I watched on a Television screen monitoring the Israel/Gaza border as 3 Gazans cut a hole in the border fence, went through the no-man’s land area, clamoured up an anti-Tank ditch and entered Israeli territory, where they lit fires on the Israeli side and damaged some property. While the operation lasted for several minutes, although the Gazan’s were unobscured and well within sniper range, no shots or even warning shots were fired from the Israel side. Contrary to popular misconception Israel practices staggering restraint to ensure that no Gazans are harmed, unless they threaten Israeli lives. I also watched as Hamas cynically use paraplegics with artificial limbs to run towards the border fence, by paying them to do so. But again Israel refrains over and over to fire on them.
In South Africa more people are murdered in one week, than have been killed in the misnamed “genocide” that has been occurring since the beginning of the weekly protests by tens of thousands of Gazans along the Gaza border.
Recently, Gazans fired over 700 rockets into Israel during a 2 day period. No nation state can sanction or condone such aggression. Even one rocket is too much. Moreover, just this past week Gazans launched waves of incendiary arson attacks on Israel, starting more than 30 fires of farmlands, during the extremely dry summer months, when temperatures soar to 40 degrees Celsius. While on the border, I witnessed Israeli fire trucks roaming the area, ever ready to immediately quelch these fires before they spread. No nation stand would stand for this type of aggression which is aimed to burn civilian activities and animal life.!
But Israel seems to be ready to deploy a new strategy, which is aimed at making the lives of Gazans more hopeful, than the constant dose of repression meted out by their rulers, Hamas. The average Gazan finds himself between a rock and a hard place, as state sanctioned brutality and even murder is the order of the day. Hamas also exerts almost complete economic control over the daily lives of its citizens and dishes out food and benefits only to those that toe its line. Even the fate of the Qatari money, which is handed out in cash to the Gazan authorities, finds its way first to those loyal to Hamas. Israel permits the Qatari’s to do so, in order to improve the daily lives of the Gazans.
There is a strong perception in Israel, that they need to find another way to improve the quality of life of the ordinary citizens of Gaza, by taking unilateral steps, which cannot be impeded by Hamas. I was present at a briefing by the Head of the Regional council of Sderot, Mr Ophir Liebstein, close to the Gazan border when he spoke passionately about his desire to proceed with this new vision. He visualizes establishing hospitals, schools and even High-tech industries along the Gazan border, which will be aimed at offering Gazans an alternative to break free from the futility of life currently on the menu in Gaza. By seeing that cooperation offers hope and a way out of the cycle of violence, more and more Gazans will not support Hamas and choose to support those willing to work together with Israel.
Many Israelis have also realized that they can’t leave Gaza to try to sort out its own problems as failure to do so is detrimentally affecting Israel. Raw sewage, which is spewing into the sea and finding its way onto Israeli beaches, because Gaza has squandered the money granted to it by the European Union to build sewage plants, is an example. Israel, at its own expense has set aside an amount of 15 Billion Shekels (63 Billion Rands) to build sewage plants in Israeli territory which will funnel waste water and sewage from Gaza, and once purified allow the return of treated water back to Gaza to assist them to grow crops. Israel is also laying a new water pipeline into Gaza that will more than double the supply of drinking water to the people of Gaza.
This new strategy has also manifested in a policy of rewarding Hamas for acting responsibly. Just today, instead of targeting the arsonists which they could easily do, Israel has offered to increase the supply of diesel to Gaza and has offered a reprieve to Gazan fishermen by extending their fishing zone, on the condition that Hamas restrain and stop these arson attacks.
Israelis are realizing that just because the people of Gaza have been burdened by a government that does not have their best interests at heart, that there is nevertheless something they can do to ameliorate the daily living conditions of the Gazan’s daily lives. Israel is stepping up to show clearly that there is another way than conflict, and that way of cooperation offers the only path to a better life and a long term solution to coexistence.
Ben Levitas – Former Chairman of the SAZF Cape Council. Has a BA from the Hebrew University: MSc from London School of Economics and an MBA from University of Pretoria. Founded Boston House College and is an entrepreneur.
head of Israel Section, SAICC / SA Israel Chamber of Commerce Johannesburg, South Africa.
Time passes, memories fade, events are forgotten. I needed to remind myself of past traumas in Israel, and I did.
In 2001, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al Aqsa Brigades and other terrorist groups began launching Qassam rockets at Sderot (the small town that lies about a mile outside of the Gaza Strip in the western Negev Desert) as part of the Second Intifada (2000-2005), and have continued intermittently since then.
Not only continued but intensified!
In a single day in November 2018, more than 460 rockets were launched into the south of Israel, cruelly outmatched a few months later when over a 24-hour period in May 2019, 500 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza.
Back in 2002, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) installed a radar warning system known as Shakhar Adom, or ‘red dawn’. It operated as follows: an alarm was sounded across the town when the IDF realised that a rocket was inbound. It worked extremely well, and citizens mostly had time – about 15 seconds – to find shelter from the inevitable destruction which followed.
In 2007, a young 7-year old Israeli girl by the name of Shakhar complained about her name being associated with the warning system. In true Israeli style, ensuring that as little discomfort as possible would affect the citizens, authorities changed the name to TsevaAdom – meaning ‘red colour’ or ‘code red’ – and Tseva Adom became known across the Jewish world as ‘15 seconds’ – the difference between life and death.
Seventeen years: 17 years during which the citizens of Sderot, and later those of other cities and towns near Gaza, have lived with the terror of imminent attack, imminent destruction, imminent death. 17 years of treading softly, holding one’s breath, praying that children and spouses have reached safety in time, wondering when the next warning would come. 17 years of angst, of apprehension, of foreboding – how do people live like that?
Three years after the first radar warning was installed in Sderot, it was installed in Ashkelon, a city lying north of the Gaza Strip near the Mediterranean coast, further away from Gaza than Sderot, then also under siege from rockets and imminent death. But aha! Ashkelon did better than Sderot. Why? Because its citizens had 30 seconds’ warning instead of 15 – much more time to find shelter. And did the citizens of Ashkelon cope with that trauma? 30 seconds – the difference between life and death. Not quite shades of Sophie’s Choice, but near enough.
While everyone involved suffered unimaginable horrors, it was the children who really bore the brunt of the attacks. Post-traumatic stress disorders, hyperactivity, problems with sleeping, detachment from friends, from activities, from integration into any social world – that was then, but those children who are now adults are still traumatised, still terrified, still emotionally fragile. Yet because the actual number of deaths caused by the rockets was very low, what happened there has taken a back seat as people continued to live every day and to marginalise their horrific experiences. And as for the media? Of course, there were no stories – there seldom are, when they concern Israeli tragedies.
The New ‘Normal’
Let’s fast-forward 17 years and look at Sderot today, and at Ashkelon, and at the other parts of Israel where breathing is less often taken for granted and instead has become a symptom of apprehension. Sderot is now home to three converted bomb shelters that were adapted to meet the needs of teenagers for space and their own activities. Each can accommodate about 50 teens, and each can expand to make room for at least another 20. The best part of this is that those children are already gathered in bomb shelters: should there be a Tseva Adom warning, it will have no effect either on them or their pursuits, except psychologically and emotionally – does that matter?
According to NGO officials who visited Sderot to show support specifically to the teenagers, ‘We came into this large two-floor bomb shelter and it was like coming into someone’s living room. There are comfortable sofas, a well-stocked kitchen, a giant TV on the wall and downstairs there is a games room and a homework room. Everything is well maintained by the kids.” In this safe environment, the children are given leadership training courses, they are encouraged to interact socially with one another and establish healthy relationships, and they are assisted with their schoolwork.
Almost normal – almost, but not quite. These are tomorrow’s leaders of Israel: passive victims of the worst kind of hatred and enmity. Can their future be predicted? I wonder.
In the latest incident in March this year, Ashkelon was once again targeted from Gaza and Israeli families were woken up once again by the sound of air-raid sirens from Hamas rocket fire. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad determined yet again to create as much devastation as possible in the city, firing rockets and launching several airborne incendiary devices (including kites); and there was a cross-border arson attack in which Palestinians breached the Gaza security fence and burned whatever they could find in the area.
More of the same trauma, the same anguish, the same shattering blows to the lives of those living there. Unceasing, and now focusing on central Israel, Tel Aviv, other vulnerable cities.
What is life like for those who live under this constant barrage of attack, combined with the hatred that initiates it? How do the people of south Israel, wanting nothing more than peaceful lives and opportunities to enjoy life, cope with these perpetual offensives? And what about those Palestinians who want much the same as the Israelis, but who are held hostage by their corrupt and devious leadership, forced to endure terror and torture for ideologies with which they may well disagree, as seen in the many on-the-ground normal everyday relationships that have developed between them and Israelis in their neighbourhoods?
The sound of the siren – the Tseva Adom – remains terrifying for Israelis in the south of the country, even though the attacks are less frequent than they used to be. When the siren goes off, they must drop everything, run to bomb shelters and ensure that their families are with them. They are often too afraid to leave their homes and venture out to do the tasks any normal family does, because the sirens might go again, at any moment. They fear the slamming of doors, the backfiring of cars and trucks, unusual music being played: to many of them, these strange noises sound like that dreadful sign. They cannot even stop and freeze in panic in case they don’t make it to the shelter in time. These are offensives of wartime, yet the world refuses to believe Israel is in a constant war with her enemies because the numbers of casualties are so low.
Sderot has been described by some of its citizens, with gallows humour, as “the biggest bull’s-eye on the map of Israel”. When the bombing began at the turn of the century, and because of its “proximity to the border and the concentration of Hamas-led amateur bomb-makers on the other side, Sderot has (and has) a unique civic claim: on a rocket-per-head-of-population basis, it is the most targeted town in Israel, indeed the world.” That’s quite a reputation for Sderot: Hamas is making sure that other Israeli towns gain the same reputation.
I remember years back, during the infamous Vietnam war, that one of the most iconic photos to come out of that tragedy was the one entitled “Vietnam Napalm 1972”. The caption read: “South Vietnamese forces follow after terrified children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, as they run down Route 1 near Trang Bang after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places on June 8, 1972. A South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped its flaming napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians. The terrified girl had ripped off her burning clothes while fleeing.” That photo, and others from that time, and the explanatory texts, made history. They were distributed widely; the world was shocked and stunned; the anger was palpable.
Israel has had more than its fair share of tragedies, of bombings, of fires, of in-bed murders, of terror attacks, yet whenever these have happened, world opinion has been quiet. Jewish lives – Israeli lives – are far less important than those of many others. We number so few in the world’s population that the thinking probably is that we have no standing. Like putting one’s finger into a glass of water, pulling it out and seeing no difference whatsoever in the level of water, so too with murdering a few Israelis here and there, some children, teenagers and the aged, the end effect is negligible. Not worthy of media attention. Not worthy of comment.
It is what it is….
Bev Goldman worked for many years in education and journalism, and she holds a master’s degree in Feminist Literature. Prior to joining the SA Zionist Federation where she dealt with media and education for 12 years, she was the editor of the ‘Who’s Who’ of Southern Africa; a member of WordWize which taught English language skills to Russian and Polish immigrants in South Africa; an occasional lecturer in English at RAU (now the University of Johannesburg); and Director of Educational Programmes at Allenby In-Home Studies. Currently she runs the Media Team Israel for the SA Zionist Federation; she sits on the Board of Governors of the Rabbi Cyril Harris Community Centre (RCHCC); she is the National Vice-President of the Union of Jewish Women South Africa; she is an executive member of the International Council of Jewish Women (ICJW); and she edits and proofs Masters and PhD dissertations.
co-Chief Executive of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.
The economic component of the Trump administration’s intensely awaited plan to achieve an end to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been released.
Formally titled Peace to Prosperity, the proposal contains a three-pronged program of investment and reforms to transform the Palestinian economy and society through the injection of $US50 billion ($71.8bn) of foreign investment, opportunities for ordinary Palestinians in employment, education, even recreation, and the establishment of a transparent and competent Palestinian administration, without which businesses will have no confidence to invest and Palestinian institutions will continue to wither.
The plan assumes, correctly, that peace building and viable Palestinian self-government will require far more than glamorous signing ceremonies on manicured lawns. In offering unprecedented opportunities while maintaining diplomatic and economic pressure on the bloated, inert Palestinian leadership, US President Donald Trump has overthrown the old discredited order of attempting to get the Palestinians to negotiate in good faith by extracting upfront concessions from Israel.
Yet the latest proposal, astute as it may be, is destined to fail, just like more conventional diplomatic efforts of previous administrations. This is because the Trump plan, like all others, is founded on an irredeemable fallacy: that the Palestinian leadership wants to end the conflict.
Long before the Trump plan was tabled or its contents were revealed, it was predictably rejected out of hand by the Palestinian leadership. Any plan that promises to “empower the Palestinian people” and “improve the public sector’s ability to serve its people” is a threat to the status quo by which the leaders of the Palestinian movement have attained personal status and wealth while shedding all accountability to the people they claim to serve.
Saeb Erekat, the perennial “chief negotiator” for the Palestinians, announced a boycott of the regional conference in Bahrain at which the plan is being presented. Erekat’s three-decade career as a negotiator has resulted in three rejections of a two-state solution, which would have delivered the Palestinians statehood over territory equivalent in size to 100 per cent of the area of the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in east Jerusalem, an end to the blockade of Gaza and a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.
The equally longstanding and self-serving Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi, who lauded Saddam Hussein for “standing up for Arab rights, Arab dignity, Arab pride” following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, and notoriously opposed the historic Oslo Accords because they recognised Israel, called the Bahrain conference “delusional, irresponsible” and “an insult to our intelligence”.
Ashrawi has a Sydney Peace Prize to her name and the adoration of Bob Carr and parts of the global left, but not a single, tangible legislative or diplomatic achievement in three decades of public life.
The petulant refusal of the Palestinian leadership to even consider a proposal intended to offer ordinary Palestinians an alternative to war, conflict and victimhood is a betrayal and a crime but is impeccably consistent with earlier Palestinian responses to international efforts aimed at giving them statehood.
When in 1937 the British first proposed resolving competing Jewish and Arab claims to the land through partition and the creation of a first-ever independent Arab Palestinian state, alongside a Jewish state on just 4 per cent of the British Mandate territory, the reaction of the Palestinian leadership was an outright “no”, backed by widespread violence and calls for the “liberation of the country and establishment of an Arab government”.
When the UN held consultations throughout the country in 1947, again seeking to mediate peacefully rival claims to the land, the Arab leaders boycotted the proceedings.
Periodically, some Palestinian leaders have admitted that their strategy of boycott backed by violence has been utterly ruinous. Palestinian jurist Henry Cattan admitted the 1947 boycott had been “unfortunate”.
Palestinian unionist Majdi Shella admitted the Palestinians “have a long tradition of boycotting everything. Sometimes boycotting is the easier road. If you want to do nothing, boycott.”
Yet the Palestinians have refined their instinct for rejection and political self-immolation to such an extent that they appear to know no other path.
This is why Palestinian rioters destroyed greenhouses left to them by the Israelis following the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. This is why last year Palestinians in Gaza set fire to the Kerem Shalom border crossing through which medicine, aid and consumer products intended for the Palestinians are transferred.
Far from holding Palestinian leaders accountable for their betrayal of their own people, instead supporters of the Palestinian cause in the West uncritically have backed the latest Palestinian boycott, thereby making themselves complicit in the entrenched culture of violence, corruption and bigotry of the Palestinian leadership.
After all, just as Palestinian leaders have been enriched by their own obstructionism, one wonders what anti-Israel activists would do with themselves if the Palestinians ever chose peace and prosperity over perpetual conflict.
Perhaps the most telling statement on the Trump proposal came from a senior Saudi diplomat who called the Palestinians “irresponsible” for refusing even to entertain a proposal intended to provide immense benefits for their own people.
“History and Allah have brought a real opportunity,” the diplomat said. “The blood conflict had lasted too long. The Saudis and all Gulf states plus Egypt and Jordan realise that the age of war with Israel is over.”
It took the Arab nations three failed invasions of Israel and decades of economic warfare and fruitless diplomatic skirmishes finally to recognise that the Jewish state is neither temporary nor a threat to their interests. One wonders how many more decades of boycott and bloodshed will be needed before Palestinian leaders finally chart a new and constructive course.
Alex Ryvchin writes and speaks on the Arab-Israeli conflict, foreign and national affairs, antisemitism and the Holocaust, and religion and identity, and is a regular commentator on TV and radio. His first book is the internationally acclaimed, “The Anti-Israel Agenda – Inside the Political War on the Jewish State”, (Gefen Publishing House, 2017). His new book, on the history of Zionism, will be released in September 2019. He is the co-Chief Executive of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.
In their obviously ill-judged comments about Israel, criticschoose to waste their time at checkpoints on the borders gazing at the brave boys and girls making up the Israeli Defence Force, whose sole job is to protect Jews living in Samaria and Judea who just go about getting on with their jobs, and to provide a strong deterrent that ensures that murderous individuals do not infiltrate into Israel.
When I visit Israel, I look in another direction:
– I see schools and youth villages where at-risk children are given the care that will give them hope and a future in life
– I see Ethiopian children given the means to make that leap across centuries and cultures and find their own excellence.
– I see the Rambam Hospital in Haifa where, when Israel’s enemies decide to destroy lives, they continue saving them
– I see The Bar-Ilan Medical Centre in Safed set up to bring the finest possible medical treatment to Muslims, Christians, and Druze villages throughout the country.
– I see the Laniado Hospital in the Netanya whose founder, a holocaust survivor who lost his wife and 11 children in the Nazi camps of death and there made an oath that if he should ever survive, he would dedicate the rest of his life to saving life
– I see the Wolfson Medical Centre where free, quality, paediatric cardiac care is provided for children from developing countries who suffer from heart disease, and whose dedicated doctors and surgeons have created a programme to create centres of competence in those countries so that they can carry out life-saving surgeries on the spot
– I see caring for every life and notice that every life is sacred, where mind-blowing Israeli technology, and eye-opening developments in medical science are applied to the common good.
That and much more is what I see in Israel, the will to life with its hospitals, schools, freedoms, and rights.
– I see, Christians, Hindus, Sheiks, Muslims, and from my experience, Israel is a source of inspiration to everyone because it tells every single person on the face of the earth that a nation doesn’t have to be large to be great. A nation doesn’t have to be rich in natural resources to prosper.
Israel has been surrounded by enemies and yet it has shown that even so, you can still be a democracy, still have a free press, still have an independent judiciary. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where a Palestinian can stand up on national television and criticise the government and the next day still be a free human being.
Israel’s demonisers would have us believe that they have the best interests of the Palestinians at heart. Quite the contrary – their decisions and actions are far more likely to bring war, poverty and hunger to the West Bank and Gaza.
The only conclusion any reasonable person can come to is that only prosperity, with robust industrial, commercial and even cultural relationships between the Palestinians and Israelis can lead to mutual acceptance and a durable peace. This can be achieved if only the BDS activists would acknowledge the true interests of the Palestinians above their own narrow, political ambitions and shallow priorities, and the Palestinians would recognise Israel’s right to exist.
Some twenty years ago, Palestinian businessmen and workers from the West Bank and Gaza entered Israel without much interference. Security over the years increased commensurate with the increase in attacks against civilians. Approximately 146,000 Palestinians working in Israel at the time accounted for about 20% of Palestinian GDP.
A very successful industrial zone was created at Erez, employing about 5,000 workers in some 200 businesses half of which were Palestinian-owned. This was part of a larger Gaza Industrial Estate, scheduled to provide up to 50,000 jobs. In addition, a joint industrial zone was planned south of Tulkarm intended to provide jobs for more than 5,000 Palestinians. Additional areas were planned for Jenin and the Kerem Shalom area near Rafah in Gaza.
And then came the politicians and BDS for whom such developments meant nothing. They are the true destroyers of peace, jobs, families, development and prosperity.
Israel has much to offer the world. The chairman of the South African Zionist Federation in the Cape, Rowan Polovin recently returned from the 2019 “Our Crowd” Global Investment Summit in Israel where the technological advances were on display to 18,000 delegates from 182 counties who reveled in what 500 vendors had on show and business to the tune of one billion dollars was transacted.
“This makes the destructive tactics of BDS seem irrelevant” said Polovin.
Rather than follow the “destructive” path of boycotts and diplomatic downgrades, why not in the interests of South Africa benefit from Israel’s advances in medicine and the sciences and capitalize on lucrative business opportunities.
Surely this is the better way where all will benefit!
Why an Israeli Hospital is Treating Wounded Syrians
About the author
Rodney Mazinter, a Cape Town-based businessman, writer, poet and author, has held many leadership positions within a wide range of Jewish/South African, sporting, educational, service and communal bodies, and currently serves as vice-chairman of the South African Zionist Federation in the Western Cape
Two decades ago, the big question in Brussels and Ankara was, “Will Turkey one day become a full member of the EU?” A decade ago, it was, “How soon can Turkey become a full member?” Today, the question is simpler: “Will it be Turkey or the EU that puts an official end to this opera buffa?”
In March, the European Parliament forcefully reminded the West’s Turkey hopefuls that they are wrong. In a non-binding vote, the assembly recommended to suspend accession negotiations with Turkey (370 votes in favor, 109 against with 143 abstentions.) An EU press release after high-level talks with Turkey in Brussels confirmed that accession talks were at a standstill and said that the “Turkish government’s stated commitment to EU accession needs to be matched by corresponding reforms.”
There are plenty of reasons – all open secrets – why Turkey does not qualify to become a member, according to the assembly: ongoing human, civil, and due process rights violations; concern – over Ankara’s lack of respect for minority religious and cultural rights;
-the state’s “shrinking space for civil society,”
-its arrests and suppression of journalists;
-its dismissal of dissident academics,
-its treatment of Middle Eastern migrants within its borders;
-the government’s abuse of due process rights of its own citizens under the guise of terrorism suspicions;
-its intimidation of its own citizens;
-and Turkey’s fractious relationships with neighboring states such as Cyprus and Greece, as well as (the lack of) normalization of diplomatic relations with neighboring Armenia.
The European Parliament said:
Respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights, including the separation of powers, democracy, freedom of expression and the media, human rights, the rights of minorities and religious freedom, freedom of association and the right to peaceful protest, the fight against corruption and the fight against racism and discrimination against vulnerable groups are at the core of the negotiation process.
Alparslan Kavaklıoğlu a member of Erdoğan‘s AKP and head of the parliament’s Security and Intelligence Commission, said in 2018: “Europe will be Muslim. We will be effective there, Allah willing. I am sure of that.”
The EU and Turkey each have their own interest in endlessly prolonging this opera buffa. But the audience is growing increasingly bored.
Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist. He regularly writes for the Gatestone Institute and Defense News and is a fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is alsoa founder of, and associate editor at, the Ankara-based think tank Sigma.
MAY 1, 2019 19:21
SRI LANKA AND THE 100-YEAR BATTLE
Asharq al-Awsat, London, April 23
Here we are again, coming to terms with yet another ghastly terrorist attack waged against innocent civilians. This time, terrorism struck Christian worshipers in Sri Lanka. Prior to that, it struck worshipers in New Zealand. And beforehand, it struck Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Europe, America and a wide host of other countries.
I am convinced that this battle – the battle to eradicate terrorism – is going to be a long one, spanning maybe even an entire century. The world has been combating terrorism for over three decades, yet the problem persists. Every time we defeat one organization, another one rears its head. The wars of terrorism are more dangerous than tribal and state wars, because they are rooted in deep-seated ideology. They are the products of antiquated doctrines that have been reinvigorated in distorted ways and have made their way into modern society. The weapons of this war are quotations from holy books, propagated using modern technology that enables these ideas to be published at nearly no cost.
Sadly, without an international coalition fighting terrorism in its ideological roots – nipping it in the bud – radical ideas will continue to spread around the world, threatening the entire future of mankind.
The way we have been confronting terrorist organizations is by trying to defeat them militarily or financially. We destroy their secret hideouts or restrict their ability to pay for their operations. But the strongest fuel that feeds the terrorist engine is the scores of people who promote their radical agendas. Terrorism, therefore, lives in the minds of people. The problem is that we live in denial.
In the aftermath of the attacks last week, Islamist organizations were quick to deny their involvement. They attempted to sow confusion about the perpetrators. Then they sought to justify the attack. Then they claimed responsibility. Throughout the process, they used the same old explanations and excuses: “Islamic State never had a physical foothold in Sri Lanka”; “the attacks must have been foreign nationals”; etc. However, Islamic State does not require a physical infrastructure in Sri Lanka in order to carry out an attack. It simply needs to live in the minds of people.
The battle on the ground may continue, but the ideological battle is just beginning. Unless we change our mind-set, new organizations will come to life as soon as their predecessors are destroyed.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla.
FIGHTING FOR OUR PAST TO PRESERVE OUR FUTURE
Al-Ittihad, UAE, April 22
The fire that consumed Notre-Dame de Paris was a tragic event and a great humanitarian shock for everyone who understands the value of human history. It is therefore not surprising that the fire received widespread media attention across the world.
One thing shared by all mankind is our collective care for our history and archaeology, the construction of museums and the preservation of physical and intangible signs of our heritage. No nation that respects itself can ignore its cultural and civilizational symbols.
This has been especially true in the UAE, where history-preservation efforts have been under way for several decades. This national project has been led by Sheikh Zayed, who sought to document and preserve the history of our region.
But preserving cultural and religious artifacts in the Middle East is no easy feat. The political situation in the region has not been serene, to say the least. Fundamentalist religious organizations such as the Taliban movement in Afghanistan have systematically destroyed all artifacts associated with ancient civilizations. For example, the Buddhas of Bamyan, carved into a sandstone cliff in the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan, were dynamited and destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. Similarly, Islamic State detonated and destroyed the Temple of Bel, a Mesopotamian temple dating back to 32 CE. It also destroyed the Roman theater at Palmyra, which dates back to the second century CE. These sites represented thousands of years of civilization. Losing these monuments is a true loss for humanity.
The important question that arises from the Notre-Dame fire is, therefore, why does the Western world care so much about a cathedral in France but not about monuments located in the Middle East? What about the history that is being erased before our eyes by radical organizations located in our midst? These are no less important than Notre-Dame.
But the responsibility is also ours. We must build a tolerant Muslim society and reshape the cultural discourse surrounding the cultural artifacts found in our countries. The companions of the holy prophet entered many countries in the Arab and Muslim world during the period of the so-called conquests in the era of the caliphs. They did not destroy any statues or monuments. The holy prophet himself passed through many cities that housed non-Muslim monuments. He did not destroy any of their ancient relics. Such barbarity must never be tolerated.
The events in Paris are a stark reminder to all of us. They are a reminder that we must take care of our historical monuments and protect them at any cost – not only as tourist destinations, but also as a fundamental part of our cultural legacy. This is a battle we have no choice but to win, not only for the sake of our past, but also for the sake of our future.
Ali Hussein Bakir
Ali Hussein Bakir is a Jordanian researcher specialized in international relations. He currently works for the International Strategic Research Organization “ISRO-USAK” (Turkey). He worked as an economic editor and researcher at Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal Group AIWA (Lebanon) and was a research associate at Al Jazeera Centre for Studies (Qatar) and the Geo-Strategic Group for Studies. Bakir has many publications in a number of other prominent Arab think tanks such as the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, the Gulf Research Centre, the Middle East Studies Centre, the Shebaa Centre for Strategic Studies, Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre, and The Arab Centre for the Humanities. Since 2007, Bakir has authored and co-authored various number of publications and books on Turkey, Iran, Arabian Gulf, and China.
Hating one Middle Eastern country has never garnered the ANC votes or won it any international favour.
There is something foul about SA’s foreign policy. It stands continuously with the anti-Western bloc of dictators, fascists and human rights abusers. It has a horrendous track record of voting at the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council that is diametrically opposite to post-apartheid’s values of freedom and nondiscrimination.
It votes against measures that sanction human rights abusers and praises the “diversity” of totalitarian dictatorships. It abstains on the appointment of a special rapporteur on violence against the LGBTI community and on resolutions condemning human rights abuses in Syria.
It keeps consistently but deafeningly silent about all the horrors and atrocities committed in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, as well as on the mistreatment of women, minorities and children. It sits Janus-faced on the international stage, facilitating the work of despots offshore, while proclaiming the values of human rights back home.
There is but one country at which South Africa directs all its opprobrium and judgment. It is the most undeserving country of such hostility but is so targeted because the governing party irrationally believes this will win it votes locally and power internationally.
The ANC is dangerously wrong on both accounts: hating Israel has never garnered it votes in any election, and targeting Israel internationally only isolates South Africa itself. It carries out an inverted foreign policy that bashes the ‘Jew of nations’ and applauds the scoundrels.
The ANC owes the public an explanation about why it does this.
Last week, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Lindiwe Sisulu, recklessly steered into dangerous territory when asked about her country’s relations with Israel. She spoke of removing the South African ambassador to Israel and of kicking out the Israeli ambassador to SA. She even declared that the ANC will dictate university policy on Israel.
She forgot about SA’s esteemed constitution and rule of law, and that the ANC sits below, not above it.
Our constitution was carefully written by wise people who recognised that freedom of religion, speech, association and academia are fundamental values that ensure the longevity of a democratic state. Any unjust attempts to undermine those values, as Sisulu and her faction seem intent on doing, will unravel the very structures of the democratic state her predecessors fought for.
On the issue of cutting ties with Israel and allowing the antisemitic BDS fringe movement to capture foreign policy, Sisulu and the ANC should proceed with extreme caution. South Africa is focused on rebuilding its standing in the international community and hoping to be taken seriously on international affairs.
While still a member of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA) bloc, it parts company with every other member on Israel. Every BRICS country besides South Africa is constantly improving ties and friendships with the Jewish state. South Africa stands at odds with these world powers, including many African and Arab countries that work more closely than ever with Israel.
Moreover, South Africa needs Israel’s help to solve local problems such as water scarcity, access to electricity and agricultural solutions that would take millions out of poverty and turn our deserts into fields of plenty. Millions of South Africans would not take kindly to their future being stolen by petty short-term interests. Nor will they appreciate the negative effect this will have on local job creation and our already struggling economy.
Cutting out Israel only cuts out SA’s future.
If South Africa attempts to throw out the Israeli ambassador, it will send a signal that it wishes to disconnect the proudly South African Jewish community from their spiritual, religious and historical homeland. The government should take heed that Jews will never allow their bond with the Jewish state to be broken. Nor will committed Christians, who make up the majority of South Africa’s religious communities.
Antisemites may be pleased that their irrational hatred of Jews has resulted in a downgrade in relations with Israel, but the majority of South Africans will not be pleased with the uncertainty and instability it will bring.
It is time for principled business people, government officials, political parties and civil society to stand up to the ANC’s desperate and hypocritical obsession with the Jewish state. Our future depends upon it.
Rowan Polovin is chair of the SA Zionist Federation’s Cape Council.
Reflecting on the challenges of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Many of Israel’s enemies challenge her right to exist as the Nation State of the Jewish people. They deny the historical rights of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. They deny the archeological evidence that justifies our claims to this land. They deny the irrefutable links of the Jewish people to Jerusalem. They deny our right to self-determination.
I’m not referring to isolated individuals.
I’m not referring to minor league academics who believe their warped and failed political agendas give them the right to change the historical facts and to recreate a narrative that conveniently ignores the context.
I’m referring to organizations within the international community including the General Assembly of the United Nations, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and UNESCO. These organizations are in flagrant violation of the mandates under which they were established and have dedicated themselves to delegitimizing Israel’s right to exist.
Around 80% of the resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly condemn Israel!
Does the international community really believe that if Israel ceased to exist, 80% of the world’s most serious conflicts and issues would simply dissipate?
What has permanent agenda item 7 of the UNHRC done to enhance human rights?
Have UNESCO’s outrageous resolutions regarding Jerusalem and its relevance to Jews done anything to change the historical evidence that supports the centrality of Jerusalem to Jewish life? They have however, had some success in creating doubt thereby delegitimizing our right to statehood. These resolutions fuel the wave of antisemitism currently engulfing even the so-called “more affluent countries” of the world.
Israel is the land where our patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, lived and interacted with the same God we worship today. This is where they are buried. This is where the visions of our Prophets were inspired. This is where we built our Temples. This is where our language was born. King David established Jerusalem as the capital of Israel 3,000 years ago. This land, its seasons and even its rainfall have been sourced in our century-old prayers long before the emergence of those who claim this land belongs to them.
William Albright, an archaeologist of international repute wrote “there can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicityof Old Testament tradition.” To deny Jewish rights to the Land of Israel is contrary to the fundamentals of Judeo-Christian tradition.
We lived in exile for nearly 2,000 years. We were scattered amongst the nations of the world. We weren’t always made to feel welcome. Our heritage was ridiculed. Our loyalties were questioned. We suffered through inquisition. We were the victims of pogroms and blood libels. Only three generations ago we suffered an unparalleled, surgically coordinated genocide that claimed the lives of one third of our people.
For centuries we were the eternal and ultimate scapegoats for the mismanagement and personal greed of despotic rulers. Even today Jewish communities in the diaspora remain soft targets for terror. Their institutions require sophisticated security systems. The number of antisemitic incidents has escalated to an inconceivable level. Who – even just a few years ago – would have believed this sad state of affairs would come about during our lifetimes?
More than 70 years have passed since the establishment of the State of Israel. It seems to me that for too many people, the penny has yet to drop. We’re not going anywhere. We’re here to stay.
At the time of its creation 70 years ago, Israel was home to only 5% of world Jewry. Today 45% of world Jewry resides in the State of Israel. Jews from more than 90 different countries have returned to become useful citizens in a country we can proudly call our own. Our loyalties are no longer questioned. We speak the language of our forefathers – the indigenous language of this land. Our national aspirations could not have become a reality without the belief that this land is our land.
Although Israel has lived under threats of annihilation during her entire existence, we have a strong and resourceful military to protect us. We are now a country that more than pays its way as a sought-after ally and trading partner.
Given the number of failed states that populate our planet, challenging our right to a country of our own is not only an affront to us and our heritage but also to what this country has achieved in the short space of 70 years.
Which country is always the first to provide aid to countries following natural disasters around the world? We don’t only talk about Tikkun Olam. We deliver!
Israeli technology is at the source of everything that opens and closes. From military innovations to cyber security, from medical technologies to life-saving pharmaceuticals, from communications to driverless vehicles, from wastewater recycling to water desalinisation.
You name it. Israel has done it.
But we can’t afford to rest on our laurels. The military threats remain. We have a responsibility to narrow the gap between the more and the less fortunate amongst us. We have a responsibility to those Jews still living in the diaspora.
The international community may have forgotten its responsibilities to us, but we shouldn’t forget our responsibilities to mankind:
Given the chance, we can make this world a better place in which to live.
Given the chance, we can advance life expectancy in many African countries by up to 30 years.
Given the chance, we can easily replicate in other countries what we have so successfully achieved here in Israel.
Given the chance, we can alleviate many of the dangers resulting from global warming.
Given the chance, we can provide solutions to the diminishing food supplies for growing populations in developing countries around the world.
There are challenges ahead. We have a responsibility to respond.
About the Author
Harris Zvi Green was born in Cape Town, South Africa and immigrated to Israel nearly 50 years ago. An accountant by profession, he served as the Chief Financial Officer of a number of Israel based hi-tech companies. Harris is a founding member of Truth be Told (TbT), an organization engaged in public diplomacy on behalf of Israel.
3000 years of history are waiting to be discovered by you in 3minutes
Serving on the border between Israel and Gaza, Yahya Mahamid – an Arab Muslim soldier – writes this eyewitness account of what it is like to stare down the rioters that Hamas have encouraged to break through the border. These riots have been taking place since March 2018.
Sitting with my back to the metal barrier, I take a second to adjust my helmet when all of a sudden, I hear a loud bang against the barrier.
It has started. The weekly Friday riots on the Gaza border.
I adjust my Kevlar vest, take a breath and stand up to take a look at the other side – all while trying to keep as much of my body under cover.
I am shocked to see mothers going hand and hand with their children. Yes, these are children that are not older than 10 -13 years of age, coming to the weekly protest as if it were a normal Friday activity.
Our orders are clear. Respect human life and the purity of our arms. This is nothing new – after all it is the IDF Code of Ethics that we abide by and that’s how we always operate.
I take my sharpshooter scope and start scanning the crowds looking for anything that looks suspicious such as bombs and guns. While looking through my scope, I start smelling the familiar smell of burned tires. I know that tear gas will soon follow so I put on my gas mask and look at the madness that is assembling in front of my eyes.
The adults, who I assume are mothers and fathers, sit on the green grass hill enjoying some cold drinks and snacks, while their kids are running towards the security fence, throwing rocks and anything they can get their hands on at us soldiers.
One rock hit the barrier.
I take cover after another rock hits the barrier again. I could have sworn that these rocks travel almost as fast as my bullet. I adjust my protective glasses and take another peak; we can’t have the security barrier getting damaged. This could have disastrous ramifications.
The violence is escalating.
I stand up again to take a look at the crowd that’s growing like a hate tumor on steroids and suddenly I hear an explosion. I look through my scope again, while looking through the black and grey crowd.
I see him.
He is sitting, dressed in a large blue hoodie, looking straight at me. I take a look at him through my scope to get a closer look and he is just sitting there, looking straight at me like he’s staring into my soul. He’s not older than 10 years old.
I will never forget the look on his face, like he has a million questions on his mind, not reacting to the screams, tear gas, burned tires and the electrified atmosphere that is filled with anger.
He just sits there, looking at me like he wants to ask me “when this madness will end?”
I look at him, wave, and give him the OK sign, hoping to make my first Gazan friend.
Maybe something positive can come out of this ugliness.
He gets up and gives me an innocent smile and waves. I smile back. Another bomb follows immediately after – