Durban Remembered

By Craig Snoyman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was the Jews’ fault.  

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

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

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

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

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



About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.




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

The Right Moves

A dance instructor’s  recollections of  defying Apartheid in South Africa

By David E. Kaplan

A marine biologist and tour guide friend of Fonda Dubb in Eilat had a bad fall and was rushed to Emergency at Israel’s southern coastal city hospital – Yoseftal Medical Center. After being patched-up, Colin Porter, said the stitching done by the Arab doctor on duty was so well done  that he characterised it as a “tapestry” and wanting to show his appreciation, offered to teach him snorkeling.

Touched by this gesture, the Arab doctor agreed and said it was the first time he would be socialising with a Jew!

What this story or extended “tapestry” of life unveils is that too few people from worlds culturally separate, fail to meaningfully engage beyond the workplace. “This happens across the globe,” says Fonda. “We leave it to the politicians who are generally lousy at this job instead of us ordinary people engaging on a grassroots person-to-person level.”

Fonda knows exactly what she is talking about from her experiences in South Africa during the darkest days of Apartheid when she went out of her way to bring people who would not otherwise connect – together!

She made every effort, frequently putting herself in danger in crossing boundaries – geographic as well as personal.

What her story reveals is that while we  are more familiar with the high-profile opponents of Apartheid, we are less so of the ordinary people who in their own ordinary way achieved extraordinary results. Such was the case of Fonda Dubb of Eilat.

As a dance teacher in the late sixties in Port Elizabeth, Fonda lead a kind of double life. While in the city she taught kids at a dance studio exclusively for whites, she also immersed herself in teaching boys and girls at the Gelvandale Toynbee Ballet School in the coloured district of Port Elizabeth.

Not Dancing to the Tune of Apartheid. Fonda Dubb’s students at Gelvandale Ballet School.

At the city studio “coloureds” were excluded because of the ugly Group Areas Act, which assigned racial groups to different residential and business sections in urban areas in a system of urban apartheid. So I used to drive backwards and forwards to the township, a one hour drive away. I was totally unperturbed visiting an area where very few Whites ever went, although I was under surveillance and at times stopped by the police enquiring where I was going and what I was doing.” When there were clashes with the police in  Gelvandale or on the route, “someone would phone and warn me not to come. ”

There was no stopping Fonda. If whites were blocked from being culturally exposed to the coloured community, Fonda ‘pirouetted’ devising a reverse step. “I was determined that my students performed in front of white audiences and so, I would apply for permits to the Administration of coloured Affairs for every such performance.”

Testing Times. Through Fonda Dubb’s perseverance, these coloured students would perform in White areas of Port Elizabeth.

Knowing the moves on the dance floor were not enough; Fonda had to ‘choreograph’ a path through Apartheid’s labyrinthian bureaucracy!

From a file, Fonda takes out a humiliating relic of the Apartheid era, the permit which imposed the following conditions:

“…that no social mixing with the audience occurs, that the coloured do not make use of any of the  change-rooms or any other facilities provided for Whites and that they leave the premises immediately after their performance.” And if they needed to use the toilets, “who knows what they were expected to do,” sighs Fonda, shaking her head.

A Good Mix. Fonda Dubb and her committee receiving a grant for the Gelvandale Toynbee Ballet School. Besides the Treasurer Colin Melmed (left), the only other white on the Committee, Fonda says “This to my knowledge was the only mixed committee during the Apartheid era.”

Fonda relates how they overcame problems that today, 26 years after the fall of Apartheid, appear strangely surreal:

If I received a permit, which only allowed for the exact number of my dances, then that would exclude the coloured staff, particularly their drivers. To surmount this problem, because we had to strictly comply with the conditions, of the permit, my late husband Mark and I would drive backwards and forwards in our own cars, taking and fetching the students.”

Aspiring Dancers. Fonda Dubb’s young students receiving awards in 1974.

Her coloured students frequently received the highest marks in Port Elizabeth. Following their progress, Fonda always felt proud to see how they overcame the many Apartheid-related obstacles. “Some would go on to UCT’s ballet School, others would become teachers, while a few went on to perform overseas.”

Following Dulcie Howes – considered the prima ballerina assoluta of South African ballet  – introducing Ballet as a matric subject in South African schools, two of the first graduates in the progamme “were  my coloured students who would go on to receive bursaries to study at UCT, where after they returned to teach at Coloured schools in Gelvendale. I think this was one on my proudest moments!”

Going Great. On a visit to the Toynbee Ballet School, the former principal dancer of the Royal Ballet, London Johaar Mosaval, says he was most impressed with the caliber of the students who Fonda Dubb had been entering for R.A.D Ballet exams since 1970.

What’s Cooking?

Leaving Port Elizabeth in the mid-1970s, Fonda and her family moved to the small country town of her youth,  Pietersburg, today Polokwane, capital of the Limpopo Province. There she switched from dancing to her other great love – cuisine! Boasting a strong Jewish community of some 200 families, Fonda was kept very busy catering for barmitzvahs, batmitzvahas, britot mila and weddings.

Recipe for Success. Following Fonda Dubb’s  cooking course in Pietersburg for blacks making the national media, she was inundated with enquiries across South Africa.

In time she was soon approached by an organization called “Woman Power” to provide cooking lessons to blacks, where they would receive certificates enabling domestics workers to command higher salaries. They were “earning at the time a paltry – in today’s Israeli currency –  NIS28 per month,” recalls Fonda. Approximately 80% of my students could neither read nor write but they were determined to improve their lives.”

Pathway to Progress. Tasty delights of Fonda Dubb’s students that paved their way for higher salaries.

The graduation ceremonies regularly appeared on national television, where after “we would receive calls from other organisations throughout the country for the guidelines to our courses.”

White by Night

As a child growing up in Pietersburg, Fonda’s young eyes were witness to the horrors of Apartheid. She recalls the vivid images of “blacks being randomly picked up in the streets by roving police vans and tossed in brutally like sacks of potatoes. I can still hear the sounds of the siren that used to sound every night at 9.00pm, whereafter no blacks were free to roam the streets of Pietersburg.”

