The Story Seldom Told

By  Rolene Marks

This week, two momentous dates in history were remembered. Not with much fanfare but with the odd tweet or posting on social media platforms; but these were dates and events that altered the course of history and the profound effects are felt to this day. The first was the partition vote at the United Nations in 1947 that would pave the way for the creation of the Jewish State, the other was the commemoration of the expulsion of Jews from Middle Eastern and North African countries.

On the 29th of November 1947, the United Nations voted to divide what was then British Mandate Palestine into two – land for the Jews and for the Arabs. The Jews accepted, and the modern state of Israel was on its way to being born. The Arabs refused and would soon declare war on the fledgling Jewish State. The State of Israel would be formally declared by David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister, on the 14th of May 1948. The Arab response would take place on the night of 14-15 May, when the forces of Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon invaded. The Egyptian Foreign Minister informed the United Nations Security Council that “Egyptian armed forces have started to enter Palestine to establish law and order” (his cable to the Security Council, S/743, 15 May 1948). Arab leaders at the time encouraged their citizens to leave until they had “driven the Jews into the sea”.  Israel would mobilise as many of its able citizens as possible and the Haganah and Palmach (part of Haganah) forces would combine to form the Israel Defense Forces. By the end of the war, Israel was victorious and had made significant territorial gains. Many of the Arab citizens declined to return, despite the invitation by Ben Gurion in the Declaration of Independence to be equal citizens and help build the new state.

2014

What is a seldom discussed story (at least until recent years) has been the experience of Jews living in MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) countries during this time. For centuries and even millennia in some, Jews thrived in these countries. At the time of the Muslim conquests of the 7th century, ancient Jewish communities had existed in many parts of the Middle East and North Africa. Jews under Islamic rule were given the status of dhimmi (second-class citizenship), often subjected to a special dhimmi tax, along with certain other pre-Islamic religious groups. These groups were accorded certain rights as “People of the Book”. In medieval times, many Jews found refuge in Muslim lands; but there were other times when Jews fled persecution in Muslim lands and found refuge in Christian lands. Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula were invited to settle in various parts of the Ottoman Empire, where they would often form a prosperous model minority of merchants acting as intermediaries for their Muslim rulers.

Jews would live there for centuries, speaking the same language and observing many of the same customs and integrating well with their fellow citizens. This would change dramatically in 1948.

By 1948 Jewish communities in MENA countries, were flourishing in their numbers. In Morocco the community numbered 265 000, Iran 100 000, Algeria 140 000, Egypt 75 000 and in substantial numbers in other countries.

With the birth of the State of Israel, the reaction from the Arab world was hostile. Some Jews started to leave these countries but were forced to leave their belongings behind; for the majority, their fate was more terrifying.  Here are some accounts of what happened to these communities:

Iraq:

In Iraq, where a large community of Jews lived for 2,600 years, violent riots known as the Farhud erupted in June 1941. These riots targeted the Jewish population, mainly in Baghdad.  Soldiers who attempted a failed coup took advantage of the power vacuum left by a lack of leadership; and swarmed into Jewish communities together with a bloodthirsty mob, killing 179 innocent people, injuring more than 2,100, and leaving 242 children orphans. This act of violence was celebrated across the Arab world and in Nazi Germany.

Death to Jews. On 1 June 1941, a Nazi-inspired pogrom erupted in Baghdad, bringing to an end more than two millennia of peaceful existence for the city’s Jewish minority.

In 1948, as a response to UNGA Resolution 181 (“the Partition Plan”) and Israel’s independence, laws were passed making Zionism a criminal and even a capital offense, allowing the police to raid and search thousands of Jewish homes for any evidence of Zionism. Between May 1950 and August 1951, the Jewish Agency and the Israeli government succeeded in airlifting approximately 110,000 Jews to Israel in Operations Ezra and Nehemiah. At the same time, 20,000 Jews were smuggled out of Iraq through Iran. A year later, the property of Jews who emigrated from Iraq was frozen, and economic restrictions were placed on Jews who remained in the country.

Morocco

Prior to World War II, the Jewish population of Morocco was approximately 265,000, and though they were not deported by the Nazis, they still suffered great humiliation under the Vichy French government. Following the war, the situation deteriorated.

In June 1948, bloody riots in Oujda and Djerada killed 44 Jews and wounded many more. That same year, an unofficial economic boycott was instigated and by 1959, Zionist activities were declared illegal. In 1963, at least 100,000 Moroccan Jews were forced out from their homes and approximately  150,000 Jews sought refuge in Israel, France and the Americas.

Last Man Standing. Most the Jews in Morocco today are dead and buried. In this 2018 photograph, Joseph Sebag is the last Jewish man in the seaside Moroccan town of Essaouira.

In 1965, Moroccan writer Said Ghallab described the attitude of Moroccan Muslims toward their Jewish neighbours:

The worst insult that a Moroccan could possibly offer was to treat someone as a Jew. The massacres of the Jews by Hitler are exalted ecstatically. It is even credited that Hitler is not dead, but alive and well, and his arrival is awaited to deliver the Arabs from Israel.”

Egypt

In the 1940s, hostility against the Egyptian Jewish community, which numbered around 80,000, increased. Laws were passed limiting the employment of Egyptians of Jewish descent, as well as requiring majority shareholders of companies to be Egyptian nationals. Since Jews were denied citizenship as a rule, many Jews lost their jobs and businesses.

During the 1948 War of Independence, thousands of Egyptian Jews were put into internment camps, forced out of their jobs, and arrested for supposed collaboration with an enemy state. Synagogues, homes, and businesses were bombed, and many Jews were killed and wounded. More than 14,000 Jews immigrated to Israel during this time seeking safety. Between 1948 and 1958, more than 35,000 Jews fled Egypt. 

End of an Era. Jews forced to leave, a former Jewish school, Abbasyia, Cairo.

Between 1956 and 1968 another 38,000 Jews fled Egypt, many to Israel, to escape systematic persecution such as government expropriation of their homes and businesses and arbitrary arrests.

Yemen

The Yemeni Jews endured some of the worst persecution. At the end of November 1947, the Arab population of Aden held a 3-day strike in protest against UNGA Resolution 181 (the Partition Plan). The protest quickly turned violent. Over 80 Yemeni Jews were slaughtered, more than 100 Jewish-owned businesses were looted, and homes, schools, and synagogues were burnt to the ground. This was one of the most violent attacks on any Jewish population in the Arab world.

Fleeing for their Lives. A Yemenite family walking through the desert to a reception rescue camp near Aden.

The Israeli government embarked on a unique plan to save the persecuted Yemeni Jews. From 1949 to 1950, “Operation Magic Carpet” (known in Hebrew as “On the Wings of Eagles”) went into effect. US and British aircraft were used, flying o Aden and airlifting the Jews from Yemen and bringing them to Israel. By the end of the operation, over 47,000 Yemeni Jews were rescued.

 Libya

 Jews lived and thrived in Libya for more than 2,300 years, with a population of over 37,000. During World War II, the Libyan government implemented their own Nazi-inspired policies; and more than  2,000 Jews were transported to desert concentration camps where hundreds died. In post-war Libya, Arab nationalism grew in popularity, resulting in violent attacks against the Jewish community.

Thriving Jewish Life. City Jews of Tripoli, Libya, 1925. (Photo by G. Casserly/Royal Geographical Society via Getty Images)

In 1945, in the city of Tripoli, more than 140 Jews were killed in a violent antisemitic riot, and a few years later in 1948, violent attacks resulted in 12 dead and the destruction of over 280 Jewish homes. In the three years between 1948 and 1951, 30,972 Jews fled to Israel due to hostile government policies.

Inside Story. Interior of a former Jewish Home in Libya. Jews had lived in Libya for over two millennia.

Syria

By 1943, the Jewish community of Syria numbered approximately 30,000.  After Syrian independence from France, the new Arab government prohibited Jewish immigration to Palestine, severely restricted the teaching of Hebrew in Jewish schools and called for boycotts against Jewish businesses. Attacks against Jews escalated with no intervention. In 1945, in an attempt to thwart international efforts to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine, the Syrian government fully restricted Jewish emigration, burned, looted and confiscated Jewish property, and froze Jewish bank accounts.

When the UN partition was declared in 1947, Arab mobs in Aleppo devastated the 2,500-year-old Jewish community and left it in ruins. Many Jews were killed, and more than 200 homes, shops and synagogues were destroyed. Thousands of Jews illegally fled as refugees, 10,000 going to the United States and 5,000 to Israel. Their remaining property was taken by the local Muslims.

