Life coach, Andi Saitowitz, shares her thoughts and feeling about what life is like under bombardment of rockets and how ordinary people are the heroes of Israel.
Today I gave an intensive workshop and presentation to a team in a nearby city. Just before I left, Code Red alarms were still blaring on the app on my phone as our brothers and sisters in the south continued to be bombarded with rockets. As I picked up my phone to check the address I was going to, I suddenly realized that I was going to street called גיבורי ישראל (“Giborei Israel”) – translated into the “Heroes of Israel”.
I couldn’t help but pause and think about all those families who are living within such a close radius to the line of fire. I couldn’t help but think about our armed forces, who risk their lives daily to protect our nation and homeland. I couldn’t help but think about the heroes who have fallen – and the injured and the hurt and the scared. I couldn’t help but think of the past heroes who in their merit and honor, we have a state and a home. I couldn’t help but think about the first-responders and the defenders of Israel around the world who with such pride, courage and resilience, stand for Israel against all odds. I couldn’t help but think of all the people who choose to make Israel their home. I couldn’t help but think of all the people who pray for Israel, from near and far. I couldn’t help but think of the friends of Israel who want to see her grow and blossom. I couldn’t help but think of the unity we manage to hold together, even when everything around us seems to be falling apart.
So as I drove to The Heroes of Israel Street for a jam-packed day of personal development, growth, team building, training and leadership – I thought of the real heroes of Israel:
Every person who prays for peace.
Every person who fights for peace.
Every person who finds the resilience to keep the faith when times are tough.
Every person who holds Hatikva in their heart when all hope sometimes seems lost.
Every person who lives the values and ideals that we hold so dear.
Every parent who has a few seconds to run for shelter with small children.
If you are already here, you are a Hero of Israel.
If you love and protect us, you are a Hero of Israel.
If you dream of being here; you are a Hero of Israel.
If you pray for us wherever you are, you are a Hero of Israel.
If you represent us with integrity, you are a Hero of Israel.
If you spread truth about us, you are a Hero of Israel.
If you want us to thrive, you are a Hero of Israel.
If you stand with us, you are a Hero of Israel.
If you want to live with us and beside us and close to us and in peace with us: you are a Hero of Israel.
And it doesn’t matter who you are.
Andi Saitowitz, a mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, published author and lover of inspiration. Also a Personal Development Strategist, Life Coach, Mentor and Transformation Leader.
This week I have been thinking a lot especially about sports. It could be because I am still feeling the high many of us, including ex-pat South Africans are feeling after watching the Springboks (South Africa’s national rugby team) serve England’s team a thumping to win the Rugby World Cup.
It wasn’t just rugby that won that day, it was a nation. The Springboks proved that it is possible to rise above your circumstances, your race, religion and past prejudices and that, coupled with tenacity and a will to win, delivered one of the greatest moments in sports. It was more than the speeches from coach, Erasmus and team captain, Siya Kolisi – the guys in green and gold played for unity. They played for hope. And they delivered.
We know that South Africa is fraught with problems and that winning a global sports championship will not provide an instant fix, but they proved what could be accomplished when you pull together and focus on the greater good. Growing up during the Apartheid years in South Africa, where rugby was emblematic of the regime, it was inconceivable that the Springboks would be a team of players from all races, with a black captain. I don’t think there was a dry eye across South Africa (well, save for a few spoil sports – pun intended – who see unity as anathema) or for many who knew we were witnessing history. The late human rights icon, Nelson Mandela, recognized the role that sports could play in healing and reconciliation. The Springbok win took many back to the day in 1995 when Madiba weaved his magic and mistrust and old hatreds seemed forgotten.
The Springbok win got me thinking a lot about the power of sports in healing conflict in other parts of the world.
Sport plays an important role in trying to heal rifts in the Middle East as well. While sometimes respect and sportsman – like behavior is a casualty and some pay a heavy price for their efforts to be conciliatory, there is no doubt that whether it is facing off on the soccer pitch or wrestling on the mat, people are brought together for the common goal – winning.
The power of sports to bring people together has also been recognized by entities like BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanction) who will try every trick in the book to try and scupper any attempts for normalization between Israelis – and anyone else. Their belief that boycotts, be they culture or sports, will force Israel to change policies they see as racist.
Their latest pet project of hate is trying to encourage a boycott of the sports apparel company, Puma, who sponsor the Israeli soccer/football team.
This has backfired spectacularly. The Team is a microcosm of Israeli society, including Bedouin, Circassian, Muslim and Jewish players and nobody is interested in BDS’s divisive tactics. Needless to say, the boycott failed miserably.
At the same time BDS were whining about boycotts, Brazil and Israel were planning a match to be played in Haifa. The Shalom game, a friendly match between Brazil and Israel was played on the 29th of October, 2019. This was billed as a celebration of “Football, Peace and Fraternity” and featured legends Ronaldinho, Kaka, Rivaldo, Batu, and other major Brazilian team players who have won the World Cup and visited the Jewish State to promote the message of peace and brotherhood. Ronaldinho took to his social media to speak about how happy he was to be in Israel and faced a barrage of hatred. It didn’t bother him at all – the message of brotherhood and peace is greater than hate.
Some have not fared as well.
This lesson was learnt the hard way by Iranian Judoka, Saeid Mollaei who was instructed not only to lose his match with Israeli counterpart, Sagi Muki, but said that even his family were threatened should he face off against his rival. Mollaei was afraid to return home after exposing and criticizing his government’s pressure on him to deliberately lose and avoid a potential bout against an Israeli opponent.