She recalls her late cousin, Dr. John Gluckman, a pathologist, “who had the courage of his convictions to expose the horrible tortures inflicted upon the black school children held in police custody during the 1976 riots. Years earlier, he had represented the Timol family, whose son Ahmed, was one of the first detainees to die at the notorious John Vorster Square by allegedly jumping out a window. He later represented the Biko family,” following the black Consciousness leader Steve Biko’s death in police custody.

She recalls being at the police station in Pietersburg a few years before immigrating to Israel and hearing the screaming coming from the cells. “I asked one of the policemen what was happening. With a whip of a hand, he bellowed, “We’re going to donner (beat) them”. Such was South Africa.”

Wonder Woman. Fonda Dubb (left)  with the “Woman Power” group providing cooking lessons to blacks, where they would receive certificates enabling domestics to command higher salaries.

Making a Difference

While Fonda is quick to minimize her contribution during the dark days of Apartheid, she recognised the injustice around her and through her routine activities made a difference. In Eilat, she again used her passions for dance and food “to make a difference”. Apart from assisting the blind and visiting the sick, she over the years,  would through organisations like ESRA and WIZO instruct dance to children with disabilities, teach English to Ethiopian children through cooking and would fundraise for causes by conducting food demonstrations.

What’s Cooking? Fonda teaching English to Ethiopean children in Eilat through the meduim of cooking.

It is little wonder that Fonda is a recipient of Eilat’s prestigious Miller Award, presented personally by former Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi for:

 “diverse volunteer work conducted with dedication and sensitivity in guiding and supporting the needy in all sectors of the population and for the empowerment of women.” 

If bad laws kept people apart in South Africa, Fonda Dubb found good ways to bring them together.


Poles Apart

Cordial, if never sweet, Polish-Israeli relations have  assuredly soured

By Dr. Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center

The restitution of Jewish property in Eastern Europe has never been a topic of any great interest to the wider public, even in Israel, and has very rarely received serious media attention. Until now!

During the past several weeks, a bill passed initially in the Polish Sejm (Parliament) and Senate, and signed into law on August 14 by President Andrzej Duda, has sparked an extremely heated controversy which is seriously  threatening the future of Polish-Israeli relations, which had been quite cordial since Poland’s transition from Communism to Democracy. The law in question does not specifically mention Jews, or the Holocaust, or World War II, but in practical terms makes it almost impossible for Holocaust survivors to be able to reclaim their pre-World War II property or obtain commensurate compensation, even if they have already filed the appropriate claims in a Polish court.

President Duda justified the passage of the bill by pointing to the fact that there had been numerous cases of fictitious claims and that criminals had been able to unjustly obtain property that had never belonged to them, resulting in the ejection of “tens of thousands of people being thrown onto the pavement.” In his words, “re-privatization to restore justice became almost synonymous with injustice and human harm.” In that respect, it is important to mention that the bill was passed by a huge majority in both the Sejm and the Senate, and was fully supported not only by the government coalition, but by the opposition as well. Undoubtedly, part of that support stemmed from economic factors, given the large number of properties owned by Jews in prewar Poland, especially in urban centers.

True Colours Exposed. Polish President Andrzej Duda(left) who signed the law in early August  limiting claims to property seized by the Nazis and later by Poland’s communist government, and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid who rebuked this decision, labeling it as “unethical and antisemitic”.(Getty)

Israeli officials were already aware of the seriously negative implications of the bill for the efforts to achieve restitution (or compensation) for Jewish-owned property before the votes in the Sejm and Senate. Israeli chargé d’affairs Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon gave an impassioned speech to the joint  Senate committees before the vote was taken, in which she emphasized Israel’s obligation to “give a voice to Holocaust survivors and their descendants…who have the right, historically, morally, and legally to present their claims and to receive the compensation they deserve for their property.” Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears, and the support for the bill was overwhelming, which prompted strong criticism from the U.S. government and international Jewish organizations, but especially from Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. He not only called the bill “unethical and antisemitic”, but also instructed the new Israeli ambassador to Poland to remain in Israel in the meantime, immediately recalled our Chargé d’Affairs, in Warsaw for indefinite consultations, and suggested that the Polish ambassador to Israel remain on vacation in Poland. In his words, “This time should be used to explain to the people of Poland the meaning of the Holocaust to the citizens of Israel, and the extent to which we will refuse to tolerate any contempt for the memory of the Holocaust and its victims.”

Needless to say, Lapid’s harsh attack on the Polish government did not go unanswered. In an obvious response, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pavel Jablonski told journalists this  on August 16 that the government was “reviewing” the trips to Poland of Israeli high school students, approximately 40,000 of whom travel annually to Poland for Holocaust study trips and visits to sites of ghettoes and death camps under the auspices of the Israeli Ministry of Education. Jablonski called the trips “propaganda” – an unequivocal insult to the manner in which Israeli schools teach the Shoah.

No Entry. In retaliation to Israel’s opposition to the bill, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Paweł Jabłoński (above) says his country is weighing the future of Holocaust education trips for Israeli youth to Poland. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

At this point, it is not exactly clear how this crisis in Israeli-Polish relations will be resolved, but in order to understand its roots and causes, we have to return to a somewhat similar, previous dispute between the two countries over a law passed in Poland in 2018, which also aroused considerable anger and indignation in Israel. The so-called “Holocaust bill” criminalized use of the term “Polish death camps”, as well as any attempt to attribute Holocaust crimes to the Polish state. And while the first part of the bill was in fact justified, because it was the Germans who built the death camps in Poland, and the only Poles in death camps (Auschwitz and Majdanek) were inmates not collaborating perpetrators, the second clause was a brazen attempt to whitewash the widespread participation of individual Poles in Holocaust crimes. Negotiations between Polish and Israeli officials and historians led to a very bad compromise signed by former Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart, which was strongly criticized by Yad Vashem, because it appeared to accept the Polish narrative of World War II and the Shoah, which promoted the canard of equivalency between Polish participation in Holocaust crimes and assistance by Poles in rescuing Jews from the Nazis, when in fact the number of Poles guilty of the former, surpassed those who rescued Jews many times over.