Road from Damascus. A Jewish family in Aleppo, Syria, circa 1910.(Library of Congress)

Syrian Jews that remained were in effect hostages of a hostile regime as the government intensified its persecution. Jews were stripped of their citizenship and experienced employment discrimination. Assets were frozen and property confiscated. The community lived under constant surveillance by the secret police and the freedom of movement was also severely restricted. Any Jew who attempted to flee faced either the death penalty or imprisonment at hard labour camps. Jews could not acquire telephones or driver’s licenses and were barred from buying property.  The road to the airport was constructed over the Jewish cemetery in Damascus and schools were closed and handed over to Muslims.

The story of the Jews from MENA countries is a very important part of modern history that has gained traction in recent years. Concerted efforts have been made by the government to remember and commemorate this and the 30th of November has been declared an official day of commemoration of Jewish Refugees.

Today, the majority of Israelis are descendants from those who had to flee MENA countries with an estimated 1 million who can trace their roots back to Morocco.  It is incumbent on us to bear witness and tell their stories.

Theirs cannot be the story seldom told.




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

The Oscar Winner and Plungė

Recent passing in the UK of celebrated Academy award-winning scriptwriter brings back memories of his Lithuanian roots

By Danutė Serapinienė

First appeared in the local Lithuanian newspaper and translated into English with the help of the writer‘s  daughter, Rita Williams.

On September 8th 2020, at the age of 85, the South African-born British author, playwright, and screenwriter, Sir Ronald Harwood passed away. Best known for his plays for the British stage as well as the screenplays for The Dresser and The Pianist, for which he won the 2003 Acadamy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, Harwood‘s roots trace back to Plungė (in Yiddish Plungyan).

Cape Town born, Sir. Ronald Harwood in his study in London.

The writer‘s  father was born and spent his childhood in our city and this year marks the 15th anniversary of this celebrated writer‘s first and last visit to his father’s homeland.

Two classmates from Cape Town

Ronald Harwoods father was Isaac Horwitz. As a teenager, in 1902 he arrived in Cape Town in South Africa, and in 1934, his son Ronald was born. The boy found himself in the same class throughout his schooing at Sea Point Boys School as Abel Levitt, whose father was also from Plungė, but the two were unaware of this at the time. After matriculating, the friends parted ways.

In 1951, Ronald moved from Cape Town to London  to pursue a career in the theatre, and following an English master telling him his surname was too foreign and too Jewish for a stage actor, he changed it from Horwitz to Harwood.

In 1959, he married Natasha Riehle (1938-2013), the granddaughter of a 7th generation descendant of the Russian Empress, Catherine the Great and had three children – Anthony, Deborah, and Alexander.

From 1993 to 1997, Harwood was president of the International Club of PEN (Poets, Essays, Novelists),  and from 2001 to 2004, he served as president of the Royal Literary Society. The creative legacy of this writer would span 24 stage plays, 20 screenplays, 33 books and publications. Nominated 32 times for various awards, Harwood won eight, his most presigious being the Oscar for The Pianist, which revealed his strong interest in the Nazi period, especially the situation of people who either chose to collaborate with the Nazis or who faced strong pressure to do so and consequently had to work out their own personal combination of resistance, deception and compromise.

Sir Ronald poses with his Best Adapted Screenplay award for “The Pianist” during the 75th Annual Academy Awards in 2003 (Credit: Getty)

His schoolfriend Abel settled in Israel. Together with his wife Glenda, they pursued a path of honouring the memory of Abel‘s relatives and other Jews of Plungė killed during the Holocaust in Kaušėnai, and helped to establish the Tolerance Education Center at the Saulė Gymnasium. For their outstanding efforts in preserving Jewish history and culture in the Plungė district, Abel and Glenda Levitt were awarded in 2014 our Municipaliy‘s Badge of Honor. This was followed in 2019, when the Lithuanian Embassy in Israel awarded the Levitts‘ the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs badge of honor, the “Star of Lithuanian Diplomacy” for fostering relations between the Republic of Lithuania and the State of Israel and perpetuating historical memory.

Relations between the two classmates were resumed when Abel read Harwood’s novel “Home” and learnt that Ronald’s father had emigrated to South Africa from Plungė. Abel called Ronald and suggested “What about you and Natasha joining us in a trip to our shtetl Plungyan?” They immediately agreed.  

“Our Shtetl”. Plunge before World War II from where the fathers of both Sir. Ronald Harwood and Abel Levitt came from before emigrating to South Africa.(Photo Collection, 181co)

Returning to their Roots

On May 25, 2005, Ronald and Natash Harwood and Abel and Glenda Levitt arrive in Plungė and visit Jakov Bunka, known as “The last Jew in Plungė”. Next, they visit the Kaušėnai memorial, where 1,800 Jews from Plungė were murdered in July 1941. Although Ronald’s family had allready left before the Holocaust, he walked in silence, deeply moved, shrouded in the sanctity of the moment.

Next, our  guests visited Saulės Gymnasium, where in an open lesson held in the Assembly Hall, Ronald addressed the gathered students and teachers and spoke about the making of the film “The Pianist”, basing his script on the memoirs of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Jewish pianist living in Poland. After the Nazis occupied Warsaw, the musician, separated from his family, went into hiding for several years. The idea of ​​the film, explained Ronald, was not to give in to the terrible force of events and to remain a spiritually unbroken person. The screenwriter recounted how the lead actor, the talented American Adrien Brody, had to starve to appear physically like a hunted and hungry man. Not eating normally, the actor was naturally and constantly melancholy – contibuting to the realism of his performance. Admitting that he had  initially agonised how to begin the screenplay – the opening being so important –  he revealed that it was the film’s director, Roman Polanski whocame up with the idea of the main character playing the piano in the opening scene. The screenwriter took advantage of that advice – then came the inspiration to ‘compose’ all the frames and present the protagonist playing the piano in the finale. This film won three Oscars – Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay. Harwood took questions from the audience.

Somber Note. Adrien Brody in the role of Wladyslaw Szpilman, the real-life concert pianist who spent two years hiding in the ghetto of Warsaw during the German occupation of Poland in World War II seen here in Roman Polanski’s Holocaust The Pianist, screenplay by Sir. Ronald Harwood. 

Visiting that afternoon the Samogitian Art Museum, Harwood was met as he entered the hall with a melody by Frederik Chopin played by the pianist of Plungė‘s Mykolas Oginskis Art School. It was a moving introduction to his next encounter as it was the same melody from the opening sequence in The Pianist. It powerfully resonated; after all, the movie’s soundtrack symbolises a belief in life and human purpose that man can find in himself the strength to restore a shattered world even while enduring the horrors of Nazism.  

Music was his Passion, Survival was his Masterpiece. Poster for the award winning film, ‘The Pianist’ about Wladyslaw Szpilman.

Again speaking about the making of the film, Harwood also spoke  about himself and his father who came from Plungė, and answered questions from the audience. The meeting concluded with a photograph of all the participants.

The next day, the Harwoods and Levitts visited Kazys Vitkevičius, the last surviving rescuer of Jews in the Plungė district.

In 1941, at the age of 14, he helped his mother Emilia Vitkevichienė hide and feed Jewish girls. He did this by digging pits in which he hid the girls covered by branches, and bringing them food. Both his mother and Kazys were honoured by Yad Vashem as ‘Righteous among the Nations‘. Ronald and Natasha were visibly moved by the experience of meeting this special man.

At the special reception for our guests at the Municipality, Abel and Glenda Levitt were most impressed by Harwoods words to Algirdas Pečiulis, the mayor of Plungė:

Mr. Mayor, I know you have difficulties with the budget. I appeal to you no matter what you decide, don’t cut the cultural budget so as not to harm your community.”

These words inspired Abel and Glenda to organize with the Saulė Gymnasium Tolerance Centre, “The Ronald Harwood Holocaust Art competition”. Since that time, the Competition has grown from a local, then to a regional and presently to a national event.

Exposing the Past. Drawing by Karolina age 14, a participant in the annual Ronald Harwood Holocaust Art Competition. Note the open eye, an admission of seeing and knowing.

Seeing Light Beyond Darkness

The aim of the Ronald Harwood Holocaust Art Competition is to encourage students to explore a dark chapter in their history and to  express their understanding of it through art. Simply put, school children would be invited to dance, sing, write or paint their insights of the Holocaust.

Confronting History. ‘A Stain on History’ by student Bernadetta Plunge a participant in the annual Ronald Harwood Holocaust Art Competition.

In the spring of 2007, the final event of the first competition took place, which was attended by students and their teachers from Plungė, Palanga and Mažeikiai. Abel and Glenda Levitt came from Israel to assist in judging the competition, while Harwood, who was unable to attend due to commitments of work, sent a letter to the participants, which was read aloud to everyone. He wrote of his strong family roots to  Plungė and the memories from his last visit that gave him strength in his daily life. He believed that his late father, “would be deeply moved, knowing that I could breathe the same air he breathed as a boy and that I could look up at the same sky he did.”

