Observations and insights in chilling documentary about 2016 terrorist attack in the heart of Tel Aviv

By David E. Kaplan

It was 6 o’clock on Day 3 of the 21st  World Summit of Counter-Terrorism at Reichman University in Herzliya, Israel. The morning session had been intense – a comparative panel discussion on the subject of ‘Terrorism Negotiations’ comparing Israeli and American modalities. Both countries have long histories of tough dealing with hostage-taking.  The price one pays can lead to painful consequences. Israel knows this only too well.

The afternoon session hardly lightened up  with ‘Perspectives from the United States” on how they are countering domestic terrorism.

With potential mass killers motivated by ideology, religion or frustration coupled with easy access to firearms, ordinary US citizens pose targets in schools, workplaces and places of worship. Once thought hallowed and safe – synagogues today remain only hallowed. They are no longer safe!

So, while  Israel and the USA may share common values; its people also share something else in common today – FEAR!

So leaving these existential issues behind as I stepped out from the auditorium – cerebrally drained – I was already fantasizing about throwing back at home a well-earned soothing scotch when my eye suddenly caught on the information board something  for the die-hards – pun intended!  It was an invitation for a viewing of  a new documentary on a deadly terrorist attack called “Closed Circuit” to be followed by a panel discussion moderated by the Founder and Executive Director of the Institute of Counter-Terrorism at Reichman University Prof. Boaz Ganor.  The panelists included Tal Inbar, the director of the film, Shalom Ben Hanan, a former senior official from the #Shabak, and Hagi Klein, a survivor and hero who attempted to stop the attackers and was injured in the process.

Close Encounters. Following the showing of the documentary “Close Circuit” on the 3rd day of the World Summit of Counter-Terrorism at Reichman University, Prof. Boaz Ganor  (left) moderates a riveting discussion with panelists (l-r) Hagi Klein, a survivor and the hero of the 2016 terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, Tal Inbar, the director of the film, and Shalom Ben Hanan, a former senior official from the Shabak (Israeli Security Agency also known as the Shin Bet). Photo: David E Kaplan.

The scotch would have to wait….

If the conference until then had been theoretical, what followed next, felt like the student in Counter-Terrorism’s  “practical” as one transited from the “Ivory Tower” of academia to a real tower –  the ground floor of a  high-rise  in Tel Aviv. This was  the 2016 setting of terrorist attack in the city’s upscale Sarona Market and the locale of the documentary that I was about to experience as much as view

Serenity at Sarona. The tranquil setting prior to the terror attack that left four dead, many physically injured and ever more whose lives were shattered.

In introducing “Closed Circuit”, Prof. Ganor  began with the analogy of how people of a certain age would know where they were, “when they first heard the news of the assignation of President John Kenney” or earlier “the Japanese attack on People Habour” or more recently “the attacks on 9/11,” so too Israelis, particularly residents of Tel Aviv when the news broke of this attack. I recalled when Breaking News came onto all the Israeli TV channels that evening of the 8 June 2016, it was believed that some terrorists were still at large. It was uncertain how many terrorists were involved. The appeal from law enforcement to stay indoors to allow the police to search the city and to not open front doors until you were certain who was there, only contributed to the panic.

The city that never sleeps” was living up to its reputation but for different reasons.

All these recollections came back to me as the movie rolled.

Directed by Tel Aviv-based award-winning independent filmmaker Tal Inbar, the documentary uses security camera footage – much of it taken on the night of the 2016 terror attack. It captures the two Palestinian gunmen dressed in suits and ties, who soon after they sat down at a table at the chocolate restaurant ‘Max Brenner’ in the Sarona Market, got up and opened fire on the patrons, killing four and injuring over twenty. I felt I was not only watching this movie but was in the movie – being part of the terrorist attack. The viewer is constantly confronted with how he or she would have reacted when the first shots were fired. There was one crazy scene when someone ran out still carrying his uneaten chocolate pancake, and when he met up with his friend, believing they were safe, asked:

 “What shall we do?,

The friend incongruously replied, “Let’s eat the pancake!”

The comment in the audience behind me was, “Israelis!”

People laughed; they could just as easily have cried.

We know of the pancake response, because interspersed with the chilling security camera (CT) footage, survivors of the attack are interviewed at the very scene of the attack. They take you back six years earlier revealing why they were at Max Brenner that night; what followed, their thoughts during the attack and how all these years later, how their lives were affected. No on in the attack from patrons to waiters were unscathed.

There is 22-year-old Lihi Ben Ari, who was fourteen at the time of the attack who went with her father to Max Brenner that evening. Her parents were divorced and while her mother had argued “with my dad to postpone our outing, he was persistent in taking me out.”  When the shooting started, he pushed me to a safer place but it cost him his life. He took a bullet in the back. As the events of that evening came back so rolled the tears.  She no longer had a father!

Death and Destruction. Israeli policemen at Max Brenner chocolate restaurant in Sarona in the aftermath of the 2016 terror attack (Reuters/Baz Ratner)

Then there was the hero, Hagi Klein, who fought back instinctively by grabbing a chair and smashing it over one of the terrorist. In this way, he slowed the attack and saved many lives. Klein makes an interesting observation to a question from Prof. Ganor in the panel discussion that, “often in such terror attacks in Israel, the terrorist shouts Allah Akbar (God is great) to explain and justify their action. Here, they just started shooting. There was no warning.”

Honouring a Hero. Following the watching of the unnerving documentary “Closed Circuit”, Prof. Boaz Ganor (left) presents Hagi Klein with a special citation from the ICT for his brave conduct and quick action during the terrorist attack in 2016 at the Sarona Market in the heart of Tel Aviv. Injured as a result of gunfire, Klein’s action saved many lives. (Photo: David E Kaplan)

There is a message here – while there are profiles and patterns, every terrorist attack is different with its own characteristics.

Then there is the cop who unknowingly saves one of the terrorists who being dressed in a suit, thought him to be a patron.  Restaurant workers – who are both Arab and Jewish – are interviewed and reveal how their lives were changed forever by their sudden encounter with death.

Breaking the Ramadan fast that fateful evening was an Arab family.

The father sadly recounts the events and the “complicated” feeling of being Arab caught up in a terrorist attack perpetrated by Arabs.  No members of his family were lost that evening but he did lose his marriage. “My wife said I changed;  I was never the same.”

What this documentary exposes is the complex anatomy of a terror attack. For one thing, don’t characterize a terror attack only by the number of fatalities – in this case  four.  The ‘survivors’  remain forever haunted. Some survive with scarred bodies, others with scarred souls.


I did have my scotch later that evening. It was hardly soothing. I reflected on the discussions at the Conference up to that day, on how effectively countering terrorism required countries around the world to come together and agree on what constituted terrorism. After all, how does one devise counter terrorism strategies if you have ambiguity on what terrorism is and who the terrorists are. There has to be a consensus definition.

The Killers.  Appearing on Facebook the day after the attack, Palestinian terrorists Khaled Makhamra on a visit to the Temple Mount (l) and Muhammad Makhamra. 

The perpetrators in the 2016 attack at Max Brenner were Khalid al-Muhamra and Muhammad Ahmad Moussa Mahmara, 21-year-old cousins from the West Bank who by their own admissions, had been inspired by Islamic State  propaganda videos. Their attack actually began in Beersheba where they intended to catch a train to Tel Aviv and start shooting passengers. Their admitted reasoning was that there would be no escape on a train thus maximizing the carnage. Deterred by the visibly strict security at the Beersheba railway station, they switched plans and took a cab arriving at HaShalom Railway Station in Tel Aviv where they asked locals:

Where are there good places to eat where there are lots of people?”

They were directed to Sarona. On arrival, they gravitated to the popular and crowded Max Brenner.

Shortly thereafter, the area was chaos with four people dead and many wounded.

Yes, this was obviously a terrorist attack but not so obvious to the world media if one goes by their initial headline reportage.

