When Sports Wins

By Rolene Marks

This week I have been thinking a lot especially about sports. It could be because I am still feeling the high many of us, including ex-pat South Africans are feeling after watching the Springboks (South Africa’s national rugby team) serve England’s team a thumping to win the Rugby World Cup.

It wasn’t just rugby that won that day, it was a nation. The Springboks proved that it is possible to rise above your circumstances, your race, religion and past prejudices and that, coupled with tenacity and a will to win, delivered one of the greatest moments in sports. It was more than the speeches from coach, Erasmus and team captain, Siya Kolisi – the guys in green and gold played for unity. They played for hope. And they delivered.

We know that South Africa is fraught with problems and that winning a global sports championship will not provide an instant fix, but they proved what could be accomplished when you pull together and focus on the greater good. Growing up during the Apartheid years in South Africa, where rugby was emblematic of the regime, it was inconceivable that the Springboks would be a team of players from all races, with a black captain. I don’t think there was a dry eye across South Africa (well, save for a few spoil sports – pun intended – who see unity as anathema) or for many who knew we were witnessing history. The late human rights icon, Nelson Mandela, recognized the role that sports could play in healing and reconciliation. The Springbok win took many back to the day in 1995 when Madiba weaved his magic and mistrust and old hatreds seemed forgotten.

The Springbok win got me thinking a lot about the power of sports in healing conflict in other parts of the world.

Sport plays an important role in trying to heal rifts in the Middle East as well. While sometimes respect and sportsman – like behavior is a casualty and some pay a heavy price for their efforts to be conciliatory, there is no doubt that whether it is facing off on the soccer pitch or wrestling on the mat, people are brought together for the common goal – winning.

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The power of sports to bring people together has also been recognized by entities like BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanction) who will try every trick in the book to try and scupper any attempts for normalization between Israelis – and anyone else. Their belief that boycotts, be they culture or sports, will force Israel to change policies they see as racist.

Their latest pet project of hate is trying to encourage a boycott of the sports apparel company, Puma, who sponsor the Israeli soccer/football team.

This has backfired spectacularly.  The Team is a microcosm of Israeli society, including Bedouin, Circassian, Muslim and Jewish players and nobody is interested in BDS’s divisive tactics. Needless to say, the boycott failed miserably.

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At the same time BDS were whining about boycotts, Brazil and Israel were planning a match to be played in Haifa. The Shalom game, a friendly match between Brazil and Israel was played on the 29th of October, 2019. This was billed as a celebration of “Football, Peace and Fraternity” and featured legends Ronaldinho, Kaka, Rivaldo, Batu, and other major Brazilian team players who have won the World Cup and visited the Jewish State to promote the message of peace and brotherhood. Ronaldinho took to his social media to speak about how happy he was to be in Israel and faced a barrage of hatred. It didn’t bother him at all – the message of brotherhood and peace is greater than hate.

Some have not fared as well.

This lesson was learnt the hard way by Iranian Judoka, Saeid Mollaei who was instructed not only to lose his match with Israeli counterpart, Sagi Muki, but said that even his family were threatened should he face off against his rival. Mollaei was afraid to return home after exposing and criticizing his government’s pressure on him to deliberately lose and avoid a potential bout against an Israeli opponent.

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Moallei fled to Berlin after the championships, where he had been hoping to secure a place at the 2020 Olympic Games. He was recently granted asylum.

International Judo Federation has suspended Iran indefinitely for the regimes’ discriminatory treatment of Israel.

Sport has the unique ability to unite and inspire and improve the prospects of tolerance and brotherhood.

It doesn’t matter what kind of sport it is or what level, when unity and tolerance trumps conflict, this is the ultimate championship. Just ask Siya Kolisi.

Israel’s Unionized Labour Recognizes No Borders

Over 7,000 Palestinians join Israel’s top Trade Union

By David E. Kaplan

Long before Israel emerged as a country in 1948, it’s labour got organised. Established in December 1920 during  Mandatory Palestine, the Histadrut – or the General Organization of Workers in Israel – represents today the majority of trade unionists WITHIN the State of Israel.

However, this summer something quite extraordinary occurred.

It’s most unusual in any country for foreign workers to enjoy equal workers’ rights but Israel is responding with its national trade union  – the Histadrut – not merely accepting but recruiting Palestinian members who live not in Israel, but within the PA controlled West Bank. Resulting from the recruitment campaign, over 7000 Palestinians who enter Israel every morning to work, have joined.

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A New Dawn. Early morning enthusiasm amongst Palestinian workers in Israel to learn from Histadrut activists the benefits of becoming members of the Israeli trade union. (Photo: Daud Daud)

The message of Nihad Sharkiya, who headed the campaign, resonated:

A worker is a worker, no matter where he comes from, and he deserves his rights

A Gulf Apart

This is a far cry from those who reflexively point the proverbial finger at Israel. Take the Gulf  region for instance who are quick to support the Palestinians in theory but according to Amnesty International, ensure that Palestinians in particular, as well as Yemenis, suffer harsh working conditions. They are not alone. Foreign workers from Southeast and East Asia also encounter constant obstacles.

Possibly the most suffering are migrant female workers. Some 60% of non-Kuwaiti women are maids who are not covered by the social insurance and financial benefit provisions of the Kuwaiti Labour Code.

The allure of the Gulf frequently translates dreams into nightmares.

As one newspaper revealingly sited that “Dubai, with its artificial islands, megamalls and seven-star hotels, along with Qatar’s new World Cup stadiums have only been possible due to years of graft by cheap foreign labor, imported mostly from Asia and Africa.”

The promise of much higher wages than at home, seldom materializes. What usually plays out are that low and unskilled migrants often end up trapped for years in their host countries, indebted, exploited and forced to work long hours in hazardous or brutally hot conditions.

Another Way

The outreach by Israel’s Histadrut reflects the lyrics of “There Must Be Another Way” – a song by Jewish-Israeli Achinoam Nini and Arab-Israeli Mira Arad which they performed at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest. Their message was a simple call to respect the humanity of others.

Over the course of ten days in mid-July 2019, Arabic speaking representatives of the Histadrut met with Palestinian workers at the border crossings, offering advice and handing out pamphlets containing detailed information about workers’ rights in Israel. The Palestinian workers received advice and instruction from the representatives on issues like wages, pensions, safety and welfare, as well as an invitation to contact the Arabic language union hotline. As reported in the Histadrut’s online publication Davar, “The Arabic language hotline was set by the Histadrut to offer guidance to Palestinian workers in Israel, who often speak very little Hebrew.”

It reported a spike in calls following the outreach.

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Operation Outreach. Histadrut unionisation campaign with Palestinian construction workers at Palestinian-Israel border crossing. (Photo: Tal Burstein)

Wahil Abady, who heads the Arabic language information center for the Histadrut, told Davar that the Palestinian workers were excited about the campaign as reflected in the large number that signed up for membership. “These people need someone to take care of the problems they face at the workplace. We never dreamt of such high numbers. We were receiving so many questions that we had to open a special Arabic telephone line for them. In one month,  we received more calls than we got all of last year.”

