George Floyd. Remember his name. George Floyd was murdered. We all watched him lynched before our very eyes as a police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt for nine minutes with this knee on Floyd’s neck. Crying that he could not breathe, pleading for his mother while 3 other officers stood by and did nothing. They preferred that the crowd disperse, rather than stopping the carnage. Bystanders called out in horror and paramedics begged to help him, to no avail and no mercy. Floyd who was in police custody for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 dollar note to pay for a purchase, died. He died before our eyes in some sick kind of murder pornography film.
Sadly, George Floyd is another name added to the increasing list of black men and women who have died as a result of police brutality in the United States of America. The role of the police is to serve and protect and Chauvin and his 3 accomplices have made an ever increasing chasm between civilians and law enforcement worse, much worse.
And people are angry. All over the United States and across major cities around the world, including Tel Aviv in Israel, people are taking to the streets to say enough is enough. This needs to end. Some protests are extremely peaceful. There have been very moving images of people of all races embracing each other and police officials laying down their “arms” to hug protesters and march alongside them.
But many of these images are not peaceful at all. The images are shocking. Cities are being looted and businesses have been destroyed. Crowds are turning against each other and the police in rage and at least 11 people have lost their lives in vain.
This has created an opportunity for the most insidious to stir up even more racial tension. There have been several accounts of white supremacists infiltrating so that they can physically act out their racist prejudices.
This has not been limited to the right. Far left ideologues like Antifa (the self-proclaimed anti-Fascist movement) and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement have joined and stirred the ranks of looters and chaos mongers. At the outset of the protests, these opportunistic hate-groups managed to instigate violence, looting and destroying businesses. These businesses provide much needed employment in an economic climate that has been dealt a significant blow as a result of Coronavirus shutdowns.
Just as nefarious has been the exploiting and hijacking of the memory of George Floyd and the pain felt by many for their own political agendas. BDS used the opportunity to take to social media and allege that Israel is to blame for the methods used by Chauvin to kill George Floyd. They blamed Israeli counter-terror training used around the world for the methods used by Chauvin. There is no proof that Chauvin has ever encountered Israelis or was trained by them.
In Los Angeles, rioters also felt the need to deface a synagogue. The Congregation Beth Israel, one of the oldest in Los Angeles was daubed with the words “F*** Israel, Free Palestine”. Commenting on this, Richard S. Hirschhaut, the Los Angeles Regional Director of the American Jewish Committee, said in a statement to the Jewish Journal, “It is deplorable that certain protesters in Los Angeles today resorted to violence and vandalism.”
“The epithets scrawled on the synagogue wall do nothing to advance the cause of peace or justice, here or abroad,” he added.
Fighting racism by propagating antisemitism is utter hypocrisy. One form of prejudice cannot be fought by allowing for another. This is not justice for George Floyd and the countless others who have been murdered as a result of racism.
At the centre of this, is the concept of intersectionality that alleges that all suffering is equal; however, there is a glaring double standard when it comes to Jews.
Jews have always been inextricably linked with civil rights movements across the world. Jews marched in Selma in the USA for equal rights and for years fought Apartheid in South Africa, and those are just two examples. Wherever there has been injustice, Jewish communities around the world have been engaged in combatting it. Propagating hatred to promote a divisive and hate-filled agenda only serves to polarize people and create barriers, especially at a time when listening to each other is more important than ever.
It is this interaction that will honour the memories of those who have lost their lives as a result of hatred and brutality the world over. We should endeavour to meet at the intersection of tolerance and understanding, rather than exclusion and discrimination. This will honour those social justice giants on whose mighty shoulders we stand.
During Ramadan, South Africa’s online newspaper, The Daily Maverick published a food article by Cape Town writer Ayesha Mukadam entitled, “Celebrating Ramadan by Sending ‘boeka’ Plates around the World.”
A Cape Muslim Afrikaans word for breaking one’s fast at sunset during Ramadan, “Boeka”, explains Mukadam, “is synonymously celebrated in the Cape with the sharing and exchange of boeka plates with neighbours, family and friends.”
Not possible during Covid-19, the writer laments “It is the first Ramadan that I can recall, where no boeka plates are being exchanged. I missed this Cape tradition that is inherent to my culture and upbringing.”
To compensate, Mukadam created an Instagram platform and invited people during the month of Ramadan while under lockdown, to share their “virtual boeka from across streets, neighbourhoods, countries and oceans.”
Amongst those sharing is Basel Agbaria from Jaffa, Israel, who Mukadam describes is from Palestine.
A Lay of the Land contributor, Stephen Schulman replies in an open letter to The Daily Maverick and its writer:
Dear Ayesha Mukadam,
I read your article about your site in The Daily Maverick, the online publication bringing news and views from South Africa, on “boeka” a Cape Muslim Afrikaans word for iftar – breaking one’s fast at sunset during Ramadan. In it, you declared your purported aim of using food in the Muslim month of Ramadan as a means of connecting and bringing people of all faiths together – a most laudable initiative in these turbulent and troubled times.
Mention of the Cape brought back many memories. Growing up in the 50’s on the Lower Main Road in the suburb of Claremont, Cape Town where my parents once had a shop. We lived in amity and mutual respect with our many Muslim customers and neighbours. Whilst we did not partake of “Iftar”, we were well aware of the Muslim faith, its beliefs, practices and customs. Cape Town had its own particular cuisine and I can still taste those marvelous samoosas that have no equal anywhere in the world!
Tolerance of all faiths was the accepted and unspoken norm – an absolute sine qua non. In my student days, I worked part time at a Claremont dry cleaner with its large Muslim staff many of whom I remember well. There was friendship, harmony and cooperation for we could not see it otherwise!
I note that in your article, you referred to the city of Jaffa as being in Palestine. Your correspondent Basel Agbaria resides in Israel (NOT Palestine) in Jaffa, an historic town close to Tel Aviv that is located next to the sea and has a mixed population of Muslims, Christians and Jews who peacefully co-exist and where iftar is practiced openly and freely.
You have intentionally omitted the word Israel and supplanted it with Palestine. There is indeed a Palestinian Authority on the West Bank but it spews out antisemitic hatred and bankrolls terrorists. Bethlehem that once had a thriving Christian majority and mayor, after relinquishment of Israeli control to the Palestinians, has seen its residents emigrate in droves, leaving a rapidly shrinking Christian minority – presently only one eighth of the population. Hamas in the Gaza Strip, with its avowedly Jewish genocidal aims also persecutes Christians, many of whom fear for their lives.
No ‘boeka’ there, I’m afraid!