Death and Destruction. Whatever became of the property of this group of Polish Jews being led away by German SS soldiers during the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943? Poland passes bill cancelling all claims of ownership of property if 30 years have elapsed since the confiscation. (AP Photo)

Thus the heart of the debate between Poles and Jews over Holocaust-related issues is the false narrative of the events of 1939-1945. The Polish narrative is primarily one of their own undisputed suffering under the Nazis, with little room or empathy for that of their Jewish neighbours and fellow citizens. Poland was one of the most antisemitic countries, if not THE most antisemitic country in Eastern Europe prior to World War II, and the estimated figure by reputable Polish historians, such as Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking, of approximately 200,000 Jews murdered directly by Poles, or turned over by Poles to the Nazis to be killed during the Holocaust is a clear manifestation of that animus. The fact that Poland’s suffering under the Nazis has not received the same treatment as that of Jewish Holocaust victims further complicates the situation.

In Jeopardy. Will Poland stop the annual Holocaust education trips of Israeli high schoolers visiting Nazi death camps like the concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau (see above)?

This situation, it must be noted, is not unique to Poland. Practically every post-Communist democracy in Eastern Europe has created a fake narrative of their Holocaust history, primarily to hide the important role played by their nationals in Holocaust crimes, and to promote the canard of equivalency between Nazi and Communist crimes, which they insist constitute genocide. These measures are all being taken  in order to emphasize their suffering under Communism and deflect attention from their Holocaust crimes. While the Nazis were able to enlist helpers in every country which they occupied or with whom they had an alliance, only in Eastern Europe did collaboration with the Nazis include participation in systematic mass murder of Jews. Until now, the policy of the previous Israeli governments was to ignore these lies, in order to maintain friendly relations with the countries of Eastern Europe, although the fake narrative created by these countries was an unforgivable insult to the victims, their families and the entire Jewish people. The new policy by Foreign Minister Lapid is a welcome and necessary change, but ultimately we will have to enter into serious dialogue with our Eastern European friends to convince them that telling the truth about their role in the Holocaust will ultimately be most beneficial to them and their citizens.


About the writer:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Distorting-the-Truth2.jpg

Holocaust historian Dr. Efraim Zuroff is the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the director of the Center’s Israel Office and Eastern European Affairs. His most recent book, with Lithuanian author Ruta Vanagaite, is Our People; Discovering Lithuania’s Hidden Holocaust (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020) which deals with Holocaust distortion in Lithuania.


For further information on this issue  and on Holocaust distortion in Eastern Europe, please visit www.swcjerusalem.org and www.wiesenthal.com





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).

Kabul Falls, Jerusalem Beware

A cautionary tale of trust and mistrust

By David E. Kaplan

Twenty-one years ago in 2001 in Toronto Canada,  584 million dollars was raised at a benefit concert by Music Without Borders for Afghan refugees.

Will there be a need for another?

Reporting on CNN from Kabul, Clarissa Ward described how “People woke up to the news in the morning that Taliban were at the gates just outside Kabul; there was chaos in the streets, everyone clambering to get to the airport, the road completely overrun;  others locked up in their homes; no idea what the future will bring; and no sense of clarity from their government as to what the situation is.”

Staying at her Job. Although risky for foreign reporters, particularly women, Clarissa Ward remains reporting from Kabul.
 

No “clarity” from their government – for sure, “their’ President  – now ex-President Ashraf Ghani – had fled the country!

Astute Israelis woke to this unfolding horror story with their antennae out   – extremely concerned!

With Iran at the gates of Israel through their proxies in Lebanon, Gaza and Syria and Defense Minister Bennie Gantz warning envoys from UNSC members that “Iran is 10 weeks away from amassing enough weapons-grade material for a nuke”,  Israel  must be questioning –  in the light of the Afghan debacle – how reliable and dependable is Israel’s “best friend”? There is more to concern Israel over and above the soon-to-be declared ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ turning into a hotbed of global terrorism.  With all the US’s best intentions to its allies and friends, can they be relied upon to safely revive the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) with a belligerent Iran, when they got it so wrong with a numerically smaller and inferior weaponised Taliban?

New Reality. Taliban fighters stand guard at the main gate leading to the Afghan presidential palace after taking control of the capital (Photo: Rahmat Gul/AP)

However the US spokespeople try spin the spectacular collapse of Afghanistan, people recall the words of President Biden who only as recently on the 8 May 2021 said:

 “The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”

How did the President come to this disastrous delusion? Refuting the comparison to the defeat and optic retreat in Vietnam, Biden went on national television to explain:

The Taliban is not the south – the North Vietnamese army. They’re not – they’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable.”

Countdown to Chaos. Joe Biden speaks on April 14, 2021 from the Treaty Room in the White House about the withdrawal of the remainder of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool, File) 

From his Camp David retreat – an unfortunate added meaning today – the President can only look on with despair as he had to authorise sending more armed forces back into Kabul than they had left behind in order to safely rescue its embassy staff and other important personnel.

The human drama playing out on our TV screens is being characterised as one of the worst foreign policy blunders in half a century? Even US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, reluctantly admitted on CNN that that the Taliban advance and takeover was “more rapid” than expected.

Rushed Rescue. In America’s “Saigon Moment”, a U.S. helicopter is seen here landing at Kabul’s U.S. Embassy to begin the rescue of diplomatic staff amid the Taliban advanced on the Afghan capital. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gu)

Israelis have good reason to be worried!

As a US president that particularly prides himself on his foreign policy experience, we can expect that Biden’s delusional July predictions on the Taliban were not mindless musings but based on daily briefings from his intelligence agencies and the Pentagon. Are these the safe hands that Israel is being cajoled to place its future in as the US remains on course to pursue reviving or rejoining the JCPOA and removing the strategically-structured sanction regime? Does the US administration really believe that Iran, now since June 2021 with an even more extreme President Raisa that it can seriously restrict its nuclear ambitions as well as limit its ballistic missile programme and its support for groups that even the  U.S. considers terrorists?

