and acquiring self-rule for the Palestinian Territories, and while still receiving tributes from world leaders for this accomplishment, Arafat said to a  vast assembly of  mosque congregants: 

“This agreement, I am not considering it more than the agreement which had been signed between our prophet Mohammed and Koraish, and you remember the Caliph Omar had refused this agreement and [considered] it a despicable truce.”

The incident  to which Arafat referred, relates to how  the then-weak Mohamed entered into an agreement with the then-strong Koraish. Once  Mohamed and his followers became strong, they breached their agreement of despicable peace, slaughtered the tribe of Koraish, plunging the tribe into the forgotten annals of history, and he proceeded to conquer Mecca  –  just one of those  instances where the weak crumbled, were slaughtered and erased from history,  while the strong survived to enter into other alliances.  No doubt, many devout Muslims would be rightly indignant at having this incident involving the holy prophet, described as an articulation of Zionist ideology.

Loose Lips. Arafat got caught by an unexpected tape recording  referencing the Koran in a May 10, 1994 speech in a Johannesburg mosque, calling for a “jihad” to liberate Jerusalem and suggesting his peace agreement with Israel was only a tactical step that could be reversed.

Zionism is described as the national movement of the Jewish people, starting  in the 19th century seeking to recreate a Jewish state in Palestine, and return the original homeland of the Jewish people, thus there seems to be little correlation with  Hodgson’s allegation that  Zionism is a “might makes right” ideology . Hodgson’s Zionist ideology bears no resemblance to actual Zionist ideology. Once again, Hodgson disregards accepted  definitions for his own mission.

So having dealt with the first few paragraphs and found the basic foundation of the article to be faulty,  disingenuous and shameful in numerous respects, one then questions the need to read the rest of the article. Nonetheless, reading the rest of the article, there is nothing new or novel. It is a substantial repetition  of bias, errors. hyperbole and theories, which when applied to Israel  are plain bunk.

Complex issues  are not called complex for nothing. Simple answers for complex issues usually suggest that the writer has not understood the issue properly. A one-dimensional “Good  Palestinian” while heaping blame and opprobrium on “Bad Israel” is not complex, but it is not true!  Hodgson’s simple perception  may be why no comprehensive answer to a complex question, but it certainly  seems to reflect a poor understanding of the situation which he addresses. 

In these nine days before Tisha B’Av, we are again focused on “sinat chinam” or baseless hatred that resulted in the destruction of the Second Beit HaMikdash.  The  PLO wasn’t the cause; it wasn’t around at the time. But in modern days, the PLO has imposed a death sentence on anyone who sells land to a Jew (not  an Israeli, a Jew) and has stated that its’ Palestine will be a Judenrein state. It wasn’t Hamas, which also cannot  claim  the Temple’s destruction. Both of these organisations are external enemies that still seek the destruction of the State of Israel in their Charters. No, it  was people like Jon Fish Hodgson that were responsible for the destruction of the Temple!  There can be no greater demonstration  of sinat chinan than a Jew who publicly denigrates Israeli, calls for  its destruction  with its associated ethnic cleansing and eradication of  the millions of fellow Jews living in Israel,  and disgracefully adds his voice to the slogan “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free!”  A’le’lay li that I ever heard of you, Jon Fish Hodgson. 

Shame on you, Jon Fish Hodgson!!

About the Writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.

original article

Palestinian conflict ‘not complex’

By Jon Fish Hodgson*

The Palestinian liberation struggle against the settler colony of Israel is not confusingly “complex”‘. While Palestine’s history is long and detailed, the profound political and ethical dimensions of the so called “conflict” are plain.

It is important to say consistently Israel is a racist, ethno-supremacist, settler-colonial state set on ethnic cleansing. The Palestinian people are struggling for liberation and life. So we must act in solidarity with Palestinian struggles through international boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel.

Israel’s Zionist “might-makes-right” (“kragdadigheid”) ideology was concisely articulated by a long -standing Israeli Prime Minister in 2018:

“There is no place for the weak. The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive. The strong are respected, and alliances are made with the strong and at the end peace is made with the strong.

This recalls Hitler in 1923: “The whole of nature is a mighty struggle between strength and weakness, an eternal victory of the strong over the weak”. This is what the Israeli regime teaches its children.

The conquistadorial Zionist “flag march” two weeks ago involved Israeli children gleefully chanting: “Death to the Arabs!”

As James Baldwin pointed out: “The boys and the girls who were born during the era of the third Reich, when educated to the purposes of the third Reich, became barbarians. Last month the Israeli state and street mobs lynched Palestinians. This week ethnic cleansing continues.

