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.


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).

Ghastly in Gaza

That’s life under Hamas

By David E. Kaplan

I no longer feel safe in Gaza,” she sadly lamented and who can blame 26-year-old Rewaa Mershid, who further revealed:

 “I’m looking for ANY opportunity OUTSIDE Gaza.”

If you are thinking the reason for Rewaa’s appeal for ‘wanting out’ is to do with Israel it is quite the opposite  – HAMAS!

Rewaa Mershid is a journalist and one can be excused for thinking

she is in the right place with so much to report on but she says:

I’m a journalist and love journalism, but Gaza isn’t the place for me to continue.”

Hot Seat has become too Hot. Palestinian journalist Rewaa Mershid works at the studio of ZMN FM radio station in Gaza City (Photo: AP)

A reporter for a local radio station in Gaza, Rewaa was filming with a crew near the security fence some two weeks before the 11-day war broke out in May 2021, when a Hamas border patrol arrived on the scene. The ‘offence’ that was playing out to the Hamas officer of the border patrol was not a matter concerning security but that Rewaa NOT wearing a hijab – the religious headscarf worn by religious Muslim women in the presence of any male outside of their immediate family. Words were exchanged, and the next thing the Hamas patrol officer took the matter into his own hands – literally –  by cutting a branch off a nearby lemon tree and then beat the female reporter three times.

This is Hamas ‘justice’.

Sharing later a medical report of her condition with the public, Rewaa revealed she had “bruises in the lower back and the lower part.”

Rewaa Merchid’s bruising was more than physical.

It was an indictment of life under the ruthless rule of Hamas and Rewaa’s treatment was another example of how women’s rights have so deteriorated since Hamas’ rise to power in 2007. While Hamas is quick to blame Israel  – and Egypt  –  for restricting movement in and out of the territory – refusing to acknowledge the justifiable security concerns – it has no problem itself restricting the movement of its women by enforcing that they require the permission of a male guardian to travel. Although women make up 50% of the population in Gaza, their influence in most fields is generally restricted, and their basic rights are often systematically denied. According to Hamas’ 1988 Charter, the role of women in society was explicitly laid out stating that Muslim women are important in that they “manufacture men….”

In the Field. Physically abused by Hamas, Gazan journalist, Rewaa Mershid, now wants out.

A most enlightening insight and ‘respectful’ recognition, it might explain how a Hamas border patrol office whose duty it is to enforce the law feels entitled to strike three times using a branch of a lemon tree on a woman journalist doing her job. No wonder Rewaa Mershid wants to leave; that is if she receives the permission of a male relative.

And if women have it bad in Gaza under Hamas, the children have it even worse.

No kidding!

Brainwashing and manipulating its people for years, Hamas starts on the young – the very young. What chance do they have? While kids around the world make friends and learn to expand their horizons, the children of Gaza are subjected to Hamas’ oppressive authoritarian rule that deprives them of a childhood and teaches them violence and hatred of Jews and Israel. The ones firing the rockets in 2021 are likely to have attended Hamas’ ‘train-to-kill’ summer camps as kids.

Killer Kids. A young Palestinian girl attacks ‘Israeli soldiers’ with a knife in a play held in Gaza as part of the ‘Palestine Festival for Children and Education,’ April 2016 (Channel 2 news)

Every year during the summer vacation,  camps for the young children are held throughout the Gaza Strip. They are mostly organized by Hamas. While social activities, sports and entertainment feature at these summer camps, more significantly  the young participants are subjected to radical Islamic Hamas ideological indoctrination and semi-military training, which includes instruction in firing rockets and abducting IDF soldiers.

Training for Tomorrow. Aiming at Jews and Israelis, Hamas summer camps preparing the Palestinian killers of tomorrow.

Looking back at 2016, when  Gaza kids acted in a play in the Strip’s southern city of Khan-Younis about stabbing and killing Israelis, you see young children brandishing toy knives and guns acting out violent scenes. All part of a ‘festival” in the Gaza Strip, these Palestinian youngsters wore military fatigues as they brandished their toy knives and machine guns simulating violence against Israelis.

Gunning for Israel. Young Palestinian boys hold toy guns in a play held in Gaza as part of the ‘Palestine Festival for Children and Education,’ April 2016 (Channel 2 news)

The event was broadcast on a Hamas television channel dedicated to “culture” (sic).

When Palestinians send their kids to act in these school plays, is it surprising  their kids commit attacks when they mature into adults?

Death to Israel. Undercover and masked, Hamas members prepare incendiary balloons to be launched toward Israel from the Gaza Strip, May 8, 2021 (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

Were these the same kids that have been sending over incendiary balloons in recent years destroying thousands of acres of agricultural fields and woodlands as well as death to wildlife and in May 2021, fired over 4000 rockets at Israel’s civilian population?

Probably.

Under Fire. A field burns near Sderot in southern Israel on May 9, 2021 caused by Incendiary balloons from Gaza. (Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council)

The world can make a difference by not pointing blame in the same direction that Hamas is aiming their deadly rockets – at Israel!




Gaza kids put on play about stabbing, killing Israelis





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)

Sheikh Jarrah – On a wing and a missile

By Craig Snoyman

So why did Hamas fire over 4000 rockets at Israeli cities? 

At the start of the hostilities, the reason was quite confusing. It was because of the Israeli police attacking the people coming from their Ramadan prayers, it was because the Israeli police violated the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque, it was because of the evictions at Sheikh Jarrah, it was because the right-wing Israelis were clashing with Muslims at the Damascus gate, it was because Smotrich had inflamed the situation by visiting Sheikh Jarrah and/or all of the above. Slowly but surely, now that the hostilities are over the scribes are deciding to assign the reason. Sheikh Jarrah wins.