CNN on its Facebook page had in its its headline the word “terrorists” in quotations, as if the explanation for the carnage was up for academic speculation. Adding insult to injury, CNN failed to mention terrorism even once in the article reporting the ordeal.

Similarly, the British news network SKY also neglected to use the word “terror” or “terrorism” in their report of the attack at Sarona.

In keeping with not offending Arabs at the expense of Israeli sensitivities, the BBC‘s headline read:

 “Tel Aviv shooting: Three killed in attack in shopping centre attack”.

Could the perpetrators be disgruntled shoppers unhappy with the customer service?

The BBC report markedly avoided the keywords that would have factually characterised what had horribly happened in the heart of Tel Aviv.

Clearly a pattern was all too evident.

Not to be outdone, The Telegraph as well as The Guardian also labeled the terror attack as “shooting” incidences in their headlines.

While CNN later – following a public outcry – issued an apology via Twitter calling their use of quotation marks around the word terrorist in their news headline “a mistake” and admitted in a subsequent press release that “The attacks were, without question, terrorist attacks,” the damage had been done.

Chaos to Comforting. A man and woman comfort each other following the 2016 terrorist attack at Sarona in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: REUTERS)

I look forward to future World Summits on Counter-Terrorism that see media personalities from top TV news network and senior correspondents from influential papers not merely covering the Conference but participating in the discussions. They need to be part of the conversation.

Afterall, the “mistakes” admitted to in 2016 still happen too frequently to be “mistakes”.

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


The long arm of Iranian injustice takes out famed writer’s eye

By David E. Kaplan

Be warned – those that stab you in the eye will have no compunction to stabbing you in the back. This is the cautionary message to those participants in the Iran nuclear deal from the murderous attack on Sir Salman Rushdie!

Marked Man. Living with a bounty on his head since 1989, Sir Salman Rushdie was stabbed onstage multiple times as he was about to give a public lecture in 14 August 2022 at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua , New York. [File: Charly Triballeau/AFP]

There is no time limit on an Iranian threat to inflict harm; whether on an individual or a country. This is why Israelis are observing the ongoing Rushdie affair through a microscope and not rose-tinted spectacles. They understand clearly the razor sharp message delivered on August 12, 2022,  in a place few outside the USA have ever even heard of –  Chautauqua, New York and they worry about allowing a menace state to get hold of menacing weapons. Particularly when the intended recipient of Iran’s venom is the world’s only Jewish state. For a people that failed to heed the warnings in the 20th century are not going to make the same mistake in the 21st century. Jews today take it very seriously when Iran bellows “DEATH TO ISRAEL”, exhibits the Star of David on its paraded missiles and is HELL-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.

The Writing is on the Missiles. What could be clearer of Iran’s intentions when “Death to Israel” is plastered on its Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ missiles?

While much of the ‘civilised’ world was horrified at the stabbing of Indian-born British-American novelist Salman Rushdie on a public stage, what was Iran response? Afterall, the attempted murderer, 24 year-old Hadi Matar, was specifically carrying out the fatwa (religious edict) delivered on the 14 February 1989 by the then world’s most prominent Shi’a Muslim leader and the Supreme Leader of Iran. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The edict  called for the death of Rushdie and his publishers. 

Words Kill. Born in the US to Lebanese parents who emigrated from Yaroun, a border village in Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon,  Hadi Matar arrives for an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, N.Y.(Gene J. Puskar / AP)

Iran blamed the victim – Rushdie! He had it coming; he deserved it.

Extensively commenting on the attack, Iranian media were calling the attempted murder “divine retribution“, while the state broadcaster daily, Jaam-e Jam, highlighted the news of Rushdie might losing an eye with this tasteless admonishment:

an eye of the Satan has been blinded“.

It was a play on words following Rushdie’s famed novel ‘The Satanic Verses’.

Matar’s Mug Shots. Facing charges of attempted murder and assault of author Salman Rushdie, Hadi Matar is reported in a New York Post interview saying that “I respect the Ayatollah. I think he’s a great person”.

So while Rushdie – widely regarded as one of Britain’s finest living writers – was knighted for his contribution to the arts in 2008 by Queen Elizabeth II by the traditional placing of a sword on his shoulder, the long arm of Iran instead inserted a knife into the esteemed writer’s eye.

Despite Iran’s fingerprints found glaring at the scene of the crime in Chautauqua, the Islamic republic not only denies any culpability but  accuses the victim and his supporters. Is this a country we are seriously believing will engage honestly regarding the nuclear deal that has existential ramifications for Israel, the region and the world?

Marking the country’s first public reaction to the Rushdie attack, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said the following In a televised news:

Regarding the attack on Salman Rushdie, we do not consider anyone other than [Rushdie] and his supporters worth of blame and even condemnation.”

Dead Set to Kill. Iranian women are seen on February 17, 1989, holding banners reading “Holly Koran” and “Kill Salman Rushdie” during a demonstration against British writer Salman Rushdie in Tehran. (Norbert Schiller/AFP)

Kanaani should have been reminded that on 14 February 2006, the Iranian state news agency reported that “the fatwa will remain in place permanently”. The following year, Rushdie reported that he was still receiving a “sort of Valentine’s card” from Iran each year on 14 February letting him know the country has not forgotten the vow to kill him.

It was a vow they kept – thankfully not successfully –   on August 12, 2022, and Rushdie is thought likely to lose sight in one eye as well as suffering nerve damage in his arm and liver.

Is Iran’s theocratic leadership ever to be believed and trusted, particularly as the country wants to make good on its promises, not only to kill Rushdie but to wipe out Israel?

Rogues Gallery. A view of banners depicting Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in the Lebanese town of Yaroun, where the parents of the attempted killer of Rushdie emigrated to the US from. (August 15, 2022. REUTERS/Issam Abdallah)

Since being elected Supreme Leader in 1989 – taking over from Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – Ayatollah Sayyed Ali  Khamenei has made it crystal clear he wants Israel – as a country – to disappear.

On December 4, 1990, he expressed:

Regarding the Palestine issue, the problem is taking back Palestine, which means disappearance of Israel. There is no difference between occupied territories before and after [the Arab-Israeli war of] 1967. Every inch of Palestinian land is an inch of Palestinians’ home. Any entity ruling Palestine is illegitimate unless it is Islamic and by Palestinians. Our position is what our late Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] said, “Israel must disappear.”

Doubling down on Iran’s commitment to hasten the demise of the Jewish state, Khamenei on August 19, 1991, expressed:

“. . . Our view regarding the Palestine issue is clear. We believe the solution is destroying the Israeli regime. Forty years has passed [since establishment of the state of Israel], and if another forty years passes, Israel must disappear, and will.”

Iran’s obsessional determination to expunge  Israel from the map has persisted unabated.

In the opening speech to an international conference in support of the Palestinians’ Intifada on April 22, 2001, Khamenei endeavours to mobalise the Muslim world to the mission of destroying “the Zionist regime”:.

He tells his listeners:

 “rest assured that if even a portion of the Islamic world’s resources is devoted to this path [Intifada], we will witness the decay and eventual disappearance of the Zionist regime.”

“Israel must Disappear”. Ayatollah Khamenei has made it crystal clear he wants Israel to disappear having expressed: “Any entity ruling Palestine is illegitimate unless it is Islamic and by Palestinians. Our position is what our late Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] said, “Israel must disappear.”

A decade later in a Friday prayer sermon on February 3, 2012, the Supreme Leader addressing past and future Iranian involvement in anti-Israel activities, expressed explicitly that Israel must not be allowed to survive:

“We have intervened in the anti-Israel struggle, and the results have been the victories in the 33 days war [the 2006 war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon] and the 22 days war [Israel’s attacks on the Gaza strip in December 2008]. From now on we will also support any nation, any group that confronts the Zionist regime; we will help them, and we are not shy about doing so. Israel will go, it must not survive, and it will not.”