Gone Forever. “Oblivion” by student Albertas from Plunge captures generations of young Jews lost forever in the Holocaust.

He recounted the impact it had on him hearing of the massacres and seeing the graves in Kaušėnai and meeting the heroic rescuer of Jewsish girls – Kazys Vitkevičius:

 “I learned that, despite the horror he experienced, he has survived as a bright example of goodness and courage. He showed the light where I saw only darkness.”

Your Ronnie”

In 2010, Ronald Harwood was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II of England and became Sir. Ronald Harwood and his wife Lady Harwood. The Tolerance Education Center at the Saulė Gymnasium congratulated  Sir. Ronald Harwood who replied with thanks ending his email – “Your Ronnie”.

Signing off with such familiarity from someone who mixed in social circles from world leaders to celebrity film stars, as well as being hosted  for a dinner by Prince Charles and Camilla on the occasion of the writer’s 80th birthday, truly resonated with the people of Plungė.

Sir Ronald Harwood receives a knighthood for Services to Drama Investitures at Buckingham Palace (Credit: Rex Features)

In the 13 years of the Ronald Harwood Holocaust Art Competition, over 800 students have participated. Over the years, interest in the competion has expanded geographically with particiation from schools in Ariogala, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Šiauliai, Vilnius, Alytus, Marijampolė and Kėdainiai. Such support for the goals of the competition offers hope that the current generation can help to create a more beautiful world.

In countries and cities abroad, Abel and Glenda Levitt have exhibited many of these fine artworks by students at schools  confronting the haunting question of “What happened to our Jewish communities during the Holocaust? ”

Towards A Tomorrow Of Tolerance. Lithuanian Ambassador Edminas Bagdonas (left) awards Abel and Glenda Levitt with the Medal of Honor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Lithuanian Embassy in Tel Aviv on the 4th June 2019. (Photo D.E. Kaplan.)
 

They are confronting through art their past to seek a more enlighened future.

At these exhibitions  – which have been held at Plungė Public Library, Biržai, the Israeli cities of Tel Mond, Netanya, Kfar Saba, Jerusalem, Herzliya, Ra‘anana, Tel Aviv, South African cities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, as well as London, Toronto and Washington – the Levitts speak about Lithuania and the Tolerance Centre in Plungė, which promotes the values of humanity and tolerance through art. So thank you to Abel and Glenda in helping to  bring the better angels of our city to the outside world. Let me end with the words that “Ronnie“ concluded in his letter to the first contestant of the art competition:

Politics is temporary, but art is eternal.”

It can be said too that the life of Sir Ronald Harwood was temporary but his message eternal. He has left us a legacy that illuminates the road ahead for those that remain to follow.

Revealing the Truth. The writer Danutė Serapinienė (centre) receives an award from the President of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda (right) for her contribution to educating about the Holocaust that took place in Lithuania.


The Lost Names of Lithuania. The first of two documentary films telling the story of the Jews of Birzai. This poignant film chronicles the astonishing group tour to BIrzai last year. The second documentary, now being made, will tell the depressing story of modern Lithuania (Click on the picture or caption).




About the Writer:

Danutė Serapinienė is a retired schoolteacher in Plungė. She recently received an award by the State President of Lithuania for her role in educating about the Holocaust in Lithuania.







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

The Year of “Awokening”

By Rolene Marks

At the beginning of 2020, the world was filled with glorious positivity for the dawn of a new decade. There were even the memes and joke exchanges to prove it! Then a little understood virus that seemed to be confined to the Wuhan province in China, eventually would become a global pandemic that brought the world to its knees. Millions have contracted this terrifying virus or have died as a result and the global economy is in crisis.

At the outset; and as country after country went into lock down, many took a philosophical or spiritual approach and saw this as an opportunity to “reset”. A chance to re-evaluate what is important in our lives, go back to times that seemed simpler, to learn a lesson in gratitude and to emerge from the crisis with a new perspective and willingness to help each other. We have been in this together and would surely emerge stronger. Wouldn’t we?

When a crisis happens, it often defines those that are in positions of leadership or in the public eye.

This is a year where many have had the perfect chance to step up and lead – but have failed miserably – safely afloat on a raft made out of self-indulgent virtue signaling woke twaddle. This is the year that apart from dealing with the overwhelming effects of the virus on our collective mental, emotional and physical health; we now have to deal with this rapidly growing phenomenon – the growing “woke” movement.

The term “Woke “is a political term that originated in the United States; and refers to a perceived awareness of issues concerning social justice and racial justice. It derives from the African-American vernacular English expression “stay woke”, whose grammatical aspect refers to a continuing awareness of these issues. Today, it has become very fashionable to be “woke” – and woe betide you if you aren’t.

This movement seems to be permeating every aspect of society and has been given a tailwind by the growth of celebrity culture and social media. At the beginning of the spread of the pandemic, the voices of celebrities were diminished and the everyday heroism of frontline workers took centre stage. And then something changed. The world seems to have tipped on its axis. When did we lose the ability to engage in polite, tolerant debate – even if we have divergent opinions?

Freedom of speech is an imperative in a democratic society and we have the right to disagree with each other but lately identity politics has become an overriding factor and the first casualty seems to be tolerance. Anyone not agreeing with the prescribed “woke” doctrine is effectively cancelled. And the offences seem to be everywhere. If you look hard enough you will find something to be offended by.

Can It. An exasperated reaction to Wokeism.

In 2020, the bar seems to be low. Perhaps it is the frustration of lock downs and statistics and political unrest that has many of us at times, taking complete leave of our senses. 2020 has been a tumultuous year politically as well. The Black Lives Matter movement that spread like wildfire across the world became more than just being aware of racial injustices. Elements within and external to the movement saw it as an opportunity to push their various agendas including anti-Semitic rhetoric and a new phenomenon – taking the knee. Anyone seen to not do this is immediately ostracized or branded a racist. Choosing whether or not to kneel is a personal choice, but when diners enjoying a little al fresco dining are routinely harassed for not kneeling with immediate, we have a problem.

Self Service! When demonstrators entered the outdoor dining space in Pittsburgh, USA, one person took a couples’ drink and drank it before leaving. 

Woke culture is not restricted to racism. Search engine juggernaut, Google, almost as famous for its graphics as it is for its search capabilities had to remove the egg from its salad graphics for “not wanting to offend vegans”. In a time where nearly everything is about identity politics and you are nobody unless you are an activist, everyone from social conscious millennials to big corporations are jumping on the woke wagon.

In fact, when it comes to big corporations, a new issue is starting to take form known as “woke washing”. Woke washing can be described as the appropriation of ethical and progressive values as a form of advertising just to make more profit while hiding the dark side of conventional capitalistic business management.

An example of recently woke washing is Tumblr. Two months after banning adult-content, the social media still let Nazis thrive on its platform.  White supremacist propaganda that contravenes its  guidelines is now co-existing with Tumblr’s promotion of Black Excellency for Black History Month.

Razor maker, Gillette also helped to set the tone of 2019 by “woke washing” with the January debut of “The Best Men Can Be,” a campaign fighting toxic masculinity by referencing #MeToo, the movement fighting sexual harassment that was growing at the time. Some critics decried the initial short film as painting all men as poorly behaved or even predatory. Others wondered why a razor maker, and not necessarily a brand with a ton of baggage, was getting so righteous.

 Or take former/maybe not somuch/aretheyoraren’t they royals, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan. Famous for their support of whatever issue seems hot at the time, the two woke royals have lectured on topics as diverse as the environment, unconscious bias, racism and not to forget universal kindness. All this while traversing the world in private jets and zooming from a $16million dollar mansion. They are not the only woke schlebs on the virtue signaling bandwagon. They are joined by many in Hollywood extolling the virtues of defunding police (while being able to afford private security), lecturing on saving the planet (while zipping around the world on private jets) and talking about inclusiveness (while cancelling those who may have divergent political opinions).

A Battle Royal.  Mega voices on a range of  popular issues, Harry and Meghan constantly dodging controversy with the Royal family and a fickle public in this Woke milieu.

It would appear nobody is safe from the “woke” offensive. The BBC’s radio station R4 was taken to task for referring to fishermen as “fisherpeople”.  Critics said that seeing that women only made up 2.7% of staff on a fishing trawler, the BBC with their right on woke politics was unnecessary.

Billionaire creator of Harry Potter, JK Rowling, has also been cancelled for allegedly being “transphobic”. Rowlings reference to people who menstruate as women was seen as discriminatory to the trans community.

