Trying To Pull The ‘Wool’ Over Africa’s Eyes

BDS South Africa’s wraps Palestinian headscarf over African continent in new logo

By David.E. Kaplan

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In the midst of the global Coronavirus crisis, BDS South Africa in its online newsletter dated March 20, announced that following consultations with several of its partners “in South Africa and on the African continent,” that the organisation will henceforth function under the name:

Africa for Palestine (AFP)”

While Africa is focused on protecting its populations from a killer virus, BDS South Africa is promoting and facilitating another kind of killer virus –  antisemitism, but now not only in South Africa but across the African continent.

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Antisemitism Over The Air. In this meme shared in March 2020, the coronavirus is depicted as being Jewish men.

Such is the ambition of BDS South Africa – excuse, Africa for Palestine!!!

With the African continent joining the world in trying to protect and save lives, BDS SA is moving in the opposite diabolical direction. What’s more, it brazenly does not disguise its nefarious intent as emblazoned in its new LOGO, with the entire continent of Africa ENVELOPED by a  Palestinian keffiyeh.

Does Africa really want to be branded by the headdress popularized by the likes of the late Yasser Arafat and the airline hijacker, Leila Khaled, the female member of the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine?

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The Plane Truth. Hardly a role model for today in Africa, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacker Leila Khaled brandishing her firearm.

Of course not.

Who can forget the photographs of Khaled wearing the keffiyeh circulated in the Western newspapers after the hijacking of TWA Flight 840 and the Dawson’s Field hijackings.

In a continent committed to a better future of science, technology and innovation, branding with yesteryear’s  terrorism is not the way to go.

Does BDS South Africa really believe that Africa is gullible to this attempted “Hostile Takeover” as they graphically  articulate in its new spine-chilling logo?

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Under The Microscope. The message of this meme of a microbe is that “Zionism” not Coronavirus is the “deadliest virus on earth”.

The people of Africa will see through this façade of deception!

Coronavirus does not distinguish between nations and religions, between Jews and Arabs and yet BDS South Africa  is  diabolically and deceptively exploiting the virus to fan antisemitism and defame the Jewish state with fabrications.

 So while since March 19, 2020:

the Israeli government has sent hundreds of coronavirus testing kits to the Palestinian Authority and Gaza as well as 2,000 protective suits and twenty tons of disinfectants and 100 liters of sanitizing gel

Israeli doctors and specialists have been dispatched to the West Bank city of Jericho to train Palestinian medical teams to save lives in combating the coronavirus pandemic

Palestinian Authority officials Ahmed Deek and Hussein al Sheikh – responsible for cooperation between the PA and Israel – praised Israel’s assistance, particularly the Israeli government’s honoring of the PA’s request to provide accommodations in Israel for 45,000 Palestinian worker-commuters from the West Bank to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection

and:

The UN Security Council issuing a formal statement welcoming Israeli Palestinian cooperation against Corona stating that it “provided a blueprint for renewed peace talks” none of these Israeli measures had any impact on BDS South Africa’s leadership who proceeded to serve its regular platter of conspiratorial accusations against Israel, as part of its 2020 annual “Israel Apartheid Week”.

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Riveting Revelation. Israeli Arab, Yosef Haddad (left) vs BDS South Africa’s founder Mohammed Desai on national South African TV on the 19 March 2020.

On March 19, when Israel announced it was considering a complete lockdown over coronavirus, BDS South Africa’s founder Mohammed Desai, charged Israel with refusing to issue vital life-saving instructions in Arabic to Arabic speaking citizens and residents of the Jewish state. However, Desai’s accusation was immediately revealed as false on South African national television by the TV debate’s other guest, Israeli Arab, Yoseph Haddad, who called Desai a “liar”.

Said Hadad:

As an Arab Israeli, I got the instructions in Arabic; SO STOP LYING.”

He then proceeded to ask the founder of BDS South Africa, who advocates boycotts of Israel whether he would himself  boycott  Israel in the following scenario:

 “Israel today is working on a vaccine for Coronavirus. Should it discover a vaccine, would you use it?”

Mumbling and digressing in trying to dodge the question, Haddad persisted for an answer:

“Would you use it – Yes or No. The question is simple”

The BDS South Africa head refused to answer and then concluded with this disgusting yet revealing comment:

 “Israel’s expertise should not be used as an exercise of blackmail.”

He knew he had been exposed as the fraud he is, as is the organisation he founded and heads, and now seeks to re-brand or disguise!

There is also no “disguising” the true Mohammed Desai when one takes a closer at the print on the white T-shirt he wore for this debate on national TV’s prime time:

Beneath the large colorful Google logo, appears the Search Box with Israel typed in and then the question:

Did you mean Palestine?”

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True Colours Revealed. Mohammed Desai, founder of BDS South Africa wearing an offensive T-shirt negating the state of Israel in a debate on South African national television.

Clearly, the founder of BDS South Africa shares the same sentiments as the cofounder of the global BDS movement Omar Barghouti when he said:

The two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is finally dead. But someone has to issue an official death certificate before the rotting corpse is given a proper burial… Good riddance!”

For BDS South Africa’s founder – there is no partnership, no coexistence, no Jewish State; there is no Israel!  

All this finally begs the question:

Why  has BDS South Africa changed its name to the preposterous and presumptuous –  ‘Africa for Palestine’?

The answer lies not in any success but due to its failure.

BDS South Africa is rebranding because its hateful and hurtful message no longer resonates with most the of people of South Africa.

Rather than a  “rose”, the newly morphed BDS South Africa is  but:

“A Reptile By Another Name”

 

 

At 2:40 minutes into this short video clip, Israeli-Arab Yosef Haddad asks the head of BDS South Africa, Mohamed Desai whether he would use an Israeli-made coronavirus antidote.

“Shaken, Not Stirred”

Aliyah In The Age Of Covid-19

Israel must be the only country in the world that is today welcoming new immigrants

By David E. Kaplan

In a country where its friendly citizens typically love to kiss and warmly embrace, “social distancing” is now the name of the game. Schools, universities, kindergartens, movie theaters, restaurants, pubs, gyms, parks, libraries, museums and beaches are now off limits. “All social interactions,” says the Ministry of Health should be conducted on the phone or by other digital means. Pessimistically paraphrasing the  iconic line from the 1970 romantic movie ‘Love Story’, Israel’s Prime Minister appeals:

Love is keeping your distance

As the novel Coronavirus pandemic continues to proliferate, each day brings with it new challenges and restrictions for Israeli society. Where one day the restriction is not to meet anywhere where there are NOT more than ten people present, the next day it is not to meet at all – unless it’s a dire emergency.

Where one day an instruction is an appeal, the next it is a pre-emptory order.

“This is not a game. It’s a matter of life and death,” asserted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his update on Tuesday.

And yet, there is something quite unique about Israel. Despite  the dwindling few still entering the country going straight into a mandatory 14-day quarantine, new immigrants (olim) are still arriving at Ben Gurion Airport with Israel absorbing them like returning family.

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One ‘FLU’ Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Like something out of the movies, travelers wearing masks chat in the arrivals terminal after Israel said it will require anyone arriving from overseas to self-quarantine for 14 days as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus at Ben Gurion International airport near Tel Aviv, Israel. (photo credit: REUTERS/RONEN ZEVULUN)

In the first half of March 2020, 163 immigrants arrived in the country, according to the Jewish Agency’s statistics.

One of them is Craig Evans from Sasolburg in South Africa who came with his wife Meghan and their 9-year-old-son. An older 14-year-old daughter, Jade, was already in Israel, enrolled at the Mosenson School in Hod Hasharon. The first Craig and Meghan heard that they would have to go directly from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport into quarantine was when they were standing in the departure queue at the A1 gate at Oliver Tambo International Airport. “There we were, about to board our El Al flight and we received a phone call from the Israel Centre in Joburg informing us and that there would probably be no-one in Israel to officially welcome and process us through immigration. We must make our way alone as best we could and then head straight to our apartment and wait for someone to contact us!”

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The Evens Family. New immigrants to Israel, Meghen and Craig Evens and their children Kai and Jade from Sasolburg, South Africa.

Like the intrepid MI6 agent of “Shaken, but not stirred’ fame,  Craig told Lay Of The Land “Yes, obviously we were concerned but there was no turning back. Our minds and our destination were determined. We were going to Israel, and contrary to the warning, we received 5-star treatment. They literally welcomed us from the moment we got off the plane in Israel. We were met by the representative from Telfed and the Jewish Agency who stood there holding aloft a sign with our names on and who then guided us through the process of receiving all our necessary documentation – most importantly for Kupat Holim (health care provider). We were out of the airport in 30 minutes;  and then the rep organized a huge transport vehicle for all our masses of baggage and in less than one hour, we were  in our apartment in Netanya.”

So how did it feel for this on-line marketing man and dance teacher wife to be alone in quarantine in a new country?