Moallei fled to Berlin after the championships, where he had been hoping to secure a place at the 2020 Olympic Games. He was recently granted asylum.
International Judo Federation has suspended Iran indefinitely for the regimes’ discriminatory treatment of Israel.
Sport has the unique ability to unite and inspire and improve the prospects of tolerance and brotherhood.
It doesn’t matter what kind of sport it is or what level, when unity and tolerance trumps conflict, this is the ultimate championship. Just ask Siya Kolisi.
On November 5, 2019, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling, rejecting the appeal of Human Rights Watch (HRW) “Israel and Palestine Country Director” Omar Shakir. Shakir and his employer asked the courts to overturn a decision of the Israeli Ministry of Interior not to renew Shakir’s work visa due to his BDS activities. The Supreme Court, like the district court, referenced NGO Monitor’s amicus brief.
The judges did not relate to the constitutionality of legislation that denies entry to major BDS activists. (The constitutionality of the law is being challenged in a separate case, Prof. Alon Harel v. the Knesset; a hearing in this case is scheduled for November 11, 2019.)
Nevertheless, the Supreme Court decision makes important contributions to the factual record regarding Shakir’s BDS activism and helps clarify the distinction between BDS and human rights advocacy.
Why HRW Director , Omar Shakir has been expelled?
Like the lower court, the Supreme Court paints a clear picture of Shakir’s BDS activism, from when he founded a pro-BDS student group in 2006 through his present employment at HRW. During this time, he has been a consistent and ardent supporter of BDS (see NGO Monitor’s extensive material submitted in its filings and which was cited in the courts’ decisions). In the words of Justice Yael Wilner (in a short addendum to the main decision), “The statements [made by Omar Shakir and presented] above are definitely calls to boycott entities that operate in Israel and Judea and Samaria, only because of their connection to Israel or an area under its control — each one (statement) individually, all the more so when taken together. It seems to me that there cannot be a substantive argument about this.”
Pro-BDS activists often use the rhetoric of “human rights” and “international law” to justify their discriminatory campaigns, but such rhetoric does not legitimize the boycotts. The Entry into Israel Law, Amendment 28 (2017) applies specifically to boycott calls that are based on a company’s connections to Israel or an area under its control, not to circumstances when the company in question has undertaken problematic activities.
Even though the judges recognize there can be gray areas, Shakir’s activity unquestionably falls within the criteria of the law. Shakir rejects in total the presence of Israeli entities in the West Bank, and his calls for BDS are in opposition to their identity as Israelis, not because of any specific human rights violation.
Contrary to claims from Shakir’s lawyers and Amnesty International (which joined the case in an amicus capacity), denying Shakir’s work visa will not adversely affect human rights NGOs that want to send representatives to Israel to criticize Israel’s policies. This is because Shakir’s involvement in BDS is so egregious.
The Court firmly rejected a key argument from Shakir’s lawyers. They tried to argue that Shakir’s personal BDS activity ended upon his employment at HRW, at which point all his expressions should be attributed to HRW as an organization. Since HRW is not on the Israeli government’s list of “BDS organizations,” Shakir’s activity as an HRW employee should be granted “immunity” from the Entry into Israel Law. In sharp contradiction, the Court determined that he is responsible for his public statements, especially those on his private Twitter account.
Shakir’s BDS is insufficient to trigger a listing of HRW as a “BDS organization” because HRW is a large international NGO with myriad activities having nothing to do with Israel. This is not a reflection on Shakir’s status as a BDS activist or HRW’s anti-Israel advocacy.
Click Here for Resource Page on Omar Shakir (HRW) Court Case:
The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and sanctions) movement sure is noisy. While lacking cerebral substance, they understand the veracity of symbolism and language that is provocative, emotive and emotional. They understand that gratuitous use of the word Apartheid is guaranteed to get an emotional reaction from people.
I use the word gratuitous intentionally because BDS have no respect or understanding of the crime that was Apartheid and the trauma of its victims. To them it is simply evocative, sexy packaging that can be used to market their agenda and make it appealing to the masses who maintain they are concerned about human rights.
If you wrap up hatred and sell it in an emotional package, then surely you must be on the side of good, right?
Wrong. There is a more nefarious agenda at play here and it needs to be exposed again and again.
A wolfish agenda in sheep’s clothing
Why is BDS so hell-bent on the accusation of Apartheid?
The motivation is simple. They want to paint Israel with the same colours as that of Apartheid South Africa in order to undermine Israel’s legitimacy as a State in the hope that global opprobrium will lead to isolation of the Jewish State. In fact, the stated end-goal of BDS is the complete eradication of the Jewish nation state – they have been so bold as to announce this on their website. It’s not going to happen because Israel is not Apartheid South Africa, like BDS advocates want people to believe.
BDS would have you believe that boycotts and sanctions contributed to the downfall of Apartheid in South Africa and that the same kind of well strategized campaign can do the same to change Israeli policies. There are very clear differences – in Apartheid South Africa, the minority white population had dominion over the majority black population and eventually, it was the citizens of the country who spoke out overwhelmingly in a referendum that the time had long passed to do away with this heinous regime.
The situation between Israelis and Palestinians is far more complicated. Rather than a loveless marriage, the parties prefer an amicably divorce in best enjoying their national aspirations. It is extremely presumptuous for South Africans to impose their “one-solution-fits-all” to one of the most complex political conflicts in modern history.
Destruction rather than Construction
Did boycotts and sanctions contribute to the fall of Apartheid?