The Zionist’s state’s friends and/or recent weapon trading partners include Neo-fascist Jair Bolsonaro, Victor Orban and Rodrigo Duterte, who likened himself to Hitler; and of course, the openly antisemitic Donald Trump. For Israel is still supported primarily by the US’s weapons and money as well as its vetoes and geopolitical influence. Liberation is a struggle to build counterpower, against  

Zionist efforts to silence dissent are a function of Zionists’ fear of resistance – because of dissent, let alone struggle, is inspiring. Radical Palestinian liberation leader Ghassan Kanafani was assassinated in Lebanon in 1972 because he powerfully inspired others to join the Palestinian liberation struggle.

Two Years before he was murdered Kanafani unmasked questions about “conflict”, “peace talks” and “non-fighting”: “The history of the world is the history of… weak people who has (sic) a correct case fighting strong people who use their strength to exploit the weak … People usually fight for something (in context: liberation)”.

Palestine shows that in liberal politics asserts a double standard towards settlers colonialism: Colonised people are vilified and victim-blamed if they dare fight for liberation, instead of prostrating themselves as innocent and powerless victims.  even this double standard is imposed in bad faith as Israel regularly murders children- on this spurious claim that Hamas (or another convenient bogeyman) is or was “wherever we dropped our bombs”.

Zionism’s “war on the truth” is evident to anyone who learns that Israel bombs schools; or learns that Israeli soldiers routinely maim “peaceful” Palestinian protesters for sport (shooting people in the feet, or legs to prevent them from playing football). 

Regarding Gaza, Israeli leaders call their regular pastime “mowing the lawn” (one MP recently called for “flattening the strip”). We must deny Israel’s manipulative lie that those who resist Zionism are anti-Semitic. Jews, especially, must oppose this slander. Judaism is a complex tradition but it has long tried to teach far better behaviour.  In fact, Zionism itself is anti-Semitic – as more and more Jews are o

Unsurprisingly Zionism’s constitutive racism is apparent in Israel’s oppressive treatment of Mizrahi and especially African and/or black, Jews. A fundamental insight articulated by a black Jewish philosopher Lewis Gordon, via Frantz Fanon is that ethical interaction is impossible between colonists who consider themselves as categorically superior, and colonised people whom the colonists herd into “the zone of non-being”.

Only political action led by colonised people(s) to change these political conditions will enable ethical interaction. Thus, the Palestinian liberation struggle teaches us life, as Palestinian poet-activist Rafeef Zaidah reiterates. Living towards the future requires hope: the understanding that our actions may matter, even if we can’t see how, now. We must be committed to act without guarantees.

Our actions may create ways towards a more just future. We must (re)commit to and agitate for the full international boycott of, divestment from, and sanction on Israel. This includes ending South-Africa’s annual import of R3.4 billion in Israeli goods and services, as well as more in the form of weapons.

From the river to the sea Palestine will be free.

News 24/7


* Jon Fish Hodgson is a Jewish South African who attended Herzlia schools from 1994-2003. He has worked in education for more than a decade.

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).

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Victor in Name and in Life

By David. E. Kaplan

My Word. From the media to the stage, Victor’s writing,  enthralled , entertained  and challenged.

Remembering South African Victor Gordon – artist, musician, community leader, strong literary advocate for Israel – and an award-winning playwright, whose play, “Pollard’s Trial” became the only play in the history of Israel to receive an invitation to mount a private performance at the Knesset!

Victor in Name and in Life

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The Days the Cameras Forgot

By Rolene Marks

Selective Reportage. Where was the media covering the protests of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat who died in PA custody?

All too quick to direct their cameras and proverbial pens where blame can be directed at Israel, the global media is nowhere to be seen when it comes to the growing unrest on the streets of Ramallah against President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority over frustration following years of corruption. WHY?

The Days the Cameras Forgot

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Surfside Strong

By Ruthy Benoliel

The Human Touch. The writer witnesses’ soldiers break down and cry”.

“It felt like a war zone!” describes the writer. Champlain Towers  was “the place where my husband picked me up on our first date, where we got engaged, where three of my four children were born” but also the place where many of her old neighbours and friends were the night of the collapse! An all too human perspective by the Vice-President of WIZO USA!

Surfside Strong

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 Importance of Posture – For All Ages

By Lionel H. Phillips D. O.

Four wooden dolls with different postures over a white background

If the tire to a car lacked sufficient air or the steering was pulling to one side, the driver would not neglect the problem. And neither should we neglect the posture of our bodies as our ability to breathe properly is best when the body is in proper alignment.

 Importance of Posture – For All Ages

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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).