Approximately 80,000 Palestinian workers cross the border into Israel every day. There, to meet them at the border crossings on their way into Israel before sunrise were the Histadrut activists. “Our people were spread across ten of the border crossings, and over the course of ten days they got to speak to about 15,000 workers coming in from the Palestinian Territories,” said Tal Burstein who took charge of the campaign. “The responses we got from the workers were amazing. We gathered a huge amount of information about breaching of labor laws and various other problems that the Palestinian workers face in Israel. We’re dealing with a very serious problem,” he said.

The relatively high wages and tight restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities make the visas issued to Palestinian workers a rare asset in the Palestinian Territories. For security reasons, Israeli authorities issue visas mostly to older, married men with families back home who are deemed less likely to participate in terrorist attacks.

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Enlightened Engagement. Important questions and detailed answers characterised the exchanges at this border crossing between these Palestinian workers and the officials from the Histadrut. (Photo: Tal Burstein)

Notably, the Palestinian Authority provides no pension scheme. This means that often the wages paid to a Palestinian working in Israel will go towards supporting his parents and his wife’s parents, on top of his own family in the West Bank.

The problems for Palestinians are numerous but not unusual.

Why did Jewish workers need a trade union nearly 30 years before a state emerged in 1948? To avoid exploitation of course – of one description or another?

Well it is no different for Palestinians and being foreigners, they’re invariably vulnerable.

The problems may range from not getting sick leave to not even getting holidays off. “Every time the work stops, for whatever reason,” says Burstein, “the Palestinian workers are the first to pay the price”.

Mostly involved in the construction industry, these workers are under the radar of most Israelis. “These workers are completely invisible,” says Amihai Satinger, head of the unionization division of the Histadrut, who played a major role in the Palestinian project.

As far as many  employers are concerned “they are totally replaceable. When one of them goes another comes along.”

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Inspiring Leadership. Histadrut union representative Nihad Sharkiya, who led the unionisation campaign amongst Palestinian workers (Photo: Tal Burstein)

Contra South Africa – a “Time Bomb”

If the foreign workers in Israel are “invisible”, back to my native South Africa, they are too “visible”  resulting in resentment and subject to horrendous violence.

The recent outbreak of xenophobia, says  local community organiser Papi Papi – pointing across the road to a new informal settlement of over 100 metal shacks crowded onto a small patch of wasteland – “Is a time bomb.” He describes the death of a Zimbabwean man during the unrest,  who was “caught in his car and then burned alive.”

I found the nature of the problem is South Africa tragically exposed by a group of men playing a game of Ludo on a scrap of cardboard.

“I’m not xenophobic,” insisted a man who gave his first name as Alfred. “But these foreigners are prepared to work for less.”

“They work for small money,” his friend Frederick agreed. “And they hire their own, so it’s hard for us to compete. There is frustration.”

These unemployed “political scientists” wasting away their time playing Ludo, articulate a not too infrequent scenario resulting in the death of foreign workers and the destruction of their property!

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Xenophobia In South Africa. More than 120 Nigerians have lost their lives to gruesome killings in South Africa since 2016 – two stabbed to death in this photo above. South African citizens continue to make their country a dangerous place for foreigners.

How do South Africa’s trade unions respond?

The country’s two biggest trade union federations, Cosatu and the newly formed South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), have basically given the thumbs up on restricting foreign workers.

Despite the alarming climate of xenophobia, the labour movements are significantly silent.

“The way we treat African foreign nationals is our own fault, starting with the government and ending with ordinary citizens,” writes South African journalist Shaazia Ebrahim in his article  “South Africans need to face some harsh truths”.

While lauded the world over for their peaceful defeat of Apartheid and progressive constitution, South Africans are not nearly as beloved on the African continent itself.

A continent away to the north, the Histadrut in Israel went all out  during the campaign to hear and record the stories from the Palestinian workers. Said Burstein:

“They know about the Histadrut, and most of them have been in touch with us in the past. They know us because the Histadrut fought to apply Israeli labour laws to Palestinians working in Israel a few years ago. That made a big difference.”

Countering BDS Obstructionism

As a humanitarian issue, Palestinians working in Israel have long been a cause for concern for Israeli trade unions. This is evident as Gary Kaplan, an officer of the Histadrut’s International Relations Division explains: “the Histadrut represents Palestinians working in Israel – predominantly in the construction industry –  regardless of whether they are members. These construction workers earn and receive what is part of the Construction Sector Collective Agreement regardless of membership. This is unique to Israel. However, now as members, they will be entitled to free legal advice when required.” As part of the campaign, the Histadrut promoted awareness of Palestinian workers rights by advertising in Palestinian newspapers as well as placing in city centers across the West Bank.

Despite the overwhelming positive response from Palestinian workers recognizing how their lives as workers would improve, the Palestinian Journalist Syndicate warned several media outlets “not to publish any material by the Histadrut,” and predictably, the BDS movement joined in those negative efforts.

Nevertheless, the Histadrut persevered.

Peter Lerner, Director General of the International Relations Division at Histadrut, revealed to the media that the Histadrut works in close coordination with the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU).

Noting the complex and challenging political reality, Lerner explained  that “this collaboration is based on long term understandings,” providing “an island of stability.” Although “every act on our side creates some kind of opposition on the Palestinian side, we focus on what’s good for the workers in Israel, whether they’re Israeli, Palestinians or foreign workers.”

Encouraged that  so many thousands of new workers are joining the union proves that “unionized labor recognizes no borders.”

Protecting The Amazon Forest

Israel may be a tiny country but its humanitarian outreach knows no bounds

By David E. Kaplan

Yes, we are all familiar with the line at the end of emails “Trees have feelings too, please don’t print this!”

It’s a reminder that “Paper doesn’t grow on trees” and we can all do our bit to help save our planet.

Some Israelis have opted to do more – a lot more and going to the heart of one the problem areas – the Amazon rainforest.

While the name ‘Amazon’ conjures up the immediate image as one the world’s most valuable companies, the threat to its namesake –hardly raises an eyebrow and yet, the ‘rainforest’ in South America is a crucial part of our life-support system, creating up to 20% of our oxygen.

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From Israel With Love. The VeganNation team in Israel ready to help sustain the Amazon rainforest.

Here’s why we need the world’s largest rainforest:

All this resonated with the Israeli startup VeganNation  that recently announced  that it leased some 15,000 acres (60.7 square kilometers or 23.4 square miles) in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest for a ten-year period to protect the land from deforestation and wildlife poaching.

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We Are The World. From Yeshiva students to VeganNation co-founders (left to right) Isaac Thomas, Shneor Shapira, Yossi Rayby, and Nati Giat.

VeganNation is based in Ramat Gan, just outside Tel Aviv, with an office in London. Thomas says the startup employs approximately 20 people and works with 30 “ambassadors” across the world in places like Argentina, Brazil, India, and beyond, to spread its message.

Having built a global e-commerce platform and social network for vegans worldwide powered by its own digital currency, VeganNation, said it would hand the Amazon land over to preservation groups and activist organizations to protect it.