The idea of boycotts and sanctions was debated in the 1960’s but only really gained traction in the 1980’s. In November 1962, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 1761, a non-binding resolution establishing the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid and called for imposing economic and other sanctions on South Africa. All Western nations were unhappy with the call for sanctions and as a result boycotted the committee.
Fast forward to the 1980’s and the height of the regime and it can be said that while sanctions did effect the economy, the credit for ending Apartheid once and for all was the sterling efforts of Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk who took great – sometimes unpopular risks – to ensure a better future for South Africans based of the democratic principles of equality and justice for all.
In South Africa, nobody ever questioned the country’s right to exist as a nation state which is precisely BDS’s endgame. It says so openly and unashamedly – “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”. This means that Israel is dealing with a malevolent movement that aims – contrary to the democratic principles that played a part in the South African process – to destroy of one of the main players, namely – Israel.
The German Bundestag voted earlier this year to declare BDS and antisemitic movement and Austria is poised to do the same.
Who stands to lose the most?
It is easy for activists on both sides to play armchair politicians but there are lives at stake and for the most part, Palestinians have more to lose. With an Israeli economy that is booming, the impact of boycotts on the lives on Israelis is minimal – mostly psychological.
For Palestinians on the other hand, boycotts are likely to affect their livelihoods.
One such casualty was SodaStream. SodaStream, an Israeli company manufacturing soda company shut its West Bank factory and moved it to southern Israel. This cut hundreds of jobs for Palestinians that reportedly paid between three and five times the local prevailing wage.
SodaStream’s CEO Daniel Birnbaum denied the move was BDS-related, though its profits plunged after BDS activists got involved.
“It has nothing to do with politics; we’re relocating to a modern facility that is three times the size,” Birnbaum told The Independent. “But if it was up to me, I would have stayed. We showed the world Arabs and Jews can work together.”
Soda Stream had the last laugh though when it was bought by Pepsico for $3.2 billion, proving that Israel is a hot investment destination – and even more so when there is possibility to create jobs for Palestinians.
Should the boycott be successful – who are the beneficiaries and who are the losers? The losers invariably are the Palestinians while the beneficiaries are BDS and their ilk who by their actions, demonstrate that they are anti-normalisation between Israel and her Palestinian neighbours – and anti-peace.
Does BDS really care that their strategies may affect the very people they purport to help?
Of course not; nothing must get in the way of destroying Israel.
Palestinian lives are the sacrificial lambs in a BDS campaign that is about demolishing bridges rather than building bridges.
See how esteemed human rights Palestinian activist explains how the BDS movement and their boycott campaigns impacts ordinary Palestinians in this video clip:
If BDS truly cared about the lives of Palestinians, they would champion for a second Singapore or Start-Up Nation like their neighbour Israel, rather than promote murderous and genocidal incitement. They would engage in dialogue, not deception.
Peace will be built from the ground up. It will start with spirited, committed people – individuals and communities, business people and investors. Boycotts create barriers and discourage positive discourse.
While the situation in the Middle East is a challenge, let us promote positive tracks of building and promoting commerce that will create a thriving economy rather than the destructive path of boycotts!
Strange how the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Africa- described at times as “genocide”- elicits no such Southern African Anglican Church angst!
By David E. Kaplan
The highest and most prominent decision-making body of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) voted this past September to join and support the international BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel.
Representing the Anglican Christian communities in southern African countries including South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Angola, the church passed the resolution in Johannesburg during its Provincial Synod, which takes place every three years.
The wording in the motion passed included “the situation in the Holy Land demands the attention of the Christian Church precisely because that is the place where Jesus Christ was born, nurtured, crucified and raised.”
The Holy Land where Jesus was “born, nurtured, crucified and raised” lies located mostly in the Muslim Middle East – the precise region where the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev. Justin Welby expressed in 2018, “Christians Face Imminent Extinction” and not by the hands of Israelis.
Writing at the time in the Telegraph, the Pope revealed that “Christians face daily the threat of violence, murder, intimidation, prejudice and poverty. …..Many have left. Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes. Many have been killed, enslaved and persecuted or forcibly converted. Even those who remain ask the question, ‘Why stay?’”
He concluded with “Across the region, Christian communities that were the foundation of the universal Church now face the threat of imminent extinction.”
Why did the SA Anglican Church focus its “demands” on Israel?
The bias and antisemitism was all too evident with the Anglican church outlining “the differences between the Biblical Israel and the modern State of Israel,” and warning its members “not to conflate the two entities, as well as the ideology of Zionism and Judaism.”
It also described the situation in Israel and Palestine as “… worse than apartheid.”
This proved music to the ears of Hamas – which strives for the destruction of the State of Israel and directs rockets at Israel’s civilian population whenever it sees fit – whose spokesman Basem Naim responded with glee to the Anglican decision as it “encourages us to continue our struggle against the occupation.”
Excepting, Gaza is not occupied other than “occupied” by Hamas who have turned the lives of its residents there into a living nightmare.
Ask the former Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Rami Hamdallah, who narrowly survived a suspected Hamas assassination attempt in 2018 while visiting the Gaza Strip from the West Bank. He hurriedly retreated from the “occupation”, never returned and then resigned as Prime Minister in January 2019.
Report Of ‘Revelations’
As much as Palestinians attempt to hide the reality of persecution of Christians – or blame Israel – it’s difficult to refute the truth and the math.
A sure barometer of dwindling Christians in the region is ‘revealed’ in the very birthplace of Jesus – Bethlehem. Once a predominantly Christian city where Christians formed an 86% majority, today that figure stands at fewer than 10% and dropping.