The Israel Brief- 12-15 July 2021

The Israel Brief – 12 July 2021 – Palestinian protests and other updates. IDF delegation ends mission with honour. Thousands rally against antisemitism.

The Israel Brief – 13 July 2021 – Israel’s foreign relations looking friendlier. Austria and Czech Republic join growing list of countries boycotting Durban 1V. Israel to roll out third jab?

The Israel Brief – 14 July 2021 – UAE Embassy officially opened in TLV. Tense meeting between Congress reps and Abbas? Liberman on budget issues.

The Israel Brief – 15 July 2021 – IDF requests bigger budget to deal with Iran. Ties with Turkey continue to warm. Hezbollah stockpile weapons 25m from school.

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).

Victor in Name and in Life

Remembering Victor Gordon, an award-winning playwright, artist, musician, community leader and strong literary advocate for Israel

By David E. Kaplan

It came as little surprise to hear on Sunday 11 July at the opening of the Zoom memorial service to Victor Gordon of Pretoria, South Africa, to hear his widow, Shirley reveal that she had been phoned that morning by Jonathan Pollard, today a free citizen of the State of Israel.

It had been an emotional yet profound conversation – about ones man’s too soon passing and another’s belated freedom. Their disparate lives were eternally linked by Victor’s  poignant prose.

My Word. Victor Gordon, whose words in the media and on stage,  enthralled , entertained  and challenged. (Photo: Diane Wolfson)

Jonathan Jay Pollard, a former intelligence analyst for the United States government, pleaded guilty in 1987, as part of a plea agreement, to spying for and providing top-secret classified information to Israel. He was sentenced to life in prison making him the ONLY American to receive a life sentence for passing classified information to an ally of the U.S.

Believing that Pollard was the victim of a terrible miscarriage of justice, Victor wrote the play titled “Pollards’ Trial” which was translated into Hebrew opening shortly thereafter in 2011 at the famed Cameri Theatre in Tel Aviv. Not only did it receive a five-star rating from the critics,  but became the only play in the history of Israel to receive an invitation to mount a private performance at the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) before an invited audience of 350, hosted by the former President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, who was then Speaker of the Knesset. “Since Pollard’s conviction, the Berlin Wall came down but he is still surrounded by the walls of the federal prison,” Rivlin had said. “At first, we thought that if we could act behind the scenes, we could restore trust with the US and bring about a breakthrough that could bring about Pollard’s release. Too slow, we learned that acting quietly wouldn’t help and we needed to act openly to help him become free.”

Victor’s play did just that and ran on-and-off throughout Israel for over two years having a huge impact in galvanizing support for his eventual release.

The issues that Victor drew attention to in his play were troubling.

Set in Pollard’s jail cell, the accused presents his imagined case to the judge – something he was never actually permitted to do when he was sentenced to life. Exposing the American judicial process as ‘twisted’ and ‘double-dealing’ when it came to its treatment of the Jew – Pollard –  it reveals how this accused was deprived of his most basic rights.

Monumental Man. Playwright, artist, activist and communal leader, South African Victor Gordon and wife Shirley. (Photo: Diane Wolfson)

It was hard to believe that anyone at the time who saw this play could remain indifferent to Pollard.  

One man who assuredly was not indifferent was Victor Gordon!

Neither was he on the many fundamental issues effecting the Jewish state. As a member of the South African Zionist Federation Media Team Israel committed to monitoring media bias against Israel and antisemitism, Victor’s articles – well researched and balanced, were a regular feature in the press both in South Africa and abroad. Speaking from Israel at the memorial service on Zoom,  Lay of the Land’s Rolene Marks, who had worked closely with Victor as colleagues on the Media Team Israel since it had been formed 20 years earlier as well as representing Israel’s Truth be Told (TbT) committee, said:

If you are lucky in life, you have the blessing and benefits of truly remarkable mentors. I have been doubly blessed to be able to count Victor as one of mine – both as a friend and as a mentor.”

Words were Victor’s stock-in-trade and Rabbi Gidon Fox, who moderated the Zoom memorial service tearfully wrestled with a conundrum :

 “What words can one say about one of the world’s finest wordsmiths?”

Victor’s passion on spotlighting milestone events impacting the Jewish people  – some forgotten as minor but in truth were monumental –  was the plot of his 2009 play Harry and Ed.

So ordinary sounding – Harry and Ed – yet they were extraordinary men who pulled off the extraordinary.

