Durban Remembered

By Craig Snoyman

Can one have memories of something that never happened to you?  There is a phenomenon in psychology that is referred to as false memory. Basically not only can the mind be used, it can also be manipulated. Different scenarios will produce different effects.  I know that I wasn’t at the original UN Conference Against Racism, known as Durban 1 but still have clear memories of it.

Unleashing a Tsunami of Hate. Secretary-General Kofi Annan speaking at the opening of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

In 2001, I was a freshly minted advocate, but still had strong ties with labour and one particular  trade union. It was a small mining trade union and I had a very good relationship with its General Secretary.The unionists knew I was Jewish but it made no difference. On 11 September 2001, I received a surprise visit from  Vuyani, the GenSec. He was full of the joys of the world! He had just returned from Durban and was bursting with news. He and a bunch of his comrade unionists had been bussed down to Durban to attend a big conference. They hadn’t paid for anything. They were put up in a hotel and were given food and there were lots of other unions there as well. It was the first time that he had seen the sea. He saw “Coffee” (Kofi Anan) and he was sure that I would be interested to know that he saw Yasser Arafat as well. He thought that he saw lots of other famous people as well, but he couldn’t remember their names, but it was those two that were pointed out, that he remembered. There were so many people there and there was lots of shouting and protests and also some toy-toying. But everybody was busy  and there was lots of talk about “Jews” and “Israel” and “Palestine” and everyone was waving posters about Israel and Apartheid. 

‘Festival of Jew-hate’. Protestors outside the 2001 Durban conference set on fighting Jews instead of racism

And then he produced his prized possessions. He took off his jacket to show me the T-shirt that he had been given. “They were just giving them to everyone” he said but he could only get one. It was a T-shirt with an image, I can’t remember it image clearly but  I think it was a child hiding behind an adult.  The writing on the shirt is still engraved in my memory: “Mohammed al-Durra  Killed for being a Palestinian”. Vuyani told me that he was keeping the shirt,  but he had  got a special present for me because he knew that I was Jewish. He opened up his plastic packet and pulled out a book. “They were giving these away and I knew that you would want one!” Out popped a soft-cover book with large writing on the front cover “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. I was dumbfounded. I know that I must have reacted because he asked me what was wrong. I can remember telling him that the book was banned and that he must destroy it. I don’t have much recollection of the rest of our meeting.

So that’s what I remember of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held at Durban in 2001.  I can remember my wife phoning me later in the day telling me that “they’re bombing America”- which turned out to be the terror attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, but my memories of Durban are stronger than my memories of New York.

It’s really ironic; I’m sure I must have known about al-Durra before but it probably never rang any bells. Then, suddenly, it was in the forefront of my mind. I had grown up hearing about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and even as a secular Jewish boy in a government school I knew it was virulently antisemitic.  This is what what Durban I and all the other subsequent Durban conferences have been about – lies and hatred!

Demonisation in Durban. Decrying false narratives, anti-Israel protestors demonstrate outside the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The killing of Mohammad al-Durra occurred about a year before the conference  during the ongoing Intifada. Video footage taken by a freelance Palestinian television cameraman was screened by France 2. The footage  shows Mohammed being given cover by his father as they  crouched behind a concrete cylinder. Mohammed was crying and his father was waving.  They were seen to be caught in the crossfire between the Israeli military and Palestinian security forces. Then there was a burst of gunfire. Mohammed  slumped, having been mortally wounded by gunfire and died soon after. The footage gained mega-traction and was distributed worldwide. Israel, initially admitted to killing al-Durra and this was the position when the conference was held. (Israel subsequently withdrew its admission.) Israel was the self-confessed villain, the killer of innocent Palestinian children. The world didn’t want to hear anything else, they lapped it up.  It was a vindication of their previously held opinions. A year later, it was still big news. By all accounts, the T-shirts of al-Durra must have flooded the Durban conference. It was the perfect foil for the conference, which in hindsight, was a premeditated orgy of anti-Zionist and antisemitic hate.

Stage Managing Hate. The photo of 12-year old Mohammed al Dura cowering behind his father  (centre)- distributed with the storyline that he was shot dead by Israeli soldiers (later proved false) was plastered all over the UN’s racist anti-racism Durban conference in 2001.

Winston Churchill once said that a lie will fly around the world before the truth has had time to put on its pants. The al-Durra narrative flew around the world many thousands of times before the truth found its pants. Slowly but surely the story started falling apart. The  France 2 journalist admitted that he didn’t see the incident, he relied on his Palestinian cameraman. Then there were lengths of time that were missing from the video clip. After the shooting, the clip went blurred. Then the Palestinian cameraman denied what he had sworn to in his affidavit, refuting his early oath that al-Durra had been shot in cold-blood. Then discrepancies entered into the matter. – If he was shot and killed why was there no blood on the scene? Where were the bullets? Initially, the cameraman said the bullets were collected by the Israelis.  Later Mohamed’s father said the Palestinians had all the bullets.  There was a problem with the time-line of the incident; it didn’t correlate. Mohammed’s father, who claimed to have been hit in the leg by nine bullets was also shown to be a liar as the scars on his legs were pre-existing., even although his Palestinian doctor on the day confirmed there were gunshot wounds to his leg. In 2012, when the medical records of the father were finally  examined, the  wounds were found to be completely different from those previously described. No bullets were ever produced, no inquiry by the Palestinians was even done and there was no inquest. Israeli soldiers denied that the incident could have taken place in the manner described. The Palestinians refused the Israelis access to the body and any medical records. In a subsequent Israeli recreation of the incident, it was found that if al-Durra was shot on the scene then the shots would have been fired by the Palestinian security forces. Seven years after the incident, the general view was that either the Palestinians shot al-Durra or it was a Pallywood set-up.  (On Appeal, the French Court was of a similar opinion, reversing the lower court finding of defamation of France 2)  So by 2012, some twelve years after the al-Durra incident took place, it was shown to be a scam, but the damage to Israel and its reputation was irreparable. Vuyani didn’t have a clue who Mohammed al-Durra was, but he  – and no doubt thousands of others – went around wearing this shirt, proclaiming the blood libel on a daily basis.

The availability of the book “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”  was equally amazing.  South Africa, with its much touted “best-in-the-world” Constitution, prohibiting hate-speech  made no attempt to prevent the distribution of the book at the Conference.  Hitler’s “Mein Kampff” was also freely available. Apparently, the only thing not freely available were the Jewish participants and Jewish protestors at the conference, “whose safety could not be guaranteed”  and had indeed withdrawn in fear of harm to life and limb, their voices having been drowned in the melee.  

Encouraged Reading at Durban. Freely distributed at the 2001 Durban Conference was the slanderous  Protocols of Zion that advocated a global Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. Here  is a version published in Pakistan  depicting on its cover the global Jew as a snake out to venomously strike at the Muslim world.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I recall the Protocols  as originally being a French creation from the nineteenth century and then adapted to the Russian condition. My google sources of reference state it as being a Russian creation of the early twentieth century, and recesses of my mind seem to be far more vast than my active memory. Maybe it’s just another of my  false memories! But then my recesses have difficulty distinguishing  one antisemite from another. The import of this  locus classicus  of antisemitic poison is to record a series of meetings held in Basel, Switzerland in the late nineteenth century. Ring a bell? Herzl’s first Zionist Conference just happened to be held in Basel at that time.  The report details  24 meetings in  which the Jews plan to create a world state under their control.  If the Jew’s liberalism (then, as now a dirty word) could not subvert the world  then the  Jews would do it by socialism.  Another bell starts ringing – Jews and the Menshevik party of Russia were becoming a threat to the Tzar with their (socialist) trade union activism. It was also published at the same time as the start of another pogrom against the Jews in Russia.  The Protocols explain that the Jewish  plots would proceed but if the Jews failed in these attempts,  then all the capitals of Europe would be sabotaged. Another bell ringing? The Balkans was a tinder box at the time. The Protocols  was rapidly translated into the languages of international discourse – English, French and German –  the world had established the cause of all the problems in the world.