The situation is even worse in Gaza, where among the thousands of Christians who used to live there, only a few hundred remain under the constant threat of persecution, with serious limitations on Christian ceremonies and holidays, and effectively without human rights.
While the future of Christians living under the PA and in fact the entire Middle East is uncertain – even the Pope fears “Christians will disappear from the Middle East lamenting “a Middle East without Christians would not be the Middle East” – the situation is different in Israel which not only allows but protects the safe life for all religious minorities.
Nightmare In Nigeria
What’s more, as the Southern Africa Anglican Church set its sights northerly at the Holy Land, they could have looked far less north to see what was happening to their fellow Christians in Nigeria.
Note the following outcries in quotes:
“It’s tough to tell Nigerian Christians this isn’t a religious conflict since what they see are Fulani fighters clad entirely in black, chanting ‘Allahu Akbar!’ and screaming ‘Death to Christians”,” reported Sister Monica Chikwe to John. L. Allen Jr., Crux, August 4, 2019.
“Hundreds of indigenous Numan Christians in Adamawa state were attacked and killed by jihadist Fulani herdsmen. When they tried to defend themselves, the Buhari government sent in the Airforce to bomb hundreds of them and protect the Fulani aggressors. Is this fair?!” asks Femi Fani-Kayode, former Minister of Aviation in the Daily Post (Nigeria), December 6, 2017.
“Buhari is openly pursuing an anti-Christian agenda that has resulted in countless murders of Christians all over the nation and destruction of vulnerable Christian communities,” said Bosun Emmanuel, the secretary of the National Christian Elders Forum, 2018.
Between 2011 and 2015, the jihadi group Boko Haram committed ISIS-type of atrocities even before ISIS came into being, terrorized and slaughtered thousands of Christians, mostly those living in the Muslim-majority north. When in 2015, Nigeria’s Muslims finally got what they wanted – a Muslim president in the person of Muhammadu Buhari, taking over from Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, the violence did not subside but got worse. Muslim Fulani herdsmen – the ethnic tribe from which Buhari hails – joined and even surpassed Boko Haram in their slaughter of Christians.
Reports reveal that between June 2017 and June 2018 alone, Muslim Fulani slaughtered approximately 9,000 Christians and destroyed at least a thousand churches. (It took three times longer for the Fulani to kill a fraction [1,484] of Christians under Jonathan’s presidency.) In just the first six months of this year, 52 lethal terror attacks targeting Christian villages occurred. “Nearly every single day, I wake up with text messages from partners in Nigeria, such as this morning: ‘Herdsmen stab 49-year-old farmer to death in Ogan,” human rights lawyer Ann Buwalda said in July.
License To Kill
In short, it appears that its hunting season in Nigeria with Christians as the prey. And by all accounts, it appears the hunters have a “license”!
Continuing, says former Minister of Aviation Femi Fani-Kayode, “The Muslim president Buhari has only awarded the murderers with impunity rather than justice and has staffed his government with Islamic officials, while doing essentially nothing to give the nation’s Christians, who make up half the population, due representation.”
While Christians were once the majority of Nigeria’s population, “the ongoing genocide against them” has caused their population to drop to a level that Christianity in Nigeria is, according to the National Christian Elders Forum, “on the brink of extinction”.
How come the pious delegates in Johannesburg for the Anglican Church’s Provincial Synod in September spewed their wrath at Israel but failed to show concern closer to home for their fellow Christians in Nigeria?
Then again look what transpired in South Africa during September, the same month the Anglican Synod met and deliberated. In a spate of xenophobic attacks, mobs attacked foreign-owned businesses in cities across the country. Although no Nigerians were killed in the violence, Nigerian-owned shops and businesses were targeted resulting in Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari travelling to South Africa, to resolve the issue of the welfare of his citizens. Nigeria repatriated around 600 of its citizens living in South Africa.
Of all the issues on the Anglican Churches agenda, the only one that it made “demands” of and will be well remembered as it made international news was its resolution in support of BDS to boycott Israel.
Maligned, misunderstood, and derided, provocative, emotive and polarizing. Often condemned, just the mention of the word Zionism is enough to raise the blood pressure of many. This often results in both pro and anti-Israel activists engaging in a battle of words. Frighteningly, this battlefield has expanded way beyond the Social Network to university campuses and other congregating venues where Jews identifying as Zionist are at physical risk.
So, what is Zionism exactly and why is it such a hot-button issue?
Simply put, Zionism is the National Liberation Movement of the Jewish people. It is a guarantee of the rights of the Jewish people to organize themselves politically and assign it a name that hearkens back to ancient roots and love for Zion.
Zion is synonymous with city of God; the place that God loves – Jerusalem. ‘Mount Zion’ – on the southeast side of the Old City – is the high hill on which King David built a citadel. The word Zion occurs over 150 times in the Bible and essentially means “fortification” and has the idea of being “raised” as a “monument”.
Zion is described both as the City of David and the City of God.
The word Zion is embedded into Jewish religion and culture as it is embedded into the rock and masonry of Israel’s capital – Jerusalem.
The great American civil rights leader, Rev Dr Martin Luther King is rumoured to have described Zionism as “nothing more that the yearning of the Jewish people to return to their ancient homeland”.
After thousands of years of being made aware that we are unwelcome in many countries, Jews have returned en masse to our ancient and ancestral homeland. The word Zion refers to those biblical ties since time immemorial. It is proof that Jews have “indigenous people’s rights to the land” and in case anybody has doubt, there is antiquity being discovered every day that supports this.
Israel’s detractors are quick to point out that Nelson Mandela, the father of democratic South Africa and the icon of the anti-Apartheid struggle’s support of Palestinians. What they neglect to conveniently mention is Madiba’s support for the Jewish people’s right to self-determination – Zionism.