Twitter users accused her of being exclusionary to transgender men and women but also to cisgender women who no longer menstruate. The result has been an aggressive campaign against her, including vocal criticism by Harry Potter stars, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson whose careers were started by the successful franchise. Rowling responded by saying ““I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them,” Rowling replied. “I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.”

The list of transgressions according to the “awokened” is endless. As mentioned before, if one is looking for offences, they can be found everywhere. The danger lies in the pursuit of a kind of liberalism that becomes so intolerant of a different opinion that it borders on fascism.

A Touchdown. Woke-washing is when companies cynically prey on customers’ social awareness. A decision by Nike to feature athlete-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick in its 2018 ad paid off, with the ad going on to receive an Emmy nomination.

For a society to function, people must be able to feel free to express themselves and debate, discuss and disagree respectfully. While there are lines like hate speech and incitement that should never be crossed, in order to understand each other better and build a more tolerant and respectful society, we need to listen to each other.

Failure to do so just contributes to an epidemic of intolerance.




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

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose is a Rose…….

By Stephen Schulman

The ancient Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times!” is certainly applicable to these troubled and turbulent times. Ill winds are blowing, and I fear, they do not bode well for the belief in tolerance, open discourse, pluralism and liberty of thought, faith and speech.

These winds are gusting thick and fast through many Western academias and like the Red Queen in Through the Looking Glass, most of us are running to stay in the same place, endeavoring to keep up with, comprehend and interpret the ideology du jour.

In the USA, in the wake of BLM (Black Lives Matter) and Antifa, the growing movement of “Wokeism,” a so called “anti-racism”, advocates the belief that the political system is basically flawed and structurally prejudiced; one of oppression of minorities i.e. black, and since those in power are white and have been disabusing their mandate, it is a racist one.

Intertwined with Wokeism is the creed of Determinism that categorizes you according to your skin colour, your class origin and your gender. Consequently, all white people are privileged racists and even if they deny this, their inherent innate “unconscious bias,” is proof that they indeed are – a twist of logic that Stalin and Beria would be proud of! Merely by accident of birth, having been born white, you are automatically a bigot – a novel racist political slant to the concept of Original Sin!

Jews are white – no matter that there are Jews of colour and irrespective of their history that is replete with millennia of persecution and discrimination – and are therefore classified as an integral part of the privileged and oppressors.

Intersectionality – that sees all perceived injustices as interlinked regardless of their distance in time and space – is another heady ingredient added to this intellectual stew which allows BLM activists to identify with the Palestinians whom they see as victims of Jewish white colonialist settlers who have appropriated their lands. Consequently, it came as no surprise when in the protests and rioting, Jewish businesses were disproportionately singled out for destroying and looting and synagogues vandalized and defaced.  As history was written and culture created by white people, they are both fundamentally biased, need revision and amending. Accordingly, the Holocaust is seen as no more than a “white on white” phenomenon and should not be given more historical weight than other genocides.

The bearers of this ideology are so passionately convinced of the righteousness of their cause that anyone who dissents or objects is obviously errant and needs to be made to see the light and recant the error of their ways. A “cancel culture” has been created that demands political correctness, conformity, unanimity and stifles diverging points of view. Unfortunately, those advocating it often adopt the repressive methods of totalitarian regimes. Within academic institutions, the media and corporations, there have been instances of hounding and persecution of those that are seen as not toeing the line. People have lost their livelihoods, been ostracized and victimized on social media.

Evenhandedness Evicted. South Africa’s Chief Justice  Mogoeng Mogoeng came under fire for taking a balanced position on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

South Africa is not exempt either. The Chief Justice, a person of the highest integrity with an impeccable past, was attacked, slandered and made the object of a scurrilous cartoon for daring to voice his opinion that a more evenhanded approach should be made for the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. The University of Cape Town disinvited Flemming Rose, the editor of a Danish publication that published a caricature of Mohammed, who was due to give the annual prestigious lecture on academic freedom. Citing his lack of academic value, in his place, the university invited an American lecturer, a discredited third rate academic known for his virulent anti-Semitism and support for BDS. On the same campus, black students have accused lecturers of failing them on account of their color and demanded that white students should not attend certain lectures or be allowed to voice their opinions as they have been endowed with a “white settler mentality”

Rose Pruned. In  2016, the University of Cape Town withdrew its invitation to Flemming Rose, the culture editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten to give its annual TB Davie Academic Freedom Lecture for fear of “provoking conflict and further polarization on campus”.

Equally frightening is the effort to suppress history and erase memory that uses the distortion of and rewriting of facts plus the cynical manipulation of words to fit the current politically correct ideology. The case of the invitation of Leila Khaled by the San Francisco State University bears eloquent testimony.

Violator of Academic Freedom. San Francisco State University’s Prof. Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi has declared that Zionists are not welcome on campus and has come under fire for posting anti-Zionist messages to the school’s official site.  

This last September, Khaled was scheduled to lead a discussion entitled “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice and Resistance:  A Conversation with Leila Khaled” at the online event “Teaching Palestine” organized by the university’s Department of Arab and Muslim Ethnicities Diasporas Studies. One of the organizing professors was Rabab Ibrahim Abulhadi who described Khaled as “a revolutionary Palestinian militant and feminist icon.” As a result of protests, Zoom, Facebook and YouTube cancelled the broadcasting and the discussion did not take place.

To view this event in its proper perspective, it is necessary to examine the hard facts. Who were the organizers, who was the invitee and what was the terminology employed?

Poster Girl. Plane hijacker of the 1960s to poster girl of Palestinian militancy, Leila Khaled remains a celebrity at university campuses.

Enforcing a Narrative

Rabab Ibrahim Abulhadi is a notorious anti–Semite who declared that Zionists were not welcome on campus, that the presence of students who identified as Zionists constituted “a declaration of war” against Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians” – a clear violation of academic freedom and incitement to violence against Jewish students. She is a founding member of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (BDS) and vigorously defended another academic Hatem Bazian who tweeted antiSemitic messages. Abulhadi idolizes Khaled and in her online panegyric admired her “steadfastness, resilience and resistance.” Abulhadi states: “I wanted to grow up and become another Leila Khaled.”

Crossing the Line. UC Berkeley officials have condemned university lecturer Hatem Bazian, a professor in Islamic Law, for repeated tweeting of cartoons the school determined had “crossed the line” into anti-Semitism.

Leila Khaled is a member of the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) – designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada and the European Union. Since its founding in 1967, this organization has been responsible for many international terrorist attacks involving suicide bombings, assassinations, hijacking, knifing and shootings that have killed, wounded and maimed a large number of innocent civilians – men, women and children. Amongst its many atrocities, in 1972, a gang tortured and murdered the Israeli sports team in the Munich Olympics. In 2014, a member entered a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood and with a gun, axes and meat cleaver slaughtered six men at prayer.  In 2019, 17 year-old Rina Shnerb became the latest victim.

Khaled herself was part of a gang that in 1969 hijacked TWA Flight 840 to Damascus. In September 1970, together with Patrick Arguello, she attempted to hijack El Al Flight 219 from Amsterdam to

Terror in the SkiesPatrick Arguello was fatally shot in 1969 when he partnered with Leila Khaled to seize an El Al airliner on a flight from Amsterdam to New York as part of a coordinated Palestinian guerrilla operation that led to the seizure and destruction of four airliners the previous week.

New York. Arguello gravely wounded a flight attendant and put his gun to the head of another before the quick witted pilot threw the plane into a dive enabling the air marshals to shoot him and help overpower Khaled, but not before she had pulled the pin out of one the two grenades she was carrying. Luckily, it did not explode, otherwise the aircraft with all its passengers would have been at the bottom of the ocean. With mind boggling mendacity and a brazen insult to the intelligence of any sane individual, Khaled later stated that she had been given very strict instructions not to threaten passengers on the civilian flight and said in a 2014 interview with the Palestine Chronicle: “We did not harm anyone!” That ‘nobody was harmed’ on that attempted hijacking wasn’t for want of her lack of trying! She has continually repeated these logic defying falsifications and the obliging fawning media has uncritically published them.

In the same year of the TWA hijacking, Rasmea Odeh, another PFLP member planted a bomb containing 5 kg of dynamite in a Jerusalem supermarket that detonated and killed two young students Eddie Joffe and Leon Kanner whose only crime like many other victims was being Jewish and living in Israel. This murderess too had the gall to declare that she had not intended to hurt a soul!

Cozying up to Killers. Supporters of Rasmea Odea who contend that she “is criminalized because of her commitment to justice and human rights”,  pave over her 1969 role in a supermarket bombing in Jerusalem that killed two university students, Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe.

