May you Live Long and be Prosecuted

At 100, Herbert Wahler has outlived other Germans listed as members of the genocidal Einsatzgruppe C. His age should not shield him from accountability.

(Courtesy of Times of Israel, where article first appeared)

By Efraim Zuroff

This past Friday, Herbert Wahler celebrated his 100th birthday. Quite an achievement for a German, who spent a significant part of World War II serving on the Eastern front in the Ukraine. Yet upon closer examination of Wahler’s service record, it’s not that surprising, since, for a significant part of the conflict, Wahler was not dodging bullets shot at him by Red Army soldiers, but rather contributing to the efforts of Einsatzgruppe C to mass murder innocent Jews and other “enemies of the Reich.”

“No, No, No”. Footage captures the chilling moment when aging suspected Nazi death squad guard Herbert Wahler animatedly denies the claims he was present at a mass execution during WWII in the Ukraine.

Einsatzgruppe C was one of the four special killing squads, labeled A, B, C, and D, the Nazis sent in June 1941, along with the Wehrmacht troops invading the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa, to begin the mass murder of Jews, even before the formal decree of the “Final Solution” was officially adopted at the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942. They spread out over the entire territory, with A responsible for the former Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia; B in charge in Belarus; C active in central Ukraine and D in southern Ukraine. In the course of 1941-1943, these units, which numbered approximately 3,000 men, with assistance from members of the Wehrmacht, German police units, and local collaborators, were responsible for the mass murder by shooting of approximately 2 million persons, among them 1.3 million Jews.

Mass Murder Unearthed. A 1944 file photo of part of the Babi Yar ravine at the outskirts of Kiev, Ukraine where the advancing Red Army unearthed the bodies of 14,000 civilians killed by fleeing Nazis, 1944. Einsatzgruppe C was responsible for one of the most notorious massacres, the shooting of nearly 34,000 at Babi Yar, a ravine northwest of the Ukrainian city of Kiev, on Sept. 29-30, 1941. (AP Photo, file)

Wahler served initially in a Waffen-S.S. unit, which in late July 1941 was assigned to Einsatzgruppen C. The unit went from place to place murdering tens of thousands of innocent civilians, most of whom were Jewish, and by the end of October 1941 had killed an estimated 78,000 people, and carried out the largest mass murder in the history of the Holocaust, the September 29-30 massacre of 33,771 Jews in Babi Yar, a ravine on the outskirts of Kiev.

Walk of Death. Jews on their way out of the city of Kiev to the infamous execution site of Babi Yar outside of Kiev, pass corpses in the street. (Photo: Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives)

Despite the extremely important role played by the Einsatzgruppen in the Holocaust, relatively few of those who carried out the murders were brought to justice. The Americans conducted a trial of 24 of the senior leaders of the units, and two-thirds of the defendants were sentenced to death (14) or life imprisonment (2), but only four men were executed. All the others who were convicted had their sentences reduced. (Four others were tried and executed by other countries.) Only about 100 men were subsequently indicted in West Germany, a few were convicted and given mild sentences, and none were executed.

Evil under the Sun. SS guards are seen here having fun at Sobibor not far from the gas chambers where the incoming Jews were gassed soon after arrival.  Sobibor was an extermination camp rather than a concentration camp  and existed for the sole purpose of murdering Jews.

Given those circumstances, I was expecting that in the wake of the dramatic change a decade ago in German prosecution policy vis-à-vis Nazi war criminals, which made it possible to convict those who served in death camps and/or camps with gas chambers or gas vans, or camps with a high mortality rate, based on service alone (as opposed to the previous requirement of proving a specific crime against a specific victim), it would now be possible to convict people who served in the Einsatzgruppen. In fact, shortly after the Demjanjuk verdict [John Demjanjuk was convicted as an accessory  to the murder of 27,900 Jews at Sobibor], I met in 2011 with the directors of the Central Office for the Clarification of Nazi Crimes (the federal German agency which initiates Nazi war crimes investigations) to discuss the issue, and they confirmed that indeed they had adopted that policy.

Escaped Punishment. Finally some justice – if only a little and too late and even then, not quite! John Demjanjuk, who served as guard at Sobibor, leaves court on 12 May 2011 after being sentenced for involvement in mass murder. However, he appealed, and died at a home for the elderly in  Germany on 17 March 2012, aged 91. As a consequence of his appeal not having been heard, Demjanjuk is still presumed innocent under German law.