Mandela has been quoted as saying
“As a movement, we recognize the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism just as we recognize the legitimacy of Zionism as a Jewish nationalism,” he said in 1993. “We insist on the right of the State of Israel to exist within secure borders, but with equal vigor support the Palestinian right to national self-determination.”
There has been much debate, discussion and social media brouhaha over who is or what defines a Zionist. Zionism is not restricted to Jews, but many Christians, Druze and yes, even Muslims consider themselves Zionists. Supporting Jewish rights to self-determination in no way makes one anti-Palestinian. Sadly, so much misunderstanding about what constitutes Zionism has resulted in alienating people who have an emotional attachment to Israel. Too many would prefer that Zionism be relegated onto the pile of other unwanted “isms”.
Many thought that with the realisation of the modern state of Israel, anti-Semitism would disappear but instead it has reared its head in a new form – anti-Zionism.
The world has emerged a hostile place for Zionists.
Ask the students on campus who are bullied and sometimes physically threatened for their political beliefs. Or the store owners in Europe who find their shops ransacked for carrying Israeli products. Or the travelers turned away from accommodation for being Israeli. The rise of the alt-right in the USA with their Nazi salutes and propensity for spray painting swastikas or the neo Nazis, the UK Labor party with its ongoing accusations of institutionalized antisemitism and BDS supporters in Europe, South America and South Africa has many Jews feeling afraid and isolated.
The argument “I am not an anti-Semite, I just don’t like Zionists” is spurious.
Even the French President, Emmanuel Macron says anti-Zionism is “a new type of antiSemitism.” He told the Israeli Prime Minister when speaking in Paris at an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Vel D’Hiv round-up, in which 13,152 French Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps that France will “not surrender” to anti-Israel rhetoric.
There are an estimated 50 Muslim countries in the world, and an estimated 30 countries that define themselves as Christian. There is only one Jewish state and yet, so many have an issue with its very existence?
Saying that the Jews have no right to organize themselves politically and call it Zionism is in fact, racism.
Is it politically correct to criticize Israel?
Criticising the government and its policies is the national sport of Israel.
Is Israel perfect? No. And it is perfectly okay and healthy to say so. However, saying that Jews have no right to national self-determination or that Israel has no right to exist is racist and anti-Semitic.
I believe part of being a Zionist is being able to criticize and improve. I believe that Zionism means that you want to see an exemplary Israel – a light unto the nations. An Israel that is tolerant and welcoming and grateful for all who support her. This is dignified, this is keeping with the tenets of our founders who envisioned this. There is room in the Zionist tent for everyone – Jew, Christian, Muslim, as well as from left to right across the political spectrum.
These values are enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence:
“The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
I invite anyone who is somewhat skeptical or perhaps undecided about their views on Zionism to ask themselves how different it is to their national aspirations. Perhaps this will lead to a lot more understanding, a lot less maligning and hopefully an end to the rising violence that so many supporters of Israel are currently enduring.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the distinct privilege of attending a rehearsal by a fantastic organization called Ukuleles for Peace. The brainchild of Briton, Paul Moore, who realized that something positive had to come out of the chaos of the second Intifada, this outfit endeavours to bring together Jewish and Muslim youth in Israel to find common ground by creating beautiful music together. The instrument of choice? Ukuleles.
Now one would think that the idea of 12 youth from various backgrounds creating harmony while strumming their ukuleles would melt the most cynical of hearts. It did for some – but not others. The 12 unsuspecting students and their stringed accoutrement unwittingly unleashed chaos on social media.
There were a few who took great exception to this story and unleashed a tirade of accusations – accusing those of supporting this project of being “naïve” and of “not taking into account the threats posed by Iran or Hamas” and that we needed “to go back to lalaland with our ukuleles”.
This was quite a strong reaction and it made me wonder what triggered this kind of negative response. Was it the idea of youth from two different communities coming together? Was it that someone not Israeli had identified an opportunity and come up with a solution how to transcend the chaos and conflict and create something positive? Was it the ukuleles?
Whatever it was, it triggered a very aggressive reaction – and an all-out social media war. Many who support this initiative felt compelled to jump in and defend the other position and it got me thinking, we are all working on the same side so why is there such mutual aggression?
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have become the mediums of choice for anyone wishing to share an opinion.
These social media platforms, while being very positive and useful mediums for sharing your message also has a dark side. These platforms have also provided a space for many who think that they are “experts” or at the very least keyboard generals. In the war against racism, discrimination and antisemitism, social media is fast becoming the biggest battlefield.
As the mega-superstar, Lady Gaga, once said social media is the toilet of the internet.
Nothing is off limits – body shaming, parenting shaming, political viewpoint shaming is all the rage and if anyone can find something about you to insult, you bet your bottom dollar that they will.
And if you are a Zionist –whoo boy, it is open season for attack!!!
It is important to engage and be engaged BUT the how we do it is so important. At a time when antisemitism is rising around the world and many of us feel vulnerable; afraid and attacked (especially by trolls who hide behind the anonymity of a keyboard) is the right response to be as aggressive and abusive?
I am of the opinion that it is not. It is one thing to stand strong and unwavering in your identity – it is another to abuse someone else for a divergent opinion. Make a point emphatically but don’t personally attack people. In other words, play the ball not the player – that way you don’t come across as aggressive – and keep your credibility.
The way that we make our arguments in a public sphere has tremendous impact on our community – and Israel. We forget that the words we say have power. Aggression only serves to harm an empathy and open-mindedness that many have for hearing our point of view.