Khaled is a long time active leader in the PFLP – as of 2016 still being a member of their Political Bureau – as well as serving on the Palestinian   National Council (PNC) of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) that euphemistically calls its terrorist acts: “armed struggle”. An active supporter of BDS, she calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. She is accused by the Shin Bet (Israeli Security Service) of helping in 2011 to coordinate “between a PFLP command center in Syria and other operatives in Jerusalem planning lethal attacks against Israelis.”

The word “resistance” has definite political and military connotations. In Europe in the Second World War, members of the resistance movements fought against the German occupation of their lands by targeting their soldiers, personnel, military installations plus individual collaborators. Non combatants never came into the equation. Abulhadi’s lauding of Khaled’s “resistance” – the attacking of innocent civilians: men, women and children – inspiring her, is an abuse of that word, a gross injustice and an affront to the memory of all those principled and brave people who had risked torture and death for the sake of freedom.

Sounds of Silence

The dictionary defines the term “feminist” as a person who actively works for women’s rights, their advancement and emancipation. A woman’s status in the Arab and Muslim world is inferior to the man’s and her plight is not altogether a happy one. Abhorrent female genital mutilation is still practiced, honour killings take place often with impunity for the perpetrators, widespread condoned polygamy exists and forced marriages of underage young girls is a part of life legally practiced in some Moslem countries..

Surely a “feminist” and an “icon” would use her venerated and elevated status help her fellow sisters by raising her voice to redress all these injustices visited upon them? Would she not be active in their cause? Khaled’s silence is deafening.

A female terrorist she is. A feminist she is not!

Abulhadi’s apologia for an unrepentant terrorist still active in planning acts of violence, her obfuscation of facts and distortion of words to fit her political agenda is an assault on the intellectual integrity of an institute of higher learning. Her bigotry and her attempt to mute academic freedom, diversity of opinion and freedom of thought is an attack on the very foundations upon which a university stands.

Selective Morality. Explaining her reasoning for permitting an online event with Leila Khaled, San Francisco State University President, Lynn Mahoney said “I cherish a diversity of opinions”.

Even more worrying is the complicity of Lynn Mahoney, SFSU’s president who authorized the online event with Kahled participating and never deviated from her support. In a letter prior to the broadcast, she condemned “the glorification and use of terrorism and violence, particularly against unarmed civilians” but on the other hand had to “say equally emphatically that we support the right of our faculty to academic freedom and to conducting their teaching and scholarship without censorship.” After the cancellation of the event, omitting Khaled’s background and actions, she wrote that it was “deeply wounding” to some, who would “feel” their “dissent silenced,” even as Khaled’s appearance would be “deeply wounding” to “others in the community.” As a university president, Mahoney’s words and actions are deeply troubling. To elevate the status of an unrepentant and active terrorist complicit in acts of murder and in the name of academic freedom giving her a platform to disseminate her views raises definite questions. Should there not be moral responsibility? The commandment: “Thou shall not kill”, is one the cornerstones of Western Judeo-Christian civilization of which universities are part. The right of faculty to academic freedom and to conduct their teaching and scholarship without censorship is a sine qua non. Objectivity, disinterest and lack of bias are essential to this process. Dispensing with them together with morality and ethics in order to conform to a current political correctness leads down the road to perdition. San Francisco State University under the presidency of Lynn Mahoney is a tragic example. 




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.



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

Vienna Violated

Reflections of a resident the day after the 2 November bloody terror attack

By Caroline Shklarek Zelman

Austria is a small and peaceful country. The sounds from our city of Vienna are typically from musical instruments not the instruments of war. Murder and mayhem never occurs where we live, only on television – elsewhere. Our Vienna is an “island of the blessed” as we residents are apt to fondly say.

Until last night!

Map of Murder and Mayhem

We are currently living in a global Corona pandemic. When the virus surprised Austria in March, the country reacted quickly with a lockdown. It was a shock to the people; we were confronted with something that we had never experienced before. Compared to other countries, our case numbers were very low. We shuddered as we looked first to our neighbour Italy and then France seeing their frightening experiences through a very painful crisis. Then came the summer and with it the good feeling akin to a newly won freedom. Unfortunately, that feeling was short-lived as we were reminded – the virus was still amongst us and hitting back with a vengeance!

COVID-19 pandemic development in Austria (Feb. – Nov.)

The result was the announcement of the much-dreaded return to a lockdown this time with stricter curfews from 8‘oclock in the evening to 6 in the morning. This had never happened before. Or had it? A populist politician from the opposition used the deeply affected emotions of the population to compare the new curfew with what followed when skirmishes erupted between the Fascists and the Socialists in February 1934.

A very painful comparison, since this date marked the beginning of a civil war in Austria, the beginning of the abolition of parliamentary democracy, which paved the way to the darkest period of Austrian history – Nazi tyranny!

Today, our Corona case numbers are over 6000, so it was back to no cinema, no concerts, no restaurants and no coffee houses – this hits the Austrian soul.

However,  something far more disturbing was to suddenly darken our Austrian soul.

Vienna in Turmoil

So, what happened yesterday, November 2nd in Vienna?

It began with the feeling as our last day of freedom before the looming midnight curfew. It was a wonderful mild evening, 22 degrees Celsius, and our city center and its terraces were full of people who were out drinking and eating enjoying the warm embrace of Vienna which they all thought they had until midnight.

Police on the Prowl. Police move through central Vienna on Monday night as there were reports of multiple gunmen.

It was not to be!

At 8 pm. in the Jewish quarter in the middle of the city center, shots were suddenly fired in the street that is home to the Austrian capital’s main synagogue.  Shots followed elsewhere and tranqual Vienna was in turmoil. All broadcasts were stopped, sirens and helicopters could be be heard until the early hours of the morning. Everyone was afraid. We all knew of friends and acquaintances who had wanted to enjoy a nice evening in the city with their loved ones. Instead, horrifying videos began to circulate, first on WhatsApp, then on other platforms on social media. The police asked the people not to leave their homes while at the same time, called on those who were in the city centre and who might have filmed with their cellphones the unfolding horror, to send their videos to the police for evaluation.  They needed to have as much intimate information they could get to identify and assess the killer or killers. The magnitude of the panic was  evident with over 20,000 videos received by the police from the public. This helped in providing important  clues to catch the perpetrator.

We heard of people who were thankfully safe but also of those terrifyingly stuck in pubs, concert halls and the opera houses. They were afraid and did not know what to expect or what to do. In a show of solidarity across the city centre, local residents opened their homes offering protection to people in the streets as did a central hotel  which offered their rooms at no expense to people on the run.

Face the Music. The State Opera where one can expect to hear from a tenor not a terrorist, armed policemen stand guard in front of the main entrance of the State Opera in the centre of Vienna following the shootings.

Jasmin Kapp, a member of our Austrian WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization) was caught up in the chaos with her husband, Daniel. Barricaded in their office, they ventured out to bring to safety a young woman and her friends who were in danger at a restaurant and brought them to safety.

Fleeing in Fear. Women run away near the State Opera in central Vienna as shots ring out following several attacks in the city.

It took many hours before people could emerge from hiding – sound familiar – and safely return home.

In many of the cultural venues people had to wait crowded together for several hours. During these tragic hours, the pandemic receded into the background although its impact from coinciding with the terrorist attack and forcibly forcing people to dispense with social distancing, may be a topic for the day after tomorrow.

Violence in Vienna. Graphic images blood spattered across the front of a cafe and chairs and tables hurled over among broken glass and plates.

What remains are traumatized eyewitnesses and a shocked country and city that had never experienced anything like this before.

Counting the Cost

Today our mood shifted from fear to sadness as we heard the news that four people were killed – may their souls rest in peace – and 22 others wounded, seven with life-threatening injuries.

A Nation MournsAustria’s political leaders honoured the victims in Vienna as the nation mourned

We also learned about the young man who terrorised our city. Armed with an assault rifle, a pistol and a machete, 20-year-old Kujtim Fejzulai had previously been jailed for attempting to join Islamic State in Syria. Before his early release in December, he had taken part in a deradicalisation course but who, according to our Interior Minister Karl Nehammer, “deceived” his handlers about his true intentions.

Ready to Kill. Isis shared this photo of Kujtim Fejzulai, who had pledged allegiance to Isis in an Instagram post hours before the rampage in central Vienna. It shows him posing with the automatic rifle, handgun and machete he was armed with during the attack.

That deceprtion resulted in a bloodbath on the streets of Vienna!

While searching his apartment, the officers came across a large arsenal of weapons. An inquiry will need to delve into this issue  as we also learned that Slovakia’s intelligence service had previously warned Austria that Kujtim had tried to buy ammunition. Apparently, this information was lost in a communications breakdown!