The allegations that police attack innocent prayer-goers is as common as the allegation that dog bites man.  The allegation that Al-Aqsa is being attacked is old hat as is the allegations of Jews attacking Arabs. These are raised periodically and invariably over Ramadan. Smotrich’s conduct is too similar to the debunked Arik Sharon-violence version.  But Sheikh Jarrah remains a live issue! It seems inevitable that there will be more violence over the issue, and it fits very nicely into the “Israel is ethnic- cleansing the Palestinians” mould.

Tension in the Capital. Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood with the city center of Jerusalem in the background.

The Sheikh Jarrah story was not widely known until the start of the hostilities. It revolves around a case that has slowly been wending its way through the Israeli courts for the last forty years and not yet concluded. In 1876, a group of Jews bought the tomb of Simon the Just, the Second Temple High Priest, and the surrounding land. By 1948, there were several hundred Jews living in the area.  This area was captured by the Jordanians in the 1948 War of Independence and taken over by the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property.  The Custodian leased the property to various Arab occupiers who paid rent for the property. After the re-unification of Jerusalem in 1967, Sheikh Jarrah came under the control of the Israeli Custodian. The Jewish owners put forward their claim of ownership in court and in 1973 were finally successful.  Further litigation followed in the civil domestic courts. (The government was not involved) In 1982, in the magistrates’ court, both parties agreed the Arab occupiers would pay rent to the Jewish owners.  At that stage it was not disputed that the property was owned by Jews.  The Arab occupiers then reneged and failed to pay rent. In 1992, litigation followed seeking payment of rent and prevention of alteration of structures. In February 2021, the Jerusalem District Court, upholding previous decisions, held that the tenants must pay rent or be evicted.  The decision was appealed and is now in the Supreme Court.

Jerusalem under Attack. What began as protests over a matter of residency following failed rental payments and resting with Israel’s Supreme Court, was falsely presented as the  entire Sheikn Jarrah neighnouthood under threat, leading to Hamas in Gaza to fire rockets at Jerusalem beginning the 11-day war. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP]

In South Africa, and other Western countries, illegal occupiers of property are evicted. I was counsel in the first land invasion case in South Africa. One of the defences that we raised was that some of the occupiers were protected as they had Security of Tenure. They could remain on the property as they had occupied the property for a long duration of time. This same defence was raised in the Sheikh Jarrah case and the occupants were also granted what the Israeli court termed “Protected Tenant Status”. While we were successful on behalf of some of the occupiers, hundreds of other occupiers were evicted. Eviction is never an easy process. In South African cities, difficult evictions are usually farmed out to eviction specialists, known as the “Red Ants” (due to the colour of their overalls).  However, due the volatility of the situation, in our invasion case, the whole area was sealed off by tons of armed policemen and armoured vehicles, to ensure that the eviction process could take place. Considering the political volatility that exists, if the Protected Tenants continue to refuse to pay their rent, they will be evicted. The Israeli equivalent of the “Red Ants” (should something like that exists) would be totally inadequate. Like the South African government, the Israeli government will have to intervene and use organs of state to secure the area to ensure the eviction takes place.

And judging by recent history, the dogs of war are quickly unleashed!

The Sheikh Jarrah case is very clearly a civil case with no national players officially having skin in the game. It also has still not been concluded. It can be easily resolved if payment of rental is made. It may be in the interests of certain players to ensure that it is not and seek to force the eviction on political grounds.  This said, whether the matter is regarded as a civil case or a political one, the Sheikh Jarrah case is not the sort of claim that can rationally justify a war or provide a  reason for an attempted genocide of Israelis.  So, the ex post facto reasoning for Hamas to start firing rockets, is completely fake. However, the consequences were very real and extended across the world.

The extent of violence and pure Jew-hatred (anti-Semitism is not a strong enough word, the original German word of “Judenfresser”- Jew Eater- is far more expressive) that erupted as Hamas was lobbing its missiles at civilian occupied areas, was absolutely astounding.  This, unfortunately, was Hamas’ greatest success.

Many people were shocked that Israeli Arabs came out in violent support of Hamas’ action.  Starting in the mixed city of Lod, a rage of violence flared resulting in at least five synagogues being torched and a school and various shops vandalised. This violent rioting by Israeli Arabs soon spread to other mixed cities such as Jaffa, Ramle and Acre. Should one be surprised? 

In 2000, during the “al-Aqsa intifada”, Arab Israelis marched in the streets chanting, “With our souls and our blood we will redeem Palestine.” Jaffa and Haifa, the showcases of Arab-Jewish coexistence, were rocked by violence and vandalism. Twenty years after the Al Aqsa Intifada, Arab Israelis, with full rights as citizens, and without the concomitant obligations, again chose to support terrorists, rather than their own country. The fears of the right-wing Israeli politicians gave voice to a fifth column in their midst. 

More surprising was the response of the international community. President Biden made it quite clear that “Israel has the right to defend itself”. What exactly does this mean?  That under other circumstances, it doesn’t have that right? That it should normally just lay down and die? Other American politicians were urging sanctions on Israel and the suspension of arm sales. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans joined some of the largest rallies seen in recent years But these rallies were not in support of America’s greatest ally in the Middle East.  They were protesting against Israel, accusing it of war crimes and bombing innocent women and children. The intellectual philosophers of mass media indulged in mortality porn, judging the fairness of the conflict by the number of deaths on each side, calling it proportionality, while having no idea of the concept. These were also the talking-heads screaming that Israel was committing genocide. Israel lost the battle in America hands down! But in front of the eyes of America, the war was transformed from an anti-Israel war to a war against the Jews. There were over 17000 social media messages claiming, “Hitler was right”.  The signs and messages equating Jews with Nazis filled the newspapers and the TV screens, day after day. The virtually illiterate “social influencers” told their millions of followers on social media that “Israelis are child-killers” and “from the river to the sea Palestine shall be free” collectively reaching millions more people than the POTUS has supporters.