“Who’s alone? We have an incredible circle of friends  all over the country as well as new friends. Within 40 minutes of arrival, there was a knock on the door from the local South African community to welcome us and bring food.  We have been inundated with people contacting us, even if only over the phone or through the narrow gap of the front door.” Seeing “a silver lining” in the situation, “if it was not for the quarantine, we would never have met so many new people. This would never happen anywhere else in the world.”

Immigration to Israel is a complex process and during a global health crisis even more so. “We are advising people to postpone their immigration, but it’s not so easy,” explains the South African immigrant organisation, Telfed’s CEO, Dorron Kline. “People have sold their homes and cars and even so, people want to come and are determined to brave these challenging times. Whatever they decide, Telfed will be there for them,” asserts Dorron. “Telfed was born in challenging times when it was established in 1948 during Israel’s War of Independence and we are at war now against an unseen enemy and we are all ready to meet this challenge.”

Such determination is evident with a young man immigrating next month  from South Africa who will be going straight into the IDF. “Not only is he still determined to enlist during these trying times,” says Dorron,  “but he wants to come earlier to Israel to enable him to complete his 14-day quarantine period before his call-up date.” Only the day before, “we had a 19-year-old, young woman from Australia who just made Aliyah, so yes, despite the situation, people are still coming.”

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Fear Of Coronavirus. Usually crowded with tourists, the empty square outside the Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on March 16, 2020. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Even with the enormous pressures on Telfed’s staff who are alternating between working from home and the head office in Ra’anana, “we are calling all immigrants who arrived in the last six months from South Africa and Australia  to  find out how they are coping and if their need any assistance. We have also created a special Coronavirus platform on our  Telfed website where people can on-line ask for any assistance and others in the community can volunteer to help them. We are connecting those in need with those who can help.”

An example of how successfully the project works, Dorron sites “a new South African immigrant who was in quarantine and who ran out of her medicine. She posted this on the Telfed website  and in a few minutes, someone responded and offered to go the pharmacy and bring her the medicine.”

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Welcome To Israel. An empty arrival hall at Ben-Gurion International Airport on March 11, 2020. Photo by Flash90.

Yael Katsman, Vice President of Public Relations and Communication at Nefesh B’Nefesh – which supports Aliyah from North America and the UK –  told The Jerusalem Post earlier in the week that in spite of the coronavirus crisis and despite the restrictive conditions, “Aliyah is continuing. We have a group of 24 olim arriving Thursday who are going to be remotely processed, which is a first.” The composition of the group are of diverse backgrounds and ages – families, retires and singles and that only a few of the elderly had decided to postpone. And as to the immediate future, Katsman says that in the period leading up to Passover in April, “We are expecting about 60 to 70 olim. At the moment, a very positive indicator is that people who had planned to come are still coming regardless of this new reality.”

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Happy To Be Home. American David Bassous, who made aliyah from Highland Park, N.J. Credit: Courtesy.

One recent arrival is David Bassous who made aliyah over a week ago from Highland Park, N.J. “I didn’t realize how hard quarantine would be,” he admits. “The hardest part being unable to go outside or see the kids and grandchildren.”

However, he  figured that Israel “is one of the safest places to be right now because of its proactive policy—one of the strictest in the world.” Nevertheless  “I was still shocked when I landed and witnessed Ben-Gurion Airport deserted.”

Still, says Bassous, he’s “so happy to be home after a 2,500-year exile.”

There are a lot of Jews around the world  – Coronavirus or not – who share his enthusiasm. They can live for a while being two meters apart from the next person, but not being apart from their ancestral homeland.

 

 

At this time of difficulty and danger, here is a  Healing Prayer from Jerusalem

 

 

 

*Feature Picture: New Immigrants to Israel Jump Right In to Coronavirus Quarantine – Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau, World Chairman of KKL-JNF Daniel Atar, and Co-Founder of Nefesh B’Nefesh Tony Gelbart with Olim moving to Israel’s periphery (photo credit: SHAHAR AZRAN COURTESY OF NEFESH B’NEFESH)

Thank You, EU

By Irwin Blank

I have a message for the EU, a little bit of Israeli history that I believe is quite appropriate right now after their action to boycott all Israeli businesses, products and services that are located in Yehudah and Shomron.

You know, the history of boycotting the Jewish people isn’t new, but I will not dwell on the distant past, I will take you to April 1, 1933. On that day, the Nazi Party (NSDAP) that had seized control of the German nation, decided to launch a mass boycott of all Jewish businesses, professionals like doctors and dentists, and educated men and women who taught at Germany’s universities and colleges. This was the primary and first governmental anti-Semitic act of the new government-and what did it achieve?

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Boycott Jews. At the windows of Jewish shops, posters are issued by National Socialists with the request “Germans, resist, do not buy from Jews” April 1933 (photo credit: GEORG PAHL / GERMAN FEDERAL ARCHIVES / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Well, firstly it brought Albert Einstein to the United States and it laid the groundwork for the most massive pre-statehood immigration of Jews into the homeland. In 1935, 61,834 Jews from Germany and Central Europe, fleeing for their lives, made the trek to the former British Mandate and what did they bring with them other than the meager belongings that they were permitted to carry on their persons. Let’s see, they brought the talent that would create the now, Israel Philharmonic, the boycott brought dozens of doctors, dentists, lawyers, and university lecturers to what had been, for the most part, a tiny agrarian, socialist economy that had not been able to attract this caliber of person, and it laid the foundations for a burgeoning middle class that would build hundreds of factories, create the groundwork for huge industrial enterprises and give renewal and revival to dozens of established and soon to be established, vibrant communal settlements all over the country.

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Topsy-Turvy. Back in the 1930s when Jews were Palestinians they were boycotted by Arabs.

But why stop there? In 1936, the Arab Higher Committee (the organization of anti-Jewish terrorists of its day) called a general strike all over the mandate that closed shops and factories and ports and impoverished the local Arab community by threatening to murder any Arab that dared to go to work or open his shop or harvest and sell his produce. So, what was the Jewish answer to this boycott? Well, we brought thousands of Greek Jews from Thessaloniki (Salonica) and other Greek ports where the Jews were the dockworkers, the stevedores, the longshoremen, and WE answered the Arab strike with the creation of the port of Tel Aviv, which had no port previously. We built a Jewish owned shipping industry and built what is today the Israel Shipyards – one of the largest shipbuilding and repair facilities in the eastern Mediterranean. We expanded and built new Jewish owned and operated businesses and our farms grew to take up the slack and maintain the market that the Arab boycott had shuttered.

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Israeli Sea’lutions. Since 1959, Israel Shipyards Ltd has been providing seaworthy solutions for the Naval and commercial marine markets.

With the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the Arab League opened the Office for the Boycott of Israel in Damascus, where it is still located today. The member states of the Arab League  threatened to seize any business and boycott any individual that dared to do invest or build in the Jewish state. They also refrained from opening their markets to Israeli goods and refused our ships docking privileges in their ports. So, what did we do? WE created an Israeli shipping line, the ZIM line, to carry our goods all over the world. WE built the port of Eilat to bypass the Suez Canal and deal with the new nations of Africa and Asia. WE improvised, adapted and overcame by building an economy whose products and services would be demanded by the civilized world and this brought us investment, venture capital and billions in outright donations that has created an economic powerhouse in a nation so small, so lacking in natural resources, that today, Israel’s shekel is among the strongest currencies traded anywhere in the world. International corporations that have brought their major R&D centers here, like Intel, Microsoft and Cisco Systems, where entrepreneurs from all over the world have invested billions of dollars in Israeli companies, as has Warren Buffet, who made his first ever, international investment to the tune of $4 BILLION in an Israeli company in the Western Galilee that makes, among other items, the blades for jet engines and razors. Israel has more businesses listed on NASDAQ than Western Europe, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea combined, and more startups than America’s Silicon Valley which is represented in EVERY Israeli city. Personally, I don’t believe that Kirk Douglas, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe or the Disney Corporation were really upset that their films could not be shown in Beirut, Damascus, Ammann or Cairo. Even, “Cleopatra,” could  not be shown in the Arab world because its star Elizabeth Taylor was a Jew.

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Intel in Kiryat Gat, Israel.

But, let’s get to the present, shall we? Over 25,000 “Palestinian” Arabs work in Yehudah and Shomron, all of them receive the same pay as their Israeli equivalents in the same industry, they all get National Insurance benefits, health care and, most importantly, they get paid regularly. I know this for a fact as I see the Arabs who work for my town, line up at the local branch of Bank Le’umi and collect their wages on the 5th of every month. These workers support their families and the EU is threatening the livelihoods of the very folks it wants to grant independence too? How can they ever be independent if by your boycott you force the places where they work  to re-locate within the “Green Line”?

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Microsoft’s campus in Haifa, Israel.

