Vaccination Controversy

Answering Palestinian Accusations of Racism

Israel is leading the world in the country’s efforts to vaccinate its population. This has not been without criticism from many in the media who believe Israel should assume responsibility for vaccinating the neighbouring Palestinians. The Palestinian Foreign Minister accused Israel of racism for not vaccinating his citizens. The Daily Mail online, which enjoys one of the largest readerships in the world, published an article featuring the FM’s false narrative.

Founded in 1896, the Daily Mail is the United Kingdom’s highest-circulated daily newspaper. 

Lay of the Land Co-Founder, Rolene Marks replies in an open letter:

To the Editor

Your article about Palestinians accusing Israel of being racist with regards to the vaccination roll out refers.

Israel is currently the world leader and has to date vaccinated 27% of our population. Along with this great achievement, has come a certain level of criticism focusing on whether or not Israel is responsible for vaccinating the neighbouring Palestinians. It is extremely important to understand the situation on the ground.

Since the start of the global pandemic, Israel has been cooperating with the Palestinians, ensuring that they receive much needed testing kits, PPE, training and other medical necessities through the relevant authorities, NGO’s and COGAT, the IDF unit responsible. This effort was lauded by UN Special Envoy to the region, Nikolay Mladenov. This has not been without its challenges. Two plane loads of Covid aid from the United Arab Emirates was summarily rejected by the Palestinian Authority “because it was coordinated with Israel and landed at Ben Gurion airport”. This aid was subsequently distributed with the help of the World Health Organisation and UN.

The Israeli government moved decisively and quickly to procure vaccinations as soon as they were able, in order to inoculate our citizens. The roll out has been an exceptional achievement, applauded by many around the world. At the end of December 2020, a Palestinian Health Ministry official stated “we do not need or require help from Israel to procure vaccines. We have our own health ministry and are not an extension of the defense ministry (of Israel).” Israel is on record as stating that while vaccinating our citizens remains the priority, we will help the Palestinians as needed.

Israelis and Palestinians are both signatories to the 1995 Oslo Peace Accords, which awards Palestinians autonomy with their healthcare, including responsibility for vaccines. For Israel to take responsibility for vaccinating the Palestinian population, it would be a violation of this autonomy. This is a clear case of Israel is damned if it does – and damned if it doesn’t. The Palestinians will be receiving Russian Sputnik vaccines in the coming days with the help of the WHO. There should be enough budget in the coffers of the Palestinian Authority for more, seeing that millions of dollars are spent annually ensuring that the salaries and stipends for convicted terrorists and their families are paid.

UAE Covid aid for Palestine lands at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport but is refused  on the grounds according to a Palestinian government source that “Palestinians refuse to be a bridge [for Arab countries] seeking to have normalised ties with Israel.”

In the Gaza strip, the situation is more complicated. Gaza is governed by Hamas, who are recognised internationally as terrorist organisation; and an enemy entity of Israel. Aid and training including doctors, specifically not Jewish, has still been sent into the Gaza strip in coordination with the above mentioned NGO’s and COGAT. Hamas, in protest of what they see as insufficient aid, forbade their citizens to seek medical help at a field hospital run by a Christian non-profit last week. This did not make any headlines. Neither did the two rockets, fired from the northern part of the strip towards the Israeli port city of Ashdod. A flagrant waste of good budget that could be used for much needed vaccines. Thank goodness these rockets landed in the sea and not in an apartment or kindergarten as they have in the past.

Accusations of racism, which coincidentally are made AFTER mainstream media criticises Israel are extremely unproductive, unhelpful and devoid of fact. In the interest of a global triumph over a pandemic that has already destroyed so much, please do not let it further erode the integrity of responsible reporting.

Kind regards

Rolene Marks

The article:

Israel is accused of ‘racism’ by Palestinian PM after excluding 4million people in the West Bank and Gaza from its Covid-19 vaccine program

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)

Kristallnacht Comparisons

By Rolene Marks

There is a startling new trend emerging in the media. Commentators wishing to make a point or push a political agenda are resorting to Holocaust comparisons, in particular Kristallnacht. It is abhorrent and trivializes the experience of the victims of the Holocaust and survivors.

During Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, a synagogue burns in Siegen, Germany. November 10, 1938. (courtesy of Shamash: The Jewish Internet Consortium.)

Several months ago it was CNN anchorwoman, Christiane Amanpour, who drew the comparison between Kristallnacht and the Trump administration.

“This week 82 years ago, Kristallnacht happened,” Amanpour said in the monologue. “It was the Nazis’ warning shot across the bow of our human civilization that led to genocide against a whole identity, and in that tower of burning books, it led to an attack on fact, knowledge, history and truth. After four years of a modern-day assault on those same values by Donald Trump, the Biden-Harris team pledges a return to norms, including the truth.”

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour says she regrets equating President Donald Trump’s tenure to Kristallnacht, an attack on Jews in Nazi Germany seen historically as the Holocaust’s launch.

This resulted in an out pouring of condemnation from Jewish organisations and individuals who were understandably appalled. Amanpour apologized for “juxtaposing the Trump administration with Nazi crimes’ but the gauntlet had been lowered, paving the way for others to do the same.

“I observed the 82nd anniversary of Kristallnacht, as I often do. It is the event that began the horrors of the Holocaust. I also noted President Trump’s attacks on history, facts, knowledge, and truth. I should not have juxtaposed the two thoughts. Hitler and his evils stand alone, of course, in history,” she continued. “I regret any pain my statement may have caused. My point was to say how democracy can potentially slip away, and how we must always zealously guard our democratic values,” Amanpour added.

But there it was. Once the comparison was out and despite the apology, it gave the greenlight to others to follow suit.

Following the violence that took place in Washington DC when a violent mob stormed the Capitol Building, social media platforms have cracked down and removed far-right individuals and groups like QAnon and The Proud Boys from their platforms. They have also cracked down on US President Donald Trump, shutting down his Twitter profile, Facebook and YouTube pages and others. What is strange is that the genocidal Ayatollah Al Khameini from Iran who routinely denies the Holocaust and calls for the eradication of “cancerous” Israel is still allowed a platform. Tech giants Apple, Google and Cloud technology, AWS have also removed platforms like Parler, long seen as a stage for far right rhetoric. The cyber world is purging what they see as far right hate speech. Pity they aren’t purging some anti-Semites….

Some took to the airwaves and to Twitter to lament.

Former Republican Congressman for Iowa, Steve King (known for making racist comments in the past) and Fox News host, Jeanine Pirro, both compared the de-platforming of alt-right voices from social media to Kristallnacht.

“I have lost 8,000 followers on this Twitter account in one day. Apple, Google, Facebook, & others have cancelled many conservatives. Last night was cyber god’s Kristallnacht!” King wrote on Twitter. Um, no.

Jeanine Pirro remarked on air, “They gave us a taste of this pre-election when they suppressed the Hunter Biden story, and now that they’ve won, what we’re seeing is the kind of censorship that is akin to a Kristallnacht,” she said. Sigh.

Pirro tried to qualify her statement. “Although book burning started earlier, Kristallnacht included the destruction of Jewish stores, homes & synagogues containing rare Jewish books & Torahs. My reference was in context of books. The Holocaust was the greatest hate crime the world ever tolerated. I abhor all violence,” she wrote.

Fox News host former New York State judge Jeanine Pirro calls Parler backlash “akin to a Kristallnacht” days after the deadly attempted coup on Capitol Hill.

Fox commentator, Glenn Beck has likened it to a “digital ghetto”. I have no words.

You would think they would know better. Former Governor of California and Terminator icon, Arnold Shwarzenegger, in a recent speech made the comparison of events in Washington DC to Kristallnacht. While he was careful to acknowledge Kristallnacht and explain it in historical context, his speech made me very uncomfortable with the reference. Both the Capitol attack and Kristallnacht, he argued, were the actions of violent groups motivated by lies from their leader. The mob that approached the Capitol, urged on by President Donald Trump earlier that day,  chanted that the election was stolen from him, while Kristallnacht was the work of a group Schwarzenegger called “the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys” (a far right, antisemitic group) who responded to the antisemitic libels put forward by Adolf Hitler and his ministers. While the former Governor made some very poignant and powerful points about democracy, invoking Kristallnacht was in the worst possible taste.