The would-be Picassos daubed swastikas and messages of hate on Jewish institutions and synagogues. It also got physical – people eating in restaurants were assaulted because they were Jewish. Gangs of thugs roamed the streets looking to beat up people who looked Jewish. Those who wore outer symbols of their Jewishness, such as ‘kippas’, were hospital cases waiting to happen. Anti-Semitic incidents, not anti-Zionist incidents, rose a staggering 70%. Collective guilt was enforced, with all Jews held liable for the actions of Israel. All of this happened while Israel was defending itself against and degrading the capacity of a terrorist organisation which had fired over four thousand war crimes against it. All of this happened in the Land of the Free – the USA – Israel’s greatest ally!

What went on in Europe may have been surprising but wasn’t unexpected. Europe is widely perceived to have a latent anti-Semitism which is supine, until some sort of incident ignites it. The incident that ignited it this time was the Israel – Hamas conflict. There were one or two pleasant surprises like the Israeli flag flying over the Austrian Chancellery and Chancellor Kurtz’ tweet that “we stand by Israel’s side” together with heart-warming visits by the foreign ministers of Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. But generally, the position was only slightly worse than what played out in the US. The influx of Muslims into Europe has not resulted in a reduction of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. The trending flavour of the week was to re-post anti-Semitic and anti- Zionist messages. It was also open season on “criminals” who had the audacity to walk on the street while Jewish. There was a special bounty on the heads of anyone who looked like a rabbi, with a reward of as many kicks to the designated head, as felt necessary. The Chinese, who hypocritically commented that the USA has no sympathy for the suffering of Muslims, must have been smiling from ear to bank, as every one of the many pro-Hamas rallies abounded with its “Made in China” Palestinian flags. Not for the first time in history, was Europe a dangerous place for Jews. But then, both the Austrian Chancellor and the German Foreign Minister also did utter that “Israel has the right to defend itself”. Little was said about the Jews in Europe who were unable to do the same. (Never.!….. Again?)

The response of the openly anti-Israel countries was not unexpected. The calls for war-crimes trials against Israel were all recited from the proverbial hymn book.  South Africa, which also called for war crimes prosecutions, went as far as suggesting that Israel was going to invade Africa! A special Human Rights Council session has called for the creation of a permanent “Commission of Inquiry” to monitor and report on rights violations in Israel, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank.  This will no doubt form a permanent addition to its notorious annual agenda Item 7. “Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories”.  Once again, Israel, objectively rated as democratic and free – and with a better human rights record that 13 of the 15 members on the Council – stands   convicted  by some of the world’s worst human rights abusers.  The charges will follow. The existence of a permanent “Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories” remains part of the lynching party.  And then one realises why inane comments like “Israel has the right to defend itself” are so important.

Shoe on the other Foot. In 2016, it was ‘strickly a legal issue in the courts’ when residents at Naruna Estates outside of Cape Town, South Africa say they were being forced out of their homes, reminiscent of the apartheid era. The government said not at all — “they’re just not paying their rent.” (photo:Wendy Almacin)

The most horrifying consequence of the hostilities has been the justification and minimising of Hamas’ war crimes and the renewed de-legitimisation of Israel. As South Africa’s widely respected commentator on the middle east, Naeem Jeena said “So they fired a measly seven missile at Jerusalem” to show their support. So what – that’s OK now? Are seven “little” war crimes now de minimus, too small to concern civilised countries? Other commentators that have issued blanket denials that missiles have been fired from civilian areas (probably because Al-Jazeera and AP never knew this was happening) This, while Hamas issued a declaration that they are exempt from war-crimes, because they are “obliged” to fire from civilian areas. Millions of people have no objection to Human Shields as justifiable weapons of war and vocalise any of their deaths especially of “innocent women and children”. The mendacious excuse that Hamas says that it has to fire rockets at Israel because “it’s the only way that the Palestinians can protect their citizens” has gained currency and is virtually acceptable in the media. Time to remember that not firing rockets helps, too! But look how many people are prepared to accept that the end is shown to justify the means, when neither is justifiable. Rather accept the inanities, than these absurdities.

Responding with Rockets. Latching on to protests in Jerusalem, Hamas unleashes rockets from a civilian area in Gaza aimed at civilian areas in Israel.

The slogan “From the river to the sea” is also in vogue, used by both by politicians and ordinary people. This has translated into any Jew is seen to support Israel and every Jew around the world has become a target. The current homicidal mobs are not interested in which sea is being referred to, so long as they can beat up a Jew. When a convoy of cars can travel unimpeded through the heart of London, with someone shouting though a loud hailer “Kill the Jews, rape their daughters” it is difficult to believe that there is a distinction be anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. It was Martin Luther King, in the days before Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality, who said “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.” He also said that “The whole world must see that Israel must exist and has the right to exist and is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world.” Sixty years after his words, in a world full of irrational hate, the recognition of Israel is still being questioned!

The growing verbal and physical harassment of Jews in New York, Miami and Los Angeles by young Muslims is now no different from that seen in Europe.  The license given to them by elected leaders like Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib and Corbin and McDonnell allows them to act with impunity. The genocidal Hamas tunnel rats have performed to loud vocal applause, have lost only a bunch of Gazans, whose deaths have been blamed on the Israelis, and the international community has already stepped up to fund the rebuilding of Gaza.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that they have no reason to change their modus operandi. These morally bankrupt international institutions continue to blame Israel.