That did not happen, however, so three years later, in the fall of 2014, I checked the Wiesenthal Center archives for all the names of people who served in the Einsatzgruppen, for whom we had a date of birth. We had a total of 1,293 names (out of about 2,950) of those who served in A, B, C, or D, of which we had dates of birth for 1,069. Of those, 80 people, 76 men and four women, were born in 1920 or later. On September 1, 2014, I sent that list, which included Herbert Wahler’s name, to the German Justice Minister, Heiko Maas; and the Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maiziere. It took the German authorities 17 months to check the list, which they informed me included three people alive in Germany, all of whom had served in Einsatzgruppe C.

Last Jew Executed. A picture from an Einsatzgruppen soldier’s personal album, labeled on the back as “Last Jew of Vinnitsa”. It shows a member of Einsatzgruppe C just about to shoot a Jewish man kneeling before a filled mass grave in Vinnitsa, Ukraine, in 1941. All 28,000 Jews from Vinnitsa and its surrounding areas were massacred at the time.

I received the news with a mixture of joy and trepidation. Joy that at least three were alive, trepidation that they might not live long enough to be prosecuted – which is why I sometimes find myself praying for the good health of Nazis who might be prosecuted). In the meantime, my fears turned out to be well-founded and Kurt Gosdek and Wilhelm Karl Friedrich Hoffmeister have already died without being brought to justice. Although Wahler has admitted in media interviews that he was in Kiev during the massacre, the prosecutor in Kassel closed his case, probably because Wahler claims that he was a medic, leaving unanswered the question of who it was he was assisting, the perpetrators or the victims.

Killing outside Kiev. A German Einsatzgruppen soldier talks to two unidentified women at the top of the Babi Yar ravine, where more than 33,000 people, mostly Jews, were massacred on September 29 and 30, 1941.

So last Friday, a demonstration was held in front of Wahler’s house in Meslungen by members of the Dokumentartheaters Berlin and the AK Angreifbare Traditionspflege, and members of the Liberal Jewish community in nearby Felsberg to demand that justice be served. My message to them, which was read at the demonstration, was simple:

The passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of the murderers and their accomplices. And old age should not afford protection for merciless killers.”

Killer of Civilians. Herbert Wahler pictured here in his army uniform served initially in a Waffen-S.S. unit, which in late July 1941 was assigned to Einsatzgruppen C, one of the four special killing squads. The Einsatzgruppen were the Nazis’ opening salvo in the Holocaust – SS units who followed behind the regular army as it pushed into the Soviet Union in 1941, murdering tens of thousands of innocent civilians, most of whom were Jewish.

Herbert Wahler may think that “What has been, has been, it’s over,” as he told the ARD journalists from Kontraste, but as long as any of the men and women from the Einsatzgruppen, death’s head units, and anyone who served in the concentration camps where so many innocent human beings were murdered are alive, they cannot be allowed to live their lives in peace and tranquility. That is a privilege they denied their victims.

They must be held accountable!

Even if they were not officers or did not have high ranks. In death squads and death camps, there is no such thing as “a small cog”. It’s the “small cogs”, who ensured the implementation of the “Final Solution”, and they must be held accountable.”




About the writer:

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







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

The Israel Brief- 03-06 January 2022

The Israel Brief – 03 January 2022 – IDF strikes targets in response to rockets. Travel to open Sunday. JPost and Maariv hacked. IDF shirt solidarity.



The Israel Brief – 04 January 2022 – Two naval pilots killed. Landmark civil rights ruling on surrogacy. IDF establish combat unit for religious women. The Emma Watson debacle.



The Israel Brief – 05 January 2022 – Comoros and Maldives to normalise ties with Israel? Preliminary report on helicopter crash. Rabbi quits BBC after 30 years. Gantz meets Jordanian King.



The Israel Brief – 06 January 2022 – Netherlands pulls funding from Palestinian NGO. Israel pushes resolution at UNGA. Pres Hertzog gets jabbed. JK Rowling and goblins.







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- 27-30 December 2021

The Israel Brief – 27 December 2021 – More countries on red list. Children at DC school made to reenact Holocaust. Terrorists caught. Swiss put UNRWA on blast.