This play reveals how a hometown friendship between a Jewish boy, Edward “Eddie” Jacobson born in New York’s Lower East Side in 1891 to impoverished Jewish immigrants from Lithuania and  the future US President Harry Truman would shape the destiny of the Jewish People. Following their childhood friendship, they would go into business together – not terribly successfully – from running a canteen to opening a haberdashery but it was the “business” of creating the Jewish State that history would record as a resounding success!

A Friend in Deed. The unique friendship of Harry S. Truman (right) and business partner Edward Jacobson (left) that together influenced the establishment of the Jewish State, captured on stage in Victor Gordon’s illuminating play, “Harry and Ed”.

Irritated by incessant Jewish lobbying for statehood, Truman had issued instructions that he did not want to meet any more intermediaries and so it was left to Ed – the most unlikely of diplomats – to urge the reluctant president to meet one more  –  Chaim Weizmann

As a friend the President could not ignore, and with the weight of a future Jewish state on his aging, tired and stooped shoulders, Ed skillfully beseeched the President:

Your hero is Andrew Jackson. I have a hero too. He’s the greatest Jew alive. I’m talking about Chaim Weizmann. He’s an old man and very sick, and he has traveled thousands of miles to see you. And now you’re putting him off. This isn’t like you, Harry.”

Truman agreed to meet with Weizmann and the rest is history.

The United States became the first nation to grant diplomatic recognition to the new state of Israel on May 14, 1948.

Although Victor did not live in Israel, he  was finely tuned to its peculiar nuances which he explored in his play “You Will Not Play Wagner”. The play examines Israel’s unofficial ban on performing works by “Hitler’s favourite composer” and charts the fictional conflict between a young Israeli composer, Ya’akov, who wants to perform Wagner in the final concert of a prestigious musical competition in Tel Aviv, and an elderly Holocaust survivor, who is the event’s patron.

Sounds of Silence. Poster for Victor Gordon’s thought-provoking play “You Will Not Play Wagner”  that questions the dividing line between politics and art that sets Israeli society on edge.

Set against a backdrop of impassioned protests over the years in Israel to attempts by musicians and composers to defy cultural mores and Shoah sensitivities, Victor expressed in deference to survivors, “I appreciate the fact that there is a place in the world where you won’t hear Wagner.”

Himself an accomplished clarinet and saxophone player, the playwright in Victor struggles to separate the man from his music through his character Ya’akov, who asks:

How can music be antisemitic?”

Victor’s answer was:

You have got one of the greatest composers that ever lived and one of the greatest antisemites that ever lived, and the two meet at the Third Reich. You can’t get worse than that.”

No you can’t.

While I corresponded with Victor on media and Israel related issues, I had never personally met him until 2016 when I was invited as an overseas speaker to the Limmud Conference in Johannesburg.  How fascinating that when I sat down for lunch at the conference,  on my right sat the late anti-Apartheid activist Denis Goldberg, hardly favourably disposed to Israel, although it was to Israel that he left for after his release from prison, and on my left, Victor Gordon, a strong advocate for the Jewish State.  If the next day I was to moderate a debate with four fiery panelists on the then upcoming 2016 US election, this lunch provided some entertaining preparation as I had to deftly ‘moderate’ a riveting discussion on Israel and its policies between these two verbal pugilists holding diametrically opposing views.

It was a lunch that we all left the table with more than the food to chew on.

And in truth, although Victor has left the proverbial ‘table’, he  leaves a lasting legacy and hence shall remain active by inspiring others.

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 Days the Cameras Forgot

Palestinians have been protesting against the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority in Ramallah but the global media has been silent. Why?

By Rolene Marks

There is something that happening in the streets of Ramallah that is of huge significance – but has largely been ignored. The mainstream media have virtually turned a blind eye to it and it is not receiving the attention on social media from the armchair generals, social justice warriors and human rights aficionados that is should. What is this significant event I am talking about?

 For several weeks, hundreds of Palestinians have taken to the streets of Ramallah in protest against President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority over frustration and anger following years of corruption and intransigence.  Calls for Abbas to “get out” have resonated throughout the city and surrounding areas on a daily basis and have been met with brutal and often violent crackdowns by PA security forces. Images of protestors, including 5 female journalists, have been shared by brave activists, many of whom have received warnings for daring to expose this.

Not Budging. Despite pressure to resign since the death of Nizar Banat in custody that followed the President’s cancellation of the election that was to have been held in May, 2021, Mahmoud Abbas is standing firm.