How unfortunate and tragic that in the Middle East, tolerance has been long swiftly defenestrated and replaced with hatred and persecution. Those days in Walmer Estate, so fondly recalled by Nadia Kamies where all faiths lived side-by-side and come Ramadan, Muslims would share Boeka with their Christian neighbours, here, in the countries bordering Israel (NOT Palestine), are sadly extinct. In Syria, in the ongoing civil war, more than half a million of its citizens – have been slaughtered by their co-religionists. In Iraq, the Sunnis and Shiites share a mutual hatred while the Christians are caught in the middle. Jewish communities in the Middle East that existed long before the advent of Islam, are long gone. Most of these inhabitants were disenfranchised, expelled or having fled for their lives.
I live in Israel (NOT Palestine), a country of 9,000,000 citizens, a state that is a member of the United Nations and whose blue and white flag, amongst all the other nations, proudly flutters at their New York headquarters, a state whose name appears on any reputable atlas, a sovereign state recognized by the community of enlightened nations. It is also the sole democracy in the Middle East, where Jews, Muslims and other faiths live and work side by side. Israel is an oasis where the freedom of worship is guaranteed by law. A national radio broadcasts for its Muslim listeners, official times of beginning and ending the daily Ramadan fast.
Your blatant disrespect for my country and denial of Israel’s existence and its centrality to our faith is an insult to the Jewish people and their religion and makes a mockery of your so-called respect for all faiths.
How sad that your professed aim of bringing people together is marred by bigotry and bias and how hollow your words of creating “community and solidarity… among people of different religions and nationalities” sound.
I suggest that next time you cook up your site that “is centered around the universal value of sharing food to connect and unite”, that you dispense with the ingredients of hatred and denial and liberally spice it with tolerance and a genuine acceptance of the rights of others and other nations to exist. If so done, dear Ayesha, it would be truly palatable for us all.
With best wishes,
About the writer:
Stephen Schulman is a graduate of the 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.
*Title Picture: The Jaffa clock tower dominates Clock Square, a landmark at the entrance to the Jaffa section of Tel Aviv. Photo by JekLi/Shutterstock.com
I am a huge Pink Floyd fan. I join millions around the world in enjoying their profound if not psychedelic lyrics and splendid guitar riffs. Pink Floyd is the stuff of classic rock legend!
Over the last couple of years, the band has become less known for its music; and more for the bizarre and hate filled rantings of its former bass player, Roger Waters (76).
The rocker has found an obsession – he is poster erm….man for BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions), a global “movement” who state their goal as the destruction of the state of Israel, through boycotts and isolation. This is at the expense of other global conflicts where they stay mysteriously silent.
Waters waxes lyrical (pun intended because is quite partial to a good ol’song!) about how “Nazi-like” Israel is, how other artists should boycott the Jewish state, a plea that is met with stony silence – and more than a little eye rolling. He also rabbits on about what a pariah state Israel is and has used stereotypical antisemitic imagery such as the pig balloon he floats at his concerts with a Magen David (Star of David) on it with dollar signs. He conveniently has steered clear of criticizing the Syrian regime for the wholesale slaughter of civilians or Russia’s Putin for the country’s treatment of the Ukraine.
He has also parlayed his “talents” for film. In 2019, Israel hosted the annual musical cheese fest, Eurovision as a result of winning the competition the previous year. A pro-BDS group in Switzerland produced a petition calling for it to be boycotted. Water’s good friend and founder of BDS, Omar Barghouti, he who magnificently has managed to successfully boycott Israel while having studied at Tel Aviv University forwarded him the petition (probably while using Israeli technology). This naturally prompted the unhinged rocker to don his best fleece dressing gown and take to Twitter for a rant.
Scratching his face and staring at the camera, Waters declares that Barghouti’s email reminded him of “three choice ‘Fs,’” the first being “Film.” “There’s the film, and that film was the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Eurovision reminds me of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, because it seems it may have been taken over by, um, I believe it was aliens. I know, it’s giving aliens a bad name, but at the end of the movie, Donald Sutherland points at somebody like this” – Here, Waters points at the camera while making a silent scream face – “The body-snatchers are doing that now, but normally what they’re going is, ‘antisemite!’” Waters yells.
Waters’s “second F” is “Fable,” and he proceeds to parody The Emperor’s New Clothes. “Mommy, mommy, why is the emperor of Israel parading his Ethno-supremacist bullshit around naked?’ Enough with Netanyahu-hu-hu.”
The “third and final F” is “Faith.” As he taps his exposed chest, Waters declares Barghouti’s message restores “faith in my fellow human beings, faith in their capacity for love and empathy,” because “136,000 of our Swiss brothers and sisters have signed and delivered a petition demanding that the Eurovision pull out of the finals in Tel Aviv.”
Needless to say, the 2019 Eurovision in Tel Aviv was a massive success (barring a rather dodgy performance by Madonna) and introduced millions around the world to the vibrant, multicultural, robust democracy that is Israel – albeit with a side of disco cheese!
No wonder his former bandmates have decided to social distance themselves from him – permanently.
Imagine my glee when it was announced recently that the rockers had employed their own BDS campaign against former fellow bandmate and bassist, Roger Waters. The band declared him persona non grata on ALL social media. Lead guitarist and vocalist, David Gilmour, declared him “irrelevant” and declared that Waters’ solo endeavours must not be mentioned. Ouch!
Waters has proven himself to be comfortably dumb over the last decade or so with his absolute obsession with Israel. Perhaps his former bandmates are fatigued and their answer has been clear – wish you weren’t here…..
And so he isn’t.
Pursuing his new solo career as whiner par excellence, Waters latest musical offering about “from the river to the sea we will take back the land” is less lyrical anthem the likes of “Shine on you Crazy Diamond” or “Learning to Fly” but is sure to be a hit amongst the grossest anti-Semites and haters that lurk on the internet. He premiered his anthem for hate at a Naqba day event hosted online. With Coronavirus lockdowns putting the kibosh on marches and gatherings, these events have found oxygen online. Clearly, he has been spending his time in lockdown looking for more ways to spread hatred than to contribute something positive to a world currently in crisis.
The jig is up for Israel’s arch boycotter. Nobody is interested. There are more important things to be concerned about than an ageing rock star in a shabby dressing gown.
I remain a huge fan of Pink Floyd and delighted that Israel has and continues to welcome major acts like Jennifer Lopez, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and many, many others. Roger Waters will sadly go down in musical history as a disgraced bassist and just another pr*** in the wall of haters.
Where BDS Activism Goes, Antisemitism Is Sure To Follow
By Rodney Mazinter
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement aims to delegitimize the Jewish state whilst holding it to different standards from the rest of the world.
Whilst it presents itself as a non-violent movement to support Palestinian rights, for its founders and leaders, it is a tool to end the State of Israel. Each year during Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) – a week dedicated to anti-Israel activity on campuses around the world – BDS seeks out Israel’s destruction while trying to con the public into thinking they stand up for human rights. This year, students were spared this infliction by Covid-19, probably the only positive contribution of the pandemic.
What truly then does BDS “stand up” for? While you can view its list of demands on https://bdsmovement.net/call, in essence however, they state that they will maintain a boycott of Israel until it grants the “right of return” to all Palestinian refugees i.e. the end of Israel.
BDS cofounder, Omar Barghouti, explains the true implications of his organisation’s “right of return” demand:
“If the refugees were to return, you would NOT have a two-state solution. Like one Palestinian commentator said, ‘You would have a Palestine next to a Palestine, rather than a Palestine next to Israel’.”
To put it more plainly, if the Palestinian refugees and millions of their descendants were to return to the homes they left in 1948 — a right afforded to no other misplaced population including Jews from North Africa and the Middle East, and certainly not to their descendants — there would be no Israel, no Jewish state, no Jewish self-determination.
Mr. Barghouti – and the BDS leadership – do not believe in the right of the Jewish people to possess a sovereign state in any part of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
The global BDS movement — through both its aims and tactics — is directly opposed to a truly just and peaceful resolution. After every one of the five major wars, all started and then lost by the Arabs/Palestinians, Israel was prepared to negotiate peace and borders, but the Palestinians rejected all overtures. Whenever ceasefires were implemented, the Palestinians adhered to them merely as a pretext to rearm and prepare themselves for the next round of their never-ending conflict.
Every March, BDS launches its infamous IAW (Israel Apartheid Week) on university campuses around the world. “IAW” climaxes year-long activity on campuses during which BDS and their supporters promote an anti-Israel, antisemitic and anti-Zionist agenda that calls for a widespread boycott of Israel. Its antisemitic roots and rhetoric should worry all democratic communities .
BDS produces regular anti-Israel content, including published letters, articles, pamphlets and social media campaigns all flawed by inaccurate, unverified, and false reporting. Treating Israel worse than North Korea, Iran, and Syria, the anti-Israel lobby refrains from offering fair or balanced comment. Its pronouncements calling for Israel’s “compliance with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights” undermines its credibility because of its own lack of expectation of compliance from the above countries and others; whose human rights record is atrocious. The absolute bias of BDS against Israel is revealed by ignoring the world’s most pressing issues of human rights.
BDS is an organisation peopled by anti-Israel and anti-Jewish demagogues who can have no role in any solution to the Israel/Palestinian situation.
The concept of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel is not new. Prior to the establishment of BDS, Israel had to fight for its place in the global economy whilst being boycotted by the world’s Arab nations. Failing in its efforts to harm Israel’s robust export-orientated economy, BDS resorts to a despicable level of offensive and abusive invective.
For those who need reminding, Israel is founded on a slate of Jewish values:
Dignity of the human person
Sanctity of human life
Education as a human right
World peace as an ideal
Justice for all
On this basis, Israel has been able to establish a thriving economy, join leading intergovernmental economic organisations such as the OECD, and has become one of the world’s innovators in Hi-Tech, Bio-Tech, medical advances and Security.
Where BDS activism goes, antisemitism follows. There has been a disconcerting increase in antisemitic incidents on South African university campuses where BDS is most active. Reported incidents include harassment and antisemitic vandalism. Just a year ago, UCT(University of Cape Town) witnessed vandalism that saw a stolen Israeli flag being defaced during “Israel Apartheid Week”. These actions violate the South African Constitution’s laws against propagating hatred.
The emerging picture is worrying. Besides BDS’s antisemitic strategy to delegitimise the only Jewish state and to hold it to different standards to the rest of the world, the movement hides behind its argument that it is not antisemitic but “anti-Zionist”, all the while seeking to blur the distinction between the two concepts. It ignores the Jewish right to self-determination whilst promoting its distorted definition of Zionism as a “colonialist” policy that seeks to “take over control of land and resources and forcibly remove Palestinians and engages in ‘ethnic cleansing’.”
Even worse, it rewrites any manifestation of Jewish identity that does not fit its propaganda; and aligns Jews with the old colonialist powers and the former South African apartheid regime. I was personally exposed to this at a panel discussion I attended on Israel in 2016 at the University of Cape Town (UCT).
It was shocking, even worse it was frightening!
With anti-Israel activists in the panel like anti-war activist and author Terry Crawford-Browne and former Minister for Intelligence services Ronnie Kasrils, the discussion was not so much about Israel as against Israel. Typical falsehood fare from the panellists included:
– “Israel was established by colonialist Jews who destroyed the existing Palestinian state”
– “Innocent Palestinians were being murdered by the IDF”.
I raised my hand to speak but was ignored by the transparently prejudiced moderator and then when a young woman student in the audience – probably unknown – was recognised and manage to bravely rebut some of the outrageous allegations from the panelists, she was met with rousing audience hostility and scorn. It was intimidating. The climate of hatred and antisemitism disguised as anti-Zionism at the gathering was not something I had personally experienced before in South Africa. Sadly, this type of behaviour is commonplace on campuses around the world.
The hosting of such on-campus activities dangerously conveys the message that acting violently towards innocent people with a different perspective is justifiable and acceptable. In effect it compromises other students’ security. This manifestation of lies and distortions appears also in our daily media posing a danger to any student in South Africa; by inciting others to cause bodily harm or damage to property.
Since the 2005 call by Palestinian civil society for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei recently took it to a new level when he urged the Muslim World to boycott anything and everything that originates with the Jewish people.
Barghouti ignores the generally accepted truth that while criticism of any country in the world is legitimate, BDS criticism of Israel is foundationally and fundamentally antisemitic.
As the truth about the Middle East conflict filters through, and BDS’ carefully crafted façade is exposed, its true antisemitic character is revealed.
A case in point is that of Norman Finkelstein, one of BDS’s poster boys, whom the organisation brought to South Africa to bolster its campaign against Israel. In an interview at London’s Imperial College with Frank Barat in March 2012, Finkelstein, while still critical of Israel, was at least honest enough to reveal the true intentions of BDS behind its disingenuous crafted façade with this statement that totally took the BDS-supporting interviewer by surprise:
“BDS is nothing more than a cult….The problem with these solidarity movements is that they are a mirror image of the so-called Palestinian Authority, whose means will never achieve their goal, which is the destruction of Israel.…Step out of your little cult, your little ghetto, and you enter the real world. I’m not going to lie, you don’t want to enforce the law, you want to destroy Israel.That you focus on Israel’s minorities and not the plight of the 10-million other minorities throughout the Middle East and elsewhere is an indication of what hypocrites you are. Israel has a case and I am tired after so many years having to consider and answer these lies.”
Over time – by its own actions and words, the true colours of the BDS movement as a hate-filled organisation peddling in lies and distortions to further its ends is being revealed. That desired “end” is the end of Israel.
This might explain the growing number of once BDS supporters seeing through its subterfuge and disowning the organisation’s destructive message.
About the author
RODNEY MAZINTER. Rodney is a Cape Town based writer, poet and author, who is involved in media activism on behalf of Israel. Currently vice-chair of the SAZF Cape Council, he has held numerous leadership positions within a range of educational, sporting, secular and Jewish organisations. His novel By A Mighty Hand was favourably reviewed on Amazon.
BDS South Africa’s wraps Palestinian headscarf over African continent in new logo
By David.E. Kaplan
In the midst of the global Coronavirus crisis, BDS South Africa in its online newsletter dated March 20, announced that following consultations with several of its partners “in South Africa and on the African continent,” that the organisation will henceforth function under the name:
“Africa for Palestine (AFP)”
While Africa is focused on protecting its populations from a killer virus, BDS South Africa is promoting and facilitating another kind of killer virus – antisemitism, but now not only in South Africa but across the African continent.
Such is the ambition of BDS South Africa – excuse, Africa for Palestine!!!
With the African continent joining the world in trying to protect and save lives, BDS SA is moving in the opposite diabolical direction. What’s more, it brazenly does not disguise its nefarious intent as emblazoned in its new LOGO, with the entire continent of Africa ENVELOPED by a Palestinian keffiyeh.
In a continent committed to a better future of science, technology and innovation, branding with yesteryear’s terrorism is not the way to go.
Does BDS South Africa really believe that Africa is gullible to this attempted “Hostile Takeover” as they graphically articulate in its new spine-chilling logo?
The people of Africa will see through this façade of deception!
Coronavirus does not distinguish between nations and religions, between Jews and Arabs and yet BDS South Africa is diabolically and deceptively exploiting the virus to fan antisemitism and defame the Jewish state with fabrications.
So while since March 19, 2020:
– the Israeli government has sent hundreds of coronavirus testing kits to the Palestinian Authority and Gaza as well as 2,000 protective suits and twenty tons of disinfectants and 100 liters of sanitizing gel
– Israeli doctors and specialists have been dispatched to the West Bank city of Jericho to train Palestinian medical teams to save lives in combating the coronavirus pandemic
– Palestinian Authority officials Ahmed Deek and Hussein al Sheikh – responsible for cooperation between the PA and Israel – praised Israel’s assistance, particularly the Israeli government’s honoring of the PA’s request to provide accommodations in Israel for 45,000 Palestinian worker-commuters from the West Bank to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection
– The UN Security Council issuing a formal statement welcoming Israeli Palestinian cooperation against Corona stating that it “provided a blueprint for renewed peace talks” none of these Israeli measures had any impact on BDS South Africa’s leadership who proceeded to serve its regular platter of conspiratorial accusations against Israel, as part of its 2020 annual “Israel Apartheid Week”.
On March 19, when Israel announced it was considering a complete lockdown over coronavirus, BDS South Africa’s founder Mohammed Desai, charged Israel with refusing to issue vital life-saving instructions in Arabic to Arabic speaking citizens and residents of the Jewish state. However, Desai’s accusation was immediately revealed as false on South African national television by the TV debate’s other guest, Israeli Arab, Yoseph Haddad, who called Desai a “liar”.
“As an Arab Israeli, I got the instructions in Arabic; SO STOP LYING.”
He then proceeded to ask the founder of BDS South Africa, who advocates boycotts of Israel whether he would himself boycott Israel in the following scenario:
“Israel today is working on a vaccine for Coronavirus. Should it discover a vaccine, would you use it?”
Mumbling and digressing in trying to dodge the question, Haddad persisted for an answer:
“Would you use it – Yes or No. The question is simple”
The BDS South Africa head refused to answer and then concluded with this disgusting yet revealing comment:
“Israel’s expertise should not be used as an exercise of blackmail.”
He knew he had been exposed as the fraud he is, as is the organisation he founded and heads, and now seeks to re-brand or disguise!
There is also no “disguising” the true Mohammed Desai when one takes a closer at the print on the white T-shirt he wore for this debate on national TV’s prime time:
Beneath the large colorful Google logo, appears the Search Box with Israel typed in and then the question:
“Did you mean Palestine?”
Clearly, the founder of BDS South Africa shares the same sentiments as the cofounder of the global BDS movement Omar Barghouti when he said:
“The two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is finally dead. But someone has to issue an official death certificate before the rotting corpse is given a proper burial… Good riddance!”
For BDS South Africa’s founder – there is no partnership, no coexistence,no Jewish State; there is no Israel!
All this finally begs the question:
Why has BDS South Africa changed its name to the preposterous and presumptuous – ‘Africa for Palestine’?
The answer lies not in any success but due to its failure.
BDS South Africa is rebranding because its hateful and hurtful message no longer resonates with most the of people of South Africa.
Rather than a “rose”, the newly morphed BDS South Africa is but:
“A Reptile By Another Name”
At 2:40 minutes into this short video clip, Israeli-Arab Yosef Haddad asks the head of BDS South Africa, Mohamed Desai whether he would use an Israeli-made coronavirus antidote.
Nazis in sequins, Hassidim with the bodies of insects, crematoria on floats – it sounds like a debauched nightmare. It is. It is also a horrible new trend that seems to be occurring in carnivals that are taking place in Europe.
Offensive medieval stereotypes and imagery from our darkest time in history, the Holocaust, seem fair game for decorating floats and inspiring dance routines. To say that this is hurtful and offensive is an understatement. Just 75 years after the end of World War II and the liberation of death camps like Auschwitz, Majdanek and others and the decimation of Europe’s Jews, this repugnant imagery accompanied by rhetoric that is just as vile, has reared its head once again in towns and cities across the continent.
In the Belgian town of Aalst, just a few kilometres from the capital, Brussels, an annual parade has captured headlines around the world. Once celebrated and endorsed by UNESCO for its nod to cultural heritage, the parade has been condemned and delisted – the first in the history of the UN agency. The reason for this is because of overt antisemitism and racism. For several years, Jews have been the punchline in the joke that is the Aalst parade. Nobody is laughing. The caricatures of Jews that feature ugly, medieval stereotypes are dangerous and profoundly hurtful. The imagery and accusations hearken back to the darkest time in Jewish history and it is puzzling that Belgium, who saw tens of thousands of Jews deported to death camps has allowed for this to resurface. In 2019, the floats featured exaggerated images of Orthodox Jews, with enlarged hooked noses, bags of money and surrounded by rats. This year, the same theme of vermin took centre stage. This year’s float featured men wearing Hassidic hats with the bodies of insects, fake hooknoses and silver face paint. The float also featured a large parchment sign proclaiming six “regulations” handed down by the made-up “Jewish festival committee.” They include “No Jews in the procession; no mocking Jews; don’t ever tell the truth about the Jew; what the Jew wants will happen; all drugs and black money is ours.” Every ugly stereotypic anti-Semitic trope was trotted out for the world to see and it sparked outrage –except it seems for the people of Aalst. The town’s far right leaning mayor declared that it would be “unavoidable” that Jews would be mocked again. The citizens of the town were defiant.
“This is just a joke, and we can joke about whatever we want here,” said a man, who claimed he was 26 years old and works in computers. Global Jewry is not laughing. At a time when levels of antisemitism are at alarming levels, events like this are profoundly unnerving and dangerous.
The parade might have had its roots in the Middle Ages, and it seems that it has hardly progressed since then.
What has seemingly started in the Belgian town of Aalst, seems to be finding a home in Spain as well.
In the last month, Spain has been home to two of these carnival parades.
In the town of Campo de Criptana, a parade was held as part of the annual Castilla La Mancha festival. As part of their parade, they featured women in costumes depicting concentration camp victims carrying Israeli flags and men wearing replicas of the uniforms of SS officers from the German army. They paraded and danced to loud dance music emitted from a float that carried two towers that resembled smokestacks. They twirled, they danced, they wore sequins.
The Auschwitz museum condemned it for trivializing the Holocaust and Spain’s minister of foreign affairs, Arancha González Laya, also said on Twitter that she was “horrified by the performance.” After contacting the organizers, she said they have apologized to the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain. They apparently thought that they were “paying tribute”. Some tribute!
The same day, the town of Badajos, situated west of Madrid, had their own carnival parade which featured participants wearing uniforms that were part SS and part concentration camp prisoner while holding up signs reading “the same”. There is no tribute here, only an ode to bad taste.
I took to social media to see what people were saying. Perhaps I should not have – the results were disturbing.
Words like “spectacular” and “wonderfully artistic” were used and when I responded to one post asking whether genocide was spectacular, I was roundly told off – and called ignorant. The irony is staggering – but it is evident that now more than ever, Holocaust education is necessary.
This type of antisemitic posturing is not new. Last April, Polish villagers at an Easter procession beat and burned an effigy of a Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox Jew, particularly painful given the old accusation of deicide and Poland’s tragic Jewish past.
Historians familiar with the antisemitic record of Europe’s carnivals; the emergence of this theme in modern-day parades is an organic continuation of a centuries-old tradition. This type of antisemitism is often seen at the religious Carnival that celebrates Lent, the 40-day period that precedes Easter.
It is going to take a lot more than a costume change to fix the hurt and offence caused by these carnivals of the grotesque. It is going to take education and a deep search into Europe’s soul to ask the question:
“Has anything been learnt from the Continent’s painful and tragic record of Jewish persecution?”
I have a message for the EU, a little bit of Israeli history that I believe is quite appropriate right now after their action to boycott all Israeli businesses, products and services that are located in Yehudah and Shomron.
You know, the history of boycotting the Jewish people isn’t new, but I will not dwell on the distant past, I will take you to April 1, 1933. On that day, the Nazi Party (NSDAP) that had seized control of the German nation, decided to launch a mass boycott of all Jewish businesses, professionals like doctors and dentists, and educated men and women who taught at Germany’s universities and colleges. This was the primary and first governmental anti-Semitic act of the new government-and what did it achieve?
Well, firstly it brought Albert Einstein to the United States and it laid the groundwork for the most massive pre-statehood immigration of Jews into the homeland. In 1935, 61,834 Jews from Germany and Central Europe, fleeing for their lives, made the trek to the former British Mandate and what did they bring with them other than the meager belongings that they were permitted to carry on their persons. Let’s see, they brought the talent that would create the now, Israel Philharmonic, the boycott brought dozens of doctors, dentists, lawyers, and university lecturers to what had been, for the most part, a tiny agrarian, socialist economy that had not been able to attract this caliber of person, and it laid the foundations for a burgeoning middle class that would build hundreds of factories, create the groundwork for huge industrial enterprises and give renewal and revival to dozens of established and soon to be established, vibrant communal settlements all over the country.
But why stop there? In 1936, the Arab Higher Committee (the organization of anti-Jewish terrorists of its day) called a general strike all over the mandate that closed shops and factories and ports and impoverished the local Arab community by threatening to murder any Arab that dared to go to work or open his shop or harvest and sell his produce. So, what was the Jewish answer to this boycott? Well, we brought thousands of Greek Jews from Thessaloniki (Salonica) and other Greek ports where the Jews were the dockworkers, the stevedores, the longshoremen, and WE answered the Arab strike with the creation of the port of Tel Aviv, which had no port previously. We built a Jewish owned shipping industry and built what is today the Israel Shipyards – one of the largest shipbuilding and repair facilities in the eastern Mediterranean. We expanded and built new Jewish owned and operated businesses and our farms grew to take up the slack and maintain the market that the Arab boycott had shuttered.
With the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the Arab League opened the Office for the Boycott of Israel in Damascus, where it is still located today. The member states of the Arab League threatened to seize any business and boycott any individual that dared to do invest or build in the Jewish state. They also refrained from opening their markets to Israeli goods and refused our ships docking privileges in their ports. So, what did we do? WE created an Israeli shipping line, the ZIM line, to carry our goods all over the world. WE built the port of Eilat to bypass the Suez Canal and deal with the new nations of Africa and Asia. WE improvised, adapted and overcame by building an economy whose products and services would be demanded by the civilized world and this brought us investment, venture capital and billions in outright donations that has created an economic powerhouse in a nation so small, so lacking in natural resources, that today, Israel’s shekel is among the strongest currencies traded anywhere in the world. International corporations that have brought their major R&D centers here, like Intel, Microsoft and Cisco Systems, where entrepreneurs from all over the world have invested billions of dollars in Israeli companies, as has Warren Buffet, who made his first ever, international investment to the tune of $4 BILLION in an Israeli company in the Western Galilee that makes, among other items, the blades for jet engines and razors. Israel has more businesses listed on NASDAQ than Western Europe, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea combined, and more startups than America’s Silicon Valley which is represented in EVERY Israeli city. Personally, I don’t believe that Kirk Douglas, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe or the Disney Corporation were really upset that their films could not be shown in Beirut, Damascus, Ammann or Cairo. Even, “Cleopatra,” could not be shown in the Arab world because its star Elizabeth Taylor was a Jew.
But, let’s get to the present, shall we? Over 25,000 “Palestinian” Arabs work in Yehudah and Shomron, all of them receive the same pay as their Israeli equivalents in the same industry, they all get National Insurance benefits, health care and, most importantly, they get paid regularly. I know this for a fact as I see the Arabs who work for my town, line up at the local branch of Bank Le’umi and collect their wages on the 5th of every month. These workers support their families and the EU is threatening the livelihoods of the very folks it wants to grant independence too? How can they ever be independent if by your boycott you force the places where they work to re-locate within the “Green Line”?
Will your anti-Semitic boycott make us leave our land? Will this act of pernicious Jew hatred weaken our resolve? History teaches us otherwise. More Jews will come to Yehudah and Shomron, build new factories and new farms and new communities. Israeli exports are ever increasing, if not to the creeping decrepitude that is so obvious in a dying, Islamicized Europe, devoid of courage and full of cowardice and prejudice, but to the growing economic powerhouses of India, China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea-Israel’s economic future and success is in the East, in the Pacific Rim and all over a sleeping giant continent called Africa.
Your boycotts have strengthened us, your hatred has united us and your utter contempt for truth and your obeisance to hypocrisy and cowardice has made you contemptible and beyond rescue.
And, to top it all off (to use a gas station phrase) maybe Moses made the correct turn after all, for we have found natural gas deposits that are in the trillions of cubic meters, and, dare I say the word, OIL! Sure, it’s shale, but with all your technological universities and research centers being urged to cut their ties with us, I guess we’ll just have to put our Jewish heads together and solve the problem ourselves, in typical Israeli fashion-after all, you have always forced us too. Thanks again.
Irwin Blank was born in NYC in 1952 and has a BA in Political Science from Colombia University NY. He was part of the Speakers’ Bureau American Zionist Youth Foundation and editor of the Zionost Organization of America. He made Aliyah in July 2008 and lives in Maaleh Adumim.
The relationship between Israel and Belgium once enriching is now troubling and turbulent
By David E. Kaplan
Present relations between Israel and Belgium are worrying. This past February, we saw at the annual carnival in the Belgian town of Aalst, a procession featuring Nazi uniforms, costumes of Jews as vermin despite the fact that the Nazis deported about 25,000 Jews from occupied Belgium to the Auschwitz death camp, where most were murdered. This followed a float in the previous year’s parade depicting puppets of hook-nosed orthodox Jews with rats sitting on money bags that led to UNESCO withdrawing it from its “intangible cultural heritage” list.
This February also saw Israel angry at Belgium for what Jerusalem said was a systematic campaign to demonize the Jewish state at the United Nations by using its privilege of holding the rotating presidency of the council in February by inviting speakers who hold anti-Israel bias.
However, despite recent hiccups, Israel and Belgium have enjoyed an enriching relationship revealing some fascinating history.
When famed Israeli football coach Guy Luzon – currently managing of Maccabi Petah Tikva – was appointed the coach of the Belgium football club Standard Liège in 2013, it reflected a long and enriching relationship between the Benelux country and the State of Israel.
While few in Belgium had ever heard of Luzon before he took Standard Liège close to winning the national title, few in Israel, knew too much about Belgium, beyond its chocolates, waffles and beer and for the more politically attuned that Brussels is the capital of the EU.
Food for Thought
While there are many restaurants in Israel offering European, Asian and American cuisine, has anyone ever seen a Belgium restaurant?
Curious as to what food is typically Belgium, this writer put the question to Sophie Katz from Tel Aviv who grew up in Antwerp, which is Belgium’s second largest city and has a Jewish community numbering some 18,000 people.
“French fries,” she replied. Hardly what this writer would have guessed as typically Belgium!
Contrary to conventional wisdom, ‘fries’ – that is, deep-fried chipped potatoes – are thought to have originated in Belgium. This revelation is substantiated by a book entitled Curiosités de la table dans les Pays-Bas-Belgiques written in 1781, which described how inhabitants of Namur, Dinant and Andenne around the Meuse River had eaten fried potatoes since around 1680.
Though made popular across the globe by the United States as “French Fries”, it is believed – without casting aspersions on American’s understanding of world geography – that Yank soldiers during the First World War erroneously thought they were being served the dish in France. In their defense, the way that trench war shifted, borders were somewhat blurred!
War has a way of shifting lives.
In the spring of 1943, the Jewish Defense Committee in Belgium conceived a bold plan to halt a deportation train to Auschwitz. Having learned the exact date and time of an impending deportation from the Mechelen transit camp, the resistance planned for action. On the night of April 19, 1943, as the train began its journey to Auschwitz, three members of a resistance unit sprang into action. Under the command of a young Jewish physician, Georges Livchitz, the group forced the train to stop by signaling it with a red lantern. Livchitz held the engineer at bay with a small caliber revolver, while his comrades forced open the doors of several cars. Under a hail of gunfire from the German guards, some prisoners escaped, some of whose descendants made their way to Israel.
Belgium stood with Israel at its moment of rebirth in 1947, when it voted in favor of UN resolution 181 calling for the partition of British-ruled Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Following this, on January 15, 1950, Belgium recognized the State of Israel and ever since, the relations between Israel and Belgium have been friendly, as evidenced by the numerous reciprocal high-profile visits and tokens of friendship.
Most notable was the 1959 visit of Queen Elizabeth of Belgium, the grandmother of the present king, who helped save Jews during World War II and was granted the title of “Righteous among the Nations” by Yad Vashem. In welcoming her, Israel’s president Yitzhak Ben Zvi referred to her as “our great and faithful friend”.
Literally ‘cementing’ this relationship, a plaque in memory of her husband King Albert I, was unveiled in February 2010 at the Albert Square in Tel Aviv in the presence of the mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Ron Huldai, and Ambassador Bénédicte Frankinet.
There was good reason to honor the King. On a visit to Palestine in 1933, he stood beside Tel Aviv’s first mayor, Meir Dizengoff, and expressed his deep support for the renewal of Jewish life in its ancestral homeland.
In the ensuing years, particularly following the late King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola’s meeting Israeli president Zalman Shazar when they came on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1964, there has been a steady flow of Belgian ministers visiting Israel on official business and Israeli counterparts welcomed in Belgium.
Many cultural, scientific and economic bilateral agreements have been signed over the years between the two countries. Several Belgium-Israel friendship associations organize activities in both countries to promote and strengthen bilateral relations.
Each year, a number of scholarships are granted to Israeli students to study in Belgian universities and Belgian students also come to study in Israel each year thanks to scholarships offered by Israel. The faculty club and guesthouse of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, known as Beit Belgia, was built with the financial aid of the Belgian Friends of the Hebrew University. Sylvain Brachfeld, a Holocaust survivor, is a well-known journalist for the Belgian and Israeli press and is an expert on Belgian Jewry. He immigrated to Israel in 1974 and writes extensively on Belgian Jewish history. In his most recent book ‘200 Years of the Jewish Community of Antwerp’, he writes about the contribution of Belgian Jews to the State of Israel, both philanthropically and “how immigrants from Belgium have excelled in Israel in varied fields.”