Will your anti-Semitic boycott make us leave our land? Will this act of pernicious Jew hatred weaken our resolve? History teaches us otherwise. More Jews will come to Yehudah and Shomron, build new factories and new farms and new communities. Israeli exports are ever increasing, if not to the creeping decrepitude that is so obvious in a dying, Islamicized Europe, devoid of courage and full of cowardice and prejudice, but to the growing economic powerhouses of India, China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea-Israel’s economic future and success is in the East, in the Pacific Rim and all over a sleeping giant continent called Africa.

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Showing The Way. In hospitals, schools and businesses, Israeli Arabs, Jews and Palestinians are working side by side to forge a better future. Seen here is Siham Sheble Masarwa, an Israeli Arab and head technician of Hadassah Ein Kerem’s catheterisation lab, teaching Jewish Israeli students. (Photograph: Kate Shuttleworth/The Guardian)

Your boycotts have strengthened us, your hatred has united us and your utter contempt for truth and your obeisance to hypocrisy and cowardice has made you contemptible and beyond rescue.

And, to top it all off (to use a gas station phrase) maybe Moses made the correct turn after all, for we have found natural gas deposits that are in the trillions of cubic meters, and, dare I say the word, OIL! Sure, it’s shale, but with all your technological universities and research centers being urged to cut their ties with us, I guess we’ll just have to put our Jewish heads together and solve the problem ourselves, in typical Israeli fashion-after all, you have always forced us too. Thanks again.

 

 

image001 (11).pngIrwin Blank was born in NYC in 1952 and has a BA in Political Science from Colombia University NY. He was part of the Speakers’ Bureau American Zionist Youth Foundation and editor of the Zionost Organization of America. He made Aliyah in July 2008 and lives in Maaleh Adumim.

The Belgium Connection

The relationship between Israel and Belgium once enriching is now troubling and turbulent

By David E. Kaplan

Present relations between Israel and Belgium are worrying. This past February, we saw at the annual carnival in the Belgian town of Aalst, a procession featuring Nazi uniforms, costumes of Jews as vermin despite the fact that the Nazis deported about 25,000 Jews from occupied Belgium to the Auschwitz death camp, where most were murdered. This followed a float in the previous year’s parade depicting puppets of hook-nosed orthodox Jews with rats sitting on money bags that led to UNESCO withdrawing it from its “intangible cultural heritage” list.

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A closer look at Belgium.

This February also saw Israel angry at Belgium for what Jerusalem said was a systematic campaign to demonize the Jewish state at the United Nations by using its privilege of holding the rotating presidency of the council in February by inviting speakers who hold anti-Israel bias.

However, despite recent hiccups, Israel and Belgium have enjoyed an enriching relationship revealing some fascinating history.

When famed Israeli football coach Guy Luzon – currently managing of Maccabi Petah Tikva – was appointed the coach of the Belgium football club Standard Liège in 2013, it reflected a long and enriching relationship between the Benelux country and the State of Israel.

While few in Belgium had ever heard of Luzon before he took Standard Liège close to winning the national title, few in Israel, knew too much about Belgium, beyond its chocolates, waffles and beer and for the more politically attuned that Brussels is the capital of the EU.

Food for Thought

While there are many restaurants in Israel offering European, Asian and American cuisine, has anyone ever seen a Belgium restaurant?

Curious as to what food is typically Belgium, this writer put the question to Sophie Katz from Tel Aviv who grew up in Antwerp, which is Belgium’s second largest city and has a Jewish community numbering some 18,000 people.

“French fries,” she replied. Hardly what this writer would have guessed as typically Belgium!

Contrary to conventional wisdom, ‘fries’ – that is, deep-fried chipped potatoes – are thought to have originated in Belgium. This revelation is substantiated by a book entitled Curiosités de la table dans les Pays-Bas-Belgiques written in 1781, which described how inhabitants of Namur, Dinant and Andenne around the Meuse River had eaten fried potatoes since around 1680.

Though made popular across the globe by the United States as “French Fries”, it is believed – without casting aspersions on American’s understanding of world geography – that Yank soldiers during the First World War erroneously thought they were being served the dish in France. In their defense, the way that trench war shifted, borders were somewhat blurred!

War has a way of shifting lives.

In the spring of 1943, the Jewish Defense Committee in Belgium conceived a bold plan to halt a deportation train to Auschwitz. Having learned the exact date and time of an impending deportation from the Mechelen transit camp, the resistance planned for action. On the night of April 19, 1943, as the train began its journey to Auschwitz, three members of a resistance unit sprang into action. Under the command of a young Jewish physician, Georges Livchitz, the group forced the train to stop by signaling it with a red lantern. Livchitz held the engineer at bay with a small caliber revolver, while his comrades forced open the doors of several cars. Under a hail of gunfire from the German guards, some prisoners escaped, some of whose descendants made their way to Israel.

Friends Indeed

Belgium stood with Israel at its moment of rebirth in 1947, when it voted in favor of UN resolution 181 calling for the partition of British-ruled Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Following this, on January 15, 1950, Belgium recognized the State of Israel and ever since, the relations between Israel and Belgium have been friendly, as evidenced by the numerous reciprocal high-profile visits and tokens of friendship.

Most notable was the 1959 visit of Queen Elizabeth of Belgium, the grandmother of the present king, who helped save Jews during World War II and was granted the title of “Righteous among the Nations” by Yad Vashem. In welcoming her, Israel’s president Yitzhak Ben Zvi referred to her as “our great and faithful friend”.

Literally ‘cementing’ this relationship, a plaque in memory of her husband King Albert I, was unveiled in February 2010 at the Albert Square in Tel Aviv in the presence of the mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Ron Huldai, and Ambassador Bénédicte Frankinet.

There was good reason to honor the King. On a visit to Palestine in 1933, he stood beside Tel Aviv’s first mayor, Meir Dizengoff, and expressed his deep support for the renewal of Jewish life in its ancestral homeland.

In the ensuing years, particularly following the late King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola’s meeting Israeli president Zalman Shazar when they came on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1964, there has been a steady flow of Belgian ministers visiting Israel on official business and Israeli counterparts welcomed in Belgium.

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Royal Pilgrimage. Parting ceremony for Baudouin, King of Belgium, and his wife Queen Fabiola in the presence of President of Israel Zalman Shazar, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and Minister of Foreign Affairs Golda Meir, February 16, ’64.

Many cultural, scientific and economic bilateral agreements have been signed over the years between the two countries. Several Belgium-Israel friendship associations organize activities in both countries to promote and strengthen bilateral relations.

Each year, a number of scholarships are granted to Israeli students to study in Belgian universities and Belgian students also come to study in Israel each year thanks to scholarships offered by Israel. The faculty club and guesthouse of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, known as Beit Belgia, was built with the financial aid of the Belgian Friends of the Hebrew University. Sylvain Brachfeld, a Holocaust survivor, is a well-known journalist for the Belgian and Israeli press and is an expert on Belgian Jewry. He immigrated to Israel in 1974 and writes extensively on Belgian Jewish history. In his most recent book ‘200 Years of the Jewish Community of Antwerp’, he writes about the contribution of Belgian Jews to the State of Israel, both philanthropically and “how immigrants from Belgium have excelled in Israel in varied fields.”

Belgium is one of Israel’s most important commercial partners (largely due to the diamond industry) and a great number of Israeli companies have their European headquarters there as well.

Following impressive bilateral trade between the two countries, in March 2010, Israel and Belgium signed a new tax treaty agreement to improve the competitiveness of Israeli companies operating in Belgium and to encourage Belgian investment in Israel.

A ‘sporting’ example of this relationship was the 2013 ‘export’ to Belgium of Guy Luzon as coach of the Belgium football club Standard Liège.

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Field Of Dreams. Israeli coach Guy Luzon (3th from left) coaching the Belgium football club Standard Liège in 2013 (© Photo News)

A Gem of a City

Since the fifteenth century, when Antwerp Jewish diamond cutter, Lodewyk van Berken, invented the scaif, diamond cutting has been a major traditional Jewish craft both in Israel and in Belgium. “As I recall,” says Sophie Katz, “most of the fathers of my friends were one way or another connected to the diamond history in Antwerp.”  This corroborates with records showing that in the second half of the 20th century, the diamond industry was emerging as the main occupation for the Jews of Antwerp. Today, most of them remain either high skilled artisans who specialize in executing the most professional stages in the process of turning raw diamonds into high quality precious stones or merchants who are connected to the global network of diamond trade. “The diamond bourses of Antwerp are located inside the Jewish districts of the city and are closed on Friday afternoons before the onset of Shabbat (the Sabbath) and are deserted during Jewish holidays.”

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Antwerp Diamond Trade. Some 1,500 diamond firms and hundreds of cutting factories are located in the port city.

In recent years, changes in the world diamond industry have brought about a decline in the importance of Antwerp with resulting in a diminishing influence of Jewish-owned companies on the market.