New Leadership. Taliban fighters take control of the Afghan presidential palace on Sunday evening
(Photo: Zabi Karimi/AP)

The Biden administration’s hopes of a quick re-entry into the 2015 nuclear accord thankfully did not happen. What has happened can only be described as a stalemate compounded by Iran’s technological advances with reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has taken steps to make metal fuel plates with uranium it has enriched to 20% purity. This is banned by the “deal” with the world powers and marks a significant step toward the production of a nuclear bomb.

Desperate Departure. People struggle to cross the boundary wall of Hamid Karzai international airport as they try to flee the country (Photo EPA)

Such explosive revelations are worrying to a tiny country – the primary target of belligerent Iran.

As America’s longest war ends in ignominious defeat,  maybe its opportune to reflect on the cautionary counsel of the Chinese general, military strategist and philosopher  Sun Tzu who in his The Art of War wrote:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Fleeing in Fear. Women with their children try to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport
(Photograph: Reuters)

Reflecting on these words, does a such divided USA over so many far-reaching issues and grappling to understand its own national persona, truly understand the culture of its enemies?

Israel cannot afford the risk for such failures in monumental misunderstanding when it comes to Iran. The implications are existential.

Targeting Israel. A Shahab-3 long range missile (left) and Zolfaghar missiles (right), are displayed during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran on June 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

For Israel, a nuclear Iran hellbent on destroying the Jewish state,  cannot be understated. Will the fall of Kabul wize up a befuddled Washington on its perspective on Iran and herald the demise of the JCPOA?

Israelis are watching the news very attentively!








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).

Planting the Seeds to City Survival

Is urban farming a solution for South Africa?

By  Kenneth Mokgatlhe

It is estimated that nearly half of the adult population of South African live in poverty.

It was reported in April this year, 2021, that of the 60 million South Africans, 10.2 million experienced hunger on a weekly basis according to the Nids-Cram and approximately 2.4 million faced perpetual hunger. One viable way to address this is by developing backyard and rooftop gardens that are inexpensive to maintain. 

The rising unemployment figures and effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have worsened the hunger situation in South Africa. It is evident that hunger threatens social stability as evidenced by increased criminal activity as a direct effect of poverty.

It is time to think out of the box. Recently, the Jewish National Fund of South Africa (JNF-SA) hosted an important webinar:

Survival in our cities, food and water security – A South African crisis, is urban farming a solution?

It is unacceptable and should be embarrassing that our country has such an alarming number of its people enduring hunger.

Food for Thought. Israel and South African experts provide fascinating insights on the problem of food security in South Africa.

The National Income Dynamics Study Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (Nids-Cram) has collected data on a broadly nationally representative sample of South African households covering the period from May 2020 to March 2021. This is the period wherein the country has been under lockdown regulations with vast number of people losing their jobs or having had to take salary cuts.

Stressing the importance of food security as well as the quality of the food, webinar panelist Dr. Naude Malan, a senior lecturer at the University of Johannesburg’s Development Studies, said:

Supermarket food is pretty expensive compared to the food which we produce for ourselves. A farmer can actually make a really good living by selling food at less than retail/market prices and still dominate the competition. You will capture the market and create a livelihood.”

Through ConvenesiZindaba Zokudla (Conversations about Food), Dr.Malan is working with the local communities around the province of Gauteng to create opportunities for urban agriculture in a sustainable food system. 

Urban Renewal. Dr. Naude Malan from the University of Johannesburg’s Development Studies is working with the local communities around Gauteng to create opportunities for urban agriculture.

One of the beneficiaries of this noble project is a family from Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg who own a state-sponsored house referred to as “RDP”  – a house that was built as part of a government-funded social housing project. The family have converted their parking space into a garden which they are using to feed themselves and sell the surplus to the community for profit.

Panelist Siyabonga Ndlangamandla, a BSc in Biological Science graduate, is one of the vibrant young South Africans who are using their knowledge to solve hunger problems in many struggling black communities. He is a board member of an enterprising and innovative organisation called Makers Valley whose priorities are food security and social matters.

Back to Basics. Through Makers Valley (above), SiyabongaNdlangamandla is encouraging the local inhabitants to develop small gardens in their backyard.

What is disturbing for me is the food waste that we are experiencing in our cities. While there is so much food coming to our cities so much is not being consumed. That is one of our biggest challenges in the food system,” said Ndlangamandla.

Through Makers Valley, Ndlangamandla, has encouraged the local inhabitants to develop small gardens in their backyard. “Low-income communities are more likely to install a shack to rent it out than start a garden.” Over and above the food problem, “There is also a water problem in South Africa,” reminded Ndlangamandla.

Orange Alert. A project underway at the Orange Farm community 40km South of Johannesburg where the township  – one of the largest informal settlements in South Africa, with most estimates giving a population of 1 million people – faces challenges of poverty, low levels of literacy, lack of basic services, lack of health care facilities, unemployment  and increasing crime.

Not only a scarce resource in South Africa, water is also expensive  – especially in cities. Most, if not all community protests regarding service delivery are mainly about shortage or lack of water. This makes gardening or agriculture challenging for the weaker sectors of society.

Contributing to the panel discussion from Israelwas Dorit Chassid, a Sustainability Manager at Dizengoff Center shopping mall in Tel Aviv. She illuminated a path forward by presenting a whole host of the work that they are doing on the rooftop of the mall named after the city’s famous and first mayor, Meir Dizengoff.

Today, Dizengoff Center houses a variety of activities in the field of urban sustainability like hosting school kids for planting trees activity, investing in energy saving systems, a center for hydroponic urban gardening on the Centre’s roof and more.

High Rise Solutions.  Roof top cultivation on Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv.

Not having access to land is no excuse for not starting a garden project; there is the option of doing it on top of the roof on tables, with or without soil. 

We have school children whom we teach about sustainability; we have lots of tools and we bring people to see the work that we are doing,” explains Chassid. “We have bats and we teach people about the importance of bats into our ecosystem. We also have beehives on the rooftop; we do them in a natural way. We do not harvest honey, we do not do anything to harm the bees; we just let them be there,” said Chassid

We bring about 1, 500 children each year to plant small trees on the rooftop of the mall which we sell when they are ready for planting, and the money is donated all over Israel,” Chassid added.

Leading Light. Panelist from Israel, Sustainability Manager at Dizengoff Center shopping mall in Tel Aviv, Dorit Chassid.