In a video posted to Twitter, Arnold Schwarzenegger compared the riot at the Capitol last week to Kristallnacht saying  “My father and our neighbors were misled also with lies, and I know where such lies lead.”

What was Kristallnacht?

Kristallnacht also known as the Night of Broken Glass, was a pogrom against Jews carried out by SA (Stormabteilung) paramilitary forces and civilians including Hitler Youth throughout Nazi Germany on 9–10 November 1938. The German authorities looked on without intervening, in fact they encouraged it. The name Kristallnacht (“Crystal Night”) comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues were smashed, looted and burnt to the ground. The pretext for the attacks was the assassination of the German Diplomat, Ernst vom Rath by Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old German-born Polish Jew living in Paris. Jews were forced to pay for the damage incurred to their property.

Jewish homes, hospitals and schools were ransacked as attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers. Rioters destroyed 267 synagogues throughout Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland. Over 7,000 Jewish businesses were damaged or destroyed and 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps. British historian Martin Gilbert wrote that no event in the history of German Jews between 1933 and 1945 was so widely reported as it was happening, and the accounts from foreign journalists working in Germany sent shockwaves around the world.

Citizens of Austria, where Arnold Schwarzenegger grew up, watch in Graz as the Jewish cemetery’s ceremonial hall burns. (US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Dokumentationsarchiv des Oesterreichischen Widerstandes)

Kristallnacht stands alone as a historical event, steeped in hatred that was the precursor to the destruction of two thirds of European Jewry in the Holocaust. The Jews of Europe were hunted down and marked for murder, regardless of age, gender or social strata but simply because they were Jewish. To be Jewish meant you were sentenced to death. There is absolutely no comparison of this to having your social media profile shut down because of your political leanings.

What these comments expose is a glaring ignorance and trivializing of not just the Holocaust and the historic experience of Jews, but the current climate where antisemitism is rising and where Jews are often the targets of not just the far right but the left as well and this is prevalent on social media.

One thing remains clear, the need for Holocaust education has never been more important.

Vaccination Nation

*Feature Picture: Israeli medical staff state “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies”!

Leading  the world in vaccinating her  citizens – Is Israel responsible for the Palestinians as well?

By Rolene Marks

Israel, the land of milk and honey is also the place of miracles. From biblical times we have marveled at events that can only be described as miraculous and this continues today. We have survived wars, countless attacks on our sovereignty and Israeli drivers but in the last few weeks, despite still rising Covid-19 numbers, Israel is rolling out and leading the world in our mission to vaccinate our citizens.

This is a true, modern day miracle. You could say that Israel has gone from Start-Up to Vaccination Nation!

Maybe it is our ability to adapt quickly, or our universal healthcare system or maybe it is our sense of responsibility for each other and impatience to get back to normal life that have contributed to the success of this but Israelis are very proud of our newest record of being on track to be the first country to have vaccinated all of our citizens. Initially, about a third of Israelis polled said they would be concerned about receiving the vaccine but as the roll out has progressed, so confidence has grown.  Anti-vaxxers remain a very small number.

Israel Rolls Up Its Sleeve. Israel’s State President Reuven Rivlin receives his COVID-19 vaccine dose. (Photo: Mark Neyman/GPO)

It is important to note that Israel is responsible for the vaccination of our own citizens. To date, Israel has vaccinated at least 14% of the population, soaring well past 1 million. Over  the last few days,  media outlets like The Guardian in the UK, Washington Post, MSNBC and others have accused Israel of almost purposefully neglecting to vaccinate the Palestinian populations. It is almost sadly predictable that as soon as Israel is lauded for an achievement in a certain area, the naysayers in the global media have to find some kind of stick to beat the Jewish state with.

Million Shot Man. Israel’s million Corona vaccination recipient is Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab Jabarin from the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm who is seen here on January 1, 2021 with Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu (centre) (Haim Zach/GPO)

Far be it for them to do some research and find out the facts. Throughout this pandemic, Israel through NGO’s like Project Rozana has helped with ventilators and medical staff training and ensured that much needed equipment is received. The Palestinian Authority has made their position quite clear at times when it comes to accepting help.