“Many of my friends have moved to Brussels while others have or are considering immigrating to Israel,” says Sophie.

Winds of Change

In recent years there has been a spurt of younger Jews from Belgium immigrating to Israel. This phenomenon has come about in part because of an increase in anti-Semitism across Europe, “which was never the case in Antwerp when I was growing up,” says Sophie. “While the Jewish community there was divided between the ultra-Orthodox, traditional and secular, and my family fell in the secular group, the entire community was very insular; we all went to Jewish Day Schools and belonged to Jewish youth movements. Come school holidays, we were off to either summer or winter youth movement camps. It was a wonderful, secure life and the Jewish community prospered.”

It is hardly surprising that with its relatively large concentration of orthodox and ultra-orthodox Jews that Antwerp has been nicknamed the last ‘shtetl’ in Western Europe. This honorific is more evident when walking around the district of Pelikanstraat near the diamond district and Jootsewijk, home to 12,000 orthodox Jews. Here men dress in the Hassidic garb of black mantles and fur hats and speak Yiddish.

Contributing to Antwerp’s ‘shetl’ image, each community has their own synagogues – about thirty in all – batei-midrash (houses of Jewish learning), kosher butcheries and restaurants. Jewish education is provided by four main Jewish schools with more than eighty-five percent of the Jewish children in Antwerp attending Jewish schools, one of the highest rates anywhere in the Diaspora. Student and youth organizations include Agudath Israel, Bnei Akiva, Hashomer Hatzair, and Hanoar Hazioni, of which, Sophie and all of her friends had been members.

Jewish communal life is rife with a number of welfare Jewish organizations, two senior citizen homes and even a hospital.

The Romi Goldmuntz Center serves as the stage for many cultural events of the community, the Royal Maccabi Sports Club is the main Jewish sport center in Antwerp and its Belgisch Israelitisch Weekblad (“Belgian Jewish Weekly”) is the largest Jewish newspaper in Belgium.

However ‘the good life’ has begun to lose some of that ‘sparkle’ as Jews again are experiencing sporadic outbreaks of anti-Semitism.

In August 2019, Dimitri Verhulst claimed in an op-ed in the newspaper De Morgen that “being Jewish is not a religion, no God would give creatures such an ugly nose.” He also accused Jews of harbouring a superiority complex due to the notion of Jews as the chosen people and said “talking to the Chosen is difficult” because they unjustly accuse critics of antisemitism.

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Amusement Amounts To Antisemitism. A parade float at the Aalst Carnaval in Belgium featuring caricatures of Orthodox Jews atop money bags, March 3, 2019. (Courtesy of FJO, via JTA)

Belgian-Jewish journalist Cnann Lipshitz has written that what is most troubling about the current state of antisemitism in Belgium is the fact that officials and opinion-shapers have often defended the perpetrators of antisemitic incidents on the grounds of “free speech” or that no offense was supposedly intended. According to Lipshitz, “classic antisemitism” of a type he had thought “impossible in an established Western democracy in the heart of Europe,” is now “mainstream” in Belgium.

Aalst mayor Christoph D Haese (R) and a Jewish caricature pictured during the yearly carnival parade in the streets of A
Anguish In Aalst. The mayor of Aalst, Christophe D’Haese (r) and a Jewish caricature pictured during the early carnival parade in the streets of Aalst, Belgium, Sunday 23 February 2020 (Photo: Copyright Imago Images)

Mark Geleyn, a former Belgian ambassador to Israel, recently condemned his country’s policy towards Israel as “not the attitude of a friend.”

Speaking at a conference on diversity in Brussels in late 2019, Gelwyn said Belgium was an anti-Israel country that, unlike most others in Western Europe, has not opposed the ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS)’ movement.

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Worrying Signs. Mark Geleyn, a former Belgian ambassador to Israel being interview on Flanders news.

Geleyn is honorary president of Belgian Friends of Israel and former Belgian ambassador to Israel and Germany.

He said, “After the creation of the State of Israel, the first Jews of Belgium, survivors of the Great Persecution, left our country to become citizens of the new state. By obtaining Israeli nationality, they would lose their Belgian nationality. But the survival of the new state, and its citizens, was very uncertain. Then the Belgian government at the time, rue de Loi (prime minister) and rue Quatre Bras (foreign affairs), decided that the Jews who were making aliyah and becoming Israeli citizens could, in fact, retain their Belgian nationality. No-one knew if they would ever come back. Thus the possession of dual nationality, so common now, originated in Belgian law. Belgium, and its government, was a friend of Israel.”

He went on. “In the seventies, many Soviet Jews wanted to leave the Soviet Union. Two or three international conferences were organized to help them claim their right of emigration. One of these conferences, under the slogan LET MY PEOPLE GO, was held in Brussels, in the very room where you are now. It required a certain diplomatic courage on the part of the Belgian government vis-à-vis the powerful Soviet Union to host this conference in Belgium. Belgium, and its government, was a friend of Israel.”

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One of this year’s floats featured Orthodox Jews next to gold bars.

But times have changed. He notes that when those in authority today visit Israel, they hesitate to accept an invitation to plant a tree, because they want to avoid the Zionist symbolism that planting a tree might imply. This is exactly the opposite of the attitude of which the former generation was proud. It is far from being the attitude of a friend.

And with the ugly parades in Aalst in 2019 and 2020, it appears Belgium is not embarrassed to “parade” its antisemitism.

 

 

 

 

I, You, Them, Us

By  Martine Alperstein

US President Trump released his concept for a proposed peace between Israel and their Palestinian neighbours. While many countries, including several Arab states firmly endorse the plan, the Palestinian camp has roundly rejected it. Israeli citizen, Martine Alperstein shares her frustrations.

I am tired. So very tired. I am disappointed, disillusioned and exasperated.

And I am not the only one.

I am not the only one who is struggling to see the light at the end of this very long, very painful and very uneven, disjointed, dangerous tunnel. How many more lives need to be lost? How many more tears need to be shed?

My tears, your tears, their tears, our tears.

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Yet another proposed peace plan that is never going to be put on the table because only one party is sitting at the table. Yet another ridiculous notion from the UN who can’t be bothered to take a close look at who they are actually hurting. Another day of rage. Another fleet of treacherous balloons.

Another retaliation by the IDF.

All I want is quiet.

Peace. Quiet. Calm. Safe.

I just want to feel safe. I want to know my children are safe. I want to know my parents are safe. I want to know that my siblings, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my acquaintances, my neighbours, my fellow humans are safe – and blessed with peace, quiet, calm.

I want. You want. They want. We want.

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Peace Proposal. Proposals are on the table – lets sit down and talk.

If you ask the average person on the street, on both sides of the line, on both sides of the border, what they want…. the answer will be the same. The Israeli Jew, the Israeli Arab, the Palestinian Arab will all tell you the same thing. They just want to live their lives peacefully, provide for their families, be happy and be good people.

I am crying. You are crying. They are crying. We are crying.

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(Photo credit: Flash 90/Nati Sadot)

What is the solution? What is the next step? What is the way forward? How can we remedy this for once and for all?  What can we do to ensure my children and grandchildren, and your children and grandchildren, their children and grandchildren, our children and grandchildren, have a different experience in this part of the world?

 

I am an ardent Zionist. I am Israeli by choice. Not by birth, not by circumstance, not because it is an easier or a more comfortable life. I am Israeli because I fully, wholeheartedly and passionately believe in the right of the Land of Israel and the Jewish State. I gave up a very comfortable and affluent life. I gave up being surrounded by my family who I miss and adore. I gave up being at so many family celebrations. I gave up a huge amount because I believe that this is my true place and that this is my true country. Every step I take is an echo of my forefathers and mothers. Everywhere I look is the view of my ancestors. Every mark that has been made was the touch of G-d.

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Despair To Hope. Young visitors from around the world to the “Path to Peace” mosaic creation border wall that divides the Gaza Strip and Israel. Adjacent to the homes of Moshav Netiv HaAsara, the creation is seen from both sides of the grey security wall and transforms the place’s atmosphere from despair to hope.

And yet, I would be willing to share and be willing to give up a part of my beautiful country with so much history, so much heritage, so much meaning…….  for peace. For guaranteed peace.

But Gush Katif answered that question for me. Brutally. After the withdrawal from Gaza, Israel has faced barrage after barrage of rockets and mortars, killing any chance for peace.  We are still paying the price. Every. Single. Day.

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* Promoting Peace. “Path to Peace” mosaic creation border wall

So, what is next?

Where to from here?

What will make the difference?

How can we bring about change?

And the voice & words of Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder running through my head, on repeat…

Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony

Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord, why don’t we?

We all know that people are the same wherever you go

There is good and bad in ev’ryone

We learn to live, when we learn to give

Each other what we need to survive, together alive’

We need to find a solution for me, for you, for us and for them. We need to learn from the words from Paul and Stevie.