No less inspirational was the insights and suggestions from the founder of Green Roof Designs (a specialized environmental design company), Dr. Clive Greenstone, who works on various projects that deal with urban design, sustainable development, urban ecology, urban resilience and urban landscape activation designs.

Offering tailor-made greening solutions to enhance building functionality and design, Green Roof Designs provides a complete greening scheme including green roofs and ground level planting schemes.

Dr. Greenstone said that there are large, flat, and empty rooftops that are abundant throughout South African cities on institutional, private, residential, industrial, municipal, and commercial buildings.

These underutilized spaces are ideal locations to rethink urban spaces and create urban greening advancements. Very little research has been done in reimagining the socio-environmental benefits of developing these underutilized spaces to improve human-environmental relations within the cities.”

Going Green. Dr Clive Greenstone (right) with his Green Team Green Roof in Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal in ‎2011.

Listening to these panelists on the JNF (SA) webinar, it was evident to this writer that one of the main ways to combat hunger in my country of South Africa is to develop backyard or rooftop gardens. Food that we buy from our supermarkets is not as cheap nor as healthy as the food we could and should grow ourselves in our backyards or rooftops. Every family should start a garden that will serve the family and the surplus could be sold to those who do not own a garden.

This is one of the sustainable ways to deal with the hunger and labour market challenges facing South Africa today.



About the writer:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Kenneth-Mokgatlhe1.png

Kenneth Mokgatlhe is a freelance writer and political commentator from Zeerust, North West Province, South Africa.








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

Pandemonium during a Pandemic

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

By David E. Kaplan

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

South Africa Erupts. Army called in to restore calm.

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

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

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

 “Where is the country heading?”

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

SOUTH AFRICAN JEWRY IN CRISIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Most significant was his nuanced message in the line:

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

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

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

However, has that ‘need’ arrived?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– government diplomacy

–  the judiciary

– media

– academia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But will the Jewish community “survive?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

The Days the Cameras Forgot

Palestinians have been protesting against the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority in Ramallah but the global media has been silent. Why?

By Rolene Marks

There is something that happening in the streets of Ramallah that is of huge significance – but has largely been ignored. The mainstream media have virtually turned a blind eye to it and it is not receiving the attention on social media from the armchair generals, social justice warriors and human rights aficionados that is should. What is this significant event I am talking about?

 For several weeks, hundreds of Palestinians have taken to the streets of Ramallah in protest against President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority over frustration and anger following years of corruption and intransigence.  Calls for Abbas to “get out” have resonated throughout the city and surrounding areas on a daily basis and have been met with brutal and often violent crackdowns by PA security forces. Images of protestors, including 5 female journalists, have been shared by brave activists, many of whom have received warnings for daring to expose this.

Not Budging. Despite pressure to resign since the death of Nizar Banat in custody that followed the President’s cancellation of the election that was to have been held in May, 2021, Mahmoud Abbas is standing firm.

Abbas, who is currently in his 17th year of his 4 year term, shows no signs of stepping down anytime soon and cancelled elections that were due to have taken place in May. This led to internationally recognised terror group, Hamas, using the opportunity to push for unrest and shore up their supporters in the West Bank and also conveniently, launching another conflagration with Israel. What ensued was 11 days of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas. Hamas fired over 4 300 rockets and projectiles into the Jewish state and Israel responded with a military offensive known as “Operation Guardians of the Wall”. We cannot dismiss that one of the objectives from Hamas was to grow its support base in the West Bank and also, to push for unrest inside of Israel. They succeeded. For several successive days, extremists from both the Jewish and Arab communities rioted and committed acts of violence against each other. Such unrest hadn’t been seen since the 1940’s. While this thankfully, has stopped, there is still a sense of deep mistrust.

Naturally, this captured the attention of a permanently salivating global media.

Sending Strong Message. Following Palestinian demonstrations over the death of Nizar Banat in Palestinian police custody, protestors in Ramallah are seen chanting for the departure of President Abbas and demanded an end to his rule. (Flash90)

What has precipitated these latest protests in Ramallah? Several weeks ago, Palestinian activist, Nizar Banat, died under mysterious circumstances while being taken into custody by Palestinians Authority security forces. Banat was a well-known critic of Abbas. His family have alleged that he was badly beaten during the raid. Hebron Governor Jamil al-Bakri said the public prosecution had issued a summons for Mr. Banat and that “during the arrest his health deteriorated“.

He was immediately transferred to the Hebron Government Hospital. After he was examined by doctors, he was pronounced dead,” he added, without commenting on the family’s allegations.

Voice Silenced. West Bank Palestinian and resident of Hebron Nizar Banat,  a prominent Abbas critic dies in PA custody after ‘vicious beating’ by officers. (Screenshot: Facebook)

But Nizar Banat’s cousin Ammar told the Middle East Eye that about 25 PA security personnel raided his house at about 03:30am. He alleged that officers stormed into the room where he was sleeping, sprayed him with pepper spray and then began beating him with iron bars and wooden batons. They later dragged him from the room, stripped him of his clothes and took him away in a vehicle, he added. Another cousin, Hussein, told Reuters news agency:

They kept beating him continuously for eight minutes. If you came to arrest him, take him. Why the brutality? And why the violence?”

Seeking Justice. Demonstrators on July 2, 2021, hold up images of the late Palestinian activist Nizar Banat, who died in late June during a violent arrest by Palestinian Authority security forces. (MOSAB SHAWER/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

Ammar said that about an hour and a half after the raid, the family learned through WhatsApp groups that Nizar Banat had died. He added that they had not been able to see his body at the hospital. “The announcement of his death at the hospital was a ruse,” he alleged.

Grieving Family. Nizar Banat’s family have alleged that he was badly beaten by Palestinian security forces. (Reuters)

That afternoon, hundreds took to the streets in protests that are still ongoing. The PA security brutality did not end with Banat – nor did crackdowns on anti-Abbas voices.

Israeli journalist, Khaled Abu Toameh, tweeted last week that the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation has suspended 10 employees over their social media comments regarding the circumstances around the death of Nizar Banat. Another 36 employees received warnings from the PA security forces for the same reason.