The Israel Brief – 28 December 2021 – Winner of Top Antisemite of 2021. Ali Express stops service to Palestinians. Omicron update. US Consulate update.



The Israel Brief – 29 December 2021 – Gantz hosts Abbas. Exchange of fire on Gaza border. UNGA open investigation into Israel. Diplomatic developments.



The Israel Brief – 30 December 2021 – A look back on the top news stories from Israel in 2021.






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- 20-23 December 2021

The Israel Brief – 20 December 2021 – More countries on red list. Children at DC school made to reenact Holocaust. Terrorists caught. Swiss put UNRWA on blast.



The Israel Brief – 21 December 2021 – Hamas, PIJ to increase attacks. US National Security Advisor expected in Israel. IOC says any country who will not allow Israelis cannot host tournaments. Illinois to vote on divesting from Unilever/Ben&Jerry’s.



The Israel Brief – 22 December 2021 – Israel to to roll out 4th jab. Mansour Abbas historical statement. Is Biden avoiding Bennett? Car ramming prevented.



The Israel Brief – 23 December 2021 – Israeli officials reassured after talks with Jake Sullivan. Morocco and Israel celebrate anniversary of normalisation. Ties warming with Turkey? Celebrating Christmas in the Holy Land.







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

Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter- 20 December 2021

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

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

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To all our readers far and wide, Lay of the Land newsletter will return on the 9th January 2022 following the festivities


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

Rolene Marks takes a look back at highlights of the year on WINA, available to listen (link is embedded in The Israel Brief post).

The Israel Brief

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Articles

(1)

A BDS Black Eye from Black Eye Peas

By David E. Kaplan

“Music to our Ears”. Sending a powerful message, Black Eyed Peas performing at Pais Arena in Jerusalem on November 29, 2021

Don’t mess with “MISHPOCHA” (family)! This message from the Black Eyed Peas to BDS, was delivered by the band’s frontman – in Jerusalem – where his band performed and where he addressed a hi-tech conference. Miss South Africa sent too a resolute message by defying her government and participating in the Miss Universe  pageant in Eilat.

A BDS Black Eye from Black Eye Peas

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(2)

Is it “in Vogue” to Hate Israel?

By Rolene Marks

Mixed Feelings. Writing in Teen Vogue, Emma Gometz reveals her love for her Jewish family and her loathing for Israel.

Acknowledged as the world’s leading fashion and lifestyle magazine, one would think that Vogue’s on-line sister publication Teen Vogue targeting the younger reader, might be a similarly attired in content. This writer was alarmed to open a recent issue to see that it was also “targeting” Israel thus joining the fashion of promoting a cultural climate of hate against the Jewish state.

Is it “in Vogue” to Hate Israel?

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(3)

The Arab Voice

November – December  2021

A selection of opinions and analysis from the Arab media

Broad-based coverage on the Middle East, LOTL provides a platform to what Arab journalists – in their own words – are writing about the region.

The Arab Voice

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LOTL Co-founders 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- 13-16 December 2021

The Israel Brief – 13 December 2021 – Historical visit for PM Bennett. Travel ban extended. Israel offers aid to tornado battered states. Miss Universe is crowned.




The Israel Brief – 14 December 2021 – PM Bennett speaks to Chancellor Scholtz. Passenger on same flight as Bennett tests positive. HonestReporting lodge complaint against BBC. Over 1000 monkeys rescued!



The Israel Brief – 15 December 2021 – Iran threatens Israel in Tehran Times. Green passports needed for malls from Friday. Hamas run drills. 11 year old boy from Gaza receives life saving surgery in Israel.



The Israel Brief – 16 December 2021 – Shin Bet bust two Hamas agents. Travel update. Israel to donate a million vaccines to African countries. LA to divest from Unilever/Ben&Jerry’s?



Rolene Marks interviewed in NEWSRADIO WINA – “The Schilling show” – 16/12/2012






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).

Is it “in Vogue” to Hate Israel?

By Rolene Marks

I remember when Vogue magazine used to be the fashion bible for the dedicated fashionistas – and Carrie Bradshaw. Being a shoe/bag/fashion lover myself, I have pored over completely unattainable fashion while reading the accompanying articles. I would imagine Teen Vogue is a mini-version of that, complete with a dose of teenage angst.