 

 

  • “Path to Peace” mosaic creation border wall:

Visitors are invited to take an active part in the creation of the peace wall by writing a personal wish on the back of a colorful mosaic piece and gluing it onto the security wall. The mosaic pieces are made by hand-work in the Path to Peace workshop. Among the colorful and optimistic pieces are different designs such as flower and butterflies and mosaic pieces with the word Peace in different languages.

 

Countering Coronavirus

Deadly disease “Made in China” and Israel responds

By David E. Kaplan

Dominating the news theses days is a mysterious virus emanating out of China that has a passenger ship quarantined, flight routes suspended, international conferences cancelled and people panicking – where is it going to strike next?

Most disquieting is the ‘surprise factor’ – that something unknown one day, can be so feared the next. While there have been no reported cases so far in Israel – although three Israeli passengers on the ‘Diamond Princess’ cruise ship docked in Japan have been diagnosed with coronavirus – the first US citizen to be diagnosed with the illness died in Wuhan, China, where the mysterious respiratory ailment began.

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Will Israel’s Protective Gear Prevent The Spread? Seen here, a medical worker attends to a patient in the intensive care unit at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province (Xiong Qi/Xinhua via AP)

As the world grapples with this crisis, and in particular to find an antidote, joining the proverbial cavalry is an Israeli startup, Sonovia Ltd.,that says it may have a solution to help stop the spread of the new deadly coronavirus “through novel technology for an anti-pathogen, anti-bacterial fabric.” It has sent the product over to labs in China for testing, notably the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and a medical lab in Chengdu.

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Stop The Rot. Israel’s Sonovia Ltd. uses nanotechnology to create fabrics that have been shown to be effective against bacterial and fungal infections. The firm’s lab in Ramat Gan.

The co-founder of the Ramat Gan based Sonovia that was founded in 2013, Shay Herscovich, explains:

 “We have identified the methodology to determine the fabric’s ability to eliminate viruses and bacteria. We sent a number of fabrics to China and it would require a few days to colonize the coronavirus on the fabric and evaluate if our technology can destroy it.”

Infusing metal oxides nanoparticles into textiles, Sonovia’s patented technology was developed as protective gear –  to see if the textiles would prove highly effective blocks against bacteria and fungi. Upbeat with the positive results following tests at laboratories at Israel’s Bar Ilan University, the relevant question today is whether Sonovia’s bacteria-fighting fabric can protect against the spread of coronavirus?

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Process In Motion. Sonovia’s machine propels antibacterial nanoparticles onto fabrics at tremendous speed.

According to the company, the technology can be used on masks, protective clothing, hospital bedding and gowns, and other apparel to stop hospital-acquired infections. The enhanced textile “is able to maintain its anti-pathogen activity at up to 100 washes at 75° Celsius (167 Fahrenheit) and 65 washes at 92° Celsius (197 Fahrenheit),” says Sonovia scientist Dr. Jason Migdal.

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Action Stations. Sonovia Chief Technology Officer Liat Goldhammer-Steinberg in the company’s facility in Ramat Gan.

The company, says Migdal, has tested the fabrics against a variety of infections, notably a pilot study in a European hospital that showed that when the textiles were used in protective clothing, there was a significant reduction in infections.

Migdal firmly believes that the same technology could be used to block viruses and potentially stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

In a company statement sent out to newsrooms Migdal said “In response to the global concern regarding the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCOV) in China, which has since spread to several other countries, we would like to accelerate the development of our technology.”

Now it is in the hands of the Chinese who according to Migdal, will follow a European protocol to test the fabric’s anti-viral activity.

A further advantage of the ‘face masks’ are that they are designed for repeated use and “could be distributed effectively where they are needed most in China,” says Migdal, “as well as being more sustainable to the environment.”

At the time of writing, there were officially 67,192 Coronavirus cases – the vast majority in China –  and 1,527 deaths.

More people have now died from the coronavirus than during the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in 2002-2003.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak a global emergency and has warned governments to prepare for “domestic outbreak control” if the disease were to spread in their countries.

Last Flight To China

As China grapples with the current outbreak –  over and above the efforts of an Israeli start-up like Sonovia – there are other Israeli non-profit organisations responding to the region’s request for aid by donating sanitary masks, medical supplies, and protective gear.

Israel’s Magen David Adom (MDA) national emergency network has contributed 2,000 masks and 200 full protection kits to help prevent the spread of coronavirus in China.

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Next Stop China. A Magen David Adom worker packing protective supplies to send to China, February 2, 2020. (Photo courtesy of MDA)

Also, the humanitarian aid organization IsraAID sent a shipment of emergency medical supplies and protective gear to the Chinese Ministry of Health on the last flight from Tel Aviv to mainland China. This project was done with partners Israel-China Chamber of CommerceINNONATION and David Ashkenazi of ICCB Capital.

Yotam Polizer ,the Co-CEO of  IsraAID,  said his organisation “will continue to monitor the situation and may launch a secondary response including Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for humanitarian aid workers and first responders working in the area, focusing on stress relief.”

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From Tel Aviv To Wuhan. IsraAID preparing to send medical supplies to China from Tel Aviv to aid in the fight against the Wuhan coronavirus, 2019-nCoV on February 3, 2020

The late Israeli humanitarian, peace activist and founder of the ‘Voice of Peace’ Abie Nathan would be impressed. I recall in an interview with him in the late 1990s when he said, “My aim is that whenever there is a humanitarian crisis in the world, I want an Israel team there among the first  to bring relief.”

Today, Israel has a heightened sense of humanitarian awareness and responsibility with aid teams and private enterprise poised to respond to natural or man-made disasters anywhere in the world.

Israel is proud to respond to the call from China.

 

Nano Textile fights against infections during hospitalization by providing a revolutionary solution in the production of antibacterial factories which prevents the spread of bacteria between patients and staff.

 

Shifting Sands

Saudi Writers To Palestinians: Accept Trump’s Peace Plan Or “You’ll Regret It Later”

By David E. Kaplan

While British Prime Minister Boris Johnson lavished praise on Donald Trump’s vision for Middle East peace during the PM’s question time in the House of Commons, far more telling was the ‘Shifting Sands’ responses from Saudi Arabian intellectuals and journalists.

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In 1960, a British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan spoke of a ‘Wind  of Change’ blowing across the continent of Africa. Could it be that in 2020, another such transformative shift  could be blowing across the Middle East, emanating from the Arabian Peninsula –the birthplace of the Islamic prophet Mohammed?

While and to be expected, there is no change of the solid Saudi support of the Palestinian people and their quest for statehood, nevertheless, the official Saudi position on U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” was one of support, albeit qualified.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry reaction was clearly revealed in the Riyadh-based, pro-government Saudi daily newspaper, Al-Riyadh  in the January 29, 2020 edition:

the Kingdom appreciates the efforts made by President Trump’s administration to develop a comprehensive Palestinian-Israeli peace plan, and it encourages the start of direct peace negotiations between the sides under U.S. sponsorship, in which any dispute regarding details of the plan will be settled. This, in order to advance the peace process and arrive at an agreement that will actualize the brother Palestinian people’s legitimate rights.”

This is a marked shift in attitudes from the past and a clear indication to move the process forward.

To  encourage the Palestinians and offer reassurance that they were not being abandoned by the kingdom’s “qualified” support for the plan, the Saudi press reported in Al-Watan that King Salman spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas by phone, assuring him of “the Kingdom’s steadfast position vis-à-vis the Palestinian cause and the rights of the Palestinian people.”

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Over and above the royal position, most illuminating is the support the peace initiative has received from the Saudi media, as well as telling tweets by intellectuals and journalists.

Noting the famous line by famed Israeli diplomat, Abba Eban that “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”, a number have been calling on the Palestinians not to miss “this opportunity” and to approach the plan with a positive mindset.

The articles and tweets recall that every plan offered to the Palestinians has been worse than the one preceding it and that if they reject the ‘Deal of the Century’ now, they may well long for it in the future.

Hereunder are extracts from articles and tweets:

Ibrahim Al-Nahas in the Saudi daily Okaz

Hasten not to reject and examine the plan carefully is the advice to the Palestinians from Political Science lecturer at King Saud University and Saudi Shura Council Member, Ibrahim Al-Nahas.

In an interview with the Saudi daily Okaz, Al-Nahas expressed that “Trump’s Peace Plan,’ or, as media call it, the ‘Deal of the Century,’ is an important stage in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process in particular, and in the peace process in the Middle East in general.” While this “does not mean that it should be accepted without discussion of its goals and objectives,” he added that “all the Palestinian elements must examine the plan carefully, and especially while keeping in mind past experience [with previous proposals]. ……”

He advised that Palestinian decision-making should not be linked “to regional elements [such as Iran, Qatar, or Turkey], as some Palestinian factions and movements do,” and “cease the accusations of treason voiced by some of the Palestinians and Arabs against Arab countries that maintain advanced ties with the U.S.”