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Free The Forest. An aerial view of the river in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Deposit Photos

The Amazon rainforest might be located in Brazil, but its destruction affects us all, as climate change is a direct result of human activity and it’s in our hands to fight it,” said Isaac Thomas, the CEO and co-founder of  VeganNation.

The startup also announced that it was partnering with four local soccer teams from cities near the entrance to the rainforest to raise environmental awareness. Thomas told the Israeli innovation news network, NoCamels, that “VeganNation is already a main sponsor of the teams – three men’s teams and one women’s team – and revealed that an additional four top-tier national teams are set to sign on to the initiative.”

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Food For Thought. VeganNation co-founder Isaac Thomas with actress and dancer Jenna Dewan, a supporter of VehanNation.

Kicking For Eco-Goals

VeganNation’s initiative comes amid the devastating fires that have continued to burn in the rainforest since early August, releasing dangerous air pollutants into the atmosphere, severely damaging flora and fauna ecosystems, and endangering indigenous communities that live under the forest canopy. The fires are so intense that they can be observed from space.

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Our Future In Flames. A tract of Amazon jungle burning as it’s cleared by loggers and farmers in Novo Airao, Brazil. Reuters

“When we measure the destruction of the rainforest, we talk about football (soccer) fields as a unit, so we thought what if we use that same measure to save parts of it,” explained Thomas. To illustrate the point, the land leased by VeganNation covers over 5,500 soccer fields if we’re using the measure of large regulation-sized soccer fields of approximately 2.69 acres per field.

VeganNation understands that promoting veganism is an important step towards fighting the global warming crisis and raising awareness through local environmental projects among the Brazilian community is key. Partnering with four Brazilian soccer teams further enables us toward our mission of working together to create a better world,” he says.

Thomas reveals that the initiative came about through his close connection with a family in the city of Manaus in Brazil that owns land in the rainforest and used to lease it to a US gas company . When the lease was up, Thomas proposed to the family to lease the land to VeganNation explaining that “it’s a win-win situation for everyone as we’re not polluting the environment.”

The Israeli startup raised capital through private investors and added celebrity vegan activists Jerome Flynn, of Game of Thrones, and actor and dancer Jenna Dewan, to its advisory board.

Thomas says VeganNation’s work in the sports world is of key importance and the startup is set to bring in “one of the top three football players in the world as an ambassador for sustainability.”

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Fighting For Life. Typical in Game of Thrones of switching allegiance, Jerome Flynn (left) in Game of Thrones is today a celebrity vegan activist and on the advisory board of VeganNation.

Devils Peak

Environmental groups and researchers say the fires were started by humans at an accelerated rate probably by cattle ranchers and loggers looking to clear the land. The area of devastation in this year’s forest fires  marks a 47% increase compared to 2018 according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research.

While deforestation had declined by 75% from 2005 to 2014 and Brazil was moving impressively toward a zero-deforestation policy, it started reverting back massively from 2015 onwards and now in 2019, it seems to have reached literally – a “devastating” peak.

Late last month, under heavy international pressure, and amid several public spats with world leaders rejecting aid offers, Bolsonaro finally issued an order to send over 40,000 troops to help fight the fires. Included in the global support are an eleven-member team of firefighters and rescuers from Israel to assist local authorities with search-and-rescue operations.

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Fiery Forecasts. Imagery from European Union satellites shows smoke from fires in the Amazon rainforest stretching across Brazil and into other countries. European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts

President Jair Bolsonaro who has good relations with the Israeli Prime Minister, accepted the aid from the Jewish state, which is understood to include 100 tons of fire-fighting material.

So, while Israeli firefighters will do what they can in the immediate term,  the Israeli startup VeganNation is looking long-term  – focusing on preserving Brazil’s home to 2.5 million animal species. Rainforest deforestation – which often takes place to raise and feed cattle for the meat industry – is one of the most important issues to tackle in the fight against climate change.

What also needs to ‘change’ are peoples understanding of the threat and this is where Israel’s VeganNation is looking  to make a difference.

Its also about changing lifestyles.

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Reality Check! A deforested area near Novo Progresso, in Brazil’s northern state of Para, in 2009. AP Photo/Andre Penne

Breath Of Fresh Air

Thomas exalts Tel Aviv as “number one in the world for vegan food,” having earned its title as the “vegan capital of the world.” Tel Aviv recently held the world’s largest vegan festival at the Sarona complex in June, attracting over 50,000 attendees. The city is home to some 400 vegan and vegan-friendly kitchens.

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Where’s The Beef? There isn’t any at this boardroom spread at VeganNation’s offices in Ramat Gan.

The Mediterranean diet, Thomas explains, “is naturally based on plants; there are salad bars everywhere in Israel. The basic Med diet is very complimentary to a plant-based lifestyle.”

Thomas met his co-founder Yossi Rayby while in Yeshiva (Jewish seminary) in Jerusalem some years ago. Rayby brought in Nati Giat and Shneor Shapira who all have a religious background, and some have maintained an Orthodox lifestyle.

Judaism has a strong message that drives me toward making the world a better place, where we live in peace and harmony,” says Thomas.

Yes, its one thing putting out fires, but the real battle is to see that deliberate fires are not started in the first place.

Acknowledging that the Amazon rainforest creates up to 20% of the world’s oxygen – the Israeli startup VeganNation and the work it is doing  is like ‘a breath of fresh air’.

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Tel A-Vegan. Tel Aviv’s abundance of food markets made veganism popular here before it was trendy worldwide. (Photo © Fotokon / Shutterstock)

Double Outrage

Defying logic, Palestinian woman murdered by her family in “Honour Killing” and US Congresswoman Tlaib blames Israel

By David E. Kaplan

If the tried and tested explanation for global calamities was to blame the Jews than today it is to blame Israel.

Where once Jews were blamed for the plague that ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages – the Black Death – now this week, the ‘disease’ of “Honour Killings” prevalent in Palestinian society is blamed on Israel by none other than Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.

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Tweeting Tlaib. US congresswoman Rashida Tlaib falsely accuses Israel in antisemitic tweets. (Photograph: Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

Yes, there is outrage!

There was anger on the Arab street  as well as on social media, as reported in Egyptian Streets of “massive outrage among activists and social media users across the Middle East and North Africa.”

There should also be OUTRAGE as why Congresswoman Tlaib should blame the Jewish state for a malady prevalent in some regions of the Muslim world.

The accusation against Jews for the Black Plague resulted in persecution and massacres; words have consequences, so where will Rashida Tlaib’s false accusations lead?

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‘Cry Freedom’ From Men. Palestinian ‘honour killing’ sparks outrage, calling for women’s protection.

What are the facts?

Twenty-one-year-old, Israa Ghrayeb, “a makeup artist from Bethlehem,” reported the Egyptian Streets website, “died in a coma due to head trauma, in what activists and sources close to the victim are saying was a brutal honour killing. The culprits are believed to be her father and brothers.”

It all began when Ghrayeb went to meet a potential suitor in a public place and posted a video of the outing on her Instagram page.

She was in love and  was happy to show the world.

Her family did not share her happiness.