What remains in the wake of the devastation and loss of lives on our once peaceful streets of Vienna are many unanswered questions.

Aftermath. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz gestures to President of the Vienna Jewish Community Oskar Deutsch (left) as they participate in a wreath laying ceremony in the city centre the day after the deadly shooting spree.  

We praise  our services in the way they rapidly responded  to this heinous act of terrorism and to all the people and WIZO Chaverot (friends/members) around the world  for their outpouring of sympathy and support. We need to be ‘one family’ when it comes to dealing with terrorism whether its on the streets of Paris, Pittsburgh, Jerusalem, London or Vienna.

Austrians have much time now to reflect. We are now in Lockdown II.

VIENNA – From the scene after gunman attacked from six locations in central Vienna on Monday starting outside the main synagogue, killing four people and injuring at least 14 in what Austria called a “repulsive terror attack”.



About the Writer:

Caroline Shklarek Zelman is a resident of Vienna and a member of WIZO Austria.








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

Relief, Rage and Fear

By Emma Picken

First appeared in the “Jewish News”.

With the publication of the EHRC (Equality & Human Rights Commission) findings and the verdict ringing out loud and clear that the Labour Party has acted unlawfully in its treatment of Jews, I am filled with three conflicting emotions.

Relief, rage and fear.

Relief because any other verdict would have been an affront – the impact on my Jewish friends would have been devastating.

Having dragged the boulder of Labour antisemitism up the hill together for the last five years only to see it roll back down crushing my friends would have left nothing but despair in its path.

It also provides legal vindication, a historically accurate, irrefutable record and potentially a path forward.

There can be no return to the days that cultivated fertile soil for Corbynism. The rotten stench of antisemitism ignored so long within the left, that finally enveloped the party with its noxious gases, must now be addressed.

The internal Labour row over antisemitism has dragged on for several years.

Tearing out antisemitism at its roots requires more than just soundbites. The source goes back decades in the left – a fact I was personally oblivious to when I joined the party with enthusiasm, the day after Ed Milliband lost in 2015.

So relief yes, vindication, justification, and potential for change.

So why rage? This goes back to election night, 2019. The sheer hell of that election can never be forgotten.

In so many ways, no verdict from any human rights body can be as powerful a message as the one sent to the Jewish community on Dec 12th by the electorate.

The absolute demolition of Corbyn that evening changed everything. In one fell swoop the public rejected his party, and my Jewish friends who had been making plans to leave the country could breathe again.

The days of darkness leading up to that exit poll had lifted.

The fights with people who had other priorities were over.

The fear of an institutionally antisemitic party with an antisemite as its leader running the UK were gone.

It was over.

What I heard time and time again running into the election were the words ‘This country doesn’t feel like home anymore.’

Like every other non-Jewish person involved with Labour Against Antisemitism, I know how devastating that was. How hard it was to feel the pain, and how helpless I felt and the impossibility of saying anything of comfort.

The only comfort I could give was my fight, our fight.

Some of the attacks on our members and allies over this time were abhorrent. They have had lasting impact on their lives even now. Some wounds run deep: they will need more than soundbites to heal. It’s too late now, I don’t know if they ever will.

That is my rage.

Now to my fear.

A party doesn’t become institutionally antisemitic overnight nor does it eradicate this culture overnight.

What happened wasn’t something incidental – any study of antisemitism on the left could have predicted Corbyn and all that followed in his path. A political path that had been there long before he came on the scene.

The antisemitism row in the Labour Party was a constant backdrop to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership

Even now, Labour stands at a crossroads. Does it eradicate the source of the stench, or simply cover it up again in the hope it stays undetectable to those without a good sense of smell until the next election?

It has that choice, and I am afraid of the party. I became afraid of Labour over the last few years and my fears were proven correct.

Too many people who should have stood by our side on Dec 12th were missing. Many people were with us, but a huge number of people in the party were not.

I feel fear because I believe these people will advocate covering the stench rather than eradicating it. This would be dangerous for the future of Labour and its ability to keep the Jewish community safe, should it rise to power at some point in the future.

Former Labour MP Luciana Berger addresses the crowd during a demonstration against anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. (JACK TAYLOR / GETTY IMAGES

There are already thousands of committed Labour activists radicalised against the Jewish community, and Labour created them. LABOUR not Corbyn.

The party did this, by the choice it made to save itself from Corbyn.

The fear I feel is that it doesn’t understand this and does not feel the need to properly address the issue. Too many people involved still feel the party is ‘too good’ and full of ‘good people’ to really rectify the roots of how it came to this.

I remained a member of the party throughout all of the last few years. I made no judgement over people staying, as I was one of them. I believed then as I believe now that only through brutally honest introspection over how abhorrent it all was – and still is – along with retributive action, can the party redeem itself from the swamp of antisemitism that engulfed it.

The party is at a crossroads, and so am I. How it deals with antisemitism and the activists that stood with the Jewish community on Dec 12th remains to be seen.

Will it take on the grip the PSC (Palestine Solidarity Campaign) has over the union movement? Will it understand that the antizionist antisemitism paraded around by thousands of its activists needs to be fully and robustly dealt with?

Whatever its leadership says, does the party still see me, standing up against what was happening, as the enemy?

Is our small group of committed activists still the enemy?

Do we still have to be afraid of the party?

Will the voice of the 94% of Jews that refused to vote Labour, whom I proudly advocated for on Dec 12th, be given the first and last hearing in how Labour deals with antisemitism?

British Jews protest outside parliament against Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn (Photo: GettyImages)
 

Will justice be done for the community that suffered so badly?

Is it still a party for those that said loud and clear, Enough is Enough?

The verdict is still out.


About the Writer:

Emma Picken is director and researcher for Labour Against Antisemitism.












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

From Meddling to Menace

A hungry Turkey itching to gobble all  before her

By David E. Kaplan

What’s cooking with Turkey these days? Like its namesake in the animal kingdom it has an insatiable appetite to gobble all in its sight!

President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seems set on sampling a new regional “dish” nearly every month creating each time an international crisis.

His latest flavour of the month  – Armenia.

Over the course of 2020, starting in February, the salivating President interfered in Syria’s Idlib and then in April and Mayit was Libya that attracted his fancy. Clearly unsatiated, the President bombed Iraq in June and then from August through to September, drooled westerly threatening Greece over drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Then, from meddling in the Mediterranean,  the appetitive Erdoğan switched his tastes to the Caspian and Caucasus to support Azerbaijan in its current clashes with Armenia.

Syrian Arab and Kurdish civilians arrive in Hassakeh city after fleeing Turkish bombardment on Syria’s northeastern towns. [Delil Souleiman/AFP]

Recent reports by a Syrian source supported by photos and videos revealed Syrian mercenaries recruited by Turkey being transported by busses on September 23 towards Armenia. Photographs furnished by Majd Helobi confirming these allegations further suggest that the Syrians recruited by Ankara are the same that carried out earlier “crimes against humanity” in Turkish-occupied Afrin and Tel Abyad. These crimes that according to a September 2020 United Nations Human Rights Council biannual report include “rape, ethnic cleansing and looting” were directed against women and children, primarily targeting minorities such as Yazidis, Kurds and Christians.

Man with a Mission. Two-fisted threatening Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a typical tirade.  (Photo: EPA via STR)

Bullying Beast

Is there no stopping the insatiable Turkey?” ask Arab journalists throughout the region.

Jalal Aref, writing in the UAE’s Al-Bayan, laments the tragic plight of the Turkish people under its president:

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to wake up every morning to yet another report about the deterioration of the Turkish economy, the collapse of his country’s reputation around the world and the decline in his party’s influence at home. But the Turkish leader refuses to look reality in the eye and insists on maintaining his illusion of grandeur. The question is, where will these illusions take his bullying next?”

Syrians flee shelling by Turkish forces in Ras al-Ain, northeastern Syria [AP Photo]

The man who inherited a promising economy is now only promising misery as he leads Turkey to the brink of bankruptcy. In his grandiose quest to revive the “glory days” of the Ottoman Empire,  he “has brought blood and destruction not only on his own people, but also on hundreds of innocent civilians throughout the Arab world,” writes Aref.

Syrians throw stones toward Turkish military vehicles during a patrol along the Syria-Turkey border near the town of Darbasiyah, Syria, Nov. 11, 2019. (Photo by DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

How did it come about that a man who initially promised to promote democratic reforms in his country has instead allied himself with terrorist factions that undermine the sovereignty of nation-states throughout the Middle East causing havoc!