Have we lost our ability to have intelligent, nuanced conversation?
The whole point of social media is to create community and it is a great medium for connecting Israel to our diverse diaspora communities and is a great opportunity to engage on issues which can be very emotive. This can be done without baying for blood or verbally abusing someone with a different opinion. It only harms us.
Sometimes it is hard to keep a level head – the world seems so polarized, divided between left and right, pro and anti and often nuance and context are the first casualties. Antisemitism is rising; it makes us angry and rightly so.
I believe we need to show up. Show up for the conversation, no matter how difficult it may be. I sincerely believe that very time we engage, like or share on social media, send an email, we stand on the shoulders of the generations that came before us who had no voice and we speak for them. It is a moral imperative to talk, to engage with others, to take advantage of the uncomfortable questions not just as an opportunity to present Israel’s side of the argument but to truly listen to the concerns of others. Instead of shutting down, let’s learn how to answer effectively, factually and with maturity.
We can go on the offensive and fight fact with fact but it is not about who screams the loudest. It is about fighting the injustice of hatred and also making sure that Israel’s narrative is presented in a way that does not bring harm to the image of the country her civilians and our diaspora communities. It is a hideous side effect that every time there is a conflagration or issue in Israel, those who hate take their tempers out on our diaspora communities.
We also need to celebrate the small victories. In a region where terrorism and incitement are all too often the norm, small occasions that bring together people from different backgrounds are cause for celebration – not condemnation.
Perhaps we should take the oath that doctors take before we react emotionally on social media. Our words have consequences. Perhaps it is time to take the oath first do no harm.
As an alumnus of the university, I received the latest Alumni News that contained a most informative article on pages 38 & 39 titled:
“The Development of Academic Freedom at UCT. Where does Flemming Rose Fit In?”
The article not only analyses and explains the function of the annual T.B. Davie Memorial Lecture but also goes to great lengths in extolling its centricity in the promotion of the core values that constitute the bedrock of UCT. The lecture “is meant as a platform for critically analyzing academic freedom”.
These cherished values led to the dis-invitation of Flemming Rose, the Danish journalist from giving the 2016 T.B. Davie lecture after his newspaper had published cartoons of the prophet Muhammed eleven years previously. The then V.C., Dr. Price on behalf of the university’s management outlined three main reasons for this decision:
….”the risk that Rose’s lecture would provoke conflict on campus, the security risks of presenting the lecture,” and last but not least the disingenuous argument “that in the 2016 climate,” the lecture “might retard rather than advance academic freedom on campus.”
In the aftermath of this decision, the university, in September of the same year, convened a debate with a representative panel of its professors presenting their views to underline and strengthen UCT’s academic credo.
To quote Prof. Sandra Klopper: “Respect and tolerance for cultural, religious, political and other differences and acknowledgement of the values of diversity in society were part of the UCT statement of values.” She goes on to qualify: “Espousing an idea that is intolerant that causes harm through the advocacy of views that are demonstrably offensive, is in my view, not consistent with the idea of academic freedom.”
Prof. Imraam Coovadia, a member of the university’s panel in justifying the decision, voiced his opinion that ….”this is not a speaker who’s going to enlighten us intellectually” as well as his fear of resultant campus mob violence, assaulting of office bearers and wanton property destruction – well founded in the wake of the wholesale rioting, burning of churches and murdering of innocent Christians by Moslem mobs after the publishing of the cartoons! Assoc. Prof. Adam Haupt, another panel member: “We’re arguing about someone we already know is racist and is a provocateur in the worst possible way…”
Nevertheless, in spite of its trumpeted statement of values, the university decided to invite Dr. Steven Salaita who gave the 2019 T.B. Davie Memorial Lecture on the 7th August.
Dr. Salaita is a 3rd rate academic who on account of his views has been discredited and declared persona non grata by the American academia. His work is dominated by a singular obsession with and virulent hatred of Israel. He has an enmity and hostility towards anyone who disagrees with him and freely and publicly insults and abuses those who dare to think otherwise.
Here are some of his tweets:
“You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing.”
“Let’s cut to the chase: If you’re defending #Israel right now you’re an awful human being.”
“This is not a conflict between Israel and Hamas. It’s a struggle by an indigenous people against colonial power.”
“The logic of ‘antisemitism’ deployed by Zionists, if applied in principle, would make pretty much everybody not a sociopath ‘antisemitic’.
“If it’s ‘antisemitic’ to deplore colonisation, land theft, and child murder, then what choice does any person of conscience have?”
“Zionists: transforming antisemitism from something horrible into something honourable since 1948.”
“I repeat: if you’re defending Israel right now, then ‘hopelessly brainwashed’ is your best prognosis.”
“At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised?”
In addition to his filthy gutter mouth – unbecoming for any self-respecting person, let alone an academic – he resorts to the classic anti-Semitic tropes of demonization that would do Julius Streicher proud! His tweets bear eloquent testimony to his obsession – no need for elucidation!
In keeping with his bias, his doctoral thesis tried to prove the pathetically ridiculous fallacy that Zionism was inspired by and has links to the colonization of North America and therefore is a colonial racist entity committing cultural and racial genocide. His work is riddled with bias and multiple unsubstantiated falsehoods as are the books that he has written.
In all fairness to him, I read the transcript of his address and bravely ploughed through a convoluted, obtuse text riddled with both sniveling self-pity and spewing venom, the majority of which is devoted to axe-grinding, settling scores with his opponents and resorting to the well-worn trope that there was a Zionist (read: Jewish) conspiracy behind his being evicted from American academia.