According to a friend of the victim’s, Ghrayeb’s mother was fully aware of the meeting and the suitor’s sister was also in attendance. The report added that Ghrayeb’s cousin then showed the video to the victim’s father and brothers, who allegedly urged them “to act to prevent scandal and accusing Israa of dishonouring herself and bringing shame to the family by being seen in the company of a man outside the bonds of marriage.”

Attempting to escape the violence from her family, Israa apparently fell from the second-floor balcony of her parents’ home and  according to media reports, broke her spine. The family says she jumped after being “possessed by demons.”

In the hospital, Israa posted on social media a photograph of herself showing her injuries and bravely writing:

 “I’m strong, and I have the will to live — if I didn’t have this willpower, I would have died yesterday. Don’t send me messages telling me to be strong, I am strong. May God be the judge of those who oppressed me and hurt me.”

Those ‘oppressing” and “hurting” her were her family, not Israelis, Congresswoman Tlaib!

Sadly, those were the last brave words to the outside world  of a young woman, whose family had murder on its mind!

Incensed by this latest posting from the hospital, Israa’s brother, along with other male relatives, entered her ward and brutally beat to death.

According to reports, Ghrayeb’s family claimed that they are not responsible for her death, and that their daughter “died of a heart attack.”

The only thing accurate in this statement was that she did die of an “attack” but not of the heart but the male hands of her family.

Message On Instagram

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Nawal Al Ramahi@nawal_ramahi – Indeed, it is a tragedy! Israa experienced the most heinous forms of abuse. Honour killing will never be justifiable. May she Rest In Peace and justice be served. #WeAreIsraa

Enter The Dragon

Then comes along Congresswoman Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) who has called for an end to U.S. aid to Israel and expressed support for BDS – the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign whose stated goal is the destruction of Israel  by  first delegitimizing and dehumanizing the Jewish state.

One of two Muslim women to be elected to Congress,  Tlaib released a statement that while decrying the phenomenon of “honour” killings, she attached a link to her tweet for an article that blames “Israeli occupation” for such killings.

The article was posted on a Palestinian site called BabyFist designed to start a conversation about gender oppression.

Yet again, the contriving congresswoman found a reason to condemn Israel; this time linking the Jewish state to a serious problem within Palestinian society that has nothing to do with Israel.

Before tweeting her false accusations, the Congresswoman could have engaged with  Palestinian documentary filmmaker, Imtiaz al-Maghrabi, who told Germany’s public international broadcaster Deutsche Welle that “Any Palestinian woman could be a victim of such a crime.”

In March, Al-Maghrabi – who is currently making a film about honour killings – was recognized for her work by the Arab Women’s Media Center in the Jordanian capital of Amman.

While the Palestinian territories have modernised laws dealing with honour killings, al-Maghrabi says that, in reality, the effect of these laws is limited:

Palestinian society is influenced by custom, tradition, and religion. These all bear more weight than the law, and crimes relating to a violation of honour are often only lightly punished.”

Sociologist Iyad Barghouthi from the Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies also expressed to  Deutsche Welle  that the practice of honour killings is so imbedded in tradition that it is likely to continue. He believes that’s because “from a male perspective — the concept of honour has no relation to values such as morality, integrity or success,” it is solely defined “by the reputation of the female family members. A man is willing to take violent action against a woman if she does not meet his expectations.”

According to Palestinian NGO, the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC):

– 23 Palestinian women and girls were killed in 2016

– 28 in 2017

– 23 cases  in 2018

The General Director of WCLAC, Randa Siniora explained the difficulty in categorizing “femicides” or death as gender-based violence, as many of the killings were constantly “under investigation” or were classified as a “suicide”.

“This year there are 18 cases of unknown reasons for death, suicidal cases and femicide, with 14 in the West Bank and eight in Gaza. Six are confirmed femicide in the West Bank, the others are under investigation,” Siniora told Mondoweiss, a news website covering American foreign policy in the Middle East.

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Appeal for Family Protection From The Family. Palestinian women protesting against gender-based violence after the killing of Israa Ghrayeb by her family in Bethlehem. (Photo: Miriam Deprez)

 

Acceptable Murder

Contributing to the problem, several Palestinian laws tend to grant leniency to men convicted of killing female relatives, in what is widely referred to as “honour killings”. Many are inherited Jordanian regulations that pre-date the Six Day War of 1967 when Israel took over the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in the 1990s.

In the past, perpetrators of “honour killings” received reduced sentences under Article 98 and 99 of the Palestinian Penal code, which “grants judges the ability to dramatically reduce sentences,” if “extenuating circumstances” could be proven.

In 2014, a UN human rights report written by Palestinian judge Ahmad al-Ashqar, revealed that the present “legislation in place, contributes, to a large extent, to building a social awareness that killing under the pretext of honour is acceptable.”

Outrageous

There is a problem when young women like 21-year-old Israa  Ghrayeb are murdered by family members, because they have fallen in love.

That there was OUTRAGE is a good sign.

That a US Congresswoman should blame Israel is a bad sign.

Rashida Tlaib’s conduct on this issue is naked antisemitism.

Where’s the outrage?

 

* Title picture: Future Crushed. Israa Ghrayeb relaxed at a café. (Photo: Twitter)

A Woman’s Right

By Rolene marks

Israa Ghrayeb was 21 years old.  Like most millennials, Israa was social media “obsessed” (to use the vernacular) but little did she know that the platforms so many of us take for granted every day to share the titbits of our lives that are envy inducing to our online communities, would lead to her death.

Israa’s only crime was that she dared meet a young Arab man in a restaurant and document it by sharing it to social media platform, Instagram.  Millions of people do this every day and while this meeting was innocent enough, it inspired the rage of the male members of her family to severely beat her. Israa did not meet a stranger that she did not know, she met the man she was intending to marry.

When the family found out, Ghrayeb’s brother, Ihab, allegedly beat and tortured her in their family home.

Trying to escape the violent blows inflicted on her, Israa then fell from the second-floor balcony of her parents’ home and was reported to have broken her spine.

Her brother, who is a Canadian resident, was apparently incensed by the video – saying it “dishonoured” the family by presenting herself with her husband-to-be ahead of the actual wedding, according to local media.  Her father had allegedly ordered her brother to beat her after family members witnessed the footage online.

After being admitted to hospital following the initial attack, Ghrayeb said she would not be able to work for the next two months as she waited for a spinal cord operation in a post on her Instagram account.

“I’m strong and I have the will to live – if I didn’t have this willpower, I would have died yesterday,” she said. “Don’t send me messages telling me to be strong, I am strong. May God be the judge of those who oppressed me and hurt me.”

After posting this message, her brother, along with other male relatives, reportedly brutally beat her in the hospital. Footage surfaced on social media of her screaming and begging for her life during the attack.

Israa succumbed to her wounds and passed away. Israa Ghrayeb became the latest horrific statistic in an “honour killing”.

Palestinians took to the street to protest Israa’s death and an end to honour killings.

Israa’s death is not isolated.

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#WeAreIsraa. Outrage follows 21-year-old Palestinian woman Israa Ghrayeb murdered by family members in suspected ‘Honour Killing’.

Honour killings are not a new phenomenon.  In fact, this heinous occurrence has been practiced from as early as Roman times and is prevalent today in North Africa and the Middle East but don’t think that western countries are exempt – incidents of honour killings have been reported in the UK, USA, Canada and others.

The term “honour killing” sounds like a really ridiculous paradox, after all there is absolutely no honour in killing anyone – how could there be? But the issue here isn’t really about honour but more about control over reproductive power. This being said it is not always sexual in nature or about controlling sexual behaviour but rather about fertility.

Say what?

Now I am scratching my head in confusion as much as you are but these horrendous events occur because in some communities that are patrilineal in nature, a woman’s right to govern her own reproductive freedom. In these societies, women are seen as reproductive factories not seductive sirens.

This makes this barbaric act a lot more complex than originally thought, but in most cases, honour killings occur because women in communities that adhere to strict religious doctrine are expected to toe the line and behave in accordance. In Pakistan for example, women’s right to life are conditional on their “obeying certain norms and traditions.”

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No More Violence. More women in Pakistan are demanding an end to gender-related violence.

Nighat Taufeeq of the Women’s Resource Center Shirkatgah in Lahore, Pakistan says: “It is an unholy alliance that works against women: the killers take pride in what they have done, the tribal leaders condone the act and protect the killers and the police connive the cover-up.”

Honour killings are seen as less serious than murder. Sounds like a contradiction but women are being killed for “infractions” ranging from dressing more western to adulterous affairs. This is becoming more and more common, especially in societies that adopt Islamic sharia law even though in centuries past, they have occurred in ancient Rome or medieval times. In some communities, where women are gaining economic power and adopting more customs, there are men that feel that they have to act out in some way, usually violent, to regain some control.

Women who have been raped are also seen as bringing “disgrace” to their families and it is shattering that they become victimized twice over. Should pregnancy result from this, the consequences are catastrophic.

Homosexuality is also seen as legitimate grounds for killing. The United Nations and other NGO’s are alarmed by this phenomenon and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees state that “claims made by LGBT persons often reveal exposure to physical and sexual violence, extended periods of detention, medical abuse, threat of execution and honour killing.”

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Horror Not Honour. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that perhaps as many as 5,000 women and girls a year are killed by members of their own families. Many women’s groups in the Middle East and Southwest Asia suspect the victims are at least four times more.

So surely divorce or a court injunction against possible perpetrators would be the solution?

Sadly, this is usually a trigger for violence against women and for many; the feeling is that hope is lost.

What can be done, if anything, to stop honour killings or as they are called in some countries “crime of passion”?

The first step would be to be to really understand the “honour code” and learn from the lessons in history. For some cultures this practice is repugnant but in others it is acceptable “code”. One solution that has been discussed is “naming and shaming”. Another possibility is in communities where honour killings are seen as part of religious doctrine, to prove that this is not the correct interpretation of the Quran.

The battle to end honour killings is a long and arduous one but necessary. Perhaps the starting point is learning to respect life – not end it. That is the true shame and dishonor. The right to live in dignity and safety is a woman’s right.

 

 

Cold Facts; Warm Embrace

People freezing In South Africa receive life-saving blankets from South Africa Friends Of Israel

 

By Kenneth Mokgatlhe ,newspaper columnist and former spokesman for the Pan African Congress.

South Africa’s biggest city Johannesburg may have attracted its earliest pioneers  with the finding of gold, today however, there is little golden for many of its citizens shivering in winter. Take for example Eldorado Park – not a remote rural village – but a suburb  of Johannesburg where on the 8th July 2019, the Paramount Chief of the Gonaqua Khoisan Tribe, Cornelius Botha, received on behalf of many of its destitute and homeless – many of them elderly –  blankets from the South Africa Friends of Israel (SAFI)  to provide much needed warmth during the cold period, where temperatures were dropping to life- threatening lows.

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Glaring Divide. Sandton skyline seen from Alexandra township. The juxtaposition between the rich and the poor is especially evident in Alexandra, where some of South Africa’s poorest live in the shadow of some of the country’s richest. File photo. Image: Alon Skuy
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Paramount Issues. From concern over the welfare of South Africa’s poor and destitute to calling upon the government to recognise traditional Khoisan leaders, Paramount Chief Cornelius Botha.

Winter Of Our Discontent

While winter is welcomed by those  with fashionable coats and luxurious homes, there are the many  in the same cities in South Africa who don’t have money to buy warm clothing or blankets or pay for electricity for heaters to keep them warm during the cold.

It was this horrendous situation that SAFI sought in its own small way, to address.

Gavi Sacks, National Chairman of the (SAFI), explained that this “was only our first stop on the Blankets of Hope Drive.” The organisation is committed “to helping South Africa’s truly vulnerable and often forgotten homeless people,” he added.

To understand how “vulnerable” and “forgotten” the words of local Eldorado Park resident, Elija Williams resonate following the protests there in 2017 over the lack of housing and jobs. Accusing the politicians of only visiting the area when votes are needed to win elections, Williams said:

 “My grandmother died living in a shack. I’m most probably going to die living in a shack. I don’t want my child to also have to live their entire life in a shack with no electricity.”

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A common sight across South Africa of satellite shanty townships adjacent to towns and cities.

A philanthropic organisation in Israel donated 3000 blankets (in total) for SAFI to handout. SAFI then arranged for the Blanket drives where hot soup and bread was also handed out.

Next stop on the Blankets of Hope Drive, was Booysens where 1500 blankets, collected by SAFI, were distributed to the needy. Over and above the blankets handed out to various communities across Johannesburg, “SAFI has been providing nourishment in this cold weather serving soup and bread rolls in strategically placed areas,” said Sacks.

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Disparity To Despair

The May 13, 2019 Cover Story in TIME examined South Africa as “the world’s most unequal country.” It showed pictorially frames of extreme poverty adjacent to extreme luxury as depicted in one frame of a shanty town next to a golf course in Durban, Kwazulu-Natal.

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Says It All. Appearing in Time, this photo taken in Durban contrasts a golf course adjacent to a shanty township.

With an escalating cost of living and turbulent political situation, the gap between the have and have nots is widening  at an alarming rate.

Johannesburg is known to be the destination of choice for many who have come seeking employment but sadly there are many homeless people who sleep in the streets, abandoned buildings or under bridges. Buildings such as churches or public halls are closed, and these helpless people cannot access those buildings leaving them no choice but  to sleep in the streets – even in winter. There seems to be an inherent lack of shelters or places where they can find respite from the bitter cold and crime that is so prevalent.

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UnCovered. Time graphically exposes on its May 13 2019 cover South Africa’s inequality with this photograph of Johannesburg’s suburbs of Primrose on the left and Makause on the right.

It is in this cold ‘climate’, that the ‘warm’ help such as from South African Friends of Israel is so appreciated.

Chief Cornelius Botha and Eldorado Park Pastor Errol Jacobs expressed gratitude to SAFI, lamenting how their communities are too often “forgotten”. Welcoming the blankets and food, they expressed that it was indeed “a blessing from God.”

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No Opportunities. Eldorado Park where South Africa Friends of Israel handed out blankets, in May 2017, exploded over lack of houses and jobs. Shaun Jacobs a young protester explained what set off the protests: “There’s no development in this area. There is no future for the youth here. Why do you think so many people from here get involved in selling drugs and stealing? It’s because there are no opportunities.”

At a time when the world seems to polarized and people seems to become more insular, it is really heartwarming to remember that there are many who still exemplify generosity.

Kindness is the paramount gift you can give another person.

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Elderly people draped in blankets they received at the Blankets for Hope event in Booysens

 

 

image006 (8).pngKenneth Mokgatlhe holds BA Honours (political science) from the University of Limpopo. He was a spokesperson of the Pan Africanist Congress from 2015 to 2018.  Mokgatlhe has written for Political Analysis South Africa, and is a frequent columnist for South African papers, notably – The Star, Sunday Independent, Sowetan and Cape Times.

 

Chariots of Hope

150 South African children will receive “Wheelchairs of Hope” from Israel!

By Tamar Lazarus acting co-president of WIZO South Africa

In South Africa, the statistics are grim. Children with disabilities are among the most neglected groups in the country and the majority of these children face enormous economic and social barriers that have an adverse impact on their physical, social and intellectual development and wellbeing.

The simple provision of a wheelchair is something completely out of reach for most!

Identifying the need to help, WIZO South Africa has joined forces with an Israeli NGO or non-profit, called WHEELCHAIRS OF HOPE to bring 150 child-size wheelchairs that will give these children the dignity of mobility.

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A Moving Gesture. The Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Johannesburg, Gauteng, have received through WIZO South Africa, lightweight, reliable and child friendly wheelchairs from Israel.

“Wheelchairs of Hope”, is dedicated to providing children in developing countries with lightweight, reliable and child friendly wheelchairs. These wheelchairs have become more than instruments of mobility – they have become chariots of hope, helping these children to win battles and gain access not just to education but to friends and peers as well.

For some of these children, the only way to get around is to crawl.

“Our wheelchair is specifically designed for children, as we wish to empower education through mobility,” explained Pablo Kaplan who together with his life partner and co-worker Chava Rotshtein founded Wheelchairs of Hope in Israel in 2009.

“Mobility from early childhood is a gate to education. By giving access to education we create a new generation with better skills, confidence and hope.”

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Prime Movers. Pablo Kaplan who with Chave Chava Rotshtein founded ‘Wheelchairs of Hope’ in Israel in 2009.

In 2013, Kaplan and Rotshtein presented their idea at the opening day of the United Nations General Assembly and were selected to serve on UNICEF’s task force for assistive technologies.

This inspired WIZO South Africa to ensure that we could help as many of our vulnerable children as possible.

WIZO Cape Town recently donated four wheelchairs to the Paediatric Oncology wards at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital and Tygerberg Hospital as part of its local outreach programme.  This is just the latest in a series of wheelchair donations.

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WIZO Impact. The writer Tamar Lazarus (right) with WIZO SA colleagues at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town.

The child-size chairs will give those patients who cannot walk, dignity, control and self-reliance, which are often compromised by having to rely on other people to move them around.

The wheelchairs are not just practical – but attractive.  Aimed at children aged five to nine-years who are able to push themselves, these colourful, ergonomically designed wheelchairs are light-weight and robust to handle urban and country terrains. The ‘WHEELCHAIRS OF HOPE’ wheelchairs were developed by specialist Israeli doctors and engineers from ALYN Hospital, Israel’s leading paediatric and adolescent rehabilitation centre, with the simple wish to “empower education through mobility”.

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A Touch Of Class. An Israeli ‘Wheelchair of Hope’ is seen here in a South African classroom.

From Israel With Love

The donation of these bright and colorful wheelchairs from Israel, offers these young South African children the life-changing gift of mobility, and self-reliance. They will also be a great help for staff and nurses who care for these precious youngsters.

We often take the ability to move in our home and community for granted – and with that, the ability to learn, interact with others, and participate in family life. We are so pleased that we are able to assist, for now, 150 children with mobility impairments, and give them these’ WHEELCHAIRS OF HOPE’ to enable them to lead active and fulfilling lives.”

So far, the recipients of the WHEELCHAIRS OF HOPE wheelchairs are:

  • Maitland Cottage Children’s Orthopaedic Hospital, Cape Town
  • Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, Johannesburg
  • Red Cross Hospital Paediatric Oncology ward
  • Tygerberg Hospital Paediatric ward
  • Charlotte Maxeke Hospital Oncology ward
  • Special school Bolwar
  • ‘Give a Child a Family’ organisation, Margate
  • Open air school Durban
  • Athlone school for the blind
  • Individual children who otherwise would not have access
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The Magnificent Six. Empowered by mobility, these smiling children at Harding Special School in Kwazulu Natal each with their Israeli wheelchairs donated by WIZO South Africa.

We know that the receipt of these wheelchairs from Israel will have a truly lifelong impact on these kids – and their entire family unit will be transformed by the gift of the basic human right of mobility.

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A Kid On The Move. Young child on his Israeli Wheelchair of Hope’ inside the Paediatric Oncology Ward at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town.

WIZO SA will be seeking additional donors to become part of this excellent initiative.

If you would like to donate, or recommend a suitable recipient, please contact our offices 021 4646700 ext 131 or email us at wizosa@ctjc.co.za.

 

 

 

 

 

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Tamar Lazarus is the acting co-President of WIZO South Africa

 

 

 

 

 

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Meeting Of Minds

Aiming on future cooperation following SA academics visiting Israel.

By Benji Shulman

An enlightening tour took place in July where academicians from universities across South Africa visited Israel. Organised by the South African Friends of Hebrew University, the participants came from the University of the Witwatersrand, University of Johannesburg, University of Cape Town, University of Venda, University of the Free State, University of Stellenbosch, Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria as well as government research agencies, and were closely exposed to Israel’s unique business culture.

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Oasis Of Excellence. Hebrew University campus in Jerusalem.

With South Africa’s economy shrinking by a worrying 3.2% in the first quarter of 2019, experiencing sky-high unemployment and attracting little investment, it was important for the SA participants to learn how such a small nation like Israel, with few natural resources, engineered an economic miracle earning the enviable moniker of the “Start-Up Nation’.

The tour began at Hebrew University’s Jerusalem Business School of Administration where they heard a lecture on Israel’s “DNA” – a mixture of knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurship. In other words – the success mode of Israel innovation technology.

From theory to practice, the group’s next stop was the University’s Technology Transfer company known as Yissum.

Founded in 1964 to market ideas and innovation of university researchers and employees, Yissum’s mission is to benefit society by converting amazing Israeli innovations into commercial solutions that address the world’s most urgent global challenges. It was important for our South African academics to hear how Hebrew University’s top researchers at Yissum were successfully “bridging breakthrough academic research with scientific and commercial applications.”

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Get Real. Yissum impacting on society by transforming excellent ideas into reality.