Why would they do that if there was nothing to hide?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet and the United States  have appealed to the PA to allow the protestors to carry on in peace, a request that seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

Ramallah Resistance. The appeal of UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet to the PA to allow the protestors to carry on in peace has fallen on deaf ears.

The Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees condemned what they called the ‘organized assaults’ by the security forces on Palestinian women. Three women were beaten by Palestinian security officers in Ramallah during a protest against the Palestinian crackdown on activists.

Riotous in Ramallah. In full protective gear, Palestinian security forces prevent protesters from reaching the PA’s headquarters in Ramallah.

Very soon, the U.N. Human Rights Council will hold its perennial meeting on Palestinian rights but it is unlikely that this will be discussed:

Is it because Israel cannot be blamed?

What does the future hold? It is unlikely that Abbas will step down – or call another election. Hamas is gaining more and more popularity and this not only threatens Abbas rule but also Israel’s security. But the people have spoken. The corruption and brutality is untenable. What is really sad is that not only are they being ignored by their leadership but the mainstream media, usually quick on the draw when it comes to Israel’s conflict  with the Palestinians, have been silent. It would appear that they have their lenses pointed elsewhere and when it comes to the plight of the people, the cameras have been switched off.









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).

Surfside Strong

By Ruthy Benoliel

It is hard to put into words the anguish that so many people in Miami and all over the world have suffered over the last two weeks since the collapse of Champlain Towers South on June 24, 2021. In seconds, our whole community was put to the most dreadful test ever imagined. The pain we feel is a surreal and an overwhelming sense of loss. As we watched the news over and over again, nothing made sense. Within hours our community came together to help support and comfort the bereaved families and pray for miracles.

People embrace at a makeshift memorial outside St. Joseph Catholic Church in Surfside on Monday, June 28. (The Associated Press)

Immediately, organizations and thousands of volunteers came together to collect, pack, deliver, feed, find accommodation, lend a helping hand, or be there to give a hug. People put a pause on their lives to be on call for whatever need arose. Teams of first responders from the USA and other countries, including police, firefighters, engineers, governmental authorities, mental health professionals, and our dear IDF rescue soldiers, became our hope. The search and rescue mission became the priority for all those heroes that not only had to deal with the consequences of the collapse, but with several fires, rain, hurricane winds, the shifting of the remaining structure, the controlled demolition of the left-over structure, and exasperation of not finding people alive. Each corner of our streets was filled with police, checkpoints, and access by car was almost impossible.

It felt like a war zone!

Soriya Cohen shows a picture of her husband, Brad Cohen, who she said was missing after the partial collapse of the 12-story condo tower that he was in on June 24, 2021 in Surfside, Florida.

     The human touch and sensitivity towards each other were always present. We witnessed IDF soldiers break down and cry; the sergeant who gave us the daily reports kept trying to control his tears, and rescue teams needing emotional help as this tragedy consumed their lives. Grieving families, rescue teams, volunteers, people from different faiths and religions became one.

Champlain Towers was extremely special for my family. It was my home for many years. It was the place where my husband picked me up on our first date, where we got engaged, where three of my four children were born, where beautiful memories were made and will never be erased. Many of my old neighbours, friends, and acquaintances were there the night of the collapse; some were spending only one night in the building.

Col. Golan Vach receives the honour of being called to the Torah.

Over the last two weeks, we all have felt numb, waiting for the next briefing to give the latest answers, holding hands, crying collectively, and feeling the agony of the victim’s families. There is nothing to be said that can alleviate this grueling pain.

A few days ago, the search and rescue mission transitioned into recovery with a moment of silence. When the IDF colonel spoke, he said:

 “Look at me in my eyes. I promise we did everything possible to find your loved ones.”

Even though there was despair and agony in hearing those words, there was gratitude and love that filled the room. Many have started to mourn their loved ones, who unfortunately did not survive this catastrophe.

There are no answers, just tears.

Rabbi Sholom Lipskar (right), of The Shul of Bal Harbour, prays during the search-and-rescue operation after the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside on Thursday, June 24, 2021, with Rabbi Mendy Levy(left), and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. (ALEXIA FODERÉ FOR MIAMI HERALD)

Where do we go from here? It will take an exceptionally long time to process what has happened and to ease this ache. I know for sure that we will be there for each other every step of the way. We are blessed to live in this loving community. We will forever have in our hearts the beautiful children, and people who perished on the collapse of Champlain Towers South, and we will continue to pray for their Neshamas.  (“souls”)

Surfside strong!











About the writer:

Ruthy Benoliel is Vice-President of WIZO USA and is based in Miami.









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

Shame, Shame, Shame, UCT?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Editor


UCT replies to Stephen Schulman:

Dear Stephen Schulman

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

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

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

Regards

Emeritus Professor Martin Hall

Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, Transformation

University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3,

Rondebosch, 7701 South Africa

Phone: 27 (0) 21 650 2175/6

martin.hall@uct.ac.za

dvc.transformation@uct.ac.za

www.uct.ac.za


Dear Professor Hall,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why this prevarication?

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

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

Why the silence?

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

The silence of UCT makes it complicit.

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

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

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

Yours faithfully,

Stephen Schulman





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).

A call to stop hate fell on deaf ears

The South African Muslim Judicial Council and South African Jewry

By Adv. Craig Snoyman

MEA CULPA!

I spent the last couple of weeks trying to hawk this article to South Africa’s main-stream media but to no avail – maybe too hot to handle.

I sent the article first to the newspapers that had first published the raging issue distressing the Jewish community, then to the larger media houses and eventually to the South African Jewish press. Maybe the language was too strong or too emotive, but then religious issues generally are.

I confess my sin in advance – hence Mea Culpa!

While there was no media interest – and one can question the reasons why – I believe it’s an important issue that needs to be aired.  So I took the article, dusted it off, spruced it up at little and here it is. Forgive me but this non-South African website, with a large South African readership, was at the back of the line.