But back to Sheikh Jarrah. Even to the most politically naïve, it must be obvious that the Sheikh Jarrah case is subject to political undercurrents and the litigants are being utilised at political pawns.  It would be reasonable to assume that the Arab tenants would far rather have paid the rent, as they initially agreed to do, rather than find themselves in this current situation. There has clearly been political pressure placed on them not to pay.  It is probable that the Palestinian Authority had a hand in ensuring the was no payment in order to embarrass the Israeli government and to allow festering resentment amongst the Palestinians. This manoeuvre was exploited by Hamas claiming that they launched their missile attack against Israel to protect the residents of Sheikh Jarrah. From finding emotional resonance, it morphed quickly into a festering sore then turned into a huge septic wound! Hamas’ claim of ethnic cleansing trumps the PA’s claim of “Judaising Jerusalem”. The PA has been outplayed, but its’ hands are tied. It would desperately like a solution to this impasse that gives no credit to Hamas.

The flag-wavers of the world are no doubt supporting the Hamas version!

Nasty Narrative. A protestor against the evictions in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, raises his placard to the world branding Israel  for “ethnic cleansing”.  [File: Maya Alleruzzo/AP Photo]

On the other hand, it would be reasonable to assume sure that the owners of the property would far rather have the rent paid, than evict the tenants.  They cannot relish the fact that they will become the face of the picture-posters of Israeli oppression. One cannot be oblivious to the fact that there are Jewish groups who would like nothing more than to have Jews reclaiming property and living in the recaptured and united Jerusalem. The Israeli government, which would probably have liked nothing more than this matter to fade into the background, is obviously being forced into taking a stand. Its hands are also tied.  But the real sympathy and concern must go to the judges of Israel’s Supreme Court, who have to hand down a decision. On the facts, it can logically only come to one conclusion- occupants who have previously agreed that they are lessees and who have admitted that they have not paid rent must be evicted. But the political pressure must be immense, no matter what is said about giving judgement without fear or favour.

The Supreme Court of Israel has given the Attorney General until 8 June to decide whether it wished to become involved in the Sheikh Jarrah case. However, the political pressure, both domestic and international, to prevent the eviction continues to grow. Secretary of State Blinken, on his trip to Israel, warned Israel that America was opposed to the eviction. Heavyweight commentators who should (and probably do) know better, are inflaming the situation by maliciously referring to the evictions as ethnic cleansing (Case in point South Africa’s pre-eminent Muslim political commentator Naeem Jeenah in a debate against Lay Of The Land’s Rolene Marks).  May God protect and guide the judges!

The decision is no longer about Sheikh Jarrah. It’s about irrational Judenfressen in its most ugly, vicious form. Sheikh Jarrah is an excuse to find a socially acceptable way to publicly express Jew-hatred while pretending that the obsessive hatred is justifiable.

As a lawyer, one is taught to look for the win-win scenario and that it is usually better to settle out of court than to run a costly trial that you risk losing. Sheikh Jarrah is one of those cases. While the players may be politically boxed in, everyone else attempting to interfere is not. While I don’t profess to have all the answers, I do see a way forward. The Palestinian Authority can’t be seen to be conceding on the issue. The Israeli government can’t be seen to be dictating to the Court. BUT there are still two options:  eviction or payment.  There is nothing that prevents a third party from paying the outstanding amounts of a debtor.  Surely, one of the international players such as the one which take millions of dollars to Gaza in a suitcase every month, or one of other the countries that have pledged billions of dollars for the reconstruction of Gaza can find some way of paying the owners the money that is due to them and prevent the evictions, which may again set the world on fire.  One knows that there are finer details that would need to be worked out, but if there are negotiators that managed to broker a cease-fire between two implacable enemies, this dispute resolution should be child’s play. If the world sees it necessary to meddle in an Israeli domestic court case, then why not resolve it instead of pouring fuel on the fire?  Are we talking – a million dollars? Two million dollars? Five million dollars? Whatever it is, it’s cheap at the price! 

It used to be said that that there were five degrees of separation between everybody in the world. With the internet, it’s less. So lobby your congress-person, your parliamentarian, your elected representative, the NGO’s and all those other people and organisations that have interfered in the matter, but have not contributed to a solution.

Someone must know somebody who can do something constructive. Get the message out! Let the big-shots get an out of court settlement. These things happen every day.  Get the problem solved before the Supreme Court is obliged to hand down an irrevocable order. This message I send to you on the wings of my prayer.

The alternative is the winged fins of missiles again being launched!





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)

“A Fiery Debate”

From Rockets to Rolene, the war continues in the media as Israel remains under attack

Rolene Marks vs Naeem Jeenah – The showdown on Islam TV.

Lay of the Land co-founder, Rolene Marks was invited on the 27th May 2021 to debate Afro-Middle East Centre head, Naeem Jeenah in a panel discussion ‘AQSA is Calling’ on South Africa’s Islam TV (ITV), a programme featured in South Africa. The decades old adversaries engaged in a discussion that is certain to raise one’s blood pressure.

Following her friendly introduction from Modiin in Israel, where she resides, she was immediately jumped upon by her adversary, Naeem Jeenah, Executive Director Afro-Middle East Centre who said that where Rolene lives is “in violation of international law” and that she: “is talking rubbish”.

That set the tone but what followed soon revealed who really was “talking rubbish”.