Abbas, who is currently in his 17th year of his 4 year term, shows no signs of stepping down anytime soon and cancelled elections that were due to have taken place in May. This led to internationally recognised terror group, Hamas, using the opportunity to push for unrest and shore up their supporters in the West Bank and also conveniently, launching another conflagration with Israel. What ensued was 11 days of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas. Hamas fired over 4 300 rockets and projectiles into the Jewish state and Israel responded with a military offensive known as “Operation Guardians of the Wall”. We cannot dismiss that one of the objectives from Hamas was to grow its support base in the West Bank and also, to push for unrest inside of Israel. They succeeded. For several successive days, extremists from both the Jewish and Arab communities rioted and committed acts of violence against each other. Such unrest hadn’t been seen since the 1940’s. While this thankfully, has stopped, there is still a sense of deep mistrust.

Naturally, this captured the attention of a permanently salivating global media.

Sending Strong Message. Following Palestinian demonstrations over the death of Nizar Banat in Palestinian police custody, protestors in Ramallah are seen chanting for the departure of President Abbas and demanded an end to his rule. (Flash90)

What has precipitated these latest protests in Ramallah? Several weeks ago, Palestinian activist, Nizar Banat, died under mysterious circumstances while being taken into custody by Palestinians Authority security forces. Banat was a well-known critic of Abbas. His family have alleged that he was badly beaten during the raid. Hebron Governor Jamil al-Bakri said the public prosecution had issued a summons for Mr. Banat and that “during the arrest his health deteriorated“.

He was immediately transferred to the Hebron Government Hospital. After he was examined by doctors, he was pronounced dead,” he added, without commenting on the family’s allegations.

Voice Silenced. West Bank Palestinian and resident of Hebron Nizar Banat,  a prominent Abbas critic dies in PA custody after ‘vicious beating’ by officers. (Screenshot: Facebook)

But Nizar Banat’s cousin Ammar told the Middle East Eye that about 25 PA security personnel raided his house at about 03:30am. He alleged that officers stormed into the room where he was sleeping, sprayed him with pepper spray and then began beating him with iron bars and wooden batons. They later dragged him from the room, stripped him of his clothes and took him away in a vehicle, he added. Another cousin, Hussein, told Reuters news agency:

They kept beating him continuously for eight minutes. If you came to arrest him, take him. Why the brutality? And why the violence?”

Seeking Justice. Demonstrators on July 2, 2021, hold up images of the late Palestinian activist Nizar Banat, who died in late June during a violent arrest by Palestinian Authority security forces. (MOSAB SHAWER/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

Ammar said that about an hour and a half after the raid, the family learned through WhatsApp groups that Nizar Banat had died. He added that they had not been able to see his body at the hospital. “The announcement of his death at the hospital was a ruse,” he alleged.

Grieving Family. Nizar Banat’s family have alleged that he was badly beaten by Palestinian security forces. (Reuters)

That afternoon, hundreds took to the streets in protests that are still ongoing. The PA security brutality did not end with Banat – nor did crackdowns on anti-Abbas voices.

Israeli journalist, Khaled Abu Toameh, tweeted last week that the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation has suspended 10 employees over their social media comments regarding the circumstances around the death of Nizar Banat. Another 36 employees received warnings from the PA security forces for the same reason.

Why would they do that if there was nothing to hide?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet and the United States  have appealed to the PA to allow the protestors to carry on in peace, a request that seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

Ramallah Resistance. The appeal of UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet to the PA to allow the protestors to carry on in peace has fallen on deaf ears.

The Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees condemned what they called the ‘organized assaults’ by the security forces on Palestinian women. Three women were beaten by Palestinian security officers in Ramallah during a protest against the Palestinian crackdown on activists.

Riotous in Ramallah. In full protective gear, Palestinian security forces prevent protesters from reaching the PA’s headquarters in Ramallah.

Very soon, the U.N. Human Rights Council will hold its perennial meeting on Palestinian rights but it is unlikely that this will be discussed:

Is it because Israel cannot be blamed?

What does the future hold? It is unlikely that Abbas will step down – or call another election. Hamas is gaining more and more popularity and this not only threatens Abbas rule but also Israel’s security. But the people have spoken. The corruption and brutality is untenable. What is really sad is that not only are they being ignored by their leadership but the mainstream media, usually quick on the draw when it comes to Israel’s conflict  with the Palestinians, have been silent. It would appear that they have their lenses pointed elsewhere and when it comes to the plight of the people, the cameras have been switched off.

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).

Importance of Posture – For All Ages

Straight Talking

This is the first of a 2-part series on POSTURE. The writer is concerned that the medical fraternity advises “very little” to “if any at all” on a critical health issue that can cause – sooner or later – serious setbacks to virtually all the various systems of our bodies. In a follow-up article, the writer will provide information on how to check one’s POSTURE and ways and means to improve it.

By Lionel H. Phillips D. O.