Beating Heart, Helping Hand. An initiative supported by the Israeli government, the Australian-based charity Project Rozana has delivered coronavirus equipment to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Who can forget Palestinian obstinate rejection of thousands of tons of Covid aid from the United Arab Emirates because the plane had “landed at Ben Gurion Airport and had been organised in coordination with Israel”?

But now that Israel is enjoying positive coverage for the most part, agenda-driven media outlets cannot let this continue. It is nothing new. If Israel sets up the first mobile hospital after a disaster, we are accused of harvesting organs; if Israel celebrates the advancement of the status of women we are accused of deliberately crushing the rights of Palestinians; if a hit TV show like Fauda enjoys international acclaim, the show content must be violating international humanitarian law.

The Palestinian Authority has been quite clear on the issue of vaccines. A senior official from the Palestinian Health Ministry said that Palestinians do not expect Israel to sell them or purchase vaccines on their behalf. They are working with the World Health Organisation to purchase Russian-made vaccines as well as others that should arrive within the coming weeks. The Official, speaking to The Jerusalem Post said that “We are not a department in the Israeli Defense Ministry. We have our own government and Ministry of health and they are making huge efforts to get the vaccine.”

Jerusalem confirmed that Israel had not been asked for help from the Palestinians – nor would they refuse help if needed.

Israel is also not legally responsible for vaccinating the Palestinian population.

According to the Oslo Accords signed in 1995 the Agreement on Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities Annex II Protocol Concerning Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities in the Sphere of Health states:

The powers and responsibilities of the military government and its Civil Administration in the sphere of health will be transferred to and will be assumed by the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinian Authority shall apply the present standards of vaccination of Palestinians and shall improve them according to internationally-accepted standards in the field.

The inference by media outlets like The Guardian that Israel is deliberately vaccinating “settlers” as the expense of Palestinians has led some in the Israeli press to call it a modern day blood libel.

These kinds of accusations are not trivial mistakes with facts. Comments like “medical Apartheid” and “deliberately excluding Palestinians” are dangerous because these are the receipts used by the anti-Israel establishment and organisations like BDS to spread libel and push their hate-filled, antisemitic agenda.

In the past, responsible journalists and publications were driven by truth and facts – and not clickbait and blatant agenda pushing. This is not a case of “lazyitis” but perhaps another nefarious virus that sadly, there is no vaccine for.

The only cure for this is facts.

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)

Disproportionate Stupidity?

The International Committee of the Red Cross Ignores Murder and Rockets to Focus on “Fauda

By Rolene Marks

One of the questions I ask myself when going into my Twitter account is what fresh stupid I will encounter that day. And it never disappoints!

If it is not those whose grasp on the facts is loose to say the least, then it is the never ending parade of conspiracy theories, blame politics and drivel interspersed with some really cool cat memes. Lady Gaga said it perfectly when she referred to social media as “the toilet of the internet”. Yesterday Twitter did not disappoint. The ludicrous tweet came courtesy of the International Red Cross representatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Esther Holgen (z”l), mother of 6, brutally killed in a terror attack, 20/12/2020 (Photo: Courtesy of the family).

Completely giving the previous day’s rocket attacks a wide berth and failing to condemn the terror-motivated murder of 52 year old year old mother of six, Esther Holgen, the Red Cross focused instead on singling out the fictional TV show “Fauda” for its “violations of International Human Rights law”.

Did you also just hear the screeching of brakes? I thought so.

“Fauda” is an Israeli television masterpiece that enjoys massive international interest and viewership, including in the Arab world and even by Hamas, the same terrorist thugs portrayed in the hit show who are quite partial to how realistic they are portrayed. “Fauda” (I am still trying to get over the last season – my heart rate has not settled yet!) unites Jews and Arabs in their enjoyment of the show and how it gives a human face to both sides and tells the story of all protagonists in Hebrew and Arabic. It is pure TV entertainment and even though art may sometimes imitate life, it is F.I.C.T.I.O.N!