While the issue is about the South African Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and South Africa Jewry, I believe it may well be of global interest. Anti-Israel voices have a habit of morphing into anti-Jewish voices. Ignoring incitement and hate-speech doesn’t solve problems. Incendiary cyber-messaging and vicious online-abuse isn’t going to stop on its own. Disinviting an Israeli-owned food truck from a Philadelphia food fair is not going to cause a stir unless the issue is aired. Inflammatory rabble-rousing demanding that a particular school, which has mixed Jewish-Muslim learner ratio have to debate the Israel-Palestine issue, while insisting that only a pro-Palestinian radical speaker participate, does not contribute to a climate of calm. The flood of antisemitic tropes – only some of them masquerading as anti-Zionism – can be anticipated to lead to violence against Jews in the streets; or BDS activists deciding that they won’t tolerate Israeli products in shops. Once antisemitic violence has happened, it can’t be undone.  Unfortunately, this behaviour is not only expected, but is clearly foreseeable.

It was for this reason that South Africa’s Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Warren Goldstein extended an olive branch of peace to the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and Jamiatul Ulama South Africa. He called on them, by all accounts privately and discretely, to sign a Joint Statement, in which they would publicly call on their  respective constituents to respect each other as citizens of South Africa; and not threaten each other  because  of  their differing views on the Middle East. What he was really asking for, was a public statement by the MJC calling on its constituents to stop harassing his flock and make the clear distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

It was a call stop the hate

Call it out so that it will stop.

The Muslim Judicial Council took the proffered olive branch, broke it in two and then poked the Chief Rabbi’s eye with it!

It was not the MJC‘s constituents that were being harassed or intimidated. They could speak from a position of strength, and they did. The MJC unequivocally and publicly rejected the Chief’s overture and their rejection published in the national papers. They also went running to the Anglican Archbishop seeking him to agree that the offending eye should be plucked out.

Really?

Why does the rejection of a request make by a Jew to a Muslim require the sanction of a Christian?

Reacting to Rabbi.  South Africa’s Muslim Judicial Council  publicly and scornfully rejected the Chief Rabbi’s overture for tolerance and understanding between their religious communities.

The MJC – in further justifying their decision not to issue a joint statement – stated that:

  “The stance by members of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, headed by Chief Rabbi Goldstein, is diametrically opposed to our moral position that most of the freedom-loving people have adopted in so far as it refers to condemning the violence and apartheid policies meted out against Muslim and Christian Palestinians on a daily basis by the apartheid regime in Israel.” 

Factually, the justification is incorrect. The Chief Rabbi has no official position in the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD). The SAJBD is a separate independent body.  The Chief Rabbi acted in his position as head of the Union of Orthodox Synagogues and as titular leader of the Jewish community. On several interfaith functions, where the MJC has participated as well, the Rabbi has acted in this capacity. It is therefore surprising, at the very least, that the MJC could make such a clearly fallacious allegation. But the statement goes further. There is an inferential blaming of the South African Jews for the actions of the regime in Israel.  This skates very close to, if not on, a long-existing, well-worn antisemitic canard, that  Jews can be denigrated simply because they hold the “wrong” position on Israel.

While the MJC added that it did not support or condone intimidation, threats or violence at any level and called on all peace-loving pro-Palestinian protesters to maintain the necessary discipline at all times, this was hardly the case and the Chief Rabbi  was, and is, well aware of the turbulence that has racked and continues to rack his community. Apart from two reported physical assaults – one a Jew, allegedly by Muslims returning from a pro-Hamas rally and one in a shopping centre largely frequented by Jews – the threats of death (“Khaybar, Khaybar, the army of Mohamed will return”, “We’ll finish off Hitler’s work”) the other vocal abuse ( e.g. “Nazi’s” “Zio-Nazi’s”) are in a completely different class to the very vocal  chant of “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free”. Virtually every Jewish personality in South Africa with a public profile was overwhelmed with vitriolic antisemitic (as opposed to Anti-Zionist ) comments on their social media sites. The spate of  the vicious antisemitism that flooded social media may have died down, but it has not disappeared. There are still calls NOT to serve Jews, from certain shop-owners.  Most, if not all of this, seems to have originated from the MJC‘s constituency. The ongoing call to boycott Jewish citizens because they are stereo-typed as  supporters of  Israel  and the call for consumers to stop shopping at stores because they stock Israeli product, is also unabated. That the Chief Rabbi felt that the need to reach out to the Muslim leaders is understandable. One can be reasonably sure that these issues and perceived consequences, were raised by him in discussion. However, the MJC‘s bland response calling on “all peace-loving pro-Palestinian protesters to maintain the necessary discipline”  does not adequately address the issue; and allows for simmering intolerance.

Sowing the Seeds of Discord. Inviting the conflicts of the Middle East into South Africa.

When one looks at the MJC‘s declaration, stating that they do not condone violence and intimidation, it does not address cyber-hate  or ongoing threats to Jewish South Africans or even the relationship between Muslim and Jewish South Africans. Only the MJC‘s “peace-loving pro-Palestinian protesters” (does one hear of any other type of protesters?) are called on to maintain discipline. The issue of private individual conduct is not dealt with, nor is the aspect of on-line hate and other forms of specific ethnic harassment or ethnic interaction. The MJC could not have been oblivious to them. It issued a “catch-all” boiler plate statement to be wheeled out for all occasions.

Stocking Hatred of Jews. Demonstrators marching through the city centre in Cape Town on May 12, 2021 holding banners falsely accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza while ignoring the over 4000 rockets fired from Gaza into civilian areas in Israel.(RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images.)

The casual attitude taken by the MJC is confusing and a matter for concern. On the one hand its position seems to be: “Yes we acknowledge that there should be respect and tolerance between the different religions in South Africa”  while on the other hand it states that  “we cannot be seen to agree with you publicly on the issue of peace and tolerance, because then  we would be betraying the Palestinian cause”. 

These positions are a non-sequitur! 

  • Can one not support peace and tolerance in South Africa and still support the Palestinian cause? 
  • Can one say that one is obliged to refuse to sign a document supporting peace and tolerance because to sign it constitutes a betrayal of the “Palestinian cause”?
  • Can one say that the MJC‘s position is that the “Palestinian cause” is more important to the MJC than peace and tolerance between Jew and Muslim in South Africa?
  • Can one say that the MJC‘s position is that it is not necessary for the incidents of abuse of Jews by Muslims in South Africa does not need to be called out in an effective manner?