What I didn’t anticipate was that angst being targeted explicitly at Israel. And not for the first time.

An opinion piece, published to coincide with Chanukah and written by Emma Gometz and titled “How to speak to my grandparents about Israel” rankled me and made my fiery red hair stand on end.

At the outset I must stress that it is vitally important that we listen to young people and acknowledge and discuss their concerns. The Gen Z generation who are most likely to read publications like Teen Vogue, see the world through the narrative of social justice – and that is admirable BUT it is also an imperative to listen to the older generations, many of whom have a lived experience and knowledge that Gen Z and even millenials could greatly benefit from.

To be honest, I found the title and the contents of the article to be profoundly condescending and dismissive of the experience of a generation that remembers only too well a world where there was no Jewish state, who have seen or even volunteered in the IDF as Israel battled several wars for survival, who witnessed the ravages and suicide bombings of two intifadas (uprisings) and waves of terror that have claimed far too many lives.

This article by Gometz is more than just an “okay, Boomer” moment. It is a blatant dismissal of any history or experience of generations far more knowledgeable than Gometz. Theirs are not generations that need or deserve to be condescended to.

Emma Gometz

It is no great secret that the trendy cause du jour for the socially aware teen is to be anti-Israel. Israel has been carefully wrapped up in a lexicon of words that include “Apartheid”, “colonizer” and “racist’. For teenagers who are acutely aware of the language of social justice but sadly lack facts and knowledge, this is very seductive.

“It” girls, Gigi and Bella Hadid and popstar, Dua Lipa (who coincidentally is dating their brother, Anwar) are their role models of choice and have been featured across social media platforms pushing an anti-Israel agenda. These are the “influencers” that young people look up to. Lipa even has the dubious honour of being featured on a list of most notorious anti-Semites for 2021, compiled by NGO, stopantisemitism.org. The three influencers also featured in an advert in the New York Times exposing their support for Hamas. Instead of apologising, Lipa doubled down on her criticism against Israel.

This is extremely important when one considers that amongst the millions of followers that these three have on social media, is the readership of Teen Vogue, add to the mix a young writer who feels it appropriate to virtual signal to her more worldly grandparents and we can see why we have a younger generation who is less and less connected to Israel – and a magazine willing to exploit that.

What Teen Vogue fail to understand is that not all young Jews are going to be rushing off to lecture the “boomers” about their perceived views of the faults and failures of the Jewish state.

There are many young, proud, vocal Zionist Jews, many of whom face threats, online abuse, intimidation and dangerous situations on their various university campuses who will not be shamed, bullied and silenced.

They are talking so social media to condemn and expose hypocrisy and send a resounding message to those who seek to cancel them that try as they might, they will not be silent – or silenced.

My recommendation to Teenage Vogue is that before they deem it appropriate to exploit young Jews and attempt to re-write history, perhaps they should interview these brave, young lions.

While they are at it, maybe they could interview Israeli teens. They will learn what it is like to grow up under threats of rockets and terror attacks. I advise Teen Vogue to speak to teens from Sderot and surrounds, many of whom carry the internal wounds of PTSD, having grown up with rocket attacks and desperate fleeing to shelters. Maybe Teen Vogue should talk to Israeli teens to understand the enormity of the responsibility of serving your country by going to the army or national service. Israeli teens carry the legacy of the generations before them who survived the Holocaust, who fought to establish the modern Jewish state and defended her borders, who have lived through wars, intidafas and threats of annihilation. It is a massive responsibility on their young shoulders, and yet they bear it with pride.

I would also recommend that Teen Vogue speak to Palestinian teens and maybe ask them how they feel about being raised on a diet of hatred and incitement, what it is like to be forced to become child soldiers and how their trips to “summer camp” are as far removed from arts and crafts and kumbaya around the firelight as one gets. Perhaps Teen Vogue and the sanctimonious Gometz will gain a better understanding of the nuances and complexities of the region.

Before Teen Vogue and their writers seek to lecture the generations before them from the immense privilege and comfort of their homes and offices far removed from the everyday experience of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Unless they are willing to listen before lecturing, offer solutions before sanctimony and practicality before posturing, Teen Vogue should consider the damage they are causing. 

By continuing to exploit young Jews for the aims of pushing an agenda that is “in Vogue” – both literally and figuratively, Teen Vogue is contributing to a climate of hate – and that should never be “on trend” as the kids say these days.





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).

A BDS Black Eye from Black Eye Peas

By David E. Kaplan

It was music to our Israeli ears. What’s more it was LIVE music, something foreign to Israelis for nearly two years because of the pandemic.  And if Covid was the enemy  preventing international bands performing in Israel, BDS thought they would provide the perfect  ‘backup’ – just in case.

WRONG!

The Black Eyed Peas with will.i.am born William James Adams, Jr., apl.de.ap, Taboo, and new member J. Rey Soul, performed at Jerusalem’s Pais Arena on November 29, 2021, the first major international show in Israel since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. Ahead of the concert, the BDS-supporting Artists for Palestine UK released a statement calling on Black Eyed Peas to cancel the show. It was a call emphatically rejected by the  Grammy-winning group.

“Hello Mishpocha”. Taboo, will.i.am, J. Rey Soul and apl.de.ap of the Black Eyed Peas performing at Pais Arena in Jerusalem, on November 29, 2021. (Ethan Freedman/The Times of Israel)

At a press conference will.i.am explicitly responded to the call to boycott Israel saying:

I’m a musician and a tech enthusiast and people like our music. Do I turn my back on people that live here because of politics? No, that’s not the way we were built. So, you know, there’s beautiful people here as well as beautiful people in Palestine. And one day we want to go there too.”

Not only has the frontman for the Black Eyed Peas over the years

consistently resisted calls to boycott Israel, but will.i.am has strengthened his ties with the country through his “core passion” – technology. Back in 2016, his tech firm i.am + acquired an Israeli startup Sensiya and regularly visits the country “catching up” on Israel’s vibrant tech scene.

In fact, on the morning the Black Eyed Peas performed on the 29 November in Jerusalem, will.i.am participated in a panel discussion at an innovation conference organised by Improvate, an Israeli organisation that works to advance Israeli technology.

Introducing will.i.am as “Musician, producer and frontman for the supergroup, Black Eyed Peas that you can hear tonight,” the panel moderator then continued, “you can hear him now about his second career as a technology entrepreneur and futurist who is sought out by corporations to get insights how technologies, innovations behavior patterns could impact their business.”

Man of Many Talents. Advertising both the Black Eyed Peas concert in Jerusalem and band’s frontman will.i.am’s participation in the IMPROVATE innovation conference.

Before questioning wil.i.am on technology,  the moderator asked how he coped with the harassment from BDS about visiting Israel.

Every time we are asked to come to Israel, we come.” And the reason he says can be summed up in one word “Mishpocha” (Yiddish for “family”) 

He explained how one of his childhood friends inspired him to throw some other Hebrew words into one of the band’s most popular songs, “I Gotta Feeling” – a big hit at most Israeli weddings, where guests invariably go wild on the dance floor, familiar with all the words. In that song, will.i.am famously shouts out “mazel Tov”, explaining how so many Israelis refer to it fondly as the “Mazel Tov Song”.

How did this “mishpocha” develop?

Will.i.am explains:

I have friends and family here; my first girlfriend ever – when I was 16-years-old –  was from Israel. When you have friends and family you don’t follow the babble; you follow your heart. I remember her saying, “I am moving back to my homeland”  you will one day come to Israel. I said I’m from the Ghetto, be realistic, I’m never going to get to Israel. And I came… And when they [BDS] told us not to come, I said I’m going to see Orly and her family. I wanted Orly’s mom to see what we became. So every time I am asked the question, I think of family, I think of friends.“

When they started the group, “it was in my friend Benjamin’s bedroom; and sometimes it was late Friday’s and I ended up having Shabbat dinner with them…and when I said Mazeltov and LChaim,  Benjamin’s dad said, “We are so glad to have you here, you are Mishpocha.

So when I say mishpocha, I mean that dearly because I am connecting you to my upbringing, my friends, the people that encouraged me, and this place – ISRAEL- is magical to me.  And I wont let politics get in the way of where my heart is.”

Where there is a “will” there is a Way. “I always wanted to come to Israel growing up in Los Angeles, a lot of my friends are Israelis,” said will.i.am at technology conference.

Will.i.am also worked the word “mishpocha” into a music video for a song the Black Eyed Peas made with the Israeli pop duo Static and Ben-El in 2020. “What’s up, mishpocha?” he asks at the beginning of the music video.