Who is next? A Game of Thrones for the flagrant use of dragons and sell swords that violate the laws of proportionality and hiring mercenaries? Will it be Outlander for the planning of uprisings against the British Crown? Maybe The Crown for glaring inaccuracies? The list goes on but if I were James Bond or Olivia Pope from Scandal (who can forget the voting scandal!) I would be shaking in my fictitious shoes.

Before pointing a finger at the fictional, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) should examine their own shortcomings with regards to human rights.

A World at War. Founded 50 years earlier in 1864, 1200 Red Cross volunteers in front of the Rath Museum, Geneva during the First World War.

The ICRC was established in 1864 in Geneva, Switzerland. This neutral body received a mandate to protect victims of international and internal armed conflicts. Such victims include war wounded, prisoners, refugees, civilians, and other non-combatants. For 50 years, Israel, with our own national emergency medical, disaster, ambulance and blood bank service called Magen David Adom (Red Shield of David) was refused entry into the international body even though it met all other criteria for membership, on the grounds that it does not use one of the approved symbols which were the red crescent or the red cross.

Early Days. A month after the establishment of the Jewish state, a Magen David Adom ambulance in June 1948, Israel.

The Israeli society has used a red six pointed Star of David, the Magen David, since the 1930s – and before the state was established. It was only after immense pressure was put on the ICRC from the American and Australian societies that Magen David Adom was admitted in 2006. Israel’s Magen David Adom would then be able to become an ICRC member if it framed its traditional red Shield of David symbol in the red diamond.

Red Alert. A Magen David Adom Ambulance in Israel today.

In keeping with the mandate of the ICRC, may we suggest less “Fauda” and more focus on what is important. Here are a few suggestions:

The ICRC could focus more on freeing the two civilian captives, Avera Mengistu (6 years) and Hisham Al-Sayed (5 years) held by Hamas without any communication or help with efforts to return the remains of two Israeli soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who fell during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 for a dignified burial. Their families have been in excruciating agony and worry. It must be noted that Gilad Shalit, a former captive who was held by Hamas for 5 years also received no visit from the Red Cross.

Focus on Fact not Fiction. Instead of tweeting about an Israeli  drama TV series, the ICRC could focus on the welfare of  two Israelis with serious mental health conditions Avera Mengistu and Hisham Al-Sayed (bottom) being held by Hamas in Gaza for over five years, and the return of the remains of  Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul (top) killed in 2014. Courtesy of family/Facebook. 

Prisoners who are terror or security threats held in Israeli prisons receive visits from the Red Cross because Israel is a signatory to two conventions including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment. The Red Cross does not visit prisoners held for crimes but it would be really nice if they would pop in on our civilians held captive by a terror entity who regard themselves as the legitimate government of the Gaza strip.

The ICRC could also ensure that their affiliate, the Red Crescent, do not use their ambulances to transport civilians including the disabled and elderly to riots like the March of Return where they formed the front line of defense in the never ending war for optics perpetuated by Hamas who leverage their populations as human shields so that they can get the most sympathy from the world media. Ambulances have been used as transport services for suicide bombers in the past as well. This could also ensure that hospitals are used for their intended purposes and not weapons storage facilities or armouries.

Instead of focusing on the fictional, the ICRC could also have used their social media to condemn the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel’s civilian population or condemning arson terror and they could have condemned the nationalistic motivated murder of Esther Holgen, who went for a run and never returned home. She was found with her head bludgeoned by a rock. Esther Holgen was a mother – and also a non-combatant!

Focusing on the Future. In 2019, the ICRC and Magen David Adom signed a multi-year partnership agreement reflecting the close relations and long-term partnership between the two organizations.

Many may wonder why it is worth getting uptight about a silly tweet but in a region and conflict where the first casualty is often truth and fact coupled with rising anti-Semitism online, this adds fuel to an already flaming fire. It may have been disproportionate stupidity on behalf of whoever is in charge of the social media account or maybe it was a REALLY slow news day. In that case may we suggest watching “Fauda” and less focus on tweeting……

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 endeavors 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)

Has the New York Times Been Captured?

By Rolene Marks

The New York Times used to be one of the world’s most respected publications. Packed with thought provoking content that delved into the nuances and complexities behind some of the world’s biggest stories and issues, readers could look forward to diverse opinions and well researched articles.