The sooner one realizes, or if it is pointed out, that one has poor posture, every effort to correct it, should be a priority. As with a car, should one tire lack sufficient air, or if the steering is pulling to one side or the other and so on, no one will neglect the problem, for sure. The human body requires the same attention.

Posture refers to the alignment of the spine with all its adjoining structures. A person with good posture maintains proper alignment through all sitting, standing and lying positions as well as when active. Poor posture in the form of slouching, hunching or slumping creates misalignment along the spinal column that disrupts and has significant negative implications for nearly all major components of the musculoskeletal system, amongst many other issues.


The skeletal and numerous other ailments that result from bad posture, are the result of misalignment in the spine. When one has a good posture, the upper cervical curve, mid thoracic curve and lower lumbar curve of the spine, balance along an imaginary vertical line that runs down your body from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet. Proper posture ensures that the spine is neither angled to either side of your body nor exaggerated along any of its natural curves. Improper posture disrupts the alignment of the spine by either over emphasizing one or more of the spinal curves, or by causing horizontal curvature to the spinal column. An improperly aligned spine disrupts alignment of other major bones and muscles, which can cause short-term pain or more long-term structural damage.

Fascia is the tough connective tissue that supports and lubricates every muscle and organ in the human body. However, if poor posture, trauma, or inflammation is involved, the fascia will bind down and create more fascia in response to stress or demand. When fascia binds down, extra pressure is also being placed on nerves, blood vessels, bones, and organs.  


Joint Stress

The joints in the body are protected by connective tissue designed to cushion and protect the joint during movement. The amount of connective tissue reflects the load bearing properties of the joint. A misaligned spine causes weight or stress to be redistributed throughout the body, so joints that were not intended to bear a significant amount of stress are now required to do so, in order to compensate for poor posture. When joints bear stress beyond their capacity, the result is temporary or long-term pain as well as a degradation of the supportive connective tissue. Bad posture most commonly impacts joints in the spine, knees and shoulders.

Growth Issues

The skeletal system coordinates growth with muscle fibers in order to maintain alignment and balance. Some forms of chronic poor posture negatively impact normal growth patterns. For example, bad posture that places added stress on the vertebrae of the spine will cause the connective disks to wear down more quickly, compressing the bones of the spine and causing a loss in height. Bad posture that compresses bones and joints also inhibits muscle fiber growth, leading to reduced strength or stature.


Poor posture is one contributing factor to osteoarthritis, which is the result of the severe degradation of the connective tissue between joints that protects the bones from rubbing together and causing pain. When posture disrupts the load bearing balance of your joints, connective tissue is worn down, exposing bone to bone. Occasionally, affected joints will calcify and fuse nearby bones in unnatural or painful positions, particularly in the spine and hands. Posture is particularly critical for osteoarthritis because the condition often exacerbates already poor posture, which can compound pain. Osteoarthritis cannot be cured or reversed, but the pain can be managed with physical therapy and medication.

Poor posture impairs circulation, which makes it harder for the heart to do its important work. Researchers even showed that the posture people use when they spend time on a smartphone reduces respiratory function. Altogether, this means that bad posture reduces the oxygen that gets to our tissues.

Poor posture is responsible for a number of ailments that can seriously affect your health and happiness. Modern life means that many of us are desk bound, hunched over a computer for hours and hours, commuting to and from work, and spending our evenings sitting even more in order to relax by either watching TV or reading.

It is easy to get into poor habits with our posture, sitting slumped with a rounded lower back may actually feel a lot more comfortable than sitting with a straight back. This is because the body has become accustomed to adopting this position and sitting upright will require much more effort from the supporting muscles. In fact, slouching generally doesn’t cause any discomfort at the time of doing so, but rather takes its toll over time causing tension, straining the muscles and soft tissue.

Permanent poor posture can cause a number of different health and well-being related problems, including one or more of the following:

  • Chronic and acute pain of the back, neck, and shoulder
  • Headaches
  • Knee, hip, and back injuries
  • Respiration problems
  • Stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle atrophy and weakness
  • Digestive problems
  • Sciatica
  • Formation of varicose veins or “spider” veins
  • Impingement and nerve compression, as well as Carpal tunnel syndrome. 

Increased risk of cardiovascular disease. When poor posture causes changes in the spine alignment, it can lead to blood vessel constriction, which in turn affects nutrient and oxygen supply, resulting in blood clots and deep vein thrombosis.

Back and Neck Pain

Common causes of back and neck pain are poor posture (whether sitting or standing) and repetitive movements. Working from an office desk in a sedentary environment and adapting poor posture is often the culprit of upper and lower back pain. Postures that can cause back and neck problems include – cradling the phone in one ear, sitting lopsided, sitting cross legged, hunching forward and many other incorrect postures.