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Ahmad Adnan in Okaz

Saudi journalist Ahmad Adnan wrote in his column in the Saudi daily Okaz located in Jeddah.

The PA has made negative statements against the deal. I maintain that at this stage it needs a friend to be honest with it, telling it and advising it: Sign the deal and then curse it as much as you want, day and night. The Palestinians have in decades past specialized in missing golden opportunities because of [their] mistaken assessment of their capabilities and of the crisis.”

After listing a number of examples of these ‘missed opportunities”,

Adnan writes that “In actuality, the Palestinian cause is no longer the Arabs’ main cause – not because the Arabs have given up on Palestine, but because this matter [i.e., the Palestinian plight] is mirrored in all Arab states, as we have seen in Syria, for example. The Palestinians will hear the merchants of the Palestinian cause creating a great uproar and will discover too late that this uproar is aimed at exploiting them in order to take over and destroy the region.”

Perhaps the merchants of the [Palestinian] cause will manage to torpedo the Deal of the Century, and, as we today bemoan the [missed opportunity of the] Arab peace initiative, we will tomorrow bemoan the Deal of the Century – while the Palestinians, unfortunately, descend towards the fate of the [American] Indians…”

 Khaled Al-Suleiman in Okaz

Concerned that if the Palestinians reject the deal that they will be compelled to relinquish even more, Khaled Al-Suleiman wrote in his column in ‘Okaz:

The history of the Palestinian cause has proven that reality is the greatest enemy of the Palestinians. The price of Palestinian and Arab rejection of every peace plan was [only] more concessions, beginning with the partition plan through the Clinton plan to the Trump plan.

It should be noted that the Palestinian decision-making has always been subject to pressure and control by  Arab regimes that harmed the Palestinians as much as Israel did, if not more.

Today, the Palestinians again find themselves facing a peace plan that gnaws away more of their rights and sets them against options even more bitter than those in the past. But rejecting [the plan] this time does not mean that the [next] will carry a lower price-tag. International reality is now presenting the Palestinian cause  with the worst possible scenario, since it is weak, isolated, and ignored. Therefore, the Palestinians’ options today are more limited, and cannot tolerate unrealistic positions.

“The Palestinians must calmly examine the reality of their struggle with Israel and of their relations with the Arab [regimes], so as to draw up a position that will serve their interests, not the slogans of others. All the Arab regimes that have in the past traded in their cause, and that continue to do so, live within their own independent borders, far from any state of war with Israel. Their support for the Palestinians consists of nothing but hollow slogans and incitement, for which the Palestinians pay with their spirit, blood and money.”

Muhammad Al-Osaimi in the Saudi daily Al-Yawm 

Noting that  the Palestinians have missed many opportunities over the years, columnist Muhammad Al-Osaimi in the pro government Arabic daily newspaper Saudi Al-Yawm daily, argues that had they grasped them, they would have been better off today. He therefore counsels they should not be quick to reject the ‘Deal of the Century’:

Who knows how many opportunities [for peace] the Palestinians have had in the past 30 years? Had these opportunities been realized, they could have been today in a better situation as a people and as a country …… Now they face another opportunity that they are rejecting, and that they may  long for in another five or 10 years.”

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Al-Yawm daily

 

Truth On Twitter

“The Day Will Come When The Palestinians Yearn For It” is the message from Saudi intellectuals on Twitter.

Saudi intellectual Turki Al-Hamad tweets:

The Palestinians are making a big mistake by not agreeing to the American peace plan. I mean, what’s the alternative? The Palestinians have missed numerous opportunities because of slogans that led [them] astray and strategies of ‘all-or-nothing.’ The end result was nil: continued occupation, loss of Jerusalem, erosion of large parts of the West Bank, and an internal Palestinian struggle harsher than the conflict with Israel.”

He followed with this further tweet:

Previous opportunities were better than this one, but their answer was always no. This was when the Palestinian issue headed the global agenda. Today, the Palestinian issue has been cast into oblivion, and the Palestinians have no other alternative – unless the chaos of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or the powerlessness of the PLO can be considered options.”

And in a subsequent tweet::

Politics is the art of the possible, and what is possible today is the proposed American plan. Should the deal be rejected, the alternative will be the continued erosion of the West Bank territories. Then the Palestinians will say ‘If only we had agreed’ – just like with the previous plans.

It’s time for the Palestinians to change their behavior so that it serves the interests of their people…”

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Saudi Intellectual Turki Al-Hamad who earlier criticised the Palestinians for forfeiting an important opportunity by boycotting the Bahrain Economic Workshop in 2019. (Watanserb.com, March 10, 2019)

A former columnist for Okaz and the Al-Arabiya website , Saleh Al-Fahid, tweeted:

The Palestinians’ rejection of the Deal of the Century reminds me of their rejection of the 1947 Partition Plan and of all peace plans proposed to them since then. Each time they were offered less, and they pointlessly yearned for the previous plan. I am worried that if they reject the Deal of the Century, the day will come when they yearn for it …”

Another Okaz columnist, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Lahim tweeted criticism of the Palestinian organisations opposing the deal:

Imagine you had a hen that laid golden eggs. Would you relinquish her? Never. You would make an uproar so as to fill your pockets. This is the situation of the Palestinians who trade in the Palestinian cause and reject peace…”

Changing Landscapes

Away from Saudi Arabia, no less illuminating of changing perceptions on Israel was Al-Jazeera presenter Faisal al-Qasim tweeting that “Zionism was the most successful project in the twentieth century.” Despite risking the wrath of his 5.5 million followers for “his kind of praise for the Zionists”, al-Qasim was not deterred.

He tweeted:

Who are the most advanced, developed, democratic and successful … Israel or the Arab regimes?

…..The majority of Arabs, if they want to insult you, they describe you as ‘Zionist,’ knowing that the most successful project in the past century and the present is the Zionist project, while all projects of the Arabs, especially Arab nationalism, have failed. Before you use the word Zionist as an insult you must first reach the shining sole of Zionism.”

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Al-Jazeera presenter Faisal al-Qasim.

A Far Cry

These words reveal changing mindsets.

They represent a far cry from the crazed anti-Israel rhetoric of the 1960s fueling Egyptian strongman, Gamal Abdel Nasser to unite the fractious Arab states behind him leading to the Six Day War. Now, in 2020, that anti-Israel fanaticism has begun to dissipate, and a new somewhat more positive attitude toward the Jewish state has begun to emerge not only among rulers eager for allies in confronting Iran, but also among segments of the Arab populace across the Middle East eager for peace and prosperity.

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Fueling mass hysteria against Israel in the sixties, President Gamal Abdul Nasser is seen here delivering a speech in Aleppo on February 17, 1960

President’s Peace Plan

A Time To Discuss And Negotiate Rather Than Reject

By Allan Wolman

Claiming that the world rejects the Trump peace plan is indeed misleading but in line with the type of biased journalism of those determined to contribute to the vilification of the Jewish State; lying seems to come naturally to some journo’s and commentators given what they claim about the support or rather lack thereof for this latest peace plan.

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Pursuing Peace. President Trump unveils his Mideast peace plan with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side, but regrettably with no Palestinian representative in attendance at the White House on Jan. 28, 2020. (Sarah Silbiger / Getty Image)

Apart from Israel, the following countries have so far demonstrated support for the US Administration’s plan are Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, I.K., India, Oman, Italy, Brazil, Poland, Australia, Austria, Egypt, Columbia, Morocco, Denmark, Japan and Czech Republic.

Publicly playing support were the ambassadors from Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates who attended the unveiling of the President’s plan frequently referred to as the “Deal of the Century.” Their attendance was seen as a warming of ties between the Arab world and Israel.

However, no surprise that Palestine, Turkey, Venezuela and Iran are openly against it.

Whilst I am no supporter of the US president and in fact thought that the press conference at the unveiling of the peace initiative was contrived and somewhat embarrassing – not withstanding my personal view – this “deal” is certainly a refreshing beginning to negotiations that could result in a real and lasting peace settlement. Of course, that would depend on the Palestinian leadership agreeing to sit down to discuss and negotiate, as many of her brethren across the Middle East have urged.

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Game-Changer Not Playing Games. Kushner tells Egyptian TV Peace Plan aims to block settlements expansion.

As US envoy Jared Kushner told the Egyptian MBC Masr network in an interview, “If the Palestinians don’t like where the line is drawn, they should come and tell us where they want to draw it.” Further expressing to the Egyptian anchor Amr Adib, Kushner continued that “If the leaders of the Palestinians want to do what is best for their people, I think they will read the plan. They should come to the table, sit with the Israelis and say: ‘Look, We appreciate the gesture you have made. There are some major compromises [in the plan] you have never made before. These are the four or five or six things that we would like you to consider changing. And if you do this, you have a deal.’ That is how people who are ready to have a state make deals,” Kushner said.