But over the last few years, something has changed at this once venerated bastion of journalism and the NY Times has gone from admired – to derided. What has happened? Why are there many asking the question has the NY Times fallen victim to institutional capture and is now a vehicle for those wishing to push a very transparent agenda? Many believe this to be true – especially when it comes to issues that are either focused on Israel or American Jewry.

Israel and the conflict with our neighbours occupies many a column inch in the world’s leading newspapers (and some really unsavoury ones as well) which is almost understandable because of the religious and emotional connections that a lot of people have, but there is a line where the connection dangerously becomes the obsession. The New York Times is obsessed.

Over the last couple of years, any mention of the NY Times is guaranteed to raise the blood pressure – and ire of many who feel that the publication is pandering to a far-left agenda, with truth (and Israel) as a casualty.

Chaotic Caricatures

Political satire in the form of cartoons has always been a creative way for opinion makers to be highly controversial and circumvent certain parameters but in 2019, the paper featured a cartoon that led to many writing complaints – and cancelling of subscriptions. Never a fan of the Trump administration, the cartoonist drew a caricature that featured a blind President Trump being led by Israeli PM Netanyahu, portrayed as a “guide dog” with a big Star of David around his neck. The inference was plain to see – the most powerful man in the world, the President of the USA (and this is not an issue of whether one likes or dislikes him) was being led and heavily influenced by Israel. This trotted out the age old ugly stereotype that Jews control the governments of the world and in particular, the leading superpower.

Admitting Antisemitism. A caricature of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dog guiding a skullcap-wearing ‘blind’ US President Donald Trump was published in The New York Times’ international edition on April 25, 2019, and which the paper later acknowledged “included anti-Semitic tropes.” (Courtesy)

Faced with an avalanche of complaints from Jewish individuals, institutions and supporters, the paper would eventually publish an “acknowledgement of an error of judgment” on their Twitter page and subsequently apologized saying:

Deadly Exchange?

It is not unusual these days for the NY Times to raise the odd eyebrow or two, a misleading headline here and omission of context there and often face the wrath of readers or media watch dogs.  It gets more worrisome when they dredge up old articles that may not be relevant and serves no purpose other than to fuel the flames of divisiveness.

The world was horrified when the images of George Floyd slowly asphyxiating to death while a cop placed his knee firmly on his windpipe.  This event ignited protests across the US and the world and while the social justice movement, Black Lives Matter would gain momentum in highlighting and fighting racism, there were elements who took advantage of the fervour whipped up against injustice.

Enter Deadly Exchange, a group dedicated to blaming Israeli law enforcement for the tactics employed by the police officer in question. They claim that Israel’s training exchanges which see officers receive  and give training to their colleagues from around the world, is what is allowing this tactic to be adopted by law enforcement officers in the US. While Israeli police have at times used what some might see as excessive force, these instances have been dealt with – and are not isolated to Israel and are definitely not training policy.

The NY Times would have you believe otherwise. Months after this issue has died down, journalists,  David Halbfinger and Adam Rasgon, wrote an article titled “An Autistic Man Is Killed, Exposing Israel’s Festering Police Brutality Problem,” the authors depict Israeli authorities as having “failed to rein in the use of excessive force, which has a long history.”

According to media watchdog HonestReporting, the article which is 2000 words long, “fails to acknowledge that Jerusalem is a city that has been plagued by terrorism and remains at the heart of a territorial conflict. Israeli police and military, as well as civilians, have over the years been victims of shooting, stabbing and car ramming attacks.”

The complexities and nuances of the conflict are presented in a way that is very vague and this is cause for concern that readers may miss any robust discussion – and recognition about the unique challenges in this volatile region.


By far the most alarming was the shocking resignation of respected journalist, Bari Weiss.  Weiss who is largely centrist in her opinions and has written for the Wall Street Journal as well as other publications was initially hired to represent a different ideology or voice and enjoyed a very successful career. This was until her sometimes controversial opinions clashed with the “woke” folk at the paper. Isn’t the point of a free press to allow for a variety of opinions, even though you may disagree with them?

It would appear that instead of creating an environment where people could respectfully disagree and debate, the NY Times allowed for one where bullying and cancel culture became rampant. The environment became so hostile that Weiss was forced to resign.