Dismissing the over 4000 rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel’s civilian populations – a war crime in International Law – Jeenah opened up with the usual lies making the rounds of anti-Semites the world over of falsely and maliciously accusing Jews of behaving like the Nazis, thus suggesting that Jews are perpetrating a “Holocaust” on the Palestinians:

“What Israel is doing in Gaza is what they are doing in Jerusalem – ethic cleansing of the Palestinian people. They want to make it so uncomfortable so they will leave so they can take over entire Palestine. So please don’t come with this nonsense how great humanitarians Israelis are wanting to see development in Gaza. If that was the case, stop  bombing and killing the children of Gaza.” He then went on to promote the only “way forward” was for a binational state – meaning the dismantling of the State of Israel.

With a world gung-ho for 2000 years of exterminating Jews and now set on exterminating its hard-fought for national homeland, Rolene would have none of this.

Watch Rolene Marks vs Naeem Jeenah The showdown on Islam TV:






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)

Shape of Things to Come

South Africa could help reshape and redefine the Middle East

By  Kenneth Mokgatlhe

Egypt, Washington, the UN and other stakeholders played an important part in bringing about the recent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, a conflict that lasted for 11 days. The truce that was welcomed last Friday was as a result of hardworking advocates for peace from around the world that regrettably did not include from South Africa.

Despite our impressive credentials at reconciliation, my country South Africa continues to miss opportunity after opportunity for helping to bring about peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict and much of the embattled Middle East region.

The Jewish state is frequently labelled “apartheid Israel” by Its detractors who are intentionally spreading disinformation. First and foremost, apartheid was a statutory system of segregation and discrimination on grounds of race used in South Africa before 1994, where our black majority were discriminated against on every level – social, economic and political.

The New Kingmakers? Members of the Arab Joint list seen during a vote on a bill to dissolve the parliament, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on December 12, 2019. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

I am one of few fortunate young South Africans who has visited Israel in the quest for searching for the truth. I visited its parliament, where Arabs sit as members representing their community or Arab constituency. They have the right to fight for the needs of their people and they do.  This was never the case in apartheid South Africa and whatever form of racism there might be in Israel, it is not what we had in South Africa – it is not apartheid and is an afront to those who suffered under apartheid to suggest  any similarity.

It’s a lie that needs to be exposed!

While visiting the city of Ramallah – the administrative capital of the Palestinian National Authority – I engaged with Palestinians and heard their complaint relating to the land and its allocation and how this adversely affect livelihoods. While this is a serious issue, and needs to be addressed seriously, the BDS movement in South Africa presents such a skewered narrative of the situation to fit with its agenda which is:

not to establish a Palestinian a state but to do away with the Jewish state. Read their statements – it’s there in black and white clear as daylight.

March of Madness. A march against Israel down St Georges Street Cape Town some yeas ago. Note the wording on the banner: “For the liberation of Quds (Jerusalem), machine guns based upon FAITH and ISLAM must be used “ Imam Khomeini. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

Those understanding the complexities of the Israel-Palestine conflict have been calling for a “Two-state solution” – the most practical solution. However attractive it might be in some circles, annihilating Israel is not an option and even for the more nuanced antisemites, Israel cannot be airbrushed away into oblivion. It has a total population today of some 9 million, nearly double the population of Ireland and nearly 2/3 the population of our neighbour, Zimbabwe.

Despite the unrelenting onslaught against Israel through rockets like last week and on the other hand, open-ended vitriol from the UN, NGOs, diplomats, and a biased international media, Israel has not only survived against the odds but outreached to the Arab and Muslim worlds finding acceptance in a region that was once implacably hostile to its very existance.

Apart from Egypt and Jordan that entered into peace agreements with Israel many years ago,  we now see Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco normalizing their relations with the Jewish state, much of it under the aegis of Washington.

South Africa, with its political history could also contribute  to helping reshape, reimagine and redefine the politics in the Middle East especially with regard to the recent tensions that violently erupted between Hamas and Israel. South Africa once proved to the world its talent in conflict resolution and reconciliation and showed an alternative to violence.

Last week was tense as the world was glued to their televisions and media platforms. While there were those calling for a ceasefire, too many were ready to trip over each other to brand Israel as the aggressor. They showed scant regard for the facts that Hamas began be firing rockets at Israel’s capital followed by thousands over the next 11 days all aimed at Israel’s civilian population. However displeased some may be with a court order relating to an eviction notice in east Jerusalem does not give the right to a foreign political entity – Gaza – the right to express its opinion on the issue by launching rockets at Israel’s civilian population across the country!

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Rockets. Rockets launched from Gaza land near communities in the hills outside Jerusalem, hitting a home and knocking out electricity. 

There was no need for this divisive issue to be ‘arbitrated’ through violence which s exactly what Hamas wanted and which South Africa – who should know better – supported. In so doing, South Africa failed to play the necessary role of an “honest broker”, which it could have done with its proven credentials.

South Africa is truly out of step here with US President Joe Biden publicly acknowledging Israel’s right to defend itself and affirming Hamas as a terrorist organsation. Hamas is hell-bent in word and deed on the total removal of Israel and its Jewish population. You only have to read the frightening wording in the Hamas’ charter!

The US is joined by the European Union, and others who have identified Hamas as a terror group. It is only South Africa that heaps praise on this organisation and supports its murderous actions.

Clear Understanding. Noting the clear aggressor and who was threatening Israel’s’ civilian population, US president Joe Biden said that the Jewish state had a right to defend itself. (File Photo / REUTERS)

South Africa’s position constrains it from it  effectively tackling the issue.  There has been an occupation of the West Bank including east Jerusalem which many Israelis are not comfortable with. In his book titled Drawing Fire, internationally respected South African journalist, now living in Israel, Benjamin Pogrund wrote: “The settlers have transformed Israel; they have influence in the inner core of government, and they shape profound policy decisions for the future. Many, many millions of Shekels are devoted to them in budgets, both openly and secretly. Their existence has been made possible by military occupation”.