Then, oozing cheap sentimentality, in an obvious attempt to garner sympathy, there is a long, totally irrelevant and maudlin digression about his son’s baseball game with a reminder of his paternal love and concern. In a first for this long history of lectures, he promotes the brand of sports drink that his son buys. Does Salaita get royalties from the manufacturer?
In my student days, I attended the T.B. Davie Memorial lectures and heard many distinguished speakers on academic freedom, but never have I read such an amalgam of unadulterated drivel, pseudo academic bilge and unabashed anti-Semitism.
Is this the dignified and respected academic that UCT sees fit to invite to deliver a prestigious annual lecture?
Is this the lecturer that the council has deemed fit to follow in the footsteps of such distinguished personages such as Bobby Kennedy and Barack Obama?
Is this person with his foul mouth, his hatred and anti-Semitism, his complete intolerance of any views that do not correspond to his own, with his antiSemitic tropes such as the demonization of Israel’s prime minister, spouting the usual well-worn clichés suitable to address the convocation?
Is this not a person who conforms to being “….someone we already know is racist and is a provocateur in the worst possible way…”
Is this a person who embodies and promotes: “Respect and tolerance for cultural, religious, political and other differences and acknowledgement of the values of diversity in society were part of the UCT statement of values”?
Is this the person with behaviour and views so antithetical to the declared academic ideals of UCT that the university accords honor?
The university, understandably, does not wish to offend the sensibilities and beliefs of its Moslem students. However, when it comes to its Jewish students, all these lofty principles fly out of the window and Israel bashing and anti – Semitic statements become the order of the day. It pains me to say that the actions of this institution carry the rank stench of hypocrisy.
Has my alma mater sunk so low as to dredge the dregs of academia? Or, is it simply because they found someone suitable to echo their own beliefs?
Dear Professor Phakeng, I am appalled and disgusted by the actions of UCT. I am ashamed to say that I am a graduate of this once proud university.
Ramat Hasharon. Israel
About the writer:
Stephen Schulman is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist youth movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. He was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance
It is difficult not to savour the irony of two United States congresswomen who advocate boycotts of Israel crying foul at being denied entry into the very country they seek to erase.
Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, two members of the Democratic Party’s “Squad” of neophyte congresswomen from the Party’s radical left faction, have made their names by seeking to collapse decades of bipartisan support for Israel in US politics and using America’s democratic ally in the Middle-East as a wedge issue to divide their Party.
Omar, who courted Jewish support during her election campaign by declaring her opposition to organised boycotts of Israel, before promptly embracing them upon her election, has brandished virtually every antisemitic slur imaginable in her brief political career. She accused Israel of “hypnotizing the world” and called on “Allah to awaken the people” to Israel’s evil.
She accused American Jews who support the Israel alliance of dual loyalties.
She accused American Jews of buying political influence.
And she has declared her support for boycotts, divestment and sanctions of Israel artists, academics, and businesses, a campaign which in the words of its framers seeks the “complete and total isolation of Israel”, and the end of a Jewish state within any borders whatsoever.
Her congressional colleague Rashida Tlaib, openly supports a “one-state solution” to the conflict by which the solitary Jewish state is replaced by what would be the 22nd majority Arab state, and has recently taken to falsifying history, claiming that good-hearted, kindly Arab Palestinians opened their homes to Jewish interlopers fleeing the Holocaust. In fact, the majority of Israelis are from the Middle East and have no historical connection to Europe. More so, the Palestinian leadership sought at every turn, through violence and political maneuvering, to block entry into the land by fleeing European Jews. Their leader, Haj Amin-Al Husseini was a key Nazi collaborator and recruited Muslims to the Nazi killing squads and called on them to “kill Jews wherever you find them; this pleases God, history and religion.”
To be sure, the decision to bar entry into Israel to Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib is a fraught one which will have immense political implications for Israel. For decades, the imperative of American Jewish leaders has been to ensure that support for Israel transcends party politics. While some US Presidents and Congresses have been more sympathetic to Israel than others, baseline support for the peace and security of Israel has been remarkably resilient, even as politics has become more bitter and divided. But the decision of the Israeli Government, which (although now said to be unconnected) followed a Twitter statement from Donald Trump that “it would show great weakness if Israel allowed” the congresswomen entry, will only serve to rally the Democratic Party around the anti-Israel congresswomen and position them as the popular symbols of opposition to Donald Trump.
Just last month, despite intense lobbying by Omar and Tlaib, the US Congress adopted a resolution by a whopping 398-17 that rejected the anti-Israel boycott campaign, affirmed the two-state solution and calling for increased military aid to Israel.
But seeking to travel to Israel was a clever gambit by the congresswomen, who have carved out a unique ability to at once advance their agenda by using their power as influential public figures, while decrying the “privilege” of opposing political forces that supposedly keeps them in subservience.
A leaked itinerary for the congresswomen confirmed that they weren’t scheduled to meet with any mainstream Jewish groups or political figures and were being chaperoned by the NGO Miftah, which has accused Jews of using the blood of Christian children for Passover rituals and regularly praises Palestinians who kill Israeli civilians as “martyrs”.
If Israel allowed them entry, the congresswomen would have without question used the opportunity to advance their aim of turning public and political opinion against Israel by embarking on a carefully choreographed and live tweeted escapade showcasing the noble Palestinian struggle against the insatiable blood-lust of Jewish Israelis.