All of these propositions would seem to be justified.

The MJC then takes the matter a step beyond a domestic national issue of ethnic tolerance. Rather than address the issue directly,  the MJC deflects and introduces foreign politics and “the Palestinian cause into the equation or  can  one say  the Palestinian cause is made the totality of the equation?

How should one understand “the Palestinian cause” and “support for the besieged people of Gaza”? Does support for the besieged people of Gaza also include support for Hamas, an internationally recognised terrorist organisation, which rules the territory? 

Quo Vadis? Chief Rabbi calls on Muslim religious leaders in SA to issue joint call for tolerance over Gaza conflict was totally rejected.

Do they support the firing of over 4 300 rockets toward civilian targets in Israel from the Gaza strip? The MJC is silent on the issue of the conduct of Hamas but embraces the noble Palestinian cause as “a dignified struggle that requires demonstrating the highest integrity and discipline”. Is Hamas viewed as being included within this dignified struggle? Is Hamas – whose charter declares it seeking the destruction of Israel – also part of the dignified struggle of the noble Palestinian cause which it embraces? 

Where does one draw the line?

And why should this political opinion affect its conduct and attitude toward the safety of South African Jewry?

The MJC is aware of the opinion of its constituents in South Africa.   Numerous rally posters called for “Free Palestine”  nd  “From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free”. The MJC has not disassociated itself from these sentiments. So what is this noble Palestinian cause which requires a dignified struggle of the highest integrity and discipline?

Is it supporting one Palestinian state from the river to the sea, necessitating the elimination of the State of Israel?

Or is it supporting the existence of an independent Palestinian state, co-existing with an independent Jewish state of Israel?

Or should one then accept that the MJC support of the “noble cause” includes the violent overthrow of the Jewish state and condones the launching of rockets against Israel’s civilians? 

Does the noble cause include Hamas’ fundamental position that Jews are to be killed wherever in the world they are to be found?  By rejecting the offer of peace between South African Jews and South African Muslims in favour of the “noble Palestinian cause”, is the MJC stating that the noble cause includes the elimination of Jews in South Africa? 

Is the MJC conflating antisemitism and  anti-Zionism?.

The seemly-obligatory defamatory attack on the State of Israel by the MJC is revealing. The public and political posturing of the MJC could only be for public consumption for a simple and polite rejection to Rabbi Goldstein would have been adequate. It is clear that the MJC‘s battle is one to win hearts and minds of third parties. Why the need to falsely declare Israel an Apartheid state, which is a distortion of the facts as well as a distortion of the definition of Apartheid?

Clearly there is a battle to win over the Christian communities. It sought support from the Anglican Archbishop in order to solicit an unconditional Christian endorsement of the Muslim rejection. So the MJC went public; they rejected the Jews and sought the endorsement of the Christians.

The South African Jews, save for Chief Rabbi Goldstein, almost – unforgivably – kept quiet!

So again to spell it out. Israel is not an Apartheid state, even if it is a catchy jingle. Every Arab citizen of Israel has the same political rights as any other citizen of Israel. There was never an African party allowed to represent its constituents in parliament during the period of Apartheid. Robert  Sobukwe was never offered a position in B. J. Vorster’s  Nationalist cabinet. However, Arab parties have been in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, since the inception of the State of Israel. Mansour Abbas and his Ra’am Arab Islamist  political party are part of a new Israeli government, with Abbas an equal amongst equals. Any specific allegation of Apartheid can be easily refuted.

Distortion and Deception

Following the MJC emotively and publicly seeking the support of the Christian community with its inflammatory false allegations against Israel, it was left to the Chief Rabbi to warn South African Christians to be on guard and at least question what was being fed to them by the MJC.

Those well versed in what is happening in the Middle East know the true situation of Christians living under Muslim rule. While there are more Christians living under Israeli rule than there have ever been, the same cannot be said for Christians under Palestinian rule.  In Palestinian Gaza, the Christian population had dropped from 5,000 to under 1,000 in 2018. From 5% of the population under the control of the Palestinian Authority, the Christians now constitute less than 2% and the Christian population in the disputed territories continues to decrease. In the “little town of Bethlehem” the beleaguered Christians once constituted over 80% of the  population. Today, under the Palestinian Authority they now count at less than 10,000 or less than 10% of the city’s population and continues to decrease. This is the real “Christ at the Crossroads” and has nothing to do with Israel as the MJC would like South African Christians believe.

The Chief Rabbi sought to protect his flock from foreseeable harm and alleviate a climate of increasing hostility. He extended a gesture of peace. The MJC scorned it.

The Chief Rabbi sought to avoid the issue of religious sectarian hate, violence and intimidation arising in South Africa. The MJC chose instead to play politics, importing issues of the Middle East into South Africa.

The Chief Rabbi called for a statement of peace. The MJC chose the Palestinian cause over peace.

The Chief Rabbi opened his hand in peace. The MJC redefined the concept of peace and figuratively spat on his hand.

Resolute Rabbi. Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein who had earlier stood up to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s anti-Israel statement in the media, when asked for Muslim leadership to join him in calling for tolerance and non-violence was met with angered rejection.

It is time that the Muslim Judicial Council come forward and set out its position publicly, in the same way it did when it summarily dismissed Chief Rabbi Goldstein’s approach.  Where does it stand  and what lines are crossed if one calls for ethnic tolerance in South Africa? Similarly, having announced that it supports the “noble Palestinian Cause”, one should be able to understand if this a policy rather than a slogan. If support for a distant Palestinian cause is preferable over peace and tolerance toward fellow South African citizens who happen to be Jewish what then is the MJC‘s attitude toward Christians who are also supporters of Israel? Will they too be attacked or are they too large a group to be bullied as was the case with South Africa’s Chief Justice, who also called for peace in Jerusalem? Are they also to be sacrificed on the high altar of the Palestinian cause? The Muslim Judicial Council’s strategy of public rejection has a concurrent obligation – a reasonable explanation not simple slogans of “noble Palestinian causes”. 

Talk policy, don’t mouth slogans! 




About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.





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