This issue could be pursued through dialogue but with the political divisions between Ramallah and Gaza – between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, it is difficult for the Palestinians to have legitimate representatives to effectively pursue their cause. There needs to be one, not multiple leaderships to engage with Israel. This needs to be internally resolved within the Palestinian polity, an issue that South Africa could so easy have offered advice from its own experience of overcoming multi-ethnic diversity.

South Africa Quo Vadis? Has the restorative justice work of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, shown here circa 1996 and which served as an inspiration been lost forever?

The world needs to support pragmatic policies that acknowledges Israel has a right to exist alongside an independent Palestine. To this end, South Africa could take a more active role in trying to resolving the Israeli-Palestine conflict through constructive counsel rather than undermining its potential role as a “peacemaker” by being patently one-sided by issuing government statements solely critical of Israel.

Nothing is achieved by this except devaluing South Africa’s judgement, its image and  undermining its potential for conflict resolution and reconciliation.

South Africa has failed the test so far; will it change course?





About the writer:

Kenneth Mokgatlhe is an independent writer and political critic.

From Zeerust, North West Province, South Africa.

078 9754 182




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)

Dodging Death and Delusion

Israelis dodge rockets while the world media dodges the truth

By David E. Kaplan

Fun-loving, free-thinking, tolerant and vibrant, globally popular Tel Aviv  is known as the “City that never sleeps”.

These days Tel Aviv retains that moniker but for a different reason.

Its citizens, like so much all around Israel, lie awake at night waiting for the shriek of the siren to pierce the air and get them scurrying off to their bomb shelters.

It’s a few minutes after midnight, and following the threat of Hamas to rain terror over Tel Aviv, they follow through on their promise and extend their range to the entire Dan region and so we are in our stairwell in Kfar Saba as there is no time to get to a bomb shelter – six floors below!

No Kidding! Israeli children take shelter in in stairwell of their apartment complex.(photo credit: MAARIV)

You can’t chance a lift and you can’t run down six flights. It’s a death defying dilemma!

We hear the inevitable, and a few minutes after the deafening “Boom-Booms” as Israel’s Iron Domes intercept Hamas’ rockets, I say, “I’m going back inside”, to which I’m wisely-wifely counseled:

No, wait. There may be falling debris.”

Dead right!

The rockets from Gaza may be taken out by the Iron Dome but there remains the danger from falling debris that causes havoc on the ground.

Attesting to this, I then receive a text message from my son in Tel Aviv: “Massive debris just fallen on Florintin, near our apartment.”

Florintin, with its bohemian cafes, laid-back bars with craft beer and live bands and its vendors selling bureka filo pastries and falafel at the famed Levinsky Market, is none of that these days.

What Has Changed? Residents look in shock, after a rocket directly hits a house in Ashkelon, southern Israel, early morning on August 26, 2014. (Flash90/File)

People are playing the Lottery of Life at home!

Further south and five kilometres east of Gaza lies kibbutz Kfar Aza, perennially on the frontlines in the wars with those calling the ‘shots’ in Gaza.

Located only one mile or 1.6 kilometers from the Gaza border, the residents of this farming and industrial community are typically bleary-eyed from waking up to air raid sirens, sending them RUNNING to bomb shelters. The meaning of ‘running’ was made clear when I turned on i24NEWS, and heard a young woman in her early twenties being interviewed.  She said:

 “For the last six days, all I’ve eaten is cereal.”

How come?” asked the interviewer surprised.

Because I don’t want to be caught cooking a meal when the siren goes and have to remember to turn off the gas.”

The interviewer, believing she has grasped the terrifying reality, replies:

“Yes, I understand you only have 15 seconds.”

NO!” corrects the young kibbutz resident:

 “We, at Kfar Aza have only 5 seconds!”

That is 5 seconds to reach safety. Not everyone on Kibbutz Aza over the years has made it in time and sadly rest today in the local cemetery!

Even more deadly than rockets over the short range are the mortars. Firing explosive shells, mortars are aimed at targets which are close thus evading radar detection. No threat to the Israel’s big cities because of their greater distances from Gaza, mortars are a menace to the communities within an 8-10 kilometer range of Gaza.

This Tuesday was just such a horrifying day!

Assault on Ashkelon. A medic carries 8-years-old Eitan Vhnstok at the scene where an apartment building was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza in Ashkelon, southern Israel, on May 11, 2021. (Edi Israel/ Flash90

The Menace of Mortars

With mortars, there is no warning, only death and injury if they strike a target. This happened this Tuesday afternoon, May 18,  when a barrage of 50 mortars were fired from Gaza at the Eshkol Regional Council scoring a direct hit on a packing plant at Moshav Ohad resulted in the killing of two Thai workers and wounding ten others.  That’s how indiscriminate these attacks are – their aim is to kill Jews and ends up killing Thais!

It can just as easily kill Arabs as it did a week earlier when it struck a moving vehicle outside of Lod killing Halil Awad, 52, and his 16-year-old daughter, Nadine.

Another of Tuesday’s mortgage barrage hit the Erez Crossing where it wounded a 19-year-old Israel soldier with shrapnel wounds to his upper body.

However, beyond the twisted remains of the mortar’s casting found on the killing ground was also revealed some twisted irony!

Gaza Strikes Muslims. “Hamas missiles do not differentiate between Jews and Arabs,” said the mayor of Lod following Arab resident Nadine  Awad (above) being killed in the car with her father Halil Awad from a rocket from Gaza.