When it comes to ending Israel, there is no letup in warning signs. If the Nazi imagery of the Jew was that of the rodent, for the Iranian leadership it is a “cancerous tumor” that “must be removed”. Speaking at a meeting on June 4, 2013, about the steadfastness of his predecessor Ayatollah Ruhhollah Khomeini – the man who issued the apostasy fatwa against Salman Rushdie, the present Ayatollah said:  

our magnanimous Imam is the person who never changed his mind about the Zionist regime; that ‘the Zionist regime is a cancerous tumor that must be removed’.”

For Iran’s leadership, there will never be an acceptance of the Jewish state. It is in their words, “a tumor that must be removed.”

Is it any wonder that Israelis are warry of the future when they read recent headlines in The New York Times:

Some Glimmers of Optimism About Iran Nuclear Deal.

You won’t find too many Israelis feeling positive about an Iran that is as dead set on ending the existence of Israel as it is dead set on possessing nuclear weapons.

Iran Calling the ‘Shots’? Iran wants compensation if US pulls out of nuclear deal again.

And what is the current status of the deal that at best is little more than kicking the can down the road to confront a nuclear Iran later?

Well, instead of iron clad assurances from Iran, what is apparently holding up the deal is not a worried world seeking assurances but a Tehran seeking guarantees that it will be compensated if a future US president pulls out! For Iran it is all about resuscitating its economy and that means the removal of the sanctions regime.

Hadi Matar in court accused of attempting to murder Salman Rushdie

However, in the wake of the US withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Accord, Iran has increasingly violated the agreements it made under the deal and expanded its nuclear programme.

If Iran wants these sanctions lifted, they will need to alter their underlying conduct; they will need to change the dangerous activities that gave rise to these sanctions in the first place,” the State Department spokesperson, Ned Price, said at a recent briefing.

Does anyone really believe that Iran will “change its dangerous activities”?

Would love to get Salman Rushdie’s take on this!

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).


By Rolene Marks

(*This article appears in theJewish Report“)

The site of the Iron Dome stood upon a hill in Modiin is both comforting – and yet fills me with dread. Israelis know that when Iron Dome batteries are rolled out across our cities, that we will face the now all too familiar barrages of rockets and mortars, fired by terror entities in the Gaza strip.

Rockets launched from Gaza Strip towards Israel is seen as rocket by Iron Dome anti-missile system is fired to intercept them near Modiin

Last Friday, the IDF launched Operation Breaking Dawn, preemptively striking, with pinpoint precision, Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza strip. Following the arrest of PIJ leader, Bassam al Saadi during counter-terror operations in Jenin in the West Bank, military and security officials had received intelligence that the terror group was planning on launching attacks on Israeli civilians. The IDF moved quickly – shutting down access roads to the Gaza border, locking down communities and shutting off train services between the city of Ashkelon and Sderot, the most bunkered town in the world.

A Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist stands guard during a funeral in Jenin following clashes with Israeli forces, Aug 2, 2022 (Photo: AFP/ Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

Israelis waited for the storm that would inevitably follow the tense calm.

The storm started with barrage after barrage of rockets fired at Israel’s southern communities. Over 1 500 000 of us who live within an 80 kilometre radius were advised by the IDF Home Front Command about the dangers of incoming rockets. City after city opened their public shelters and families prepared their personal shelters for any inevitability.

Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system fires to intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, in Ashkelon southern Israel, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

The sirens wailed, the booms from Iron Dome interceptions followed and the cycle continued. My peaceful Shabbat reverie was interrupted on Saturday by the wails of our siren, sending my husband and I (and our very disciplined cat) running into the shelter. A boom followed. An explosion was reported just outside the city that left a small crater in the ground. The obligatory “are you guys okay?” What’s App messages soon circulated amongst everyone.

I am not embarrassed to share that sirens scare me. The warning wail of an air raid siren makes me anxious – a feeling shared by many of us. Despite working in the media and being particularly busy during these times of tension, I still feel anxiety and tension.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad would continue to pound our Southern communities but would also fire rockets as far as Tel Aviv, Beer Sheba in the Negev desert and Jerusalem, a city holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims. They fired their weapons of destruction towards Jerusalem on Tisha B’Av, a day of fasting, reflection and mourning for our holy Temples that has been destroyed.

More than 1100 projectiles were fired at Israel from Gaza.

At 23h30 on Sunday night, an Egyptian brokered ceasefire had gone into place, ending 66 hours of fighting. The IDF claimed it has achieved all of their aims and it believed PIJ, pressured by Hamas who stayed out of the fray (for a variety of reasons but don’t be fooled into thinking they are going soft!) to accept. By the end of the weekend 1 100 rockets had been fired by PIJ, 47 Israelis injured,  95% of incoming rockets  intercepted by Iron Dome systems (thank G-d for our “Domey’s”) and over 200 misfired rockets falling in the Gaza strip, killing 16 out of 27 civilian casualties. This has been acknowledged by Gaza media as well as PIJ who have offered compensation to the families of the victims. Will they pay from their swollen Iranian-backed coffers?

Living on the frontline are Israel’s southern communities. You couldn’t meet more extraordinary people. I visit the south often, taking groups or individuals to visit our rocket proof WIZO daycare centres and to meet with the staff who work at our centre that helps the people of Sderot and surrounds cope with the profound trauma they have experienced for several decades.

WIZO rocket proof daycare centre in Sderot

The people of Israel’s south are exceptional and a true inspiration. They have a fierce spirit of Zionism and community and are determined not only to stay put and not be chased out of their homes and their towns; but they experience trauma few of us can understand. Over the last two decades, through countless attacks, children have grown up with the all to-familiar sound of “Tseva Adom” (Red Alert) being called out from speakers. Sirens do not wail because that is far too scary for many. There are teenagers who still wet the bed, small children who can recite exactly what they need to do when they hear “Tseva Adom” and parents who feel the strain of helping their children deal with their PTSD while coping with their own.

Just before the Covid pandemic, I had the privilege of leading a WIZO delegation on a visit to the south that included visiting our rocket-proof daycare centres, trauma centre, a terror tunnel with an exit point in the middle of a sunflower farm as well as a visit to Kibbutz Netiv Ha’asara, located just metres from the wall that divides Israeli sovereign territory from the beleaguered strip.

The residents have buried several of their own over the years, who have been killed as a result of rocket attacks. It is this kibbutz that in 2014 reported “strange digging noises beneath us”. WIZO evacuated the entire kibbutz, hosting residents in our projects further up north. This past weekend, my heart sank every time I saw the alerts for the incoming rockets and mortars.

The ever-growing Peace Wall Mosaic at Kibbutz Netiv Ha’asara. Photo: courtesy

The residents have fought back in the most Israeli way possible. They have started a project called “Path to Peace”. Visitors are encouraged to choose a small tile from the collection made on the kibbutz and place it on the “peace wall” that divides Palestinians and Israelis, in the hope that the message of peace will someday manifest into reality. They have hope. Hope is the greatest weapon against hate. Israelis carry that hope in our hearts. Make no mistake, we will defend ourselves with everything we have but will stubbornly pursue hope with everything we are.  

This resilience is the spirit of the south, it is the character of Israel and it is why try as hard as they might, terrorists will never defeat us. Am Yisrael Chai !

The writer places a tile on the wall of peace between Gaza and Israel in 2020 (Photo: Rolene Marks).

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


The United Nations seems to be unable to loosen its grip on anti-Israel obsession

By Rolene Marks

The mere mention of two words is guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of Jews around the world. United Nations.

The United Nations was founded in1945 after the Second World War by 51 countries committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights.

In recent years, the once venerated institution has become a mockery of its original mandate. The United Nations, created to honour and protect the sanctity of human rights has become a political football, kicked around by various blocs seeking to promote their political agendas.