One of the most frequent causes of neck pain is extending the head and shoulders too far forwards. The head is heavy and its weight in a forward position, can with time, irritate the small facet joints in the neck plus the ligaments and soft tissues. In some cases, this can lead to more serious problems in later life such as degenerative disc disease. This position is usually accompanied by a rounded upper back and forward reaching shoulders, causing shoulder pain as well as further aggravating the neck problem.

Many of us also stand with incorrect posture, either slouching our shoulders and curving our backs, sticking our bottoms out, leaning on one leg or standing with a flat back. All of these can lead to long term discomfort and problems.

If one wants to be active and healthy in later life, maintaining good posture is essential, whereas long term poor posture can result in a permanent curvature of the spine: this puts the spine under a great deal of pressure and may result in a number of conditions and illnesses in later life. Ultimately adopting long term good posture can increase life expectancy and reduce the risk of a number of illnesses and conditions.

Digestion, Internal Organs and Breathing

It should come as no surprise that poor posture constricts internal organs which can cause an array of different issues. Several digestive problems have been attributed to slouched posture, these include; constipation, acid reflux and even hernias in some cases, caused by undue compression of the internal organs and of the abdomen, whereas correct posture permits these organs to maintain their natural position.

When the upper body is rounded or in a slouched position, the rib cage and diaphragm muscles are unable to expand properly. The exchange of oxygen between the lungs and the blood is constricted, meaning the body is required to work harder and more effort is needed to breathe and speak. This can result in feelings of fatigue. The Diaphragm is a muscle which serves two main functions – 1. It is a dome-shaped muscular partition that separates the upper organs from the lower organs. The esophagus, aorta, vena cava, and numerous nerves pass through the diaphragm. 2.  It plays a major role in breathing, as its acts as a massage machine, moving down and up as one inhales and exhales, increasing the volume of the thorax and so inflates the lungs. 

Adapting certain negative postures can also lead to nerve impingements, lessening the ability of nerves to relay signals between our brain and body. Adequate posture is paramount for many types of exercises and especially for athletes due to an increase in the demand for oxygen. Have you ever seen a top sprinter slouching? The answer is no, definitely not. Many attributes the success of top athletes to their posture or form when running.

Poor Body Language: Your Overall Appearance and How Others View It

We all know that first impressions do count and posture says a lot about one’s personality. A strong confident person will undoubtedly adopt good posture, holding their head up, and standing tall with an open chest. Slumped posture indicates poor body language, this can negatively affect a variety of things.

Correcting Posture Mistakes

The core muscles (in the abdomen, pelvic floor, and back) help support the spine.

Posture is just one component of our health, but it can have a surprisingly big impact. Poor alignment or posture is one of the leading causes of neck pain, back pain and headaches.  Hunching over and looking down puts extra strain on the posterior muscles of the neck to keep the head from falling forward. This can put strain on the muscles, causing headaches.

Poor posture can negatively impact our ability to sleep. If our muscular system is not aligned properly, we won’t be able to fully relax.

Misalignment can also end up affecting one’s feet. Bad posture can create foot pain and may not allow one to wear their favorite shoes.

Workouts and recovery times. Certain muscles will become overworked with poor posture and will fatigue too quickly, leading to more pain during and after a workout because the body will become inflamed and irritated. When one slouches, not only do the shoulders move forward, but it also flatten out the lower back, which will eventually lead to pain.

The nerves that come out from the neck and upper back control muscle function and sensations of the arms, wrists, and hands. The nerves can get pinched from the spine (bone or discs) or from chronically tight muscles, which will lead to carpal-tunnel-type numbness, tingling, or pain throughout the arm.

Altered posture effects how the internal organs function. This has a profound effect on how the intestines move food matter through the system. Bad posture slows the movement of the intestines.

Poor posture can cause breathing problems. Once again, slouching can prevent the diaphragm from fully expanding, which affects its ability to help the lungs contract and release with each breath. One’s ability to breathe properly is at its most optimal when the body is in proper alignment. 

Force acting on Lumber spine L3 – In Different Situations in a Person Weighing 70kg

Posture or Movement                                                     Force in kg

Lying on back, using traction of 30 kg.                                                 10

Lying on back, legs straight                                                                     30

Upright standing position                                                                        70

Walking                                                                                                         85

Trunk lean to one side                                                                               95

Sitting unsupported                                                                                 100

Isometric Exercises for Muscles of Abdominal Wall                         110

Laughter                                                                                                       120

Inclined forward leaning of 200                                                                                  120

Sit-up from supine position, legs straight                                           175

Lifting a 20 kg. load, back straight                                                         175

Lifting a 20 kg. load, back straight and Knees bent                         210

Lifting a 20 kg. load, from a forward lean, Legs straight                340 

Internal support of the spinal column. It can be compared with the mechanical action of a rugby ball located in the abdominal cavity.  See illustration above.