Bullying Bari. Op-Ed staff editor and writer at the New York Times, Bari Weiss resigns citing “bullying by colleagues” and an “illiberal environment.”

Comments such as “Nazi” and “racist” and “you are writing about the Jews again” contributed to a workspace that was more” mean girl” than meaningful.  Weiss is not the first and will no doubt not be the last journalist to be driven out of the workplace for opinions that clash with the growing woke voice. Suzanne Moore and English journalist with The Guardian newspaper was also put in a position where she would rather resign than work in an environment growing ever more intolerant of her opinions.

This phenomenon is very dangerous in a profession that is supposed to be driven by fact and diversity and not personal agendas.

Bari Weiss resignation letter:

Weiss has been replaced by far-left writer Peter Beinart whose views are perhaps more palatable to the agenda of the paper.

Cancelling a Columnist. A columnist with The Guardian, Suzanne Moore resigned claiming she was effectively censored by editors and bullied out by colleagues.

Chanukah Cancelled?

The latest iteration is the Jewish festival of Chanukah.  Everybody has the right to observe (or not) religious festivals how they deem fit but does a personal choice really necessitate an op-ed in the NY Times? Many are asking this of an op-ed entitled “Saying goodbye to Chanukah” that was published as millions around the world prepared to celebrate a festival that allows for some light in an otherwise dark year. The writer makes a point of stating how her family will carry on Christmas and Easter traditions (as is their right) but one gets the feeling that she heaps scorn on Chanukah. It is almost derisive.

One has to ask the question, would an op-ed of this kind be written about the festivals of other religions?

(Ping Zhu)

Institutional capture is a new type of MacCarthyism. In the 1950’s, this movement was largely dedicated to weeding out those in the entertainment industry that were suspected of having Communist sympathies. In the case of the NY Times, it is weeding out and cancelling anyone that may seem to have an affinity to Israel or Jews that does not suit the agenda of the thought and opinion police. This is very dangerous territory. One would hope that this once highly respected journal, once the benchmark of journalistic integrity and excellence will break free of its one-sided captors. Free expression in a democracy depends on it.

Feature Picture credit: Doug Chayka

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 Story Seldom Told

By  Rolene Marks

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Theirs cannot be the story seldom told.

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

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

By Stephen Schulman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enforcing a Narrative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds of Silence

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Schulman is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist youth movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. He was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.

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

Vienna Violated

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

By Caroline Shklarek Zelman

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

Until last night!

Map of Murder and Mayhem

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vienna in Turmoil

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

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

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

It was not to be!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Counting the Cost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Writer:

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

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

Zoom Says No to Terror

Virtual meeting giant puts the kibosh on webinar featuring terrorist

By  Rolene Marks

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

Zoom happy hour. Everyone is using Zoom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“In The Mood”

British Trade Union inclined to ignore Covid-19 while promoting anti-Israel sentiment

By David E. Kaplan

What’s with the United Kingdom’s second largest trade union with 1.2 million members? What does it say about Unite that its obsession against the collective state of the Jews – Israel – is far more important than the health and wellbeing of its million-plus members or its fellow workers abroad?

Mood in the Street. British trade unions vote ‘overwhelmingly’ in 2019 to pass motion boycotting Israel.

Unite has been angrily accused of ignoring the global crisis for workers caused by the Coronavirus pandemic after submitting a motion condemning Israel for its proposed annexation of parts of the West Bank to be discussed at this week’s 152nd annual Trade Union Congress (TUC) conference starting this Monday.

While the once proposed “annexation” is off Israel’s political agenda and news media, clearly with the British trade union Unite, it remains a ‘present and clear danger’ warranting a resolution. No matter that the landscape has shifted and there prevails a new  spirit of rapprochement towards the pursuit of peace and prosperity.

Unite’s antiquated understanding is hardly surprising when its boss, Len McCluskey, a former stalwart Corbyn supporter, once described allegations of antisemitism within Labour as “mood music”.