In the theatre of the absurd, some of the world’s worst protagonists and human rights offenders, chair commissions and committees on women’s rights, human rights and more. China, who has imprisoned over a million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps and Cuba, currently sit on the UN Human Rights Council, where Afghanistan will be admitted to various bodies and an obscene amount of resolutions are passed against Israel – at the expense of real human rights violators like Iran, Venezuela or Syria.

One could say that the United Nation has become rife with institutionalized antisemitism.

Year after year, successive Israeli envoys to the UN, supported by allies such as Australia, the USA, the United Kingdom and others have voiced their concern and discontent at the disproportionate to the point of obsessive focus that the UN and its various agencies, namely the Security Council, UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), UNRWA, UNESCO and others have had with the Jewish state.

Concerns have ranged from UNESCO’s denial of Jewish connections to holy sites like the Temple Mount through to UNRWA’s perpetual incitement in textbooks in Palestinian schools through to the UNHRC’s forming of a “Commission of Inquiry” to investigate the May 2021 conflagration between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza strip. Have we seen the formation of similar commissions to investigate conflicts in other parts of the world? Don’t hold your breath!

It is this Commission of Inquiry (CoI) that has become cause for great concern over recent weeks.

Sitting on the three person panel are investigators Miloon Kothari, Cristopher Sidoti and Navi Pillay. Pillay had come up for particular scrutiny because she has a history of anti-Israel activity including signing petitions supported by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) accusing Israel of being an Apartheid state, supporting terrorist Leila Khaled infamous for hijacking an aircraft, and more recently, supporting her co-panelists obscene antisemitic comments.

Prejudiced Panel. All three panelists, Navanethem Pillay (center right), chair of the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, Miloon Kothari (right), and Chris Sidoti  (centre left) are not only openly anti-Israel but have consistently expressed antisemitic sentiments.  (UN Photo/Jean Marc Ferré)

Christopher Sidoti has accused Jews of “flinging the accusation of antisemitism like rice at a wedding”. Hmmmm.

But it is Kothari who has come in for the most global opprobrium. Speaking on a podcast recently that was hosted by Mondoweiss (a vehemently anti-Israel platform), Kothari made inflammatory, antisemitic comments that included “the Jewish lobby” controls social media and that “a lot of money is being thrown in to try to discredit us.” He also questioned “why Israel is even a member of the United Nations”.

Unashamedly Antisemitic. UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Israel member, Miloon Kothari, sparked outrage after he was quoted alluding to a “Jewish lobby” as well as questioning whether Israel deserved its UN membership. (UN Photo/Jean Marc Ferré)

Pillay defended her co-panelist saying his comments were “taken out of context”. There was absolutely no mistaking the context.

The backlash was immediate. Israel’s Prime Minister, Yair Lapid wrote to the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, calling on the comments to be condemned and the CoI to be dissolved.

It was clear that these three panelist cannot fulfill the requirements of neutrality that is needed to conduct such investigations.

Closed Mind, Open Hostility. How does South African Navi Pillay who is on record calling Israel an “apartheid state,” has campaigned to boycott and sanction Israel, and signs statements lobbying governments to punish the Jewish state qualify to chair the U​.​N.’s Israel Inquiry?

Global condemnation followed with over 20 countries condemning the comments as antisemitic and UN officials including the President of UNHRC, High Representative of the UN Alliance of Civilizations, Miguel Moratinos, former Special Rapporteur, Ahmed Shaheed, Secretary General Guterres and the Special Envoys for Antisemitism from the USA and Canada.

Kothari (most likely as a result of international disgust and not a sudden surge of good consciousness) wrote this non-apology of an apology:

Last Friday, the IDF launched Operation Breaking Dawn, preemptively striking, with pinpoint precision, Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza strip. Following the arrest of PIJ leader, Bassam al Saadi during counter-terror operations in Jenin in the West Bank, military and security officials had received intelligence that the terror group was planning on launching attacks on Israeli civilians. The IDF moved quickly – shutting down access roads to the Gaza border, locking down communities and shutting off train services between the city of Ashkelon and Sderot – the most bunkered town in the world.

Israelis waited for the storm that would inevitably follow the tense calm.

The storm started with barrage after barrage of rockets fired at Israel’s southern communities. Over 1,500,000 of us who live within an 80 kilometre radius were advised by the IDF Home Front Command about the dangers of incoming rockets. City after city opened their public shelters and families prepared their personal shelters for any inevitability.

Antisemitism UNaddressed. Reporting his findings on the growth of antisemitism to the UN General Assembly, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ahmed Shaheed cautioned that it is “toxic to democracy” and poses “a threat to all societies if left unaddressed”. (UN Photo/Manuel Elías)

Israel was under fire from a terror entity that has effectively been proscribed as such by the EU, USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and others.

Most countries (with the vocal exceptions of Russia, Iran and South Africa) supported Israel’s right to defend her citizens but somehow the UN Security Council managed to convene quicker than one could say “out-of-office, on vacation”.

Guterres called for restraint on both sides.

Siding with the terrorists, UN Special Rapporteur for the Palestinians, Francesca Albanese tweeted “Palestinians’ right to resist is inherent to their right to exist as a people,” she tweeted. “An unlawful act of resistance does not make the resistance unlawful. An unlawful act of an unlawful occupation makes the occupation more unlawful (and the list on the desk of the [International Criminal Court] Prosecutor longer).”

This has largely been seen as not only whitewashing terror but actually supporting deadly rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. Albanese conveniently forgot that at least a third of Palestinian civilian casualties, namely 16 out of 27, were as a result of PIJ rockets that misfired or landed short.

UN bodies have stated over the last couple of weeks that they are dedicated to fighting antisemitism wherever it occurs and that there is NO place for it in the work of the institution. Perhaps they better start cleaning house – the sooner, the better.

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).


Pandor’s call for Israel to be called an ‘apartheid’ state laughable

By Pamela Ngubane

(Originally published in The Citizen)

At a Palestinian Heads of Missions (HOM) in Africa conference, on 26 July 2022, held in Pretoria, South Africa, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) Dr Naledi Pandor, told the international community that they ought to consider labelling the only democracy in the Middle East as an apartheid state. What is laughable, is that she expects these nations, which largely value and uphold democracy as the world’s most progressive political system, to take her seriously.

Pandor’s Pulpit. Draped with a Palestinian headscarf, South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor calls for Israel to be declared an ‘apartheid state’ at a conference held in Pretoria on 26 July 2022 of the Palestinian Heads of Mission in Africa.

As usual, nothing was said about the lack of democracy and transparency in the way the Palestinian Authority (PA) governs the West Bank. In the last few days, Palestinian lawyers staged a protest against the authoritarian Palestinian government that Pandor supports. The parliament is defunct and the only “rule of law” are the diktats which emanate from the pronouncements made by Mahmoud Abbas, who has become the de facto Palestinian president-for-life. Yet, according to Minister Pandor, the most unprogressive person on the African continent is the African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat because he granted observer status in the continental body to the State of Israel.

Israel in Africa. In July 2021, under the chairmanship Moussa Faki Mahamat, the African Union granted Israel observer status, a decision that does not sit well with South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

While Minister Pandor embarked on this political grandstanding, employees of the African National Congress (ANC) picketed outside the ANC’s pre-policy conference gala dinner, demanding they be paid their outstanding salaries. Medical personnel at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital are struggling to provide care to patients, using infrastructure built in the previous century. Sixty to seventy per cent of students who leave high school will be unemployed.

When it comes to the ANC, logic is not necessarily the lens through which issues are analysed. A logic-based examination of the situation between Israel and the Palestinians will show that the hallmarks of apartheid are not present in how Israel conducts itself.