It was the Jews’ fault.  

Churchill’s proverbial pants again took time to get pulled up. By 1921, the Protocols had been authoritatively discredited as a fraud and a hoax. Yet despite numerous and regular proofs of its falsity, it remains a widely published book and freely available, even at  a World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, a hundred years after its publication. In Durban, as with the Protocols,  the perfect evil villain had been created and again attacked with little fear of actual consequence.  The world didn’t want to hear anything else, they lapped it up.  The Durban Conference established the cause of all evil in the world. It was Israel’s fault, and it was officially, and solely,  identified as such.  The need for  a legitimate antisemitic, anti-Zionist body also translated into world discourse – the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) –  was evolved to fight the greatest evil that the galaxy (and beyond) has ever known – the evil Zionist oppressor, of course!

That, to me is what Durban I was all about. All these famous people in Mandela’s South Africa proudly and vocally heaping blame on Israel for the world’s trouble and all based on lies, fraud and hoaxes. It was only in Israel that senseless violence against innocent children took place. It was only in Israel that Nazism had resurrected its head. It was only in Israel that racism existed. It was only in Israel where Zionism had been translated into a dominating and racist ideology used for oppressing people. It was only  because of  Israel that intolerance and hate and violence in the world existed. And for that, Israel – and only Israel – deserved excoriation. Excoriated they were, lead by past and future Nobel Peace Prize luminaries such as Koffi Annan, Mary Robinson, Yasser Arafat and our own Nelson Mandela!

This disgracefully fraudulent House of Cards has not fallen.  Churchill’s pants have been pulled up but to no avail. We are on the eve of Durban IV, the rehash. Many “western” democracies have pulled out of the conference. There is only one  small voice shouting about the despicable nature  of the attack on Israel and that is from  the world’s  “oppressor” itself. Why should anyone choose to believe Israel anyway?  The West has done its part; it withdrew from  the conference. Should one expect more? Maybe just a small expression of condemnation? It doesn’t seem that the world thinks so.

Fight Hate not Promote It. The message from Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center  to UN head Antonio Guterres is that it is time for the world body “to finally bury Durban, not celebrate it” (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

I sit with my false memories, transposed from a naïve trade unionist and realize that  these false memories  are what we South Africans refer to as “msmallinyana skeletons”(small skeletons). The United Nations, however, sits with  the entire stinking, rotting corpse of Durban 1 on display on the outskirts of its opening of Durban IV.  

About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.

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

Revenge for 9/11, like the Holocaust, would be in thriving

By Alex Ryvchin

Republished with kind permission from “The Australian“.

A few weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany in May 1945, a group of survivors of the Holocaust met in Bucharest to mark Passover, the Jewish festival of freedom. Among the group was Abba Kovner, who had escaped the Vilna ghetto and led a partisan campaign that struck at the Nazis and their collaborators from the forests of Lithuania.

Kovner was consumed with desire for revenge. “He will repay them for their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness,” he told his fellow survivors at the gathering, invoking Psalm 94 and God’s promise to deliver vengeance upon the enemies of Israel.

The Jewish Avengers.  Killer of Jews in their sights, Abba Kovner (back row, center) with members of the Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye (The FPO – Eng: United Partisan Organization) in Vilna, 1940’s.

After the war, Kovner and his comrades, known as the “Avengers”, hatched a series of plots to exact retribution for the murders of their families and the near annihilation of the European Jews.

Most were aborted but the Avengers did succeed in getting their operatives into the kitchen of the Stalag 13 prisoner of war camp at Langwasser near Nuremberg, where Nazi SS, the units responsible for the implementation of the Final Solution, were being held. They planned to poison the bread of the prisoners, but the poison failed to take full effect and not a single SS man died.

The pursuit of revenge after the Holocaust proved futile. How does one even begin to avenge such a crime, really a sequence of millions of individual crimes, including the murders of one million children, carried out by hundreds of thousands of perpetrators across Europe?

It is a cliche to say success is the best revenge, but it is true. The real revenge the Jewish remnants took against those who pursued their obliteration was their survival and the re-establishment of a successful national centre for the Jews in their ancient lands that revived Jewish culture and enhanced Jewish scientific, cultural and scholarly contributions to the world. Kovner would become one of that state’s greatest poets.

Jewish Justice. Abba Kovner testifies at the trial in Jerusalem of Adolf Eichmann.  

For those of us who watched the carnage of 9/11, the desire for revenge was a difficult emotion to suppress. “Revenge is the first law of nature,” Napoleon wrote as a young man. It was certainly just and necessary to find those who masterminded the murders of 2996 people and to incapacitate terrorist organisations that would pursue further attacks. As the Babylonian Talmud teaches, “If someone comes planning to kill you, rise and kill them first.”

But the desire for revenge goes beyond justice or prevention. It aims to redeem those whose lives were taken and to restore their dignity – a noble aspiration, but one that more often than not is unattainable and the pursuit of which can corrode the soul.

The true revenge for 9/11 ought to have come in the form of global unity, comprising people of all faiths who shared a determination to drive fanaticism from our societies. Instead, the 9/11 attacks did what their mastermind had intended. Beyond killing thousands of innocent people, the attacks shook the self-confidence of the West. They divided us into doves and hawks, established fault lines that persist today and caused a collective questioning of our ideals.

Many would conclude that the pillars of our society – enlightenment, rationalism, human freedoms – were void and corrupt, as the al-Qaeda assassins had charged from their caves.

America Attacked. The World Trade Center’s South Tower burst into flames after being hit by United Airlines Flight 175.

September 11 also triggered a dangerous defect in our thinking. Instead of understanding that the terrorists were motivated by a barbarism and blood lust of which mankind had always been capable, we began to believe we had brought this on ourselves.

We assumed rational objections to policy were governing the thoughts of those for whom slaughtering morning commuters and teenage girls at pop concerts constituted success. But rationalism is not universal or innate. It occurs only in those who are raised in its traditions and teachings. And religious extremism does not breed rationalism, it crushes it.

This doomed path of inquiry produced a narrative that Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and US support for Israel were the root cause of radical Islam’s desire to overthrow the West.

US academics Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer claimed US support for its democratic ally was a predominant source of anti-American terrorism and urged punitive measures against Israel.

Lobbying against Israel. In their book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, John Mearsheimer (left), a political science professor at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt (right), academic dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, assert that America’s “special relationship” with Israel works against its best interests.

High school textbooks in Britain also suggested Israel’s creation was the root cause of Islamist terrorism and the motivation for 9/11. Rather than confronting radical Islam’s fanatical hatred of the Jews and Osama bin Laden’s stated mission to “punish the oppressive Jews and their allies”, such thinking in effect validated their racism and bowed to it.

From blaming the Jew to Blaming the Jewish State. Before being withdrawn, a UK  history textbook was in use by high schools in the country asking how the September 11 terrorist attacks perpetrated by al-Qaeda could be connected to the establishment of the State of Israel.

The wicked sectarianism on display in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon finally made mockery of the view that if only Israel withdrew from the West Bank, al-Qaeda, Islamic State, Jema’ah Islamiyah and the rest would promptly beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks.

As we all do, I still vividly recall September 11, 2001. I came into my torts law class that morning after watching the second plane destroy the South Tower. Our lecturer announced that class was cancelled. “I’m not going to lecture you about the ‘reasonable person’ test when such unreasonable people exist in the world,” he said. Unreasonable people will continue to exist and inflict misery; the disintegration of Afghanistan and the recent ISIS-inspired stabbing spree in an Auckland supermarket attest to that.

Israel’s Message to Terror. Survive and thrive as emblazoned in modern day Tel Aviv.

But our revenge and our victory lie in the survival of free societies, our reasonable, rational thought, and our unified purpose to uphold precisely that which the terrorists sought to destroy.

About the writer:

Alex Ryvchin is co-chief executive of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the author of “Zionism: The Concise History“.

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

Durban is a Downer

Major countries are boycotting this September’s UN 20th anniversary of the “Durban Conference” for its blatant antisemitism

By Rodney Mazinter

Even after Gaza firing earlier this year some 4,300 rockets at Israel’s civilian population, the false “Zionism = Apartheid” advocates are girding their loins to once again try to delegitimise Israel at the upcoming 20th Anniversary of the UN World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), also known as Durban IV.

Signs of the Times. Protestors brandishing masses of signs and banners outside the Durban Conference opening session, August 31, 2001  with one thing in common – they are all against  only one country in the world – Israel. (credit: REUTERS)

If ever a misnomer, we know it by its more common parlance as the infamous Durban Conference.

Their concern shown for the plight of the Palestinians is undermined against the backdrop of the slaughter going on today in the Middle East and North and East Africa – a humanitarian tragedy that significantly escapes their attention.

Such slaughter raises little to no concern because of their preoccupation with Israel.

It is wearying to once more point out the deceitful propaganda posing as facts. Here are a few salient points starting with Israel’s “disproportionate” response against attacks on its country:

Despite Israel over the years encountering incessant attacks on its civilians and their properties from Gaza,  the Jewish state only significantly responds when the situation has so escalated that it has little alternative.

Yet how does an unsympathetic world react? It wrings its hands and cries “disproportionate”. What is disproportionate, one may ask?

When Israel does react, it does so with care and circumspection. Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan said it best:

Based on my knowledge and experience I can say that … the Israeli defense forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in combat situations than any other army in the history of warfare.” 

Safeguarding Civilians. Explaining the truth about Israel’s military, Col. Richard Kemp, a former British Army officer who served from 1977-2006 fighting terrorism and insurgency, commanding British troops on the front line of some of the world’s toughest hotspots, including Afghanistan, Iraq, the Balkans and Northern Ireland.

The charges against Israel reveal much more about those who make them than it does about their target.

Stopping the Slaughter

Much ink is expended in accusing Israel of being an Apartheid state, citing the checkpoints, the security fence and segregated roads. But these critics remain reticent about the forced segregation and anti-gay legislation, which does not exist in Israel but does in Israel’s neighbouring countries. Critics focus on the border between sovereign Israeli territory and the disputed territories of the West Bank, ignoring the efficacy of controls that keep civilians from being murdered. 

The much criticised security barrier for example has been hugely successful in protecting civilians. In 2000, the Palestinian leadership launched a massive wave of suicide bombers into Israel, leading to more than 1,300 civilian deaths and 10,000 injuries. Since the erection of the barrier, these staggering statistics have been reduced to almost zero. 

Death Downtown. Israel needs a security wall to prevent massacres like this suicide bombing in August 2001 that killed 15 people and wounded more than 80 others at the Sbarro pizzeria in downtown Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The same can be explained about separate roads for Israelis of whatever culture or religion. After numerous attacks on Israeli motor vehicles, hitchhikers and civilians at bus stops, Israel responded to the incessant slaughter by creating  separate bypass roads, inspections of suspicious cars and revoking permission for family members of killers to work in Israel. This made it harder for Palestinian terrorists to treat pedestrian precincts as killing grounds. 

Rebuffing Peace

In the last 21 years alone, Palestinian Authority leaders rejected US and Israeli negotiation offers in 2000, 2001 and 2008 without proposing counter offers. The 2008 offer would have provided Palestinians with 93.7% of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), a capital in eastern Jerusalem, and land swaps for the remaining 6.3% of “West Bank” territory. That offer served as the basis for US proposals to restart negotiations in 2014 and 2016 — the latter made by then Vice President and today President of the USA –  Joe Biden.

All were rejected out-of-hand, despite the fact that the Oslo Accords, which created the PA, called for outstanding issues to be resolved through bilateral negotiations. As part of Oslo, Palestinian leaders around the table agreeing to peace and stability promised to “renounce the use of terrorism and other acts of violence”, and to amend the Palestinian National Charter, which denied Israel’s right to exist. This still remains part of the Hamas Covenant as well.

In major and purportedly detailed articles, foreign correspondents fail to detail any of the rejected peace offers. It is as if they never happened. Instead, they indulge in false equivalency, writing that “Top Biden aides have said they can’t pursue a peace deal when neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis appear ready for serious conversations.” Yet, as noted above, Israel has made serious proposals and as a gesture, halted all construction work in disputed territories. What did Abbas deliver? For ten months during which discussions were due to commence, the Palestinians refused to turn up.

The Apartheid Libel

The false Apartheid libel becomes even more offensive in the larger context of Apartheid practices that occur in the entire Middle East including in the Palestinian territories. For example, The PA has a law invoking the death penalty for selling land to Jews. The PA has declared that no Jew will be allowed to live in a future state of Palestine. On the other hand, Arabs, Muslims, Christians and all others across religious and cultural divides live, own property and work in Israel.

Sabreen Saadi became the first hijab-wearing Muslim woman to attain the rank of lieutenant in the Israel Police. Saadi comes from a traditional Muslim family in a Bedouin town in northern Israel. Since 2016, when the Israeli government established a special unit aimed at improving policing and security in the country’s Arab communities, more than 600 Arab men and 55 Arab women enlisted in the Israel Police. Eight new police stations were established in the Arab sector, with the intention of adding ten more. 

Arab countries with large Palestinian populations – notably Lebanon, Jordan and Syria  – practice statutory apartheid against Palestinians, including denying them the right to work in most professions, attaining citizenship, passports, education and freedom of movement.

Forgotten People. Unable to blame Israel, where were the cries of global anguish for the suffering of the Kurds following Turkish troops launching an attack on Kurdish northern Syria after US troops pulled out? (Photo. Ilyas Akengin)

In Saudi Arabia, non-Muslims are severely discriminated against by the government, yet those who accuse Israel of Apartheid seem never to complain about such official discrimination. And so it goes on. To any objective person it would be evident that many of the practices that characterized South African Apartheid while absent in Israel, are very much present in many of the Arab countries in the Middle East.

Over and above the strategy to delegitimise the only Jewish state and to hold it to different standards from the rest of the world, critics of Israel hide behind the argument that they are not antisemitic but “anti-Zionist”, all the while seeking to blur the distinction between the two concepts. They  disregard Jewish people’s right to self-determination, despite promoting their distorted definition of Zionism as an Apartheid system. Even more so, they seek to rewrite any manifestation of Jewish identity that does not fit their propaganda in which they align Jews with the South African Apartheid regime.

Hardly Apartheid. In 2020, Sergeant Sa’adi became the first Hijab wearing Muslim woman to attain the Rank of Lieutenant in the Israeli Police.

Those ostensibly supporting Palestinians, devalue their cause by quoting from propaganda and not from independent sources. One such independent source is Freedom House, which evaluates countries throughout the world and apportions a percentage score dependent on each country’s human rights performance. Israel scores 79%  despite facing constant terrorism and ranks above every country in the Middle East and North Africa, with Syria scoring a low of minus-one and Jordan a high of 37%. Israel’s record is better than South Africa’s 78% and just behind the USA at 86%.

Who Cared? With no Israel to blame, where was the UN, the international media and human rights NGOs when the Yazadis in Syria were fleeing for their lives from ISIS?

If the Palestinians were to use the billions they receive to build dams instead of attack tunnels, educational structures instead of colleges of hatred and indoctrination, water conservation infrastructure instead of rockets and other weaponry, Israel would be the first to offer a hand of friendship and cooperation. Proof of this are the 2020 Abraham Accords that is illuminating a new progressive direction in the Middle East.

New Directions. Following the 2020 Abraham Accords, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog (left), shakes hands with United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja during the opening ceremony for the new UAE Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, July 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

It is astonishing that 73 years after Ben-Gurion’s Declaration of Independence in 1948, a period that includes more than 16 wars, continuous terrorism, existential threats, refusals of neighbours to accept a Jewish State, BDS, Palestinian intransigence, global anti-Semitism, anti-Israel movements, UN bullying, media obsession, and the persistent antisemitism emanating from the recuring Durban Conferences, miniscule Israel is:

  • The 11th happiest country on Earth (beating the US, Germany, UK and of course South Africa),
  • The 4th best place on Earth to raise children.
  • Remains in 2021 the only democracy in the Middle East and a thriving place for minority groups.
  • Is a technological, water and medical superpower and has more start-up companies per capita than anywhere on earth that intricately affect our lives everywhere.

Israel has enriched the world in spite of adversity with the fruits of her innovation, and the world has thrived as a result.

There are those who say that they are “offended” by Israel’s actions. I too am “offended”, not by trumped up accusations of disrespect, but by beheadings of civilians, cowardly attacks on public and private buildings, attacks on Westerners for the crime of drinking beer at their local pubs, suicide murders, murders of Christian priests in Middle Eastern countries, burning of Christian churches and Jewish Synagogues, the continued persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, the imposition of Sharia law on non-Muslims and Muslims alike, the rape of Scandinavian girls and women and what we are witnessing tragically unfolding in Afghanistan today.

As countries gather for the UN World Conference Against Racism, one hopes that after 73 years, instead of conspiring to undermine the legitimacy of Israel  with false narratives, they instead embrace the Jewish people’s right to their ancestral homeland.

About the writer:

RODNEY MAZINTER, a Cape Town based writer, poet and author, who is involved in media activism on behalf of Israel. Past vice-chair of the South African Zionist Federation, 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. He has just finished writing the sequel called Ge’ula (Redemption).

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

Re-Claiming the Narratives

South African Israelis must lead the Fight against the Apartheid Libel

By Rolene Marks

A recent poll published by the Times of Israel and various other publications) revealed some startling statistics. The article discussed how some 25% of American Jewry believes that Israel is an Apartheid state. This is an extremely worrying statistic and just recently, Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs, Nachman Shai, warned how we could lose the support of US Jewry if this continues. Over the past few years we have seen the chasm between Israel and American Jewry grow wider and the aggressive accusations of Apartheid by the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement and others grow louder.

Dishonouring Honest Abe. Anti-Israel demonstrators rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, May 29, 2021 projecting a false narrative that is finding traction with young US Jews who believe the worst accusations hurled at Israel. (File photo: AP)

The BDS movement exploded into the global consciousness after the UN Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa in 2001. The launch of BDS in South Africa was not coincidental as the country was both the birthplace of Apartheid and its defeat. In the narrative against Israel, optics are important and what could be more symbolic than this? At the very centre of the BDS delegitimisation, is the accusation, in fact the charge that Israel is guilty of practicing Apartheid. The rationale is that if Israel is labelled as a pariah, as was South Africa, then the Jewish state can no longer be part of the family of nations, until it changes its abhorrent policies.  And more than this, BDS is also unwavering about their end goal – the end of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. This has been stated by the founder of the movement, Omar Barghouti and stated on their website. The difference in the South African context however, is that during the heinous Apartheid regime, the global community wanted the racist policies of South Africa changed but never called for the country to cease to exist.

Demonisation in Durban. South African protesters at what became known as the “Conference of Hate”, accuse Israel of Apartheid and ethnic cleansing outside the Durban Conference opening session, August 31, 2001. (Photo credit: Reuters)

The Oxford dictionary defines Apartheid as “a policy of racial segregation of other groups from the white inhabitants. Adopted by the successful Afrikaner National Party as a slogan in the 1948 election, apartheid extended and institutionalized existing racial segregation. The word is recorded from the 1940s, and comes from Afrikaans, meaning literally ‘separateness’.”

These Apartheid laws governed every aspect of a black person’s life – from freedom of movement, the right to equal education, who they could marry all the way to separate amenities for colour groups.

While other countries have often implemented racist laws at some time in their history, Apartheid was unique to South Africa and the narrative to her people, because it was the only country in which these laws were legislated. South Africa is the “ground zero” of the BDS movement, and it is important that if anyone wants to counter BDS and their narrative, that they examine the South African paradigm very closely and understand it.

It is a narrative that is being appropriated by a sophisticated anti-Israel element to push an exclusionary, antisemitic agenda.

Israel is by no means perfect. Like every other country, we have our many challenges, including the scourge of racism, but it is not state policy as it was in South Africa.

I grew up in South Africa at the height of Apartheid and the years of States of Emergency. I bore witness to the daily humiliation, discrimination and appalling treatment of my black and coloured (a term used for people who were of mixed race) countrymen. Many of you reading this are probably wondering why a white woman is writing about the Apartheid experience.

My answer? As a young, proudly Zionist Jew, I learned through belonging to a youth movement that Apartheid was not compatible with my Jewish and Zionist values. It was in this Zionist youth movement that many of us were taught to question the system and subsequently become young activists, often at great risk to our safety. I remember when I was14 years old, that I marched for equal rights and was filmed and questioned by the police. But we were proud because this to us was tikkun olam (Hebrew for ‘repairing the world’). We were speaking up for our fellow citizens who had no voice and no agency under a racist regime.

Authentic Apartheid.  Every aspect of life in Apartheid South Africa required separation of the races including these stairs at a railway station

I am not the only Israeli South African with a story to tell. There are many of my countrymen in Israel and if you want to educate people against the Apartheid Israel canard, you need to talk to us. It is our lived experience, it is the narrative of the country in which we grew up.

Many of us here have “struggle credentials”.  There are those who were forced to flee, those who were arrested and even tortured, those who witnessed unbelievable cruelty, there are those who challenged the government or the legal system. And there are those who chose to leave because they could not live under a regime that persecuted another; because we understood all too clearly what this meant.

And yes, ex-pat South Africans have a duty to stand up to this abhorrent canard. We cannot be apathetic or complacent. We must remember that as olim, Israel has given us so much and now it is time for us to take the lead in the fight against the exploitation of the narratives of both South Africa and Israel.

The BDS movement and anti-Israel detractors are engaging misinformed South Africans, with little or no understanding of the complexities of the conflict, to give impetus to their agenda. Why aren’t you speaking to those of us who understand and have lived experience in both countries?

The contribution made by South African Jews to the fight against Apartheid were extraordinary and disproportionate to the size of the community. We have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share in the fight against the narrative that claims Israel as an Apartheid state. To be reticent about engaging and involving ourselves would be both a missed opportunity – and detrimental to the education of our diaspora communities.

Solidarity with Soweto. During the 1976 Soweto uprising, Jews are well represented in this protest on Jammie Steps at UCT calling for an end to police brutality and Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in Black schools. (Photo courtesy of UCT Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives.)

We owe South Africa so much – we were formed there and given the freedom to speak out and protest against injustice and human rights abuses.  It is therefore our duty never to demean Apartheid and the real devastating consequences it created.  To call Israel an Apartheid state is an abomination.

There is only one answer to this odious comparison is by condemning unreservedly the central charge of Apartheid through engaging its victims as well as those who fought to destroy it.

As the Jewish world gears up for the 20th anniversary of the UN Conference against Racism, you can absolutely place your bets that this charge of Apartheid is only going to gain more momentum. Remember the stated endgame.

The time to engage with us is now – before it is too late.

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

Is Human Rights Watch Targeting Israel?

The Human Rights organisations seems to be focusing a lot of attention on Israel – at the expense of other conflicts around the world.

By Rolene Marks

Ken Roth has an obsession. Hardly a day goes by without Ken fixating on the State of Israel. Ken Roth is the Director of Human Rights Watch, an alleged (and I don’t say this lightly!) social justice orgnaisation. Human Rights Watch (HRW) mandate is to be a watchdog for human rights violations all over the world. Ken Roth has decided that the focus of his efforts should be on Israel. Israel is an imperfect country but is a democracy with the rule of law. It seems that lately, Ken Roth is fixated on Israel and this is evident in his almost obsessive tweeting about the Jewish state.

Hardly a day goes by without multiple tweets from Ken, pushing a clearly negative narrative and dare I say, agenda? A few weeks ago, he had the audacity to blame rising antisemitism on the actions of the Israeli government in Gaza during the recent conflagration between Israel and Hamas, using an article from left-leaning publication, Ha’aretz to try and bolster his claim. This resulted in a mega-pile on from organisations and individuals alike who called him out on his flagrant antisemitism.

Tablet Senior Writer Yair Rosenberg tweeted, “Here’s the director of Human Rights Watch blaming Jews for antisemitism. Antisemites, like all bigots, have used alleged acts of their targets to justify attacks on them (‘they killed Jesus! they swindle!’). Obscene for an ostensible human rights group to push their propaganda.” He added in a later tweet: “Antisemitism wasn’t caused by Jews ‘killing Jesus’ in the Middle East centuries ago. That was the bigot’s excuse. Antisemitism isn’t caused by Israeli actions in 2021. That’s the bigot’s excuse. Antisemitism is caused by the hate of the bigot, who will always find a new excuse.”

UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer noted that Roth had issued his tweet during Tisha B’Av “when Jews mourn the destruction of their Temple & sovereignty in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. Since then, the Jews faced burnings, expulsions and the Holocaust. Now there is Israel. We’re thrilled & proud. And we’ll never take lessons from an antisemite.”

Roth tried to walk back his Tweet, saying “Interesting how many people pretend that this tweet justifies antisemitism (it doesn’t and I don’t under any circumstances) rather than address the correlation noted in the Haaretz article between recent Israeli government conduct in Gaza and the rise of UK antisemitic incidents.”

But Sam Sokol, the author of the Haaretz article, tweeted that Roth had used “an article I wrote to try and bolster his point. And it does nothing of the sort.”

But Roth has not stopped there. It has become a daily activity amongst Israel advocates and our allies to call Roth out on his obsessive tweeting about Israel while staying silent on gross human rights violations across the world. He could tweet about the Palestinian Authority crackdown on journalists and critics or the million + Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps in China, or the Biafran people in Nigeria, or the genocide of Christians in that country. There are sadly, countless other conflicts or oppressed people that could do with a smidgeon of Ken’s attention.

Instead he turns his attention to Israel, accusations of Apartheid, excoriating Israel’s leadership – all with a generous serving of Ben & Jerry’s boycott endorsements.

It is no coincidence that Roth is focusing so much attention on the overpriced ice-cream manufacturers boycott, after all it was his colleague, Omar Shakir, who advised the Ben & Jerry’s board.

Omar Shakir, the Director of HRW Israel-Palestine, was booted out of the country in 2019 for BDS activities that contravened Israel’s laws. He has now dedicated his energy and time to publishing reports accusing the Jewish State of war crimes during the May conflagration and a separate one accusing the country of practices of Apartheid – while scarcely a mention about any transgressions from Hamas or the Palestinian Authority. Shakir even went so far as to totally redefine the term Apartheid to push his agenda.

Going but not Gone. Departing at Ben Gurion Airport in 2019 after being expelled from Israel, American citizen Omar Shakir, the director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza has been recently advising Ben & Gerry’s as well as publishing reports accusing Israel of war crimes and Apartheid.(Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

If it smells a lot like vendetta, it probably is.

Robert L Bernstein, the founder of Human Rights watch eventually turned against the organization that he started with noble intentions.

In an op-ed in the New York Times in October 2009, he wrote

“As the founder of Human Rights Watch, its active chairman for 20 years and now founding chairman emeritus, I must do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group’s critics. Human Rights Watch had as its original mission to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters. But recently it has been issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.”

Man of Principle. In a 2009 op-ed for The New York Times, Robert Bernstein accused Human Rights Watch – the organization he helped found in 1978 and long oversaw – of being grossly biased against Israel.  (Elisabeth Bernstein)

Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world, many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens, who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.

Human Rights Watch has lost critical perspective on a conflict in which Israel has been repeatedly attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations that go after Israeli citizens and use their own people as human shields. These groups are supported by the government of Iran, which has openly declared its intention not just to destroy Israel but to murder Jews everywhere. This incitement to genocide is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah chose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighbourhoods into battlefields. They know that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch’s criticism.”

(excerpt from article:

In 2014, Roth all but endorsed Hamas’ use of tunnels to potentially kidnap Israeli soldiers, hinting that this did not contravene international law.

Can HRW, an organization that practices such flagrant bias and whose Directors are routinely accused of antisemitism not just by Jews but by notable politicians and other high profile people, still be taken seriously or even considered a human rights organisation?

The evidence points to the contrary but with high-profile events like the 20th Anniversary of the UN Conference on Racism taking place next month, HRW is bound to enjoy some attention as they present their “findings”. At least ten countries will be boycotting this event out of concerns for a repeat of the 2001 conference that became nothing short of an antisemitic and anti-Israel festival of hatred.

Venomous Hate. At least ten countries will be boycotting the 20thanniversary of the 2001 World Conference Against Racism Conference out of concerns for a repeat (seen here) of that antisemitic and anti-Israel hatefest in Durban, South Africa. (Archives: AFP)

Many of us are concerned about what will result from this conference, especially in light of escalating global antisemitism. This is where human rights organisations should lead the fight against antisemitism but for HRW, those days are long gone.

They discredit the dignified and noble memory of their founder – and the very foundations upon which they were formed.

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

Pandemonium during a Pandemic

Reflections on the Jewish community in South Africa – crisis or no crisis?

By David E. Kaplan

In the wake of the unrest across South Africa’s northern provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal (9-17 July 2021) sparked by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma for contempt of court, there were a number of popular nightly webinars airing people’s perspectives and anxieties.

South Africa Erupts. Army called in to restore calm.

A country troubled in grappling  with the global pandemic, to then suddenly having to face rampant violent social unrest sent alarm bells ringing across South Africa – particularly in the ears of the ever-diminishing Jewish community hovering at the 50,000 mark – a little less that what would have filled up the grand Olympic stadium in Tokyo were it not for Covid.

South Africans turn on South Africans. People flee from police as they carry goods while looting and vandalising the Lotsoho Mall in Katlehong township, East of Johannesburg (Phill Magakoe/AFP)

South Africans found themselves  once again in a Quo Vadis mode asking:

 “Where is the country heading?”

While this question is being hotly debated on online public platforms, nothing was more eye-catching to this writer than the invitation to a webinar held on the 28 July –  a week after the unrest abated – in Melbourne, organized by Australia’s UIA (United Israel Appeal) under the title:


What stuck out for me was the omission – or was it – of a question mark at the end of the title. It appeared to present as a given  that there was a crisis and that the three guest panelists – all high profile leaders in the Jewish community – invited to present their overview “of the complicated situation which the South African Jewish community currently finds itself

The three panelists were Howard Sackstein – Chairman of the South African Jewish Report, Rowan Polovin – National Chairman of the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and Philip Kravitz – a high profile businessman, community leader and Chairman of the Trustees of the United Jewish  Campaign.

Signals of the Jewish community facing undue challenges in South Africa were quickly picked up in Israel.

Panelist. Howard Sackstein, Chairman of the South African Jewish Report

MK Ruth Wasserman Lande, who grew up in South Africa and matriculated at Cape Town’s Herzlia School, raised the issue of the South Africa Jewish community in a plenary session in the Knesset, followed up being interviewed on Israel’s Channel 12 on the situation, where she said:

I would say one very important thing, our eyes need to be on the Jewish community there.”

To the question “Do you think the Israeli government should act?” she replied:

 “First of all, I think we need to wait and see when there will be a request, if at all.…from the community leadership there.”

Equally attentive and responsive was Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs, Dr.  Nachman Shai, who penned a reassuring letter to the Jewish community of South Africa in which he warmly wrote:

All in Israel watched the recent events in Kwazulu-Natal region and around South Africa with deep concern. We stand with you in solidarity…..” adding that “the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs is your partner in ensuring the resilience of your community…”.

Most significant was his nuanced message in the line:

The secret of Jewish resilience rests on in our sense of shared responsibility towards each other.”

Concern for a Community. Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs, Dr.  Nachman Shai, who addressed a reassuring letter to the South African Jewish community would recall when he led a delegation of Israeli legislators to South Africa in 2017 how they were “snubbed” by the then current members of the ruling African National Congress at the Parliament in Cape Town.(Miriam Alster/Flash90).

Subtly acknowledging in the “shared responsibility” the appreciation of the Jewish community of South Africa’s contribution to the development of the State of Israel,  Israel today, stands ready to help and support the SA Jewish community – should such need arise.

However, has that ‘need’ arrived?

Sackstein cautioned the overseas viewership that the unrest – bad as it was – was restricted to select areas and that the majority of  South Africans remained, at least physically, unaffected. So, as Israelis who are all too familiar with how selective optics can created skewed perceptions abroad, the question really is whether, despite the horrifying optics of the unrest in South Africa, is its Jewish community in crisis as the title of the webinar suggested?

Is there a crisis? The UIA Australia Invitation to the panel discussion of the South African Jewish community.

The upfront answer by the three panelists was emphatically NO, preferring to re-character the situation as one less of crisis and more of challenges.

Following the showing of a distressing video clip on the recent unrest by Howard Sackstein which he referred to as  the “Week of Shame”, he then countered his pessimistic perspective of the unrest by saying:

 ‘Too soon to panic” and “there IS no crisis.”

Explaining that the community had been through a number of “difficult times” in the past sixty years and come through, “the South African Jewish community is not in crisis.” On quick reflection, he did then qualify this assertion with:

 “or maybe we have come to learn to live with crises.”

He emphasized that the country has moved on and praised the resilience of South Africans, saying “We have become world experts in resilience.”

Sackstein’s message was that “We are in SA because we want to be; because we consider this our home. We are here by choice and we want to build and create a better society for our community and all of South Africa. It’s not just one crisis but we juggle multiple crises at the same time.  And we are experts in this today.”

Panelist. Rowan Polovin, Chairman of the SAZF (right) seen here with then the Chairman of the Jewish Agency in South Africa, Isaac Herzog, today Israel’s 11th president.

Taking a different line, the Chairman of the SAZF, Rowan Polovin, assured that while Jews did not have to fear the threatening and sometimes lethal type of antisemitism that “we are seeing today in the US and Europe,”  the antisemitism that does prevail “is cloaked within the shroud of anti-Zionism, which pervades all parts of the country’s civil and political society.” Polovin elaborated on four areas:

– government diplomacy

–  the judiciary

– media

– academia.

“We have a BDS movement which has been very successful in infiltrating the ruling party – the ANC” and sites examples of how its impacted government decision-making, namely:-

– influencing the withdrawal of the South African ambassador to Israel and poising the atmosphere to block his return

– blocking a judicial appointment of a Jewish judge, David Unterhalter, to the Constitutional Court for once having been a  member of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, and

– on 28 July, the very day we were attending the UIA webinar, “the government could not hold back condemning the AU (African Union) for granting Israel Observer Status, after an absence of 20 years.”

Contributing to this increasingly uncomfortable climate for Jews, “We are faced with a very hostile press.” He cited the recent publication in the country’s largest Sunday paper, the Sunday Times, which was “a full-on assault on the Chief Rabbi – Warren Goldstein.” Over and above breaching the acceptable boundaries of civilised discourse, “it was viciously anti-Semitic” despite that the article was written by a Jew – Ronnie Kasrils. An attack on the Chief Rabbi for his strong emotional and spiritual support of the Jewish homeland, is an attack on the Jewish community “and we feel it.”

Studying in Israel. Students from all over the world – including from South Africa –  enjoying a chat with Jonathan Davis, the Head of Israel’s IDC’s International School outside his office window (centre).

Polovin concluded with the impact of BDS at South Africa’s universities  where the anti-Israel sentiment has reached a fever pitch with all-year round activities, press releases, university resolutions and advocating for boycotts of Israel. “All this makes it an uncomfortable environment for Jewish students,” and which the third speaker, Philip Kravitz characterized as South Africa’s loss and Israel’s gain as an increasing number of young South African Jews are opting to study at Israel’s universities  in English “through a special Telfed programme. This is born out that there are over 100 South African students studying in English at Israel’s only private university, the IDC Herzliya, located north of Tel Aviv. “We have the largest concentration of South Africans at any academic institution in Israel and we only expect this too increase,” says an upbeat Jonathan Davis, the Head of the IDC’s Raphael Recanati International School, Vice President for External Relations and a former Jewish Agency emissary to Cape Town, South Africa. “Twenty years ago, we started with one South African student, now we need off-campus fields for students to practice rugby!” remarks Davis with satisfying amusement.

Panelist. Philip Kravitz, receiving in 2015 the Keren Hayasod Award.

Kravitz presents a sobering perspective of South Africa’s present and future. “The major threat,” he believes, “is that over 70% of our youth are currently unemployed; that is an absolutely frightening statistic and we have less than 7% of the population owning about 80% of the national wealth. Truly, we are sitting on a powder keg and until we tackle the issues relating to poverty, all it will take is a small spark to ignite it. We know this and we all of live with this every day.”

As the Executive Chairman of the Cape Union Mart Group of Companies which comprises some 300 stores in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana,  he says, “We were fortunate” in the recent unrest, “that only three of out stores were completely looted. But how they were looted? They walked out with the safes, every coat hanger, even the shelving.”

Coming Home. South African immigrants arriving in Israel during the pandemic being welcomed by the Minister of Aliyah and Integration, Pnina Tamano-Shata (Right).

This situation the Cape Union Mart chairman faced as a South African businessman together with many others, but as a Jew, being personally targeted, was nothing new! When he received in 2015 the prestigious Yakir Award for services rendered to Israel through Keren Hayasod, “the local newspapers picked it up; published articles and what followed was our stores were boycotted and I received death threats.” Then again, after the 2021 Israel-Gaza conflict, “we had demonstrations outside our stores, but I see this as badge of honour; we will carry on and we will survive.”

But will the Jewish community “survive?

We are an aging community and our death rate is higher than our birth rate,” says Sackstein. “Add to this, we loose each year between 500-1000 to emigration so that means we are a shrinking community.”

This means that there is less need for some of the existing institutions, and the name of the game is “consolidation” in order to sustain communal services. “We have had to close two of our Cape Town Jewish Day schools – in Milnerton and Constantia,” reveals Kravitz confirming this inexorable trend.

Israel Hears. MK Ruth Wasserman Lande addressing the concern for the Jewish community in South Africa during the Knesset plenum, in Jerusalem, Israel. (Courtesy)

All three panelists agree that “the numbers are going down” but still nevertheless project a positive front that the community will survive – albeit ever-diminishing  – and adamant that “Jewish life will remain vibrant.”

“There have never been more kosher restaurants in Johannesburg,” says one speaker.

But who would still be there to eat in fifteen or twenty years’ time?

Poignantly illuminating the Jewish community’s uncertain future was a question that solicited the briefest of answers during Q & A. Someone from abroad, probably Australian, asked about the current status of the Jewish community in South Africa’s norther neighbour, Zimbabwe as to how many Jews still live there and how they were faring. The panelists dispensed with the question in double-quick time, answering that the there is “no more of a ‘community’ to speak of”; that there “are very few Jews living there today, and mostly all living in Harare”. Kravitz added  they were being serviced by the country community rabbi from South Africa, Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, “who ensures they have the necessary foods during the Yontavim (festivities)”.

Could this be the future scenario for South Africa Jewry down the road?

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

Peace, Love and Boycotts?

Ice-Cream brand Ben & Jerry’s want to boycott what they call “Occupied Palestinian Territories” – what is behind this campaign? We bring you the scoop.

By Rolene Marks

One would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t love a creamy, sugary, indulgent delicious ice cream treat. We all have our favourites. Mine, ironically, is Ben & Jerry’s “Cinnamon Buns”. Go figure.

Sadly, over the last two weeks I, like many of you reading this has lost my appetite for ice-cream. I am almost at the point of being lactose intolerant! This aside, the statement by the Ben & Jerry’s recently that they will “not be selling their ice-cream to the Occupied Palestinian territories” has left a decidedly sour taste in our mouths.

Is the gate closing? Israel in a ‘cold war’ over Ben & Jerry’s ice cream ban.

Naturally this was met with widespread global condemnation for a of reasons. Do people really want a sprinkling of politics with their ice cream? Chief virtue signalers (okay Board members) of Ben & Jerry’s believe that we do. The problem is that they are singling out one conflict at the expense of many around the world and still sell their calorific treats to countries like Malaysia who has a dismal record with LGBTQ+ rights or China currently imprisoning over a million Uyghurs in concentration camps and more. Hypocritical much?

At least be an equal opportunity virtue signaler!

Settlements have long been a major source of debate – including inside Israel but are they the sole obstacle to peace? There are other major factors impeding the brokering of a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians and while many argue that settlements may be a part of this, we need to also consider decades of incitement of hate against Israel and the Jewish people, refusal to recognize Israel’s existence by Palestinian leadership and the pay-for-slay scheme which perpetuates an economy of terror.

Match gone Sour. Blue-and-white Ben & Jerry’s with Hebrew to match. (Photo by Naama Barak)

Ben & Jerry’s, instead of doing something productive and bridge-building, would rather deny Jews and Palestinians in these disputed territories their cartons of Cherry Garcia and such. The peacenik founders of Ben & Jerry’s said in an op-ed in the New York Times that they are proud of their boycott, and that while they are “proud Jews who support Israel” this is in line with their values and the best decision in the history of their company. The Jewish world and many who see this as flagrant discrimination and yes, antisemitism, is going to break out in a rounding rendition of Kumbaya any time soon.

But is there something more to what meets the eye happening behind the scenes?

Not content to sell over-priced calorific frozen treats to the world, the Ben & Jerry’s Board, operating independently from their holding company, Unilever, made this decision unilaterally – and with the advice of Omar Shakir, Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) Israel-Palestine. Shakir served as the sole advisor. International law expert, Eugene Kontorovich revealed the scope on Twitter last week.

A source at Ben & Jerry’s revealed that the company’s decision to boycott Israel was influenced by Omar Shakir, who was kicked out of Israel in 2019 for BDS activities and rejected calls to hear opposing opinions to Shakir’s narrative. The head of the Board is Anuradha Mittal, another proponent of BDS who describes herself as being an “activist for indigenous rights”. Except for Jewish indigenous rights! 

Mittal has spent the last few weeks blocking Jewish voices opposing hers including reputable ones like Combatting Antisemitism, and Michael Dickson, Director of Stand With Us Israel.

This is more than a storm over ice-cream. Is this part of a wider campaign fueled by organisations like Human Rights Watch who have no interest in finding practical, peaceful solutions but would rather demonise and exclude one side – the Israeli?

Catering’ to anti-Semitism. Israeli leaders slammed Ben & Jerry’s saying the woke company “surrendered to anti-Semitism” with Israel’s Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett adding “it will turn out to be a business mistake, too.”

Israel has been swift to respond. Government officials from the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Interior Minister condemned the move as immoral and anti-Israel. There are massive concerns about the ramifications that this could have on the local manufacturer who stand to possibly lose their license at the end of 2022, which would result in unemployment for many staff including Palestinians. Israelis, in a show of solidarity have been buying up stock from the local Ben & Jerry’s Israel manufacturer.