Red Alert. In battle mode, ‘Unite’ union boss Len McCluskey once called allegations of antisemitism within Labour “mood music”. (Photo: Getty Images)

What will likely set the misguided “mood” at this week’s trade union conference is the proposed anti-Israel Unite – Motion 66 – condemning Israel over an issue that is no longer relevant.

What raises the spectre of anti-Semitism is that this will be the ONLY international motion to be debated at the conference.  No other country in the world with the most horrendous human rights violations attracts the attention of Unite which is fixated on Israel.

It is little surprise that the proposed motion of condemnation by Len McCluskey’s union is being greeted with anger by some in the union movement.

Steve Scott of the Britain Israel Trade Union Dialogue (BITUD) told the London-based Jewish weekly, the Jewish Chronicle that

It’s strange that in a time of unprecedented struggle for workers worldwide, including massive job losses and health consequences of Covid, that the only international motion at the TUC doesn’t offer solidarity and support to workers across the globe.”

While ignored by Unite, Scott draws attention to the “considerable cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians during the Covid-19 crisis to get people back to work, noting that the “Histadrut (Israeli TUC) at the moment have issued notice of a General Strike to defend all public sector workers who face pay cuts.”

Asks Scott:

 “Isn’t this something we should be sending solidarity  messages for rather than condemnation?”

Adhering to the facts on the ground, Scott continues:

Considering that the annexation proposals have been rescinded since the recent recognition agreement between Israel and the UAE, this motion also seems to be out of date. Why aren’t we now calling for a return to talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships in light of the peace moves in the Middle East.”

By the time, the issue is raised for discussion at the Conference, Bahrain too will have joined the UAE in normalising relations with Israel. Yes, there will be challenges, but the trend and trajectory towards peace is set.

However, facts on the ground are not what interests Unite. One only has to look back at its past public positions over the past decade when during Israel’s conflicts with Hamas, the union consistently sided against Israel adopting the most inflammatory and one-sided language.

True Colours. Delegates to the annual Trades Union Congress conference in Manchester on 12 September 2019 waving Palestinian flags supporting resolutions denouncing Israel.

In 2012 during Operation Pillar of Defense, a statement issued under McCluskey’s name “unreservedly condemned outrageous Israeli aggression,” accusing the Jewish State of “terrorizing an entire population.” The statement made no mention of the thousands of terrorist rockets fired on the civilian populations of Israel!

Under some pressure at the time, McCluskey budged only slightly, conceding that Unite was “wary” of Hamas – only in part – because “the terror group had expelled the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions.”

Eighteen months later, during Operation Protective Edge, Unite’s statement only briefly noted the murder of three Israelis youths before railing against “Israeli-state racism and apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing”, “colonisation”, accusing Israel of committing “war crimes with complete impunity,” and suggested:

This isn’t about rockets from Gaza. It’s about Israel fighting to maintain its control over Palestinian lives and Palestinian land.”

Clearly on McCluskey’s watch, the Unite union has shown an unremitting hostility towards Israel and Zionism.

Off the Mark to Off-line

Interestingly and no less intriguing is that Unite’s anti-Israel motion to be discussed this Monday and Tuesday afternoon will NOT be aired to members of the public or other trade union members who register to watch online coverage of the event.


Is it feared that certain ugly truths will be revealed to the public or might embarrass the new Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer who is set to address the conference? After all, his first act as party’s new leader, when he replaced Jeremy Corbyn in early 2020  was vowing “to tear out the poison” of antisemitism within his party “by its roots”.

Off the Air. While thousands of Trades Union Congress (TUC) members are expected to tune in online to the discussions and panels hosted at Congress 2020, including the keynote speech from leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer (above), the discussion on an anti-Israel resolution proposed by ‘Unite’ will not be broadcasted.

With positive signs of a Middle East transforming towards rapprochement, would it not be better for this conference to read the signs of shifting sands and instead of one-sided attack resolutions against Israel to rather adhere to the words of  Steve Scott:

 calling for a return to talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships in light of the peace moves in the Middle East.”

With Flying Colours. Proud to be on the path to peace, Tel Aviv City Hall  is lit up with the flag of the United Arab Emirates after Persian Gulf state announces peace deal with Israel on August 13. (Photo: AP/Oded Baliti)

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