However, in line with Palestinian intractability, the plan was rejected even before unveiled!

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OutRAGEious. Palestinians protest as smoke rises from burning tires before the announcement by US President Donald Trump of his Middle East peace plan [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

The knee jerk reaction from that leadership optimizes the stubborn and corrupt leadership of the Palestinians where the masses have certainly not reacted as violently as expected and in fact the ‘silent majority’ have indeed shown a certain willingness to see where the proposals could lead to. Of course organizations like the BDS, Media Review Network, UNHRC and the Arab League vented their rejection without considering the people most affected by this plan, especially the future wellbeing of the Palestinian people, who too frequently are a political tool of the political agendas of others.

A Time To Discuss And Negotiate Rather Than Reject2
Antisemitism as a counter action to a Peace plan BDS South Africa posts antisemitic cartoon in response to peace plan

All their efforts are channeled at the destruction of Israel and the Palestinians are simply a convenient platform to achieve this aim. In an ideal world, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would have been resolved, peace secured and the Jew haters – disguised as anti-Zionists – would have had to dig even more deep to come up with other initiatives to further their cause.

American law professor and civil libertarian, Alan Dershowitz, recently asked an audience to consider where were the concerned liberals during the Cambodian, Rwandan, Darfur and Congolese genocides and where are they today with the unfolding genocides in Myanmar, Yemeni and Syria in full view of the world? The simple answer: These liberal folks including the UNHCR, ICC, BDS and others are all too busy castigating Israel than being bothered with the genocide of millions of people. Indeed, many millions of people mercilessly slaughtered and not one single country or human rights bodies not only did / do nothing about such vile acts but hardly voiced any objections in world forums to such carnage. No, the most important item on their agendas was malicious defamation of the only democracy in the Middle East.

Isn’t that more important than a few million people including women and children being slaughtered?

This must raise questions as to the morality of such people who would level their focus at denigrating a country whose human rights record, democratic institution’s, an independent judiciary, a free press and gender equality is not only without equal in the region but can stand head and shoulders with any free country in world. Yet all these attributes fade into oblivion in the face of rubbishing Israel at every and any opportunity.

Where is the ANC so quick to downgrade diplomatic relations with Israel but at the same time have visions of being a peacemaker? Rich indeed given the ongoing hostility that they perpetuate against Israel and digest the fake news and lies being bandied about by those driven by hate. Not surprising given the ANC degeneration into racial ideology having abandoned the vision of racial equality and unity of Nelson Mandela.

The real tragedy is the timing of the “peace deal” debate coming hard on the heels of the two international gatherings one in Jerusalem on World Holocaust Remembrance Day and the other at the site of the infamous Auschwitz death camp commemorating the liberation of that camp. At both events the rise of anti-Semitism took centre stage with world leaders together with Holocaust survivors highlighting this scourge and warning just how today’s hatred could so easily become a repetition of past genocides.

Will world leaders sit up and listen and more importantly will they do anything to counteract this plague?

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Parading Hatred. Despicable display of modern antisemitism when a parade float at the Aalst Carnaval in Belgium featuring caricatures of Orthodox Jews atop money bags in March 3, 2019. (Courtesy of FJO, via JTA)

Events in Belgium last year where caricatures of Jews formed part of a carnival float procession through the main streets elicited hardly any censure form officialdom in that country, with some mielie-mouthed explanation of freedom of speech and expression.

Is that the way countries are going to combat ant-Semitic expression?

 

 

About the author:

Birds of a feather4Allan Wolman is a recent immigrant to Israel from South Africa. Matriculating from Parktown Boys high School in Johannesburg, in 1967, he joined 1200 young South Africans to volunteer to work on agricultural settlements in Israel during the Six Day War. After spending year in Israel, he returned to South Africa where he met and married Jocelyn Lipschitz. The couple have three sons. Allan ran one of the oldest travel agencies in Johannesburg – Rosebank Travel which he still runs together with his son in Johannesburg.

 

*Feature Picture: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

Mixed Messages From HRH

By LA, California correspondent Regina Raphael

Charles, The Prince of Wales, addressed world leaders on the 75thanniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Israel on January 23rd 2019. I was most moved by the words of HRH that we must be fearless in confronting falsehoods and resolute in resisting words and acts of violence.”

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PRINCE VISITS ISRAEL AND THIS TIME IT’S “OFFICIAL. HRH Prince Charles speaks during the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem on Jan. 23, 2020. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Given this strong and powerful message, I was surprised and disappointed with his words spoken and message conveyed during visit with Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, the very next day in Bethlehem.

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Improving Ties. Prince Charles (L) shakes hands with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the presidential residence in Jerusalem, ahead of a meeting of the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020. (AFP)

The “falsehoods” that he called out the day prior are the ones that emanate from the Palestinian Authority. Mr. Abbas is currently in the 15th year of a 4-year elected term. He serves unchecked as a dictator without any accountability. He terrorizes his own people with limited freedom of speech and arrests those that associate with Jews or sells property to them.

Under his leadership, Christians now make up less than 2 percent of the population in Bethlehem once a dominant Christian community. The Christians are subjected to discrimination and suffer great difficulty living in Bethlehem.

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Prince And The PA President. The Prince of Wales meets President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem. (Photo: Julian Simmonds/The Daily Telegraph/PA Wire)

Mr. Abbas has operated unfettered with mismanagement of monies provided. Billions of dollars in aid from the US, EU and several other donor countries has flowed to Mr. Abbas. A lack of accountability and transparency from the Palestinian Authority has deprived Palestinians of a significant part of the funds.

Only after a public outcry of money wasted has the recently built  $13mn Presidential Palace – that included helipads, guest quarters and administrative offices  4,700 square metres (50590.38 sq./feet) – been decided to be used “a national library” instead, according to the Palestinian Minister of Culture,  Ihab Bseiso.

A $13mn library with helipads?

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The House That Abbas Built. Following criticism of the newly constructed opulent $13 million President Mahmoud Abbas’ presidential palace near Ramallah, it was declared in August 2017 it would house a national library. This decision was understood in light of mounting public anger on the Palestinian street in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip following revelations of corruption and substantial salary increases of public officials to buy loyalty. (Ameen Rammal/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Beyond corruption, Mr. Abbas and the Palestinian Authority have used these funds to encourage violence. It is estimated in 2019 that $149.7 MM went for annual payments to security prisoners, terrorist “martyrs” and their families, encouraging people to kill Jews.

Instead of visiting with Mr. Abbas, I wished he had visited the sights of those killed by Mr. Abbas’ pay for slay program. I was in the region while he was there and made my commitment to bear witness where Ari Fuld (father of four), Dvir Sorek (an 18-year-old Yeshiva student) and teenagers Naftali Frenkel, Gilad  Shaar and Eyal Yifrach were kidnapped at a bus stop and then brutally murdered. I saw young lives taken away simply because they were Jews. Those who murdered them, solely because they were Jews, were paid approximately three times the amount they would have made working a regular job. The ramifications of this ‘Pay to Slay’ program are monumental. I can only imagine what his HRH might do if this program were to take hold in Britain.

When he visited Bethlehem, he spoke there that “It breaks my heart… that we should continue to see so much suffering and division. No one arriving in Bethlehem today could miss the signs of continued hardship and the situation you face.” The suffering is due to the choices made by the Palestinian Authority but does not accurately describe the vibrancy that does exist in many areas.

I also saw those who have made great success in their lives.  I visited towns with Muslims that had thriving industry, large homes and luxury cars.  I saw people that have chosen to focus on success not terror.

I had the honor to hear from Daniel Birnbaum whose company, SodaStream, embodies cooperation across Arabs, Jews & Bedouins to great success. While driven out of this area by those who choose to Boycott, Divest & Sanction Israel, SodaSteam relocated to Rahat and provides a model of coexistence between Jews, Arabs & Bedouins. This is only one example of co-existence.

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SodaStream’s Assembly Line In The Bedouin City Of  Rahat. Forced to close down by the Palestinian Authority that was providing jobs to Palestinians on the West Bank, the $1.5 billion maker of home carbonation devices moved the bulk of its manufacturing to Israel’s largest Bedouin city – Rahat. (RACHEL PAPO FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK)

At a time when anti-Semitic activity is at an all-time high, HRH’s failure to call out Mr. Abbas on his dishonesty and incitement of violence, ignites the flame that encourages hatred. His words do not bring peace but dehumanize and minimize the lives of those brutally murdered.

At every opportunity, including the most recent by President Trump, Mr. Abbas has turned down plans to aid his people and create his own “Start Up Nation.” Mr. Abbas does not seek peace; he acts as a despot and seeks the destruction of the State of Israel.

We praise the Royal family and your Princess Alice’s commitment to Jewish people at a most difficult time. However, at this juncture we must stand strong against hatred and stand firm on values of inherent democracy and decency.

 

 

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The author & Mr. Goldstein in Hebron.