Unilever are facing a conundrum. While they support Ben & Jerry’s right to make decisions independently, they unequivocally condemn BDS and stand by their operations in Israel. Condemning BDS as “unfairly singling Israel” was a statement released by the US State Department as well.

Bad Aftertaste. Ice cream on offer at Israel’s Ben & Gerry’s factory store. (Photo: courtesy)

Five US States (Florida, Texas, Illinois, New York and New Jersey) have begun sending warnings to Unilever that they will divest their pension funds and more if this move is found to contravene anti-BDS laws. At least 35 US states have these laws in place as BDS is considered anti-Semitic, a sentiment echoed by countries like Germany and Austria.

At least 90 members of the Knesset have sent a petition to Ben & Jerry’s warning them that this unjust action contravenes Israel’s anti-discrimination laws which prohibits discrimination based on where people live.

Will Ben & Jerry’s melt under pressure? We are all watching closely.

Ben & Jerry’s pay off line is “peace, Love and Ice Cream”. It’s a great pity that it doesn’t include Jews and Palestinians.

Disturbing Decision. Ninety members of Knesset urge Unilever to reverse ‘shameful’ Ben & Jerry’s decision.

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

“But You Don’t Look Jewish!”

By Rolene Marks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mature, isn’t he?

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

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

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

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

Hmmmm, classy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry, what? 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The time for us to roar back is now.

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

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


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

Adv. Craig Snoyman responds

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

Hodgson makes great news.

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

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

Unfortunately, it received national prominence!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shame on you, Jon Fish Hodgson!!

About the Writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.

original article

Palestinian conflict ‘not complex’

By Jon Fish Hodgson*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the river to the sea Palestine will be free.

News 24/7


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

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

Shame, Shame, Shame, UCT?

The ongoing outrage at the insensitivity of South Africa’s premier university to the victims of Hitler

Following Lay Of The Land publishing an Open Letter by UCT alumnus Stephen Schulman to the Vice chancellor of UCT, Prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng, expressing outrage at the seemingly no action taken against a senior lecturer imparting to his students that “Hitler committed no crime”,  we publish the somewhat dismissive reply from UCT – received not from the Vice Chancellor but from the Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof. Martin Hall –  and Schulman’s fitting response.

Excusing EvilActing UCT Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) Prof. Martin Hall, responds to Schulman’s ‘open letter’.

This unfolding drama although set in Cape Town South Africa, is of global significance as the script and plot is emblematic of the worldwide upsurge in antisemitism and the tepid response of leadership as reflected in UCT’s lackluster interest and resolute willingness to take action.

Vision Impaired. Vice-Chancellor’s Professor Phakeng’s worthy vision for UCT of “Excellence, Transformation and Sustainability” is undermined by unworthy conduct of its lecturers and leadership.

Quick to support removing offending statues on campus or changing names of buildings for offending sectors of South Africa’s population, no such concern of sensitivity extends by UCT’s leadership to today’s Jews in South Africa!


UCT replies to Stephen Schulman:

Dear Stephen Schulman

The Vice-Chancellor has asked me to reply to your email of 27 June.

 It is not the case that Dr Lushaba issued a statement that : Hitler committed no crime. All Hitler did was to do to white people what white people had normally reserved for black people.” Rather, an unknown  person  extracted a short clip from a 30-minute recording of a first year lecture delivered on line, and posted the clip on social media.  The overall subject of the lecture was acts of genocide committed by colonial powers against indigenous communities, in the context of changing interpretative models within the disciplinary field of political studies. It is apparent from the full recording that Dr Lushaba’s reference to Hitler was intended ironically.

Understandably, the wide distribution of this clip on social media has caused extensive concern and distress.  The university is currently reviewing the full lecture in the context of the curriculum the context and our expectations of our teaching staff.  We expect this review to be completed shortly.


Emeritus Professor Martin Hall

Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, Transformation

University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3,

Rondebosch, 7701 South Africa

Phone: 27 (0) 21 650 2175/6

Dear Professor Hall,

Thank you for your prompt reply of the 29th instant. It is much appreciated as I understand that Prof. Phakeng is heavily burdened with her onerous manifold duties and so is unable to reply in person.

The gist of your letter is that some of Lushaba’s students, those who viewed the video clip and all others (including myself and a large number of other UCT alumni) who read the words he said, unfortunately not being endowed with his elevated faculties, were incapable of understanding his lofty wit because according to your interpretation as official UCT spokesman: “It is apparent from the full recording that Dr Lushaba’s reference to Hitler was intended ironically”. Moreover, we should also understand that these words having been said by a black African in the context of his lecture on “…acts of genocide committed by colonial powers against indigenous communities in the context of changing interpretative models within the disciplinary field of political studies,” should evoke more understanding and empathy. Accordingly, in the light of these facts we are in fact doing this gentleman a grave injustice by displaying an acute lack of sensitivity and leveling unfounded accusations of Holocaust denial and blind racism at him.

Lushaba’s very words: Hitler committed no crime.” are abhorrent in any context and in no way absolves him from condemnation. In some European countries, Holocaust denial is a crime and Lushaba would spend time in court explaining his warped sense of humour. Even if, as you claim, he also spoke ironically about white people as being putative genocidal perpetrators, then this is a sick and dismal failure at trying to be witty and a flagrant disregard for the feelings of others.

Scary Signs. “Hitler committed no crime,” says UCT Political Science lecturer, Dr. Lwazi  Lushaba, with no action to date taken. What are South African Jews to think as to the direction of their country?

I find your explanation completely unacceptable and your attempt to paper over his racism and whitewash his words (I hope that at UCT this term is still politically correct!) wholly unconvincing and I do not retract one word from my previous letter. Moreover, judging from your reply, you have dispensed with impartiality and have already reached a conclusion, exculpating him on the grounds of a simple ‘misunderstanding’.

I find the behaviour of the University of Cape Town devoid of any sensitivity. It is both shocking and outrageous. Since his words were made public and caused widespread outrage approximately two and a half months have already gone by and still UCT “is currently reviewing the full lecture”!! Why this foot dragging?

Why this prevarication?

At this pace of proceeding, it will take longer than the gestation period of an elephant to present the findings! 

In this lengthy period, the university as an influential public institution with an incumbent responsibility towards the community, well aware of the whole affair and its ramifications, has elected to remain silent.

Why the silence?

That silence speaks volumes. That silence has given Lushaba a tacit endorsement of his words and a license to continue disseminating his hatred. These are difficult times with increases in intolerance, racism and a rise in anti-Semitism.

The silence of UCT makes it complicit.

Even in the bad days of Apartheid, UCT was a liberal institution and would not have countenanced such behaviour by any staff member. The university is currently in the throes of transformation and from its treatment of this sad affair, we fear all is not well.

Talking of Irony! “Spes Bona” meaning “good hope” on the University’s logo,  South African Jews can be excused for questioning, “what hope?” when Hitler’s mass murder is explained as having been “no crime”.   

We call upon the University of Cape Town to promptly and publicly censure Lushaba, condemn his words and issue a public apology. If it wishes to continue bearing this august name, nothing else will suffice

Yours faithfully,

Stephen Schulman

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