Writing on the Wall. While pointing false fingers at Israel, South Africa’s inept and morally bankrupt ANC government is dragging South Africa down as reminded by these very own angry ANC staff picketing outside the party’s national policy conference in Johannesburg over unpaid salaries for June and July 2022. (Picture: Twitter/ @_cosatu)

Israel has shown through the adoption of systematic legislation that it upholds the rights of the Arab citizens of Israel. Not only do they have full voting rights, but the city of Jerusalem has also instituted a programme to provide higher education and employment opportunities in East Jerusalem with the establishment of a “Silicon Valley” in the area. Arab entrepreneurs in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector are receiving mentorship from prestigious Israeli tech organisations.

Work permits are provided daily for Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza whose only chance at earning a living is to be found in Israel. The incompetence of Palestinian governments in Gaza and the West Bank has created this economic crisis. And it uses the financial donations it receives, due to the goodwill of the international community, to line its pockets and pay terrorists to attack and kill Jews.

While Minister Pandor continues to cherish delusions of the Jewish state being made a pariah, most African states support AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat’s decision regarding Israel. African states continue to establish institutional mechanisms to fight the ills that have hindered the continent’s progress since the end of colonial rule. Moreover, they see in Israel a shared story of victory over oppression and marginalisation at the hands of the world’s great powers.

Out of thin Air. While South Africa’s ANC government has its head in the clouds, much of Africa is availing itself of Israeli technology such as this revolutionary device by an Israeli company WATERGEN that produces water out of air. (photo credit: Courtesy)

As Israel grows its partnerships with its neighbours through the Abraham Accords, it becomes clear to enlightened African leaders that Israel is a desirable partner to help Africa achieve its Agenda 2063 developmental goals. These include:

– the creation of an integrated and productive continental economy

– maintaining peace and security on the continent unlocking

– the potential of Africa’s people, through better food security, education provision and medical interventions.

A country’s foreign policy must reflect the aspirations of its citizens. It’s time South Africa reoriented its foreign policy in favour of nurturing productive relations with other states, by being an advocate for global peace, a facilitator of regional and international dialogue and doing what is right by its people.

About the Writer:

A Social Science Honours graduate, Pamela Ngubane is a history teacher who was recently appointed as the General Manager of SAFI (South African Friends of Israel)

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).


Two perceptions of a campus bombing

By David E. Kaplan

Just how far apart Israel’s leadership is from Palestinian leadership is reflected in two divergent reports on the same issue appearing in the same The Jerusalem Post – 1st August 2022 edition.

On page 2, its reported that Israel’s Security Cabinet voted to deduct 600 million from tax and tariffs collected for the PA as it is legally entitled to do annually so long as the Palestinian Authority (PA) pays terrorists who attack Israelis. The PA’s policy of paying terrorists or their families has been nicknamed “pay for slay”.

On the same day on the internet edition of The Jerusalem Post an article’s title reads in bold:

PA raises salary for terrorists who killed 9 at Hebrew U

Was  it a coincidence or was it literally rubbing salt it into the wound – in this case ‘wounds” – that on the exact date of the 20th anniversary of that horrendous bombing of the Frank Sinatra Cafeteria on the Mount Scopus  campus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on the 31 July 2002, the PA chose to announce the raising of the “salaries” of the four terrorists responsible for the bombing  by 14.29%!

Over the past 20 years, the PA has paid Wael Qassem, Wassim Abbasi, Alla Aldin Abbasi and Muhammed Odeh  – all members of an eastern Jerusalem Hamas cell – over NIS 8 million (over $2.5 million) for their role in what has become known as the “Hebrew University Massacre”. Their monthly payments are set to increase from NIS 7,000 ($2,251) per month to NIS 8,000 ($2,572). They are reported to receive an additional NIS 300 shekels (£73) each month because they were residents of Jerusalem prior to their imprisonment.

Four other terrorists convicted for taking part in the attack receive a salary from the PA as well.

Deadly Defiant. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says that the PA will never stop payments to the killers of Israelis. “If we are left with one penny, we will spend it on the families of the prisoners and martyrs.”

The increased payments of 14.29 % is well above the 4.47 % rate of inflation in Gaza and the West Bank hence it begs the question:

What message is the PA sending – that not only is killing Jewish Israelis acceptable – it is rewarded.

This is tantamount as a state sanctioned – “License to Kill”!

Nine people – four Israelis and five foreign nationals – were murdered with a further 85 injured, 14 of them seriously. Most of the injured were between the ages of 18 and 30.

Death & Destruction. Workers clean the inside of a cafeteria on July 31, 2002, hours after a bomb exploded at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, killing nine, four of them Americans, and wounding more than 70. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

Though classes were not in session, students were taking exams at the time of the blast, and the cafeteria was crowded with diners. There were also numerous students in the building registering for classes for the coming school year.

The Frank Sinatra Cafeteria was also near the Rothberg International School, where about 80 pupils from the US and other Western countries had arrived to prepare for the fall semester.

The explosion gutted the cafeteria. It also gutted the lives of so many families both in Israel and abroad.

Cries on Campus. Bodies are taken away following an explosion at the busy cafeteria in east Jerusalem’s Hebrew University July 31, 2002. (credit: FLASH90)

One recalls on the 10th anniversary of the massacre, the words of Dr. Katherine Baker, a Penn State University microbiologist whose son, Benjamin Blutstein, was one of the victims.

I don’t think time ever heals this kind of loss. There are days I can’t get through the day without crying, there are a couple of days in a row I can do it. But it’s extremely hard.”

Blutstein and his classmate Marla Bennett were both enrolled at Hebrew University’s Rothberg International School and at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.

These were two wonderful young people, preparing for a career as teachers of Jewish studies in North America.”

One can only imagine now on the twentieth anniversary of the massacre what the families of the murdered must be feeling when they read  that the PA are increasing their monthly “salaries” for murdering their loved ones!

This is only one drama of a conflict playing out but it is a microcosm of the chasm that separates two people. Is there ever a meeting place when one people see  it as “pay for slay” and the other side as a “”martyrs fund”?

While the names of the four murderers or “martyrs” as the PA refer to them are making the news  because of their increased “salaries”, it is important to remember and honour the names of the innocent victims:

Benjamin Blutstein – Age 25, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Ben was a student in the two-year graduate students’ program in Jewish Education at the Rothberg International School and at the Pardes Institute. While a religious young man who by day studied Judaism, Gemara and Chumash at night worked as a disc jockey.

Marla Bennett – Age 24, from San Diego, California, Marla was a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and a student in the two-year graduate students’ program in Jewish Education at the Rothberg International School and at the Pardes Institute.

Revital Barashi – Age 30, Revital was the youngest of 13 children of a Jerusalem family. Revital worked in the secretariat of the Faculty of Law, and she was involved in assisting the academic and administrative staff and in guiding new employees.

David Gritz – Age 24, from Paris, David had completed his undergraduate studies and his first year of graduate studies in Philosophy at the University of Paris, where he was an outstanding student. David had registered for the Rothberg International School’s summer ulpan, which he never got to begin.

David Diego Ladowski – Born in Argentina in 1973, David immigrated to Israel in 1992. David was about to finish his master’s degree in Public Policy at the Hebrew University, and was due to start his first diplomatic job in the Israeli Embassy in Lima, Peru.

Janis Ruth Coulter – Age 36, from Boston, Massachusetts, Janice had a master’s degree in Jewish Studies from the University of Denver. She was the senior program coordinator at the Rothberg International School’s New York office.

Plane Horror. U.S. Airport workers prepare to load August 1, 2002, the coffins of Benjamin Thomas Blutstein, 25, and Jansin Ruth Coulter, 36, at a terminal of Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv to be shipped to the United States for burial. Both American students were killed in a bombing at the Hebrew University. (credit: REUTERS/HAVAKUK LEVISON)

Dina Carter – Age 38, Dina was born in North Carolina, and immigrated to Israel in 1990. She worked as a librarian and archivist in the Publications and Archives Department of the  University’s Jewish National and University Library. Dina was also a talented artist who painted and sculpted.