Belgium is one of Israel’s most important commercial partners (largely due to the diamond industry) and a great number of Israeli companies have their European headquarters there as well.
Following impressive bilateral trade between the two countries, in March 2010, Israel and Belgium signed a new tax treaty agreement to improve the competitiveness of Israeli companies operating in Belgium and to encourage Belgian investment in Israel.
A ‘sporting’ example of this relationship was the 2013 ‘export’ to Belgium of Guy Luzon as coach of the Belgium football club Standard Liège.
A Gem of a City
Since the fifteenth century, when Antwerp Jewish diamond cutter, Lodewyk van Berken, invented the scaif, diamond cutting has been a major traditional Jewish craft both in Israel and in Belgium. “As I recall,” says Sophie Katz, “most of the fathers of my friends were one way or another connected to the diamond history in Antwerp.” This corroborates with records showing that in the second half of the 20th century, the diamond industry was emerging as the main occupation for the Jews of Antwerp. Today, most of them remain either high skilled artisans who specialize in executing the most professional stages in the process of turning raw diamonds into high quality precious stones or merchants who are connected to the global network of diamond trade. “The diamond bourses of Antwerp are located inside the Jewish districts of the city and are closed on Friday afternoons before the onset of Shabbat (the Sabbath) and are deserted during Jewish holidays.”
In recent years, changes in the world diamond industry have brought about a decline in the importance of Antwerp with resulting in a diminishing influence of Jewish-owned companies on the market.
“Many of my friends have moved to Brussels while others have or are considering immigrating to Israel,” says Sophie.
Winds of Change
In recent years there has been a spurt of younger Jews from Belgium immigrating to Israel. This phenomenon has come about in part because of an increase in anti-Semitism across Europe, “which was never the case in Antwerp when I was growing up,” says Sophie. “While the Jewish community there was divided between the ultra-Orthodox, traditional and secular, and my family fell in the secular group, the entire community was very insular; we all went to Jewish Day Schools and belonged to Jewish youth movements. Come school holidays, we were off to either summer or winter youth movement camps. It was a wonderful, secure life and the Jewish community prospered.”
It is hardly surprising that with its relatively large concentration of orthodox and ultra-orthodox Jews that Antwerp has been nicknamed the last ‘shtetl’ in Western Europe. This honorific is more evident when walking around the district of Pelikanstraat near the diamond district and Jootsewijk, home to 12,000 orthodox Jews. Here men dress in the Hassidic garb of black mantles and fur hats and speak Yiddish.
Contributing to Antwerp’s ‘shetl’ image, each community has their own synagogues – about thirty in all – batei-midrash (houses of Jewish learning), kosher butcheries and restaurants. Jewish education is provided by four main Jewish schools with more than eighty-five percent of the Jewish children in Antwerp attending Jewish schools, one of the highest rates anywhere in the Diaspora. Student and youth organizations include Agudath Israel, Bnei Akiva, Hashomer Hatzair, and Hanoar Hazioni, of which, Sophie and all of her friends had been members.
Jewish communal life is rife with a number of welfare Jewish organizations, two senior citizen homes and even a hospital.
The Romi Goldmuntz Center serves as the stage for many cultural events of the community, the Royal Maccabi Sports Club is the main Jewish sport center in Antwerp and its Belgisch Israelitisch Weekblad (“Belgian Jewish Weekly”) is the largest Jewish newspaper in Belgium.
However ‘the good life’ has begun to lose some of that ‘sparkle’ as Jews again are experiencing sporadic outbreaks of anti-Semitism.
In August 2019, Dimitri Verhulst claimed in an op-ed in the newspaper De Morgen that “being Jewish is not a religion, no God would give creatures such an ugly nose.” He also accused Jews of harbouring a superiority complex due to the notion of Jews as the chosen people and said “talking to the Chosen is difficult” because they unjustly accuse critics of antisemitism.
Belgian-Jewish journalist Cnann Lipshitz has written that what is most troubling about the current state of antisemitism in Belgium is the fact that officials and opinion-shapers have often defended the perpetrators of antisemitic incidents on the grounds of “free speech” or that no offense was supposedly intended. According to Lipshitz, “classic antisemitism” of a type he had thought “impossible in an established Western democracy in the heart of Europe,” is now “mainstream” in Belgium.
Mark Geleyn, a former Belgian ambassador to Israel, recently condemned his country’s policy towards Israel as “not the attitude of a friend.”
Speaking at a conference on diversity in Brussels in late 2019, Gelwyn said Belgium was an anti-Israel country that, unlike most others in Western Europe, has not opposed the ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS)’ movement.
Geleyn is honorary president of Belgian Friends of Israel and former Belgian ambassador to Israel and Germany.
He said, “After the creation of the State of Israel, the first Jews of Belgium, survivors of the Great Persecution, left our country to become citizens of the new state. By obtaining Israeli nationality, they would lose their Belgian nationality. But the survival of the new state, and its citizens, was very uncertain. Then the Belgian government at the time, rue de Loi (prime minister) and rue Quatre Bras (foreign affairs), decided that the Jews who were making aliyah and becoming Israeli citizens could, in fact, retain their Belgian nationality. No-one knew if they would ever come back. Thus the possession of dual nationality, so common now, originated in Belgian law. Belgium, and its government, was a friend of Israel.”
He went on. “In the seventies, many Soviet Jews wanted to leave the Soviet Union. Two or three international conferences were organized to help them claim their right of emigration. One of these conferences, under the slogan LET MY PEOPLE GO, was held in Brussels, in the very room where you are now. It required a certain diplomatic courage on the part of the Belgian government vis-à-vis the powerful Soviet Union to host this conference in Belgium. Belgium, and its government, was a friend of Israel.”
But times have changed. He notes that when those in authority today visit Israel, they hesitate to accept an invitation to plant a tree, because they want to avoid the Zionist symbolism that planting a tree might imply. This is exactly the opposite of the attitude of which the former generation was proud. It is far from being the attitude of a friend.
And with the ugly parades in Aalst in 2019 and 2020, it appears Belgium is not embarrassed to “parade” its antisemitism.
US President Trump released his concept for a proposed peace between Israel and their Palestinian neighbours. While many countries, including several Arab states firmly endorse the plan, the Palestinian camp has roundly rejected it. Israeli citizen, Martine Alperstein shares her frustrations.
I am tired. So very tired. I am disappointed, disillusioned and exasperated.
And I am not the only one.