The injured Israeli soldier was part of a military unit assisting in transferring humanitarian aid in convoys into the Gaza Strip! Israel had earlier in the day, temporarily reopened both the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings into Gaza, allowing many truckloads of fuel, medical equipment and animal feed into the enclave, and it was while the crossings were opened – HELPING THE PEOPLE OF GAZA –  that Hamas launched the large mortar barrage across the border, killing the two Thai workers, injuring eight and injuring the Israeli soldier helping the residents of Gaza.

And what should be most noted, especially the selective eyesight of the ICC (International Criminal Court) watchdog was that the Hamas terror cell firing these mortars, were doing so from inside a school in Gaza – a violation of the Rules of Armed Conflict and hence a War Crime.

There is an unspoken military policy in Israel “that quiet would be answered with quiet”, so if the world genuinely wants to help support bringing “quiet” to this war-torn region, stop equating Israel with the genocidal terrorists who ruin more than rule Gaza.  Hamas, which is responsible for the nearly 4000 rockets fired so far, publicly and officially calls for the “extermination of Jews and Christians to the last” and teaches these destructive worldviews as early at kindergarten.

Comforting the Kids. Israeli soldiers from Home Front Command visit families inside a bomb shelter in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, on May 18, 2021 (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

Hardly a calling to engender “quiet”.

In 2017, Yahya Sinwar – Hamas’ present leader in Gaza – reiterated once again that “Hamas will never recognize Israel”.  He declared the terror organization will never disarm, adding:

Gone is the time in which Hamas discussed recognition of Israel. The discussion now is about when we will wipe out Israel.”

Could he not be clearer as he was in word  in 2017 as he is in deed in 2021?

Following this war, all future financial support to help Gaza recover, should not be spent underground for Hamas but above ground for the people.

The message is clear and it should be to the world and the United Nations:

Support the Gazan people by not supporting Hamas

Border Crossings. A Palestinian policeman waves on a truck as it enters through the Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)



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)

I Placed a Tile on the Wall of Peace

By Rolene Marks

I once placed a tile on the wall of peace. It was on the wall that divided Gaza from Israel and very close to the Kibbutz of Netiv Ha’asara. I left in there in the hope that it would leave just a little bit of a dream of peace on the barrier between Gaza and Israel.

Writing on the Wall. The wording on the tile the writer affixes to the mosaic, includes – peace, happiness, unity, tolerance, hope, love, freedom, kindness and laughter.

Earlier in the day I had heard from the brave residents of the kibbutz situated just metres away about their experiences of living a life under constant fire and threats of infiltration from terror tunnels being built underneath their homes.  Many people don’t realise that there is a metro, a network of terror tunnels that are designed with the intentions of smuggling weapons but also as a springboard to launch attacks on Israeli civilians by reaching into the sovereign territory and kidnapping or murdering civilians and soldiers.

 I had been inside a terror tunnel that the IDF had secured. It was a shocking reminder of a pervasive threat, its intentions deadly. I have been to the south of Israel many times. I have seen the bomb shelters that dot the landscape, heard the stories of the incredible, courageous citizens and seen the fear in our children’s eyes. I know there is fear in the eyes of the children of Gaza too. I know that Hamas and their ilk keep both of our populations under hostage of terror.

Spreading Hope. The writer adds her tile to the ‘Path to Peace’ mossaic

For the past week, Israel has been engaged in a defensive operation called “Operation Guardians of the Wall” to protect citizens against over 3000 rockets and mortars fired on the country and rout out Hamas’s terror infrastructure and top brass.

Countries have been supporting Israel recognizing the threat that Hamas poses, however many have urged the use of proportionality in our response all the while failing to explain how they see that happening. Israel endures a conflict with its neighbours in Gaza who are hell bent on our destruction, having this intention ingrained in their charter. No other country has endured a perpetual conflict where the enemy entity hides within its civilian population and commits a double war crime by firing from within their own into ours, aiming for maximum casualties. On the one side, the intent is to murder as many Israelis and on the other, it is to inflict harm on their own so that they can rack up those devastating optics in the media. So far several hundred rockets fired have landed in the strip and 40 civilians have been killed as a result, including at least 5 children.

But it is a strategy that is working.

Model Behaviour? Daughters of Palestinian real-estate developer Mohamed Hadid  and Dutch model Yolanda, supermodels Bella and Gigi Hadid are among celebrities who have been posting about the Israel-Palestine conflict.

We cannot underscore the role of media, and how it has been weaponized against Israel. At a time where ratings rather than lives matter, facts have become a casualty. Journalists and networks no longer care about context, nuance and the reality on the ground but rather views, engagement and ratings. Celebrities and social media influences have globbed on to this as well and in their haste to drive up their likes and shares and boast social justice credentials. To this end, they are playing a large part in sharing mistruths and propaganda. It also feeds into the never ending drip feeding of woke perpetual victimhood culture. They have little knowledge but massive reach – and that is dangerous. The supermodel Hadid sisters have a combined reach of over 100 million and other celebrities as well. This is many, many more times the total number of Jews in the world. Now, most would scoff at the idea of learning about the Middle East conflict from swimsuit models and comedians but here we are. It is dangerous and contributing to a climate of hate for Jews around the world.

While they have been astoundingly silent of issues like the Syrian civil war where 4000 Palestinians were slaughtered or have failed to drum up a march for the Uighur Muslims in concentration camps, Israel and global Jewry is fair game.

What has become disproportionate as the result of poor reporting and ignorant but eager social media posting is the hatred spilling over into the streets of cities around the world. It is entirely possible and probable to draw a line connecting what is reported in the media and a rise in anti-Semitic sentiment that is starting to become inherently violent.  In the past week, Jewish communities around the world have faced a tsunami of hatred from London, where Jewish women were even threatened with rape, to Toronto where a Rabbi was beaten to New York, Brussels, Cape Town, Montreal, Sydney and everywhere in between.  Many are wondering if they will ever be safe again and if it is not time to make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel).