Levina Shapira – Age 53, Levina was born in Jerusalem. She worked at the Hebrew University for 30 years and worked her way up to the senior position of Director of the Student Administration Authority.

Daphna Spruch – Born in Tel Aviv, Daphna worked as a systems coordinator in the Student Administration Authority for close to 30 years, and was one of its most senior and experienced workers. She had been studying for her master’s degree in Comparative Religion.

Had former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir been still alive in 2002 during the 2nd Intifada when the bombing took place, she may have reflected on her words:

We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us

Illuminating the Dark.  An unidentified Israeli lights candles at a memorial at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem Thursday August 1, 2002, a day after a bomb blew apart the university’s Frank Sinatra International Students Center cafeteria, killing seven people, five of them Americans (AP Photo/Enric Marti).

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).


By Eitan Fischberger and Arsen Ostrovsky

In the late 1930’s, Nazis and their enablers created a map of Jewish businesses to target and boycott, ultimately leading to the Kristallnacht (‘Night of Broken Glass’), a violent pogrom across Germany and Austria, in which thousands of Jewish-owned stores and synagogues were looted and almost 100 Jews were murdered. 

Kristallnacht was an example of how singling out and demonizing a group of people based on race or religion can lead to violence. Less than a century later, a disturbing new effort called the “Mapping Project” based in Massachusetts, and linked to the movement to boycott Israel, has again singled out local Jewish institutions, this time for their supposed impact on Israel’s policies vis-à-vis Palestinians and responsibility for a litany of ills across America.

Since its inception, leaders of the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (BDS) have framed their effort as a way to secure Palestinian liberation that is rooted in justice and which appeals to human rights. But widespread support for the Mapping Project from over 21 pro-BDS groups, the movement’s official affiliate in Boston, and US-designated terrorist organization the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has ripped off this veneer, exposing BDS for its true raison d’etre — singling out and targeting Jews. With incidents of antisemitism reaching record highs in 2021, this is especially troublesome and dangerous.

Targeting Jews. Promoted by anti-Israel groups such as Boston BDS, a new website claiming to show ties between various Massachusetts institutions and “support for the colonization of Palestine” has raised alarms over its dangerous targeting of the Jewish community. Using a series of dots and lines in different colors, the targeting includes a high school, a center for people with disabilities, student groups, synagogues, newspapers, Jewish-run charities, and even a center for Jewish arts.

According to its website, the Mapping Project aims to “reveal the local entities and networks that enact devastation, so we can dismantle them.” Reading such an ominous decree, a casual observer could be led to believe that the entities named would be genuine human rights abusers. On closer examination, however, the map includes organizations such as Jewish high schools, synagogues, and even groups that serve people with disabilities.

Feeding into millennia-old conspiracy theories of Jewish control and manipulation over world events, the project goes on to assert that “Zionists” in the US and Israel “use their influence to enable a range of oppressive agendas.” This brand of vitriol — shared by white supremacists — has fueled multiple attacks against Jews in the US, including the 2017 Poway Synagogue Shooting, the 2018 Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting, and the 2022 Colleyville Synagogue Hostage Crisis, each of which involved a perpetrator blaming some unrelated injustice on the Jewish people. 

The map also caught the attention of American lawmakers. Following its release, a bipartisan group of 37 members of Congress urged a federal inquiry. Similarly, the FBI announced it was monitoring the website for threats against Jews. These welcome steps are vital as antisemitic incidents in the New England region alone, where the authors of the map are allegedly based, increased by 42 percent over the last year. Even vocal Israel critics such as US Rep. Ayanna Pressley have put distance between themselves and the Project, declaring: “It is not acceptable to target or make vulnerable Jewish institutions or organizations, full stop.”

Returning to the Dark Ages. Is this where BDS wants to take America today? Members of the Storm Troopers with boycott signs, block the entrance to a Jewish-owned shop. April 1, 1933.

But what’s noteworthy here is not simply the existence of another antisemitic hit list. It’s that it has unwittingly exposed that the BDS movement isn’t about Palestinian liberation, justice, or human rights. Rather, it is a convenient ploy for naming, shaming and singling out Jews.

Boycott Jews. Is this what BDS in the USA want to emulate  – an SA member standing guard at the entrance to a Jewish-owned store in 1933 boycott with a sign reading inter alia “… do not go to Jewish stores!”

We see this in the response from the Ramallah-based BDS National Committee (BNC), a coalition of groups — some of which are US-designated terrorist organizations — leading and coordinating BDS activities worldwide. True to its credentials, the BNC’s leaked letter to its Boston affiliate disassociating from the Mapping Project actually doubles down on its encouragement of Palestinian defiance “by all means, including armed resistance” —a thinly-veiled euphemism for terror. By reaffirming this support, the BNC lets slip that its opposition to the Mapping Project is not one of substance, but rather public relations.

Shattered Illusions. Could this happen in the USA? A man looks at the wreckage of a Jewish shop in Berlin on Nov. 10, 1938 in the aftermath of Kristallnacht (‘Night of Broken Glass’). AP Photo

The near unanimous praise the map has received from BDS groups should remove any doubt about the movement’s intent and make it abundantly clear what it truly is: a modern-day strategy dedicated to targeting Jews, whether in Israel or the US. Armed with this knowledge, the federal government and members of congress must utilize all available measures to stop this insidious map and ensure that a 21st-century Kristallnacht does not occur on American soil.

About the writers:

Eitan Fischberger

Eitan Fischberger is an editor-at-large with the J’accuse Coalition for Justice, and an international relations and Middle East analyst.

Arsen Ostrovsky

Arsen Ostrovsky is a human rights attorney and CEO of The International Legal Forum.

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).


Human Rights organisations are no longer just focuses on social justice issues but very heavily funded, many times to push particular agendas.

By Rolene Marks

The human rights industry is worth billions of dollars. This is serious wonga! According to recent statistics reported by the Business Research Company, the global human rights organizations market size was expected to grow from $16.60 billion in 2021 to $17.47 billion in 2022 at a compound annual growth rate. That is a lot of lucre.

One could see why people are drawn to working for human rights organisations – after all who wouldn’t want to work for what they perceive is a noble and just cause? The two most notable organisations are Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. There are notable parallels between these organisations. Both of these once venerated NGO’s were founded by Jews. Both enjoy extremely high profiles and trust. Both are seen as the litmus test for evaluating human rights transgressions. Both have a clear obsession with the State of Israel. Both have seen their original founders publicly distance themselves from the organisations for fear they were headed down a dangerous, agenda driven road.

When an organization, no matter how noble their mandate is, starts to veer off course and head down a very dubious path it often raises question “who is funding them?”

For the purposes of this article, we will take a look at Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch (HRW) describe itself as “an independent, nongovernmental organization, supported by contributions from private individuals and foundations worldwide. Human Rights Watch does not solicit or accept donations by governments, directly or indirectly.  This includes governments, government foundations, and government officials.  Indirect donations include those that are, or appear to be, made on behalf of a government or government official through an immediate family member, another intermediary, or a foundation.” In other words, this is who funds us; but don’t expect us to tell you exactly who they are. This is a procedure followed by Amnesty International as well and is no indication of untoward practice but when these organisations take a stroll down dangerous lanes, it does beg the question – who is doling out the dough?

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 supportdissenters. 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.”

This has become more and more apparent as HRW turn its focus away from the many human rights atrocities and points a damning finger at Israel. HRW’s former Director Ken Roth who retires next month, has devoted the majority of his online social media presence to singling out Israel – but what else can you expect from someone who once tweeted about “being invited for  coffee with Hezbollah” or that Hamas’ use of tunnels to potentially kidnap Israeli soldiers, did not necessarily contravene international law.

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.

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.

Remember when ice-cream didn’t have an opinion?

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 2021 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 – a strategy Amnesty International also followed in their recent report.

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?

What is extraordinary are the huge salaries received by Roth and his ilk as evidenced in the most recent report featured below.

The cost of hate creation (Courtesy of UN Watch)

While the organization is careful to disclose its financials, it will not disclose which countries, governments, associates etc. write the big cheques.

When a respected human rights organization falls foul of its mandate to the point where its founders raise the alarm bells, one has to ask who is forking out the finance?

Amnesty International

The other “big hitter” in the human rights world is Amnesty International. Founded in 1961 by Peter Benenson, a British lawyer. It was originally his intention to launch an appeal in Britain with the aim of obtaining an amnesty for prisoners of conscience all over the world. Before his passing in 2005, Benenson denounced Amnesty International for its fixation of the State of Israel.

Amnesty International (AI) has a well-documented history of anti-Israel and antisemitic activity and this has been exposed by organisations such as NGO Monitor. A huge portion of its budget seems to focus on nefarious ways to undermining and delegitimizing Israel – including its recent report accusing the Jewish state of “crimes against humanity and practicing apartheid”. They managed to magically redefine what Apartheid was in order to push its agenda. 

Antisemitism, hatred and incitement conveyed in a seemingly subtle way with intentional misuse of the term Apartheid (AI)

Examples include its 2015 rejection of a “Campaign against anti-Semitism in the UK” – the only proposed resolution at its Annual General Meeting that was not adopted; comments by its current Secretary General that Israel is a “government that is rogue” and the head of its Finland branch that Israel is a “scum state”; and the fact that no other country in a conflict zone is the focus of similar Amnesty-led boycotts. Amnesty International have routinely hired staff who have posted antisemitic content on social media including Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty UK’s “crisis response manager” who tweeted on November 19, 2012, during Operation Pillar of Defense, “Louise Ellman, Robert Halfon & Luciana Berger walk into a bar….each orders a round of B52s (inspired by @KarlreMarks Bar quips) #Gaza.” The three people he characterized as war-mongers are British Members of Parliament, all of whom are Jewish.

The organisation refused requests to investigate rising antisemitism in the United Kingdom and have routinely embarked on campaigns to promote boycotts, divestment and sanctions on the Jewish state.

Their above mentioned report released in February this was the bitter cherry on the cake  and has been dismissed by countries including France, the USA, the UK, the Netherlands and many more as it is seen as a clear breach of the widely recognised International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. The code adopted by the UK government and other authorities’ worldwide states that it is antisemitic to deny Jews their right to self-determination “by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour”. There is genuine concern that this report could add fuel to the already flaming fires of antisemitism.

But Amnesty International have also come under fire. Legal figures and MPs in the UK have called for the UK Charity Commission to consider Amnesty’s status because publishing such a report from its UK office could be a contravention of the clearly stated criteria of the Charity Commission.

Just last month, an independent inquiry into AI’s secretariat found that the human rights organisation has a culture of white privilege with incidents of overt racism. Ouch! (Click and read the full report here).

Some of the accusations include:

Senior staff using the N-word and P-word, with colleagues labelled over-sensitive if they complained.

Systemic bias including the capability of black staff being questioned consistently and without justification, and minority ethnic staff feeling disempowered and sidelined on projects. Micro-aggressive behaviour such as the touching of black colleagues’ hair.

A lack of awareness or sensitivity to religious practices resulting in problematic comments and behaviour, including mocking Ramadan.

Aggressive and dismissive behaviour, particularly over email and often directed towards staff in offices in the global south.

Kieran Aldred, who worked for AIUK as an advocacy officer for three years until 2018 said:

 ““Working for AIUK destroyed my self-confidence, my belief in my capabilities. I didn’t think I was skilled enough to do my job, that any organisation would ever hire me, let alone promote me, and I suffered from ongoing depression and anxiety.”

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s Chief Executive, said:

“It is critical in the change that we need to make at Amnesty UK that we acknowledge that his report makes abundantly clear the scale of the transformation we must make to change lots about Amnesty UK as a place to work.”

This is the same organization that spends a fair chunk of cash writing reports, trotting out “experts” like notorious anti-Israel activist, Miko Peled, running seminars and putting up posters and billboards accusing Israel of Apartheid.

These two organisations are not the only heavily funded, agenda rife NGO’s. There are many others. This is not to say all human rights organisations have flung out their mandates in favour of disproportionate focus on the Jewish state.

As Russia’s assault on Ukraine rages on and with it a trail of human rights abuse and China continues to imprison Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps, Christians murdered in Nigeria, Iran hangs dissidents and members of the LGBTQI+ community and many other crimes against humanity continue, perhaps the megabucks poured into the human rights industry is best spent focusing on their plight and not on rallying up hate against the Jewish state.

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).

Warm Embrace

Latino community drawing closer to Israel

By Jonathan Feldstein

I was driving in Jerusalem last month and saw a colourful flag flying. The horizontal bars of yellow, blue, and red had a coat of arms in the middle, but I was not familiar with which country it represented.  What I did know is that there was a visiting head of state in town, and flying that country’s flag was a way to show honour and respect.

A few days later, I read that Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso was visiting, and had announced the opening of an official innovation office in Jerusalem, and he undertook to maintain a more balanced approach toward Israel at the United Nations.  Both are welcome announcements, particularly given that in the past, Ecuador had been part of a group of countries that frequently voted against Israel at the UN.  President Lasso’s visit marked the first time an Ecuadorian President came to Israel since the countries established diplomatic relations in 1949.

Sister States. Hailing new era in Israel-Ecuador ties, Israel’s President, Isaac Herzog hosts dinner for Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso who says countries are “sister state”. (photo Twitter/ Isaac Herzog May 2022)

Celebratory statements and tweets came from both Israeli and Ecuadorian leaders. When I read that the new office will be located in the trade office Colombia that opened in Jerusalem last year, I realized that something big and good was afoot between Israel and Latin America, and the Hispanic community in general.

A week later I read about Israel’s embassy in Mexico opening the Israel-Mexico tech acceleration program, designed to connect innovative enterprises in Israel and Mexico for high-level high-tech collaboration.  The Israeli and Mexican announcement is part of the countries celebrating 70 years of diplomatic relations in July.

High Gear. Amid the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Mexico, the Israeli Embassy of Mexico inaugurates Israel-Mexico tech acceleration program. (photo credit: EMBASSY OF ISRAEL IN MEXICO)

As the 15th-largest economy in the world, this program will connect Mexican and Israeli entrepreneurs working on solutions to respective local challenges and needs including health, communication, and the very important issue of water management.

This comes in the wake of two other central American countries, Guatemala and Honduras, being among those to move their embassies to Jerusalem, and is an important way to increase cooperation and build regional ties.

Given these news items and my growing relationships among the latin community, it’s clear I made a mistake studying French in high school. In these cases however, entrepreneurship is a common language, which will overcome linguistic barriers and build warm, ongoing, and mutually beneficial relationships.

When I think about recent developments, I am pleased but not surprised. The truth is that they all are part of a trend in Many countries understand that close relations with Israel bring many benefits and blessings to the table.  Individually, with strong roots in Christianity, latin communities all over the world look at Israel as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. Biblical principles such as blessing Israel, praying for the peace of Jerusalem, being watchmen on the wall, and more are not mere words but God’s playbook.

On High Ground. A woman enters the new Honduran Embassy in Jerusalem, June 23,2021, the fourth country to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to the Israeli capital following the US, Kosovo and Guatemala.
| Photo: EPA / Atef Safadi

This was why Guatemala and Honduras quickly followed the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move their embassies there.  As these diplomatic pillars strengthen, it’s no surprise that last year six Central American countries took part in establishing the Central American Forum for Israel.  Doing so, Guatemala, Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua signed a declaration of support for the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

Close Ties. Guatemalan activists wave Israeli flags near the “Plaza of Israel” in the country’s capital, 2015 reflecting the friendship ties between Israel and Guatemala that go back to 1947 when the UN voted for the resolution that led to the establishment of the modern State of Israel.(photo credit: REUTERS)

Part of this initiative highlighted their commitment to educate future generations about the Holocaust and fight antisemitism. Together, they adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, declaring:

 “We stand against antisemitism and hatred of all kinds. We support the IHRA as countries and institutions around the world do to simplify law enforcement and deal with the consequences of antisemitism in a correct and just way.”

All this activity is especially noteworthy not just in the strengthening of diplomatic and trade relations with Israel, but as a way to take the war on terror to another front.  Iran has long sought to increase its reach to and presence in Latin America, and indeed has established itself in places like Cuba, Venezuela, and others.  These are not as threatening as Iran’s presence in Argentina where it was responsible for two major terror attacks on the Israeli embassy (March 17, 1992, killing 29 and injuring more than 250) and on the Jewish community center (July 18, 1994, killing 85 and injuring more than 300).

Iran’s terrorist reach is not limited to major bombings. On January 18, 2015, Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment. “Coincidentally”, days earlier, he had filed a report implicating former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and other officials of covering up Iran’s involvement in the 1994 Jewish community center bombing. More recently, a Venezuelan cargo plane with “car parts” and previously owned by Iran, arrived in Argentina, rousing suspicion. It had had a far larger than necessary crew, including several Iranians!

The growing relations between Israel and a number of Latin American countries is important and embodies the Biblical model of Israel being a blessing to the families of the world.  But more than on a national basis, religious support for Israel among latinos worldwide is a cornerstone of support within their nations. This of course includes Latin America, but also throughout the US.  While Christian support for Israel is wide and growing in general, it feels much wider on a per capita basis among Hispanics.

New Directions. ‘Thirsty’ for Israeli innovation,  Colombia in 2015 signed with Israel an agreement on cooperation in industrial R&D. The agreement enabled companies from both countries to receive government funding for joint projects in industrial projects focused on adapting products to the Colombian market. (Photo by Shutterstock.com)

There are many ways in which this is expressed, but one of the most unique, dynamic, and impressive was when I visited Nashville this year and had the privilege of attending services and speaking at Casa de Dios. I am accustomed to an Israeli flag flying in a church parking lot of a number of ministries.  However, Casa de Dios raises the bar: before each of their services every Sunday, they sing Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah. I was moved beyond words.

The Spanish Connection. The Ralli Museums located in a 40,000 square meter park in Caesarea, Israel exhibiting mainly Latin American and Spanish paintings and sculptures reflects strong historic bonds with the eye to the future.

Something big is happening among latinos relating to Israel.  Exploring this, I hosted two back-to-back conversations discussing a range of reasons why that’s happening and the significance of how Hispanics are awakening to their deep Jewish roots as well. I pray it will continue and be a mutual blessing to us all. If nothing else, I am hoping that Central American pineapples will begin to flood the Israeli market, bringing down the price and bringing up the quality.

As we are seeing, this is a relationship that bears fruit!

About the writer:

Jonathan Feldstein ­­­­- President of the US based non-profit Genesis123 Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Christians – is a freelance writer whose articles appear in The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Townhall, NorthJersey.com, Algemeiner Jornal, The Jewish Press, major Christian websites and more.

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).


Voting with the “big Boys” at the UN puts Eswatini firmly on the map

By Rolene Marks

The very mention of the United Nations is guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of most people – especially mention of the Human Rights Council. In this chamber of the absurd, some of the world’s worst human rights violators, including Venezuela, Iran, and North Korea have all held court and sat on the presiding council and some of the most ridiculous resolutions have been passed against Israel. The Jewish state has; and continues to be the focus of an obscene amount of attention – at great expense to other conflicts and human rights abuses around the world.

Last week, in this circus of the ridiculous, the UNHRC’s “Commission of Inquiry” – an investigation that was set up following last year’s 11 day flare up between Israel and Hamas, the internationally recognized terror entity that controls the Gaza strip, presented their findings. Naturally the verdict was that Israel was and is responsible for the ongoing conflict with her neighbours.

The Commission of Inquiry managed to gives as little reference to the incitement of hate and acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas and other Iranian sponsored terror entities in the Gaza strip as possible.

Problematic Pillay. Heading the transparently flawed “Commission of Inquiry” into last year’s 11-day flare up between Israel and Hamas is  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, a strong supporter of BDS that calls for the end of the State of Israel.

The Commission of Inquiry was headed by Navi Pillay, a known anti-Israel agitator who has in the past endorsed the BDS movement which calls for the end of the State of Israel, applauded Iran for signing the 2001 anti-Israel UN declaration and has been proven to have personal ties with members of the PFLP, which is on the international terror list. It is no wonder Israel refused to cooperate with such an inquiry.

Why bother going through the façade? The Commission of Inquiry was endorsed by North Korea though – and the Palestinian representative who called for the USA to be kicked off the UNHRC. It would be comical if it wasn’t so serious because some people still believe in the veracity of such an organization.

Obsessive Anti-Israel Bias. Israel envoy to the United Nations Gilad Erdan rips up a Human Rights Council report at the podium, October 29, 2021 criticizing it for its disproportionate condemnation of Israel saying it belongs in “the dustbin of antisemitism”. (Screen grab)

But something extraordinary happened. The United States led 22 countries, followed the next day by Australia, in a statement condemning the UNHRC for amongst other things, their “disproportionate focus on Israel” and this commission which is counterproductive to the cause of peace.

The diverse group of countries led by the USA and spanning the continents included Israel, Austria, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Hungary, Eswatini, Brazil, Cameroon, Micronesia, Canada, United Kingdom, Togo, Colombia, Guatemala, Croatia, Liberia, Marshall Island, Nauru, North Macedonia and Palau denounced the Commission of Inquiry.

They were joined the next day by Australia who slammed the UNHRC’s “disproportionate focus on Israel and the Commission of Inquiry that does not serve the cause of peace”. There was an encouraging presence of African countries who also grow weary of having to take sides when they could benefit from what Israel has to offer and play a concrete role as African Union members towards brokering a resolution to the conflict – a role which sadly South Africa who also harbours an unproductive obsession with the Jewish state, has forfeited.

What was particularly heartening to see was the amount of African states breaking with stalemates of the past to come out and take a stand for Israel.  Israel, recognizing the similarities between our history and challenges to those of African countries has focused attention on growing bilateral ties on the continent. This is evident in the recent granting of observer status at the African Union (AU) and the steady growth of bilateral ties.

There is huge significance to the African states voting in Israel’s favour at the UN. It means the decades long African bloc stalemate has now been broken.

One country in particular stands out. Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) often garners very few headlines but last week the tiny, Southern African state, by voting in favour of Israel along with the leading democracies of the world made a bold statement – we are here, and we came to play. Make no mistake, each country’s vote, no matter the size or perceived level of importance, carries the same weight.

A New Dawn. The landlocked kingdom of Eswatini, formerly Swaziland in Southern Africa voted in favour of Israel along with the leading democracies of the world in condemning the UNHRC for amongst other things, their “disproportionate focus on Israel”.

The message Eswatini sent was clear. We stand with Israel. We recognize the benefits that having ties to a country like Israel, that leads in so many areas can have for our country. We won’t be bullied by neighbouring South Africa to vote against Israel. South Africa’s major foreign policy focus for 2022 is getting Israel’s observer status at the AU revoked – a disappointing choice for a country plagued by so many challenges that the Jewish state can help with.

Eswatini, by breaking with tradition sent a strong, resounding message. Size doesn’t matter – rather it is the imperative of taking moral and principled stands at an institution that is fast losing its cachet. Eswatini has shown the country can stand alongside the world’s leading democracies – and hold its own. Eswatini has shown that when it comes to what is best for its citizens – will not be coerced. Eswatini has shown leadership by example.

The Southern African state has not only firmly established itself on the world stage but it has proven it is the little country that could – and did.

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).