In recent years, the musician cum innovator has created a series of wearable devices, including smartwatches and headphones, that have yet to be widely adopted. But he said he measured his success “not by sales, but rather by how much he learns from his experience.”

So, while BDS has had some success in influencing the likes of Lorde and Elvis Costello to cancel  concerts in Israel, it lost big time with the Black Eyed Peas.

You don’t mess with “mishpocha”!

Making it Work. American musician will.i.am, frontman for Black Eyed Peas (second left), speaks on a panel at an innovation conference held by Improvate, in Jerusalem, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

As a show of defiance on stage, will.i.am gave a shout-out to producer Yonatan Goldstein as an example of his “mishpocha”. Goldstein co-wrote or co-produced much of the Black Eyed Peas’ latest album, and produced their collaboration with Israeli musical duo Static & Ben El.

Crowning Glory

Unlike the rapturous reception to the  music of Black Eyed Peas,  the call for boycott by BDS fell on deaf ears.  Less than two weeks after the Black Eyed Peas concert in Jerusalem, the 2021 Miss Universe pageant took place in Eilat, Israel, which was won by Miss India. To ‘crown’ it all,  Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, who bravely resisted pressure from her own government to withdraw from the competition was second runner up.

Bravo Miss SA! Defying her government and BDS, Miss South Africa participated  and was crowned as the second runner-up at the 2021 Miss Universe in Eilat, Israel on the 12 December {Photo: Creative Community for peace).

Responding to this good news, South African Friends of Israel penned the following in its press release:

Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, has brought pride and honour to our nation by being crowned the second runner up at the 2021 Miss Universe pageant in Eilat, Israel.  South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) congratulates and celebrates Lalela’s stunning achievement. She has raised the status and visibility of South Africa across the globe. We are bubbling with joy to witness how she had the courage and conviction to stand up as a proud South African on the world stage, and against the anti-Israel bullies and hatemongers who tried to intimidate her for going to Israel, including the short-sightedness of the South African government. Lalela truly represents the millions of South Africans who are standing behind her and celebrating her achievements.”   

Not cowering to pressure and standing up for what they believe is right, that is the message from the Black Eyed Peas and  Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane  as we close out 2021. Taking to heart the emotive lyrics of the Black Eyed Peas,  let’s embrace 2022 in the spirit of “mishpocha” and remember:

I gotta feeling that its gonna be a good good night….”







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 Arab Voice

November – December  2021

Arab writers opining on the political landscape of the Middle East question the efficacy of the British government’s action against Hamas; prognosticating on the thinking of  Iran’s new leaders and the lessons to be learned from Israel’s successful state-building methodology.



Designating Hamas a Terror Organization Isn’t Enough

By Meshary Al-Dhaidy 

Asharq Al-Awsat, London, December 3

Last week, the United Kingdom’s parliament approved the designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization, effectively outlawing the Palestinian group that rules the Gaza Strip. This is a misleading and perhaps even contradictory decision given the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood – the organization from which Hamas drew inspiration – still operates freely out of the heart of London. In fact, roughly 30% of the Brotherhood’s proceeds are generated and collected in Britain. The same is true of Hamas. Through 13 organizations and associations based in the UK, Hamas has been funneling money into its own hands, behind the authorities’ backs. Most of this has been done with the help of the Brotherhood and its robust presence throughout the UK. Indeed, Heshmat Khalifa, the head of the UK’s largest Muslim charity, used his Facebook page to describe Hamas as “the purest resistance movement in modern history.”

Targeting Terror. Home Secretary Priti Patel  – seen here with PM Boris Johnson – described Hamas as “fundamentally and rabidly antisemitic” and said there’s no difference between its military and political wings.

He further suggested that classifying Hamas’ military wing as a terror organization is a “disgrace to all Muslims.” Keep in mind that this is the very same person who managed a fund totaling over 7 million British pounds targeted at various Muslim charities and causes. It has also been revealed that Brotherhood leaders helped funnel money to Hamas by wiring donations collected in the UK into several Egyptian companies which, in turn, transferred the money into the Gaza Strip. Therefore, it’s clear that the British decision against Hamas is devoid of any practicality and efficacy. The only way to truly cut off Hamas’ funding is to cut off funding for the international Muslim Brotherhood organization. The Brotherhood is a vital organ without which Hamas cannot exist. If we want to kill the snake, we mustn’t aim at the tail, but at the head.