Social media has become a free for all and many like me who have been doing double duty as frontline activists in the war against misinformation have face a blitzkrieg of hate invective. I use the term blitzkrieg intentionally because I have lost count of how many death wishes I have received, including pictures of Hitler telling me that this is the “cure for me” and disappointments that a rocket – one of over 3000  – has not killed me yet!

Pursuing Peace. Visitors standing before the “Path to Peace”, a joint mosaic creation, by thousands of people, towards hope, love, and happiness among all people. The creation is placed upon the border wall that divides Gaza and Israel.
 
 

But I will tell you what I know for sure at the risk of sounding glib. At Pesach time we read the ancient words that in every generation there are those who rise up to act against us. We have survived millennia of persecution and hatred and whatever it was that sustained our ancestors, is what we have inside us now and no matter how dark it seems we will prevail.

Israel’s army and our Iron Dome will continue to defend the country physically. The battle in the media and in the court of public opinion will continue and it is up to each of us to form that shield against misinformation and lies, a human Iron Dome if you will. Israel will continue to pursue and dream of peace while defending ourselves with all our might. And so it will continue.

 I placed that tile with a sense of hope. Because hope allows us to dream big. To believe in better days to come. I once placed a tile on the wall of peace, hoping it would be part of building a solid foundation, no matter how dark and hate filled the climate of the world is right now against Israel. It represented my hopes and dreams, for our people and theirs. Will my dreams be realized? I can only hope.



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)

GAZA: THE FACTS

By Harris Zvi Green

People living around the world are not always fully aware of the issues pertaining to the Israel-Gaza conflict. They see television footage of the extensive damage caused to national infrastructures on both sides of the border. They hear about the tragic loss of life.

At best, media commentary refers superficially to the history of the conflict. It almost always ignores the context. Television cameras focus exclusively on photo opportunities. Their footage invariably shows specific or isolated events. The footage shown is driven by rating. Its prime purpose is to connect between one commercial break and the next. The overall picture is always distorted.

Explosions light up the sky as Hamas rockets streak into Israel. (Image: Reuters)

The following summary attempts to lay out the facts. I’m not seeking to present my point of view.

  • In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew its military and civilian presence from the Gaza Strip and returned to the internationally recognized pre -1967 border.
  • The Gaza Strip – an integral part of the proposed ‘Two-state solution’ – is governed by Hamas after it seized control of the area from the Palestinian Authority in 2007.
  • Hamas has been declared a terror organization by a number of international courts, including the European Union’s General Court.
  • The Court ruled that Hamas is not a sovereign state. Furthermore, it ruled that Hamas had failed to display that its political and armed wings are separate.
  • Gaza is reportedly threatened with a major humanitarian crisis. Nonetheless, its rulers have successfully accumulated an arsenal of missiles with a range of up to 250 kilometers. The more sophisticated rockets in their arsenal have the range to reach any target in Israel. Theoretically, they have the range to overfly Israel and hit major population centers in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.
  • Hamas has invested millions of dollars to create an infrastructure of tunnels to enable attacks on civilian neighbourhoods inside sovereign Israel. This metro of tunnels inside Gaza also serves to provide refuge for Hamas military operatives from Israeli airstrikes.
  • Since achieving its “independence”, Gaza initiated a number of major military confrontations with Israel. Even during the relatively peaceful interludes between these confrontations, thousands of rockets fired from Gaza were fired on Israeli civilian targets.
  • The Hamas regime is widely regarded as an Iranian proxy dedicated to promoting the Islamic Jihad.
Gazan terrorists prepare to launch rockets toward Israel
  • In order to limit the free flow of arms from Iran to Gaza, both Israel and Egypt imposed a naval blockade on Gaza. This blockade was deemed legal by the UN appointed Palmer Commission. In the words of the Commission: “Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”
The building housing the offices of AP,  Al-Jazeera as well as, according to Israel was being used by Hamas operatives, collapses after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike. The attack came roughly an hour after the Israeli military warned people to evacuate the building.
  • To defend itself, Israel developed the Iron Dome air defense system to intercept the barrage of missiles being fired at civilian targets.
  • Israel recently completed the construction of an underground security obstacle on its sovereign territory at an enormous cost to effectively eliminate the threat of these tunnels on its civilian population.
  • During the past few days, more than 2,500 missiles have been fired at civilian targets in Israel.
A member of Hamas displays rockets in Gaza City (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Hamas continues to hold two Israeli citizens hostage and the bodies of two Israeli servicemen killed in action in 2014.
  • In an attempt to provide basic services to the Gaza’s civilian population, Israel provides both power and water to Gaza.
  • Thousands of trucks transport food and medical supplies to Gaza on a daily basis.
An Israeli inspects the damage to his house following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip, in the southern Israeli city of Sderot on May 15, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

I invite readers to draw their conclusions and to engage in a constructive debate regarding the future. If you scroll down below, Lay Of The Land invites you to comment and freely express your views in the space provided.  Avail yourselves of the opportunity to engage.

Clearly, the current state of affairs is untenable. It can’t continue.





About the writer:

Harris Zvi Green, born in Cape Town / South-Africa. Graduated from the University of Cape Town with a B. Com. degree and immigrated to Israel 51 years ago. He served as the Chief Financial Officer at a number of Israeli hi-tech companies. He is now retired. Married with three married children and is the proud grandfather of 13 grandchildren.




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)