I am not the only one who is struggling to see the light at the end of this very long, very painful and very uneven, disjointed, dangerous tunnel. How many more lives need to be lost? How many more tears need to be shed?
My tears, your tears, their tears, our tears.
Yet another proposed peace plan that is never going to be put on the table because only one party is sitting at the table. Yet another ridiculous notion from the UN who can’t be bothered to take a close look at who they are actually hurting. Another day of rage. Another fleet of treacherous balloons.
Another retaliation by the IDF.
All I want is quiet.
Peace. Quiet. Calm. Safe.
I just want to feel safe. I want to know my children are safe. I want to know my parents are safe. I want to know that my siblings, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my acquaintances, my neighbours, my fellow humans are safe – and blessed with peace, quiet, calm.
I want. You want. They want. We want.
If you ask the average person on the street, on both sides of the line, on both sides of the border, what they want…. the answer will be the same. The Israeli Jew, the Israeli Arab, the Palestinian Arab will all tell you the same thing. They just want to live their lives peacefully, provide for their families, be happy and be good people.
I am crying. You are crying. They are crying. We are crying.
What is the solution? What is the next step? What is the way forward? How can we remedy this for once and for all? What can we do to ensure my children and grandchildren, and your children and grandchildren, their children and grandchildren, our children and grandchildren, have a different experience in this part of the world?
I am an ardent Zionist. I am Israeli by choice. Not by birth, not by circumstance, not because it is an easier or a more comfortable life. I am Israeli because I fully, wholeheartedly and passionately believe in the right of the Land of Israel and the Jewish State. I gave up a very comfortable and affluent life. I gave up being surrounded by my family who I miss and adore. I gave up being at so many family celebrations. I gave up a huge amount because I believe that this is my true place and that this is my true country. Every step I take is an echo of my forefathers and mothers. Everywhere I look is the view of my ancestors. Every mark that has been made was the touch of G-d.
And yet, I would be willing to share and be willing to give up a part of my beautiful country with so much history, so much heritage, so much meaning……. for peace. For guaranteed peace.
But Gush Katif answered that question for me. Brutally. After the withdrawal from Gaza, Israel has faced barrage after barrage of rockets and mortars, killing any chance for peace. We are still paying the price. Every. Single. Day.
So, what is next?
Where to from here?
What will make the difference?
How can we bring about change?
And the voice & words of Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder running through my head, on repeat…
‘Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony
Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord, why don’t we?
We all know that people are the same wherever you go
There is good and bad in ev’ryone
We learn to live, when we learn to give
Each other what we need to survive, together alive’
We need to find a solution for me, for you, for us and for them. We need to learn from the words from Paul and Stevie.
“Path to Peace” mosaic creation border wall:
Visitors are invited to take an active part in the creation of the peace wall by writing a personal wish on the back of a colorful mosaic piece and gluing it onto the security wall. The mosaic pieces are made by hand-work in the Path to Peace workshop. Among the colorful and optimistic pieces are different designs such as flower and butterflies and mosaic pieces with the word Peace in different languages.
I was asked recently if it would be possible to appear on an international news channel and be a “neutral” commentator on the announcement by the United Nations Human Rights Council of a blacklist of 112 companies doing business “related to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” which for the UN includes the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. This is an issue that defies neutrality for so many reasons. As Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin said, it recalled one of the darkest periods of our history, a time just before the outbreak of World War II, when Jews were forced to wear yellow stars, denoting us as different – and Jewish owned business boycotted, looted or destroyed.
It defies all rationale when countries like Sudan, Venezuela, Algeria, Bahrain, Bolivia, Chad, Cuba, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Libya and others form part of the bloc that sponsored the March 2016 resolution that led to the publishing of the blacklist. After all, these are not countries that enjoy good records on human rights.
There must be many victims of conflict wondering why their cries fall on deaf ears. The United Nations prove time and again that when it comes to Israel, they have a focus that has become an obsession. Resolution after resolution time and again, single Israel out for opprobrium but gross human rights violations like those in Iran, Venezuela, Syria and many other places barely elicit a response.
The publishing of this blacklist also plays right into the hands of the BDS (Boycott Divestment and sanctions) movement whose desired end goal is for Israel to not exist, a desire expressed clearly on their website and in their rhetoric. BDS is anti-normalisation – they are against any discourse and interaction between Israelis and Palestinians. For many who believe that peace will be built from the interaction between ordinary people and the provision of jobs and opportunities, a campaign like this deals a decisive blow to any efforts towards sustainable peace.
According to NGO Monitor, an organisation that monitors the often murky activities of non-governmental organisations, many of whom are associated with the BDS movement, not only was this list made in conjunction with pro-BDS and PFLP-linked NGOs, but these companies have done nothing wrong and many are involved in providing goods and services to Palestinians pursuant to the Oslo Accords.
These companies help create employment and opportunity for many Palestinians, who stand to lose the most. The decision to create a blacklist of companies not only threatens Palestinian employment opportunities but blocks access to the much needed humanitarian aid and infrastructure that these companies provide. The blacklist also hearkens back to times when Jews were singled out and put on exclusionary lists and today, the growing practice of labelling products manufactured in the West Bank is tantamount to wearing a modern day yellow star. Why is Israel singled out for this treatment but other countries with conflict situations are not?
A few weeks ago, I attended a conference where the CEO of SodaStream, Daniel Birenbaum, was a featured speaker. SodaStream is a well-known Israeli brand, sold to PepsiCo for a whopping $3.2billion, faces threats by BDS because their factory was situated in the West Bank. Birenbaum addressed the discriminatory practice of labelling goods produced in the West Bank by saying “if they want labels, we will give them labels” and promptly displayed the label found on all on SodaStream products.
Perhaps it would behoove the UN to learn from examples of co-existence and not pander to campaigns that are anti-Semitic and fall into the trap of questioning Israel’s legitimacy as a sovereign state. Blacklists, boycotts and labelling campaigns are harmful to sincere peace building efforts.
The timing of this could not be more bizarre. The release of the blacklist comes against the background of the release of the Trump Peace Plan. Although the Palestinians have roundly refused to even look at the plan, it has been endorsed by countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and other Arab countries.
The Arab world is slowly opening up to the realization that recognition of Israel and the potential mutual business potential only bode well for the people of the region – and helps stave off the massive threat posed by Iran, a country not exactly lauded for its record on human rights.
This move by the United Nations Human Rights Council is a dark day for the institution, for Israel and the Palestinians and gives a tailwind to anti-Semites. It is a failure of the power of an agency charged with the mandate of protecting global human rights.
For the United Nations that is fast losing credibility and the regard the institution once held, the publishing of this blacklist, coupled with the obsessive focus on Israel at the expense of other conflicts and human rights issues around the world prove that or this once venerable body, antisemitism is just business as usual.