But by refusing entry, Israel inevitably opens itself up to criticism of being, at best, glass-jawed, and at worst, non-democratic. The former is a judgement call, but the latter is a spurious claim, given that countries routinely bar entry on character grounds, even to elected politicians of friendly countries (Dutch MP Geert Wilders was initially denied entry to Britain in 2009). Only in the case of Israel does this lead to the country’s democratic character being called into question.
The claim appears more dubious still when it is advanced by those who support the Palestinian national movement, the leadership of which is split between the wholly corrupt Fatah, whose President Mahmoud Abbas is currently luxuriating in the fourteenth year of a four-year term, and the Islamist Hamas, which regularly takes to tethering political opponents, suspected homosexuals and trade unionists to the backs of motorcycles and dragging them through the streets of Gaza.
The long-term implications of the Israeli Government’s decision on public opinion in the United States and Democratic Party support remains to be seen, though the alliance has spanned seven decades and has withstood far greater challenges than this. But with both a pro-Israel US President and the anti-Israel congresswomen cynically using the Jewish State in their campaigns to divide and conquer, it is difficult to envisage a scenario in which this latest skirmish ends well for Israel and those who support it.
Alexander (Alex) Ryvchin is an Australian writer, advocate, commentator, and lawyer. A former spokesman for the Zionist Federation UK, Ryvchin’s writings on the Arab-Israeli conflict and Jewish history have been published in numerous international newspapers including The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian, The National Post and The Jerusalem Post. Ryvchin is a regular columnist for The Spectator.
Freshman Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) recently revealed her true feelings about Israel. During the radio interview on the 30 July on the “Ebro in the Morning” show based in New York, AOC concurred wholeheartedly with the program’s host that:
“…what’s going on with Israel and Palestine…is very, very, criminal, and it is very, very unjust.”
A few days following this interview where AOC added that Palestinians “have no choice” but to “RIOT” because they are “marginalized” by Israel, an 18-year-old yeshiva student and off-duty IDF soldier named Dvir Sorek was found stabbed to death near Kibbutz Migdal Oz in the West Bank. Sorek was neither armed nor in uniform when his body was found. Sorek was studying at a seminary as part of a program combining Torah studies and military service. He was last seen leaving Migdal Oz to buy books for his teachers.
While it’s highly unlikely that AOC has ever heard of Dvir Sorek, her words, coming as they do from an American Congresswoman carry extra weight and the danger of lending credence to the idea that attacking unarmed Israelis out of a feeling of being “marginalized” isn’t only understandable but justified.
“Once someone doesn’t have access to clean water, they have no choice but to riot, right?” Ocasio-Cortez rhetorically asked during the morning radio show.
By selectively overlooking horrific crimes if they’re perpetrated in the name of a fashionable cause, AOC is shaping up to be a 2019 version of the “useful idiot”, a term attributed to Vladimir Lenin, but crept into the political jargon of describing someone propagandizing for a cause without fully comprehending the cause’s goals.
Meanwhile, the reaction of pro-Israel advocacy groups to Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks was swift and ineffective. Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, stated that AOC’s comments come, “…from an intolerance of Jews and Israel that is unacceptable in the halls of Congress and in American political discourse.” Countering the outrageous statements of those who view Israel as uniquely wicked with statements expressing outrage at those statements does little if anything to make the moral case for Israel.
The way to defeat the Palestinian victimhood narrative that justifies terrorist attacks against Jews is for the Israeli government and its friends around the world to advocate for a more robust counter-terrorism policy. Once the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank is made to understand that its very survival depends on making compromises with Israel, a practical prospect for peace will become much more likely.
But for too long successive Israeli governments have bowed to international pressure to fight terrorism in a restrained, predictable manner. In the halls of the US Congress many of Israel’s harshest critics and even some of its erstwhile supporters repeatedly push Israel to fight the enemies at its gate in a proportional manner. While Israel should be able to respond immediately, so goes the conventional wisdom, it must only use enough force to reinstate the status quo.
Such a doctrine only codifies the perpetuation of hostilities between Israel and the terrorist groups at its borders. Indeed, proportionality has greatly weakened Israel’s deterrence capability against terrorism, according to former IDF Chief of Staff and leader of the Blue and White Party Benny Gantz.
More broadly, friends of Israel who acquiesce to the country being held to such an unrealistic standard of conduct are also doing a great disservice to the many people around the world who are subjected to far greater crimes against humanity. In her radio interview AOC mentioned these communities: “…I’m talking about Latin America. I’m talking about all over the world.” But by lumping a democratic state like Israel in with some of the world’s worst human rights violators, the freshman Congresswoman is effectively providing cover for repressive regimes to perpetrate gross human rights violations with impunity.
A “useful idiot” indeed.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her fellow travelers have effectively wrapped the Palestinian narrative in the mantel of justice. To reclaim the moral high ground, Israel and its supporters should focus less on the proportionality of the Israel Defense Forces’ conduct and more on the rightness of the Jewish state’s cause. War is always a terrible last resort, yet it’s sometimes the only way to keep free countries free. As Thomas Jefferson said: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
In case AOC lost track: Young Dvir Sorek was a patriot.
Those who ended his life were tyrants.
Gidon Ben-Zvi is an accomplished writer whose work has appeared in The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, the Algemeiner, American Thinker, the Jewish Journal, Israel Hayom, and United with Israel. Ben-Zvi blogs at Jerusalem State of Mind (jsmstateofmind.com).
A former Californian, the writer lives with his wife and four children in Israel.
*Title Picture: Dvir Sorek, 19, a yeshiva student and off-duty IDF soldier who was found stabbed to death outside a West Bank settlement on August 8, 2019 (Courtesy)