Regina Raphael is a business owner in Los Angeles, CA and committed Zionist. Ms. Raphael works closely with Ben Goldstein, a reserve IDF officer and advocate for the State of Israel. The article shares moments from their visit together in late January 2020. Mr. Goldstein lives in the Region.

 

South Africa Fails To See The Light

Why does the ANC Government Support the most dangerous regime In the world – IRAN?

By David E. Kaplan

An ever-increasing menace on the international stage by facilitating global terrorism, cunningly creeping towards military nuclearization, violently suppressing its civilian population, shooting down a Ukrainian civilian aircraft with 176 passengers on board  then trying to cover up its crime  – quite literally – with ‘bulldozers’, is it not time for Iran’s regime of the Mullahs to exit that stage?

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Hands Are Tied. With the image of hands shaking across the continents, senior military officials of Iran and South Africa vowed in March 2019 to increase military and defense cooperation between the two countries to achieve a long-term and strategic engagement.

Its own people are demanding so!

Coming onto the street in mass protests across the country, is this the proverbial “beginning of the end” as expressed by the former Crown Prince of Iran Reza Pahlavi this January at the Hudson Institute in Washington?

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Reza Pahlavi, the last heir apparent to the defunct throne of the Imperial State of Iran and the current head of the exiled House of Pahlavi speaks during an interview with Reuters in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/JOSHUA ROBERTS)

Pahlavi argued that the recent protests in Iran are different than previous demonstrations in that “People smell the opportunity for the first time in 40 years.” Drawing a distinction  to the earlier protests of 1997 and 2009, “The people have had it,” says Pahlavi. “Today’s generation of young Iranians cannot take it anymore. They want to have an opportunity for a better future. They want to be on the path of modernity and freedom. The only thing that stands between them and the free world is this regime.”

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The ‘Plane’ Truth. Iranian students gather for a demonstration over the downing of a Ukrainian airliner at Teheran University on January 14, 2020. (ATTA KENARE / AFP) Attachments area

However, what also “stands between them and the free world” are countries still supporting the menace of the Mullahs like South Africa.

Criticized by its own people for literally  “not seeing the light” with its endless power outages now referred to in local parlance as “load shedding”, South Africa’s ANC government fails to  see or chooses not to see that Iran’s present leadership is evil and a danger to world peace.

Writing in ForeignAffairs.com in November 2019, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick reveals that amongst hundreds of Iranian intelligence reports recently leaked  shedding light on Teheran’s success in bolstering its influence throughout the region – notably Syria, Iraq, the Lebanon and Yemen – the Islamic Republic’s reptilian reach extends far beyond the Middle East. Facing crippling sanctions as well as increasing diplomatic isolation, Iran has developed a close partnership with South Africa.

Fitzpatrick writes that “South Africa has long been a cornerstone of Iran’s South-South strategy, which aims to strengthen ties with African and South American states.”

Being one of the first countries to resume trade with South Africa following the end of Apartheid, the Islamic Republic has enjoyed strong relations ever since. “Trade has been an integral element of this relationship, with Iranian officials estimating the value of Iranian Foreign Direct Investment in South Africa in 2018 at roughly $135 billion.”

South Africa has well reciprocated proving a strong ally and friend to the murderous and mendacious regime. It did not hesitate in  calling the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear deal “regrettable”; advocating for Iranian interests at the UN; siding with Iran on critical issues at the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency; and more recently with President Cyril Ramaphosa calling Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to convey his condolences on the US dispatching of Iranian arch-terrorist Qasem Soleimani.

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Presidential Parlance. The official Iranian government website said SA President Cyril Ramaphosa had called the US’s assassination of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani “a cowardly act”. (Image: Masi Los)

According to the official Iranian government website,  Ramaphosa called the assassination of Soleimani “a cowardly act” and expressed that he was “very shocked by the news of Lt-Gen Soleimani’s martyrdom who was very popular among people.”

So popular that people are risking their lives in protests.

Videos and reporting convey Iranian popular anger:

– At Teheran’s Sharif University of Technology, protesters shouted: “We do not want coward directors.”

– At the Isfahan University of Technology, students chanted: “Cannon, tank, explosives, no longer useful; mullahs should go.”

– At the University of Kurdistan in Sanandaj, protesters defied authorities: “We are so sick of crime, why should we be afraid?

Iranians are proving less afraid to make a stand.

Take for example Kimia Alizadeh, the lithe, six-foot-tall athlete with raven hair who won the bronze medal for Iran in Taekwondo at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The only Iranian female to ever win an Olympic medal, the 21 year-old athlete – this January 2020 – defected from Iran announcing on social media that she did so because she didn’t want to be part of “hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery”. She described herself as “one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran”.

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Time To Defect. Kimia Alizadeh who won a landmark bronze medal in taekwondo in the 2016 Rio Olympics for Iran has defected.

In a message on Instagram, she wrote, “How do I start? With a hello, a goodbye or to offer my condolences? Hello to the oppressed people of Iran, goodbye to the noble people of Iran, and my condolences to the perpetually mourning people of Iran.”

She recounted being “a pawn” of a regime that told her how to dress, dictated what she said, and paraded her and her medals around for political gain. “To the kind and oppressed people of Iran: I did not want to climb to a pedestal whose steps are paved with lies and deceit,” she wrote. “I am willing to bear the difficulty of living in exile because I could no longer stay at a table where dishonesty, con-artistry and injustice were being served. Making this decision was more difficult than earning the Olympic medal.”

No more “a pawn”, Alizadeh is a today  “a Queen” for her public defiance against evil.

While this movement may  lack leaders or a clearly defined goal, it does convey a palpable sense of disgust and anger and a willingness to defy the authorities. Even Iranian journalists have joined in the struggle.

While reporters for Iran’s state media routinely toe the government line, in the chaotic aftermath of Iran’s admission that it shot down a Ukrainian airliner, that admission appears to have pushed several journalists to resign.

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Burying The Truth. Bulldozers had been operating at the crash site before Ukrainian investigators even arrived – sparking fears of an Iranian cover-up.

It would seem professional red lines were crossed when Iranians in media were being coerced to blatantly lie by initially reporting of the deaths of 80 U.S. soldiers in Iranian strikes against bases in Iraq in response to the U.S. killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani and   repeated claims that technical problems had caused the crash of a Ukraine-bound passenger jet shortly after its takeoff from Teheran.

Several journalists revealed on social media that they had quit with  one state TV anchor, Gelare Jabbari, apologizing for “having lied to you on Iranian TV for 13 years.”

While a world grows wary of wayward Iran, South Africa has remained committed to maintaining diplomatic ties happily engaging in joint business-tech forumsscientific cooperation, and expanding tourism.

The South African media is replete with photographs of Iranian and South African foreign ministers frequently meeting to discuss enhancing cooperation.

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Friends In Deed. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif holding talks with Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation in  Teheran on ways to expand relations, Teheran, Iran, October 16, 2019. (IRNA/Nazanin Kazemi Nava)

Despite Iran’s menacing foreign policy across the Middle East, South Africa has emerged as an important defense partner. Writes Kitaneh Fitzpatrick:

 “Teheran has sought to leverage its longstanding relationship with South Africa to support Iranian naval expansion outside of the Middle East, and has conducted limited out-of-area naval operations in South Africa, according to a recent U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report. Iran and South Africa have also signed basic military cooperation agreements. …..South Africa is part of Teheran’s effort to offset the cost of U.S. sanctions and increasing diplomatic isolation from the West.”

Unlike South Africa, other countries are “seeing the light”.

There is increasing acceptance by western European nations that  Iran’s  desire to achieve nuclear proliferation was not curbed by the 2015 nuclear deal known as the JCPOA ( Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). January 2020 saw Britain, France and Germany formally accusing Teheran of violating the terms of the agreement with Britain’s new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson telling the BBC, If we’re going to get rid of it then we need a replacement.”

At the same time, an assessment by Israeli intelligence reveals that Iran has enough enriched uranium to produce a nuclear bomb by the end of 2020 and a missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload within two years.

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Dealing With the Devil. A four-day forum in December 2018 on business and technology cooperation between Iran and South Africa held in Johannesburg in a bid to boost Iranian goods exports.

An Iran under pressure – internationally and internally – is unpredictable and dangerous.

Rather than the misguided South African path of cozying up to the Mullah regime,  better to heed the advice of Pahlavi who has called for Ayatollah Khamenei to step down to allow a peaceful transition with a minimal number of casualties.

To the Iranian forces that are employing repression as a tool, Pahlavi says “there are not enough people they can kill to maintain this regime in power. They better stand down and join with their brethren.”

He concluded his message at the Hudson Institute with “This regime cannot be reformed and must be removed,” emphasizing that there is no point to try and negotiate with the Islamic Republic.

And the message to South Africa’s political leadership – considering its own history-  be a friend of the Iranian people not its murderous regime!