Also writing in Al-Bayan, “How Long Will We Keep Silent About Turkey?” asks Dr. Abdullah Al-Madani. The countries of the Gulf “can no longer afford to sit idly by as Turkey continues to threaten the security and stability of our entire region. Ankara, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party is clear about its aspiration to lead the entire Muslim world by restoring the Ottoman caliphate.”

Meddling in the Med. Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz escorted by a Turkish Navy frigate in the eastern Mediterranean Sea off Cyprus, last August. (Reuters)

Asserting that Erdogan’s Turkey is “no longer a friendly country with good intentions,” but rather, continues Dr. Al-Madani, “has become one of the most malicious nations in the world, deploying mercenaries all over the region and destabilizing the security and stability of distant countries in an effort to lock in political and financial gains.”

The height of hypocrisy  was when Erdoğan threatened to suspend diplomatic relations with the UAE following its September breakthrough deal between the Gulf state and Israel, without even suggesting that it might downgrade its own diplomatic relations with the Jewish state that it has maintained since 1949.

This position by Turkey was widely criticized as hypocrisy.

Today, Turkey competes with Iran in only one major respect – its hate and threats toward Israel!

What’s more disturbing, does the insatiable Turkey have its sights again set on “returning” to Israel restoring the Ottoman legacy that ruled Palestine for 400 years from 1517 to 1917.

In a speech this October to lawmakers during the opening of the new legislative session, President Erdoğan proclaimed “Jerusalem is ours”. The Turkish leader touted years of Ottoman rule over Jerusalem lamenting that “In this city that we had to leave in tears during the First World War, it is still possible to come across traces of the Ottoman resistance.”

Designs on Jerusalem.  President Erdogan greets legislators at the parliament in Ankara on Oct. 1, 2020 on the way to declare ‘Jerusalem is our city’.  (Turkish Presidency via AP. Pool)

Erdoğan should do well not to brag nor lament the past when it comes to Jerusalem.  We have enough archaeological reminders of those ‘visitors’ who approached with armies more likely to try crushing its walls than entering through its gates, hence the city’s long and tumultuous history. Since the city was first established by Kind David in 1004 BCE, Jews have suffered war, massacre, slavery and exile .

No Mr. Erdoğan – ENOUGH and the loudest voices telling you this are not from Israel but your fellow Muslims across the region.

Tensions over Gas. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan  announces on Aug. 10, 2020 that it will be conducting energy exploration in an area of the eastern Mediterranean that Greece says overlaps its continental shelf.(Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool)

Today Israel welcomes those that come with cameras not threats and as we see what is evolving around the Middle East – particularly in the Gulf –  this is a sentiment shared by new generations seeking a future of peace and prosperity not a past of bloodshed and bondage.






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

Zoom Says No to Terror

Virtual meeting giant puts the kibosh on webinar featuring terrorist

By  Rolene Marks

One of the few silver linings coming out of the Covid-19 global pandemic is that even though we are all responsibly social distancing (well most of us!), we have been able to connect with each other using technology platforms like Zoom. With the aid of Zoom, which is a meeting platform, we have been able to take virtual tours, listen to lectures from experts, attend weddings and sadly funerals and more.

Zoom happy hour. Everyone is using Zoom.

Unfortunately, this has also created a gathering place for the many that use social media as an opportunity to disseminate hate.  The various platforms have created communities intent on galvanising hatred. At a time when the world is seemingly distracted by the global pandemic and its effect on economies and societies, so these types of groups find opportunity to come together, to plan, to recruit and to potentially mobilise. The opportunity presented by social media to connect all of us, no matter where we are, is appreciated as borders are still mostly closed. Just as many of us “use our powers for good” so others see this as prime time to do the opposite.

Recently, San Francisco State University planned to host a webinar featuring Leila Khaled. Khaled is known far less for any speaking prowess than she is for being an arch terrorist.  A member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Khaled is more famous for her part in two plane hijackings in 1969 and 1970. She infamously threatened to blow up one of the planes with a grenade and today takes a perverse pleasure in still being allowed to fly. She is also a favoured poster child for the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), often trotted out for their fundraising events. Hardly Brené  Brown or Tony Robbins!

The panel would have featured a Who’s Who of the anti-Israel establishment, including former South African Minister of Intelligence, Ronnie Kasrils, who is well known for supporting the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement. He is famous for this quote, “BDS represents three words that will help bring about the defeat of Zionist Israel and victory for Palestine.” Decked in de rigeur keffiyehs, the accessory of choice for most self-respecting anti-Zionists, it did not take a genius to figure out that the event touted as a discussion on “gender, justice and resistance” would fast descend into what these kinds of forums often do – an excuse to spout some of the most vile antisemitic invective.

News of the impending webinar drew fire from advocacy groups such as the Lawfare Project, which argued that Zoom could face legal liability for hosting it because the US has labeled Khaled’s group, the PFLP, a terrorist organization. The Lawfare Project argued that the event violated Zoom’s terms of service for that very reason. Zoom took these arguments very seriously and effectively and informed the organisers that they could not use Zoom to host their event.

In light of the speaker’s reported affiliation or membership in a US designated foreign terrorist organization, and SFSU’s inability to confirm otherwise, we determined the meeting is in violation of Zoom’s Terms of Service and told SFSU they may not use Zoom for this particular event,”a Zoom spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the firm is“committed to supporting the open exchange of ideas and conversations.”

The organisers, more than a little ticked off, decided to then move the event to other platforms. Facebook denied them immediately and removed the listening for the event because it went against a company policy “prohibiting praise, support and representation for dangerous organizations”. YouTube removed the video of Khaled’s talk after 20 minutes, saying that it violated its terms of service. Most recently, YouTube has banned arch-antisemite Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam for hate speech.

Some have asked the question – where is the line between hate speech and the freedom of speech? Hate speech is often defined as that kind of rhetoric that leads to a violent action or harm against a person or a group of people and Leila Khaled firmly fits into that category.

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Abraham Cooper said, “No matter how many layers of whitewash academics apply to Leila Khaled, she remains a terrorist who continues to promote hate, violence and terrorism.”

SFSU spokesperson Kent Bravo said in a statement to the Jewish Journal that just because Khaled is speaking at a university Zoom event doesn’t mean the university endorses her views.

Higher education and the college experience are an opportunity to hear divergent ideas, viewpoints and accounts of life experiences,” Bravo said. “An important outcome of the college experience is to learn to think critically and come to independent, personal conclusions about events of local and global importance. A university is a marketplace of ideas and San Francisco State University supports the rights of all individuals to express their viewpoints and other speech protected by law, even when those viewpoints may be controversial. We also strive to be a welcoming and nurturing campus for students from a variety of ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. We recognize that the exercise of free speech and academic freedom can result in discomfort or pain for others. We have systems in place to support our students, including our Division of Diversity and Community Inclusion.”

With antisemitism rising to alarming levels around the world and university campuses becoming battlegrounds of hatred against Jewish students, it has become incumbent on faculty to be more careful and much more aware of who they invite – and terrorists are surely not proponents of free speech and open debate.

After years of campaigns by many to warn social media platforms about the dangers of allowing hate speech, they are finally waking up and taking action and the answer to those wishing to share their hateful speech is “not on our platform!”

It is time for universities and other forums to pull up the welcome mat and say that while in the pursuit of mutually respectful discourse, divergent opinion is encouraged – hate speech and avowed terrorists are not.





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

The Holocaust is NOT Entertainment

“Trauma Porn” is the sickening new trend surfacing on social media

By  Rolene Marks

Social media once the place of vacuous status updates and shameless selfies has fast morphed into something more insidious. While social media can be a very powerful tool for sharing information and educating people, it is often used by many to push a more nefarious agenda and the competition for “likes” and “follows” often prompts some to share some really questionable content.

An example of antisemitic content spread through TikTok.(photo credit: screenshot)

Social media platform giants, Facebook and Twitter have faced increased criticism over their perceived leniency on antisemitic posts.  Facebook is currently targeted in a campaign from several organisations and well known personalities that calls on CEO’s to suspend their advertising because of online hate and several weeks ago, Jews and their allies embarked on a Twitter “walkout”. For 48 hours, a silent protest was held in objection to twitter’s failure to block or remove anti-Semitic posts. Since then, there has been a lot more attention – and action paid to posts that may be offensive.

But social media is like the proverbial head of Medusa. Do away with one serpent; another one takes its place. The most recent iteration is Tik Tok. Most famous for being a platform for Quarantine dance offs, TikTok has become the platform for something truly appalling – “trauma porn”.

According to experts, TikTok users may be exploiting some of history’s biggest atrocities in videos due to a morbid fascination with traumatic events.