Biomechanical Foundations in the Prevention of Injuries to the Spinal Lumber Region during Physical Exercise Training – 1985. 

Presented by – Lionel H. Phillips D. O. CEO & MD – Global Fitness Services Limited.

About the writer:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Lionel-H.-Phillips.jpg

Lionel Phillips is a Doctor of Osteopathy (1975), an International Fitness & Health Instructor, Consultant and Lecturer. He has researched and designed ‘The Needs & Functions of the Human Body’ as an educational subject for inclusion in all School Curriculums World-Wide. A past Federation Member and Israel Liaison Representative of IHRSA (International, Health & Racquet Sports club Association) and member of their worldwide “Panel of Experts”, Phillips is a recipient of the “Prime Ministers Award of Merit” (PM Menachem Begin).

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)

Surfside Strong

By Ruthy Benoliel

It is hard to put into words the anguish that so many people in Miami and all over the world have suffered over the last two weeks since the collapse of Champlain Towers South on June 24, 2021. In seconds, our whole community was put to the most dreadful test ever imagined. The pain we feel is a surreal and an overwhelming sense of loss. As we watched the news over and over again, nothing made sense. Within hours our community came together to help support and comfort the bereaved families and pray for miracles.

People embrace at a makeshift memorial outside St. Joseph Catholic Church in Surfside on Monday, June 28. (The Associated Press)

Immediately, organizations and thousands of volunteers came together to collect, pack, deliver, feed, find accommodation, lend a helping hand, or be there to give a hug. People put a pause on their lives to be on call for whatever need arose. Teams of first responders from the USA and other countries, including police, firefighters, engineers, governmental authorities, mental health professionals, and our dear IDF rescue soldiers, became our hope. The search and rescue mission became the priority for all those heroes that not only had to deal with the consequences of the collapse, but with several fires, rain, hurricane winds, the shifting of the remaining structure, the controlled demolition of the left-over structure, and exasperation of not finding people alive. Each corner of our streets was filled with police, checkpoints, and access by car was almost impossible.

It felt like a war zone!

Soriya Cohen shows a picture of her husband, Brad Cohen, who she said was missing after the partial collapse of the 12-story condo tower that he was in on June 24, 2021 in Surfside, Florida.

     The human touch and sensitivity towards each other were always present. We witnessed IDF soldiers break down and cry; the sergeant who gave us the daily reports kept trying to control his tears, and rescue teams needing emotional help as this tragedy consumed their lives. Grieving families, rescue teams, volunteers, people from different faiths and religions became one.

Champlain Towers was extremely special for my family. It was my home for many years. It was the place where my husband picked me up on our first date, where we got engaged, where three of my four children were born, where beautiful memories were made and will never be erased. Many of my old neighbours, friends, and acquaintances were there the night of the collapse; some were spending only one night in the building.

Col. Golan Vach receives the honour of being called to the Torah.

Over the last two weeks, we all have felt numb, waiting for the next briefing to give the latest answers, holding hands, crying collectively, and feeling the agony of the victim’s families. There is nothing to be said that can alleviate this grueling pain.

A few days ago, the search and rescue mission transitioned into recovery with a moment of silence. When the IDF colonel spoke, he said:

 “Look at me in my eyes. I promise we did everything possible to find your loved ones.”

Even though there was despair and agony in hearing those words, there was gratitude and love that filled the room. Many have started to mourn their loved ones, who unfortunately did not survive this catastrophe.

There are no answers, just tears.

Rabbi Sholom Lipskar (right), of The Shul of Bal Harbour, prays during the search-and-rescue operation after the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside on Thursday, June 24, 2021, with Rabbi Mendy Levy(left), and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. (ALEXIA FODERÉ FOR MIAMI HERALD)

Where do we go from here? It will take an exceptionally long time to process what has happened and to ease this ache. I know for sure that we will be there for each other every step of the way. We are blessed to live in this loving community. We will forever have in our hearts the beautiful children, and people who perished on the collapse of Champlain Towers South, and we will continue to pray for their Neshamas.  (“souls”)

Surfside strong!

About the writer:

Ruthy Benoliel is Vice-President of WIZO USA and is based in Miami.

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).