 Meshary Al-Dhaidy 



New Faces and New Fears in Tehran

By Amir Tahe

Asharq al-Awsat, London, November 3

What do you do when you feel an urge to do something but, at the same time, you’re embarrassed about doing it? This is the exact question that Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei faced this week, as he contemplated how to deal with one of his annual rituals celebrating the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran and the taking of US diplomats hostage on November 4, 1979.

During the eight-year tenure of President Hassan Rouhani, the celebration of this occasion mellowed and turned into a small, symbolic gathering at the site of the old embassy, consisting of a few camera shots taken for State TV.

In the past two years, in particular, many of the prominent elements that have always been associated with such a celebration have disappeared.

Quo Vadis? Where does Iran go with its new hardline President Ebrahim Raisi, known as “the butcher of Tehran”?

For example, the annual “A World Without America” symposium, which for decades has been attended by anti-American professionals from all over the world (including from the United States itself), was completely removed from the program. The likes of Louis Farrakhan, Oliver Stone, Sean Penn and other self-hating Americans weren’t invited to make their annual pilgrimage to Tehran.

Similarly, Iranian readers were spared another translation of Noam Chomsky’s latest hate speech against the United States.

Among the other missing events was “The End of Israel” symposium that brought together Holocaust deniers from all over the world, and the accompanying international antisemitic cartoon exhibition.

However, with the rise to power of President Ebrahim Raisi, there was widespread expectation that some of these vitriolic rituals would be revived.

Surprisingly, however, this did not happen. Even stranger, it seems as if the new Iranian leadership chose to reduce the annual celebration even more.

Officials tried to do this in several ways. Among them was an attempt to attach other slogans to the “November 4 events” that were supposed to celebrate “the humiliation of the American Great Satan.” Among the new names given to the events were: “the anniversary of Imam Khomeini’s Exile” in 1964 (even though this happened on the fifth of November, not the fourth). Another title was the “day of the massacre perpetrated by the shah against primary and secondary school students and children” in 1976, although nothing like that happened at all.

It is clear that Raisi is almost as determined as his predecessor to tone down his government’s anti-American rhetoric.

The question is why? After all, a large part of the current regime’s discourse revolves around the claim that the previous government abandoned its jihad against the “Great Satan” in exchange for empty promises from former president Barack Obama.

One explanation is that the new regime believes that the “Great Satan” has already been significantly weakened, as was clearly evident in its recent evacuation from Afghanistan. According to Ayatollah Tayeb, the political-religious commissar of the Revolutionary Guards, the United States today is like “the carcass of a dead donkey that doesn’t even need to be skinned.”

Pursuing Old Hatreds. Demonstrators chant slogans on 4 November 2021 during a rally in front of the former US embassy commemorating the anniversary of its 1979 seizure in Tehran, Iran (Vahid Salemi/AP Photo)

However, such arrogant and ostentatious remarks often compensate for real fear.

In this context, the first fear is that the Biden administration may not be keen to repeal the policy of “maximum pressure” pursued by former president Donald Trump, which pushed the Islamic Republic to the brink of bankruptcy.

Another fear is that Biden, even if he wanted to, might not be able to lift enough sanctions on Iran, especially since lifting most sanctions requires the approval of the US Congress, which Biden cannot take for granted.

Another concern is that Biden may have given Israel the green light to carry out “limited, but decisive action” against Iran’s nuclear sites. Such a move would force the regime to cross the redline it has adhered to for four decades by providing a real response to military action against it.

Accordingly, Biden’s next step will be decisive. If the president gives in too easily, he may breathe new life into the demons of “old Tehran.” If he chooses to blow out empty statements, he may miss an opportunity to lend a helping hand to those seeking real regime change in Tehran. 

Amir Tahe



The Unhidden Jewish Secret

By Ahmad Al-Sarra

Al-Qabas, Kuwait, November 4

There is a huge gap between the Jews and their enemies or, more precisely, between Jews and the Arab world. This gap is not only represented by Israel’s military superiority over its neighbors, but also in its more progressive culture and conscience.