A far-right TikTok user account. (Photo credit: Screenshot)

“It’s easier to go viral on TikTok than it is any other platform,” explains leading social media expert Unsah Malik, author of Slashed It. “Users are clearly attempting just about anything, no matter how offensive the subject matter, to end up on the ‘For You’ page and get a higher engagement rate.”

One of these subjects of “morbid fascination” is the Holocaust. The genocide of over 6 million Jews at the hands of the Nazis as well as the Roma, Sinti, LGBTQ and any others, the murderous regime deemed undesirable, has become fodder for “likes” on this social media platform.

Young people are taking to TikTok to “reenact” scenes of videos of themselves with fake injuries or the appearance of suffering the effects of starvation – and then talk about being murdered in the Holocaust, claiming that they are now in heaven. Some are even re-enactments of scenes inside gas chambers. This profoundly offensive trauma porn is unfortunately, garnering views and likes in the hundreds of thousands. They are even accompanied by a soundtrack.

While the videos do not appear to be comedic, they are often accompanied by the song “Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars.

TikTok is swamped with shocking antisemitic content.

The Auschwitz Museum has also weighed in on this saying:

“The trend visible on TikTok can be indeed hurtful and even considered offensive,” the museum said in a statement posted on Twitter. “Some of the examples online are dangerously close or are already beyond the border of trivialisation of history and being disrespectful to the victims.”

Some of the videos were created not to commemorate anyone, but to become part of an online trend. This is very painful,” the museum added.    The ‘victims’ trend on TikTok can be hurtful and offensive. Some videos are dangerously close or already beyond the border of trivialisation of history.

 But we should discuss this not to shame & attack young people whose motivation seem very diverse. It’s an educational challenge.

And a challenge it is.

There is an important distinction to be made between movies and documentaries that exist for the preservation of memory and education – not videos for likes and shares. Although it is not just the Holocaust that is the subject of these TikTok videos (some have “reenacted” what they would imagine being a victim of serial killer, Ted Bundy, or killed in the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York must have been like), the Holocaust has become trivialised by many seeking to either compare Coronavirus restrictions to the singling out of Jews for persecution or used to justify flouting mask rules. No; wearing a mask to prevent the spread of a potentially deadly virus and save lives is NOT akin to having to wear a yellow star that labels you as an inferior race!

TikTok is rife with racist, antisemitic content. (Photo credit: Screenshot)

It is more than evident that Holocaust awareness and education is sorely needed. The lessons that we should be learning from one of the grossest examples of man’s inhumanity to man and genocide of the Holocaust is how important it is to educate future generations. As time marches on, so we lose our precious survivors – and firsthand eyewitness accounts.

The onus is on us to ensure that we continue to bear witness by educating responsibly to ensure that genocide is widely understood and that perhaps the worst example of it in human history  – the Holocaust –  is neither trivialised or ever happens again.









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

Remembering Munich

Survivors recall the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

By Rolene Marks and Yair Chelouche

“They’re all gone”.

They were the words that reverberated around the world. Television viewers across the globe were glued to Jim McKay, who anchored ABC’s coverage of the unfolding terrorist attack in Munich during the 1972 Olympics. The words are seared into our conscience. We can never forget that moment when we heard that 11 members of the Israeli Olympic Team had been murdered by Black September terrorists. Germany, once emblematic of painful memories for the Jewish people, had become a place where Jews were targeted for murder yet again.

Proud Presence. The Israeli delegation at the opening ceremony in Munich. (Credit: Agence France-Presse-Getty Images)

On the 5th of September, we will remember how these terrorists first killed two members of the Israeli delegation and held another 9 hostage, until they too, were slaughtered.  Israelis are far too familiar with terrorism, having endured attacks from terror groups since the birth of the modern state; but for it to happen like this on foreign soil, at the Olympic Games, the very essence and symbol of brotherhood and the human spirit, made the pain that much more acute.

Several weeks ago, history was made when the Israeli Airforce entered German airspace for the first time to train with the country’s Luftwaffe.  Apart from practicing complex maneuvers, the premise of the joint exercise was to strengthen ties – and pay tribute to the past. Sharing the commitment to fight antisemitism and declaring “Never Again” the two allied forces flew over the Dachau Concentration Camp in tribute to victims and survivors of the Holocaust as well as those who were murdered on that tragic day in September, 1972.

Yehuda Weinstain has often been called the “Flying Fencer”.  Weinstain was just 17 when he participated in the Olympics as a Fencer.  He recalls the excitement of being in the Olympic Village, sharing the camaraderie with his team, being a bit star struck at seeing the famous athletes and practicing with intense focus. It was the Olympics after all! The Olympics symbolise the best of the sporting world and the very spirit of international goodwill, devoid of the partisan politics that plague global discourse. This was shattered with the attack on the Israeli team.

“Flying Fencer”. Future Israeli pilot, Yehuda Weinstain  was just 17 when he participated in the 1972 Munich Olympics as a Fencer. 

Yehuda Weinstain recalls how it was a twist of fate that saved his life. Having visited the city to acclimate so that when it came to choosing his accommodation, he chose the same room that was in between that of the coaches and other team members. This decision would prove lifesaving.

The sportsmen were assigned a room in a complex with three bedrooms, with two in each room.

Touché. Israeli fencer Yehuda Weinstain (right) scores a hit in a fencing bout in the 1972 Munich Olympics before the massacre.

When the terrorists started their deadly attack, they went to the rooms on either side of Weinstain and roommate, Dan Alon; but not theirs. They heard the shots that killed wrestling coach, Moshe Weinberg. They knew that something horrific had occurred. Weinstain remembers seeing a blood puddle at the place where Weinberg’s body lay as he peered through the window.

“It could’ve been me,” he says, “Because the terrorists, passed by my window twice and didn’t come in. Later on we believed that the terrorists’ omission on our door was a deliberate act by Moshe Weinberg who wanted that the people who will face the terrorists are those, he thought, could resist stronger. So it was my luck”.

Desperate Situation. Held hostage, fencing coach Andre Spitzer (right) and marksmanship coach Kehat Shorr (left) negotiating with the German police.

He recalls making the decision to run to safety. “I ran about seven metres around the corner. It felt longer. I had the feeling that someone could shoot me in the small of my back”, he says. It was Alon’s turn, then some of the others to make the run for safety and he, Weinstain and the remaining survivors were taken to safety by German police and isolated before being sent home to their worried families in Israel.

40 years later (2012) – “The 11th Day” – Munich ’72 massacre survivors.

Yehuda Weinstain, Olympic athlete for Fencing enlisted in the army as is required of Israeli citizens and became Lt Col Weinstain, a combat pilot in the IAF, flying many important missions for the Jewish state.

 His latest mission was addressing the delegation from the IAF that participated in the training exercise in Germany – a poignant and important moment.

As Young fencerAvishay Jakobovich at the Munich Olympic village
Dr Avishay Jakobovich

Dr Avishay Jakobovich was also at those fateful games – albeit in a different role. Host country Germany, wanted to show the world that it had moved forward from its Nazi past and invited all participating countries to send separate delegations  of youth under 21 that would serve as cultural and social Ambassadors. In retrospect, many would criticize the lack of police presence and security. Jakobovich, delighted to be part of the Israeli delegation, remembers the incredible happy and inclusive vibe, with dancing and singing amongst the different global representatives and enjoying the games as a spectator.

Israel’s Young Ambassadors. Avishay Jakobovich (left) as a member of the Israeli youth social ambassador’s delegation to the Munich Olympics.

This was until the massacre of the Israeli coaches and athletes. “We were quickly removed from where we were staying and isolated. I called my parents to let them know I was okay. The hardest parts were when we represented the State of Israel at the main memorial held by the Olympic committee the day after the massacre and accompanying the coffins of the victims and the flight was difficult and emotional, knowing the bodies of those murdered were underneath us, in the belly of the plane. I sat next to Ankie Spitzer, now the widow of Andre Spitzer the Fencing coach. Very hard,” he recalls.

Dr Jakobovich served as Chief Gynaecologist for the IDF and is a leader in his field today.

This and every September, we remember them – the 11 coaches and athletes, slaughtered in their prime in one of the most nefarious and infamous terror attacks in recent history. The recent IAF-Luftwaffe flyover may have been history in the making and a great tribute to remember and heal wounds but it is the message of that auspicious occasion that we take heed of – NEVER AGAIN!

Munich Olympics Opening Ceremony. Israeli Delegation enters the Olympic stadium onr the 26/08/1972 (left). The ceremony (centre). Ending the opening ceremony by freeing pigeons of peace (right).

Murdered in Munich. The 11 Israeli sportsmen killed at the Munich Olympics on the 05/09/1972

Right handed fencer. Co-writer Rolene Marks (L) with the “Flying Fencer” Yehuda Weinstain (R), Sept. 2020


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