Such successes included working with Jerusalem-based Mobileye that was bought out for $15 billion by Intel. Mobileye safety technology is increasingly integrated into new car models from the world’s major automakers providing warnings for collision prevention and mitigation.

Hearing about Israel’s understanding of ‘entrepreneurship’ and how to grow businesses was high on the group’s agenda and HUJI Innovate provided the perfect vehicle to learn all about it.

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Glowing Global. Illuminating the path ahead, HUJI Innovate, the Hebrew University’s innovation platform, encourages students, faculty and alumni to develop new solutions for real-world problems while fostering a vibrant ecosystem that helps accelerate the creation of new ventures.

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The Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center is the Hebrew University’s platform to encourage and assist students, faculty and alumni to develop their Innovation and Entrepreneurship capabilities.

To meet the increasing challenges of an ever-changing workplace, our South African group heard how HUJI supports its students and faculty in the development of new solutions for real-world problems and in this way,  create new and exciting ventures. This is something South African universities would do well to emulate.

Students of the 21st Century need to navigate a more challenging workplace than their predecessors and for the South African academics to  learn how to  boost a student’s perception of innovation and entrepreneurship with the aim to help them maximize their potential was most instructive.

And what could be more inspiring than the chance to view the personal papers of the 20th century physicist Albert Einstein at the University’s treasured Albert Einstein Archives.

As an aside, we learned that Einstein was a member of the university’s first board of governors and in 1925, the original 46-page manuscript of “the general theory of relativity” ended up at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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Einstein Stands In Jerusalem. Although much later being offered the post of President of Israel, Einstein was satisfied in helping establish the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and served on its founding Board of Governors. It is now the home to his official archives where a statue of the physicist greets visitors.

‘Innovation’ was what this visit to Israel was all about and no less ‘innovative’ was the event organised by the South African Friends of Hebrew University in partnership with Wits’ Israel Alumni Association. Hosted at the World Mizrachi Hall and supported by Telfed (the communal support organisation for the Southern African community in Israel), the main speaker for the evening was Sivan Ya’ari whose Innovation: Africa organisation has been bringing Israeli water technology into Africa and effectively changing lives.

The event was attended by many ex-pat South Africans living in Israel, as well as Israelis interested in environmental challenges on the African continent. Other special guests included former Ambassador to South Africa, Arthur Lenk, editor of the Jerusalem Report, Steve Linde, veteran radio broadcaster, Walter Bigham, and several Holocaust survivors. Our university professionals found the talk most insightful and spoke about water-related challenges in South Africa.

Not all work and no play

The group had the opportunity to tour the Old City of Jerusalem as well as one of the world’s oldest port, vibrant Jaffa; meet with members of Israel’s ethnic minorities, sample Israel’s famous night life and of course eat lots and lots of local delicious cuisine!

The group was most impressed of the visit to the Peres Centre for Peace and Innovation in Tel Aviv. Founded in 1996 by the late President of Israel, Shimon Peres, the group heard how the Centre develops and implements programmes with a focus not only on promoting a prosperous Israel but of paving the way for a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbours.

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Living Legacy. The Peres Center for Peace & Innovation shows how technology and innovation can be put to the service of peace and act as a hub for innovation and peace. (credit Efrat Sa’ar)

Celebrity weatherman and science communications expert, Simon Gear, who accompanied the group said that “as South Africans, engaging Israel is crucial both from a perspective of the incredible technology there and from a view of supporting peace initiatives for Israelis and Palestinians.”

The guests were able to see a side of Israel that many do not, and this included various engagements with Israeli government departments; meeting with NGO’s who are working in innovation and development and mingling with other members of the academic community. There was a broad consensus that both countries had much to learn from one another, and that finding ways to broaden the conversation in different sectors was a key to making collaboration a success. Already by the end of the tour, there was interest in specific projects.

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Working For A Better Tomorrow. Africa and Israel share similarities in its past and can join hands in facing the future – together

 

This tour was made possible with the support of the South African Friends of Hebrew University. Yes, it was a journey from South Africa to Israel, but as we learned at Hebrew University, the journeys ahead are really those from:

Ideas to Ventures

 

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Focus On Africa. The South African group of 11 senior lecturers & researchers attended an event on the 8th July in Jerusalem where they heard Sivan Ya’ari CEO Innovation speak on the nature and scope of her work and how it can help meet the challenges of Africa. Steve Linde, Editor of the Jewish Report moderated the discussion . Seen here at the event are (l-r): Steve Linde, Jonny Lipczer from World Mizrachi, Dr Les Glessman, Chairman of Wits Israel Alumni, Benji Shulman, Director of South Africa Israel Forum, Roy Scher Telfed Jerusalem Chairman, Carmel Krawitz Executive Director S.A. Friends Hebrew University and Sivan Ya’ari CEO Innovation Africa July 8th World Mizrachi King George Jerusalem

 

 

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Benji Shulman Benji Shulman is a board member of the South African Friends of Hebrew University, newly appointed Head of Public Policy as the SAZF and organises educational group visits to Israel.

It’s Risky Being Alive Today…

in the USA!

By David E. Kaplan

It was a weekend to weep – two mass shootings within 24 hours, leaving 31 people dead. First an attack on a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas on the Saturday that left 22 dead, then nine died in a shooting in Dayton, Ohio on the Sunday.  

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Death At A Store. Virgil for the victims of the El Paso shooting at a Walmart store on August 3, 2019 that killed 22 people and injured 24 others.

As one movie buff in Dayton poignantly lamented, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”.

Clearly, that county’s position on “the right to bear arms”, trumps – pun intended –  the right of people to live.

While many folk in Israel carry firearms – mostly young adults in military uniform – mass shootings are an aberration not the ‘norm’ as it is today in the USA.

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Sign Of The Times. Someone holds up a sign during the vigil in Dayton,Ohio. John Minchillo/AP

What is it about American gun culture?

Yes, we know:

  • that gun ownership in the United States is constitutionally protected by the US Bill of Rights.
  • that firearms are widely used for self-defense, hunting, and recreational uses, such as target shooting.
  • that American attitudes on gun ownership date back to the American Revolutionary War and the militia/frontier ethos.

 Though guns have not been an essential part of daily survival in the USA for well over a century, generations of Americans continue to embrace and glorify it as a living inheritance. While the statutory law of any country is complex, ask any American what is the “Second Amendment” and he or she will rattle off  this 1791 snippit of legalese – “the individual right to keep and bear arms.”

From frontiersmen like Davy Crockett through to characters of the “Wild West” like  Jesse James, Wyatt Earp, and Annie Oakley to villains and heroes of the 20th century glorified in movies from the Godfather to tough cops types like “make my day” Dirty Harry or Robocop is it any wonder that guns are so culturally ingrained in the American psyche.

To those outside America watching these mass murders on the news networks, it’s like a familiar script. The sad unfolding human tragedy has become so predictable from the instant of the murderous act to rolling out the security experts and psychiatrists, to the politicians who either advocate tougher gun control to those in the pocket of the all-powerful gun rights advocacy group, the National Rifle Association (NRA).