On the map, Israel looks as if it could easily be swallowed by its neighbors in a matter of seconds. However, it’s clear that it isn’t going anywhere. Although Arabs have lived in this region for thousands of years, what separated them has always been greater than what united them. In contrast, in Israel – where the overwhelming majority of the population immigrated from countless ethnic and cultural backgrounds – a unifying culture has been formed. Israelis were able, with limited resources and under the harshest conditions, to build up a national identity that is nothing short of a miracle.

So, what is Israel’s secret?

The Muslim Brotherhood is considered by many to be the only ideological and political organization capable of uniting people across the Middle East under one joint identity, similar to what the Zionist movement sought to do in the first Zionist Congress held in Basel in 1897. In only half a century, the Zionist movement succeeded in realizing its dream and established a modern state capable of imposing itself on the whole world. As for the Brotherhood, it has been trying for more than 90 years to do the same, but has failed time and again.

The success of the Zionist movement and the failure of the Brotherhood movement are due to several factors.

First, the Zionists succeeded in recruiting the best scientific and political minds to serve and lead their cause, regardless of these individuals’ adherence to traditional Jewish thought. This is what the Brotherhood failed in, as its choices were miserable from the get-go. The very nature of the Brotherhood precludes anyone who doesn’t adhere to the group’s view of Islam to actively take part in its activity.

Nation Building. Arabs in the region recognize how Jewish pioneers placed education as a top priority long before Israel’s independence as seen here with the construction in 1912 of the  Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

Second, whereas the Zionist movement was open about its goals, the Brotherhood always suffered from a lack of transparency about its ideology. No one truly knows the group’s plan for governance or its ultimate plans. We saw this clearly during its rule in Egypt, Tunisia and Sudan.

Third, and most important, the historical interest of the Jews in science and their known passion for reading and academic inquiry allowed them to establish a state with strong educational and cultural institutions from day one. As for the Brotherhood, it has proven its inability and failure scientifically, politically and culturally for nearly a century.

Finally, allow me to end with the following parting thought: A study conducted by the well-known American Pew Research Center in 2016 showed that the average Jew has 13.4 years of education, followed by Christians, with 9.3 years.

I’ll spare you the embarrassment of knowing what the same rate stands at in our countries. 

– Ahmad Al-Sarra



*All articles translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.





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

Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter- 12 December 2021

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

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Beautiful People Beautiful Country

For the first time in history, Israel hosts the Miss Universe pageant, taking place TODAY – 12 December – in Eilat on the Red Sea. Lay of the Land trusts the contestants will return to their countries inspired by the achievements and beauty of the Holy Land  and the warm hospitality of its people.




Articles

(1)

A South African Lunch at Israel’s Reichman University

It left much to chew on!

By David E. Kaplan

Bon Appétit! South African students at Israel’s prestigious Reichman University enjoy a Hanukkah ‘boerewors’ barbecue.

Built on an IDEA of one man – its inspirational founder Uriel Reichman – Reichman University is about promoting new IDEAS for a rapidly changing world. A lunch gathering serving good SA cuisine – “boerewors” – proved another good IDEA for the ever-increasing number of South African students at Reichman University.    

A South African Lunch at Israel’s Reichman University

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(2)

Tefillin against Terror

Jews around the world honour the memory of Eli Kay by doing good deeds in his name

By Michael Kransdorff

Eli’s Legacy. As was his practice and joy, Eli Kay (z’l) guides an Israeli soldier to put on Tefillin.

When 25-year-old Eli Kay – an immigrant from South Africa – was gunned down by a Hamas-affiliated terrorist in Jerusalem on his way to pray at the Western Wall with his Tefillin in his hand, it was that “Tefillin” that was retrieved from the murder scene that set in motion a way to honour Eli and share his legacy.

Tefillin against Terror

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(3)

Respect for Freedoms

Israel scores high on Freedom House Global Score

By Bev Goldman

Israel Illuminates. An Islamist party led by  Mansour Abbas, makes history by joining an all-Jewish governing coalition.

As authoritarian actors grow bolder and democracies around the world are undermined from within, most illuminating is the 2020 report on Israel by the independent Washington DC based organization, Freedom House  that tracks global trends of political rights and civil liberties. Analyzing the core components of Israeli society, the Jewish State scores high, a shining example to ALL its enemies, NONE of whom are ranked as “free countries”.

Respect for Freedoms

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LOTL Co-founders 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).