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Mass Memorial. Mourners gather during a prayer vigil following a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, on Friday, May 18, 2018. How and why was 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis – charged with capital murder in the shooting rampage – doing with a firearm? (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

How often have we heard – particularly when many children have perished at a massacre at a school – “maybe this time it is different.” It never is!

In 2018, the NRA membership reached 5.5 million, while its membership dues reached $170,391,374 – an increase of 33% from the previous year!

Aspirant US presidents frequently tout American “exceptionalism”.

Well, here are some examples of “exceptionalism” not to be proud of:

  • With over 350 million privately owned firearms, the United States substantially exceeds all other countries in both per capita ownership of guns and absolute number of guns
  • It is estimated that there are more guns than people in the country.
  • Approximately 30% of all privately-owned firearms in the world are in the hands of US residents.
  • The US rate of suicide by firearm is 8 times higher and the rate of homicide by firearm is 25 times higher than the rates in other economically developed countries
  • Mass shootings, although a major news item, generally accounts for 1% or less of all firearm violence, and suicides routinely take twice as many lives as homicides.
  • More US citizens have been killed by gunssince 1970 than all US servicemen and women killed in all foreign wars combined. We’re talking tens of thousands every year.
  • The number of mass shootings across the U.S.so far in 2019 has outpaced the number of days this year, according to a gun violence research group. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as any incident in which at least four people were shot, excluding the shooter.
  • The public health impact of firearms in the United States is staggering.

What was once labeled an epidemic is now better described as hyperendemic.

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End Gun Violence. A demonstration on March 24,2018 in LA organized by March For Our Lives, a movement dedicated to student-led activism around ending gun violence and the epidemic of mass shootings in schools today.

It’s Mental Illness, stupid!

Who’s being stupid? An increasingly common message from gun supporting politicians, is that people with mental illness are prone to violence in general and are responsible for mass shootings. This is demeaning, offensive and false.

According to studies (Duwe 2004Fox & DeLateur 2014Stone 2015Taylor 2016Vossekuil et al. 2002), mental illness is minor factor in the majority of cases of mass murders and shootings.

Studies tend to indicate not only is there zero to negligible correlation between mental illness and shootings, but that there are far superior predictors for gun violence.

Weighing in on the debate, researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) concluded that having a mental health diagnosis – whether it’s a mood disorder, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, or schizophrenia – doesn’t make you more likely to threaten somebody with a gun.

What does? Simply knowing you have access to a weapon.

Findings revealed that by far the most significant clue to a propensity for gun violence is simply knowing where you can lay your hands on a firearm. Those who answered in the affirmative to the question  “do you have access to a gun if you needed or wanted one?” were 18 times more likely to have used one to threaten violence.

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Capital Idea. Go tell It to the legislators on Capitol Hill.

The false linking of mental illnesses to gun violence is shown to have two effects. First, they promote stigma by conflating mental illness and violence — a bias that affects patients, providers, the public, and policy makers and secondly, diverts attention away from effectively dealing with the real problem – proper gun control, starting with background checks.

Don’t blame those with disabilities; the only ‘disabled’ here are the politicians!

 

 

Ukuleles for Peace

If music be the road to peace, play on!

By Rolene Marks

In the town of Tir’a in central Israel, a group of teenagers have gathered for a rehearsal. Over the cacophony of greetings in both Hebrew and Arabic, the strumming of a tiny instrument can be heard.

The humble ukulele has been “instrumental” in bringing together teens from Arab and Jewish backgrounds and the result is not just the creation of beautiful music, but the building of bridges that ultimately will lay the foundations of peace in this part of the world often mired in conflict – and mistrust.

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Paul Moore with his ukulele: “This instrument saved my life.” (Photo credit: Avishag Shaar Yishuv)

The brainchild of musician, Paul Moore, who was fed up with the situation after the Second Intifada, Ukulele’s for peace aims to bring together children from different backgrounds who can find common ground by doing something creative and unifying – playing music together.

“I thought that if peace was possible between Israel and Egypt and Jordan then perhaps the same could happen with its Palestinian neighbours. Israel has a dynamism that is extraordinary and I felt that I had to either leave or do something. The hatred had to stop”, says Moore.

Moore is a vibrant personality. Dressed in beach chic short, his sartorial nod to his passion for the ukulele is the lei tucked around the brim of his hat. A seasoned performer, Moore is dedicated to helping build positive bridges between people and what better instrument than the ukulele. Small and easy to use (it only has 4 strings) ukuleles are very versatile and as a result, there is a burgeoning global ukulele movement.

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Strike A Chord. Arab and Jewish kids find common ground through music.

Paul Moore’s love of the ukulele coupled with his experience and passion for performance sparked an idea. What if he brought children from opposite sides of the conflict and creates a space where they could get to know each other – and play a little music.

The result was the birth of Ukuleles for Peace in 2004. Moore’s dream was that the children would really integrate into each other’s lives and become friends, not just live parallel lives.

How did it all start?

Moore approached the mayor of Tir’a and in literally a day, found a cooperative partner in the Democratic School. And so Ukuleles for Peace was born. Parents became involved because after all, it was them who were doing the major schlepping with carpools and lifts. Initially, some of the parents were resistant to coming to Tir’a but the project has become such a communal success that families meet up for picnics, holidays and recitals.

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‘Moore’ The Merrier. In 2004, Paul Mor, a musician originally from England, suggested to the headmaster of the Democratic school in Ramat Hashron, to teach children in his school to play the ukulele. At the same time he persuaded the headmaster of the el-Zahara school in the Arab town of Tira to open a class there. The project caught on quickly and soon there were classes in both schools for children aged 8 to 18.

Ukuleles for Peace hasn’t just shared joy through music – it has created real and lasting friendships between children who under different circumstances would never have had the opportunity to meet each other.

Singing in Arabic, Hebrew and English, Ukuleles for Peace has grown beyond the neighbourhood of the Middle East. The groups which through the years have been about 11-12 strong have played at schools, different towns, coexistence events, Holocaust survivors and autistic therapy.

This has also taken these talented and open-hearted youth overseas to play in places like Hawaii, Croatia, Italy, Poland and Georgia. It is proof that the even the most humble instrument when paired with the greatest intentions, can bring much needed positivity to the world.

It is not only the children that have benefitted from friendships – but their parents as well. During our visit to a rehearsal in Tir’a it was hard to see who was having more fun – the parents or the ukulele band!

“It is a joy to see these children blossom as musicians and performers,” says Paul. “I would love to turn up at the United Nations and just simply play our Music to them as a statement of what is possible words seem to only divide whereas music unites us all in harmony” he continues.

It is evident as the music flows seamlessly from Arabic to Hebrew and then to English that Paul Moore’s dream of bringing children together to know and appreciate each other’s cultures and build friendships that it has come to fruition.

Ukuleles for peace is living proof that the foundations of coexistence and peace will be built from the ground up through every day interactions between people. There may even be ukuleles involved.

 

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Give Peace A Chance. Different cultures; same desires – Arab and Jewish school kids embracing the future together.

 

 

 

Please Note:

Following on from a bellicose response to the above article on social media, see the writer’s response:

https://layoftheland.online/2019/08/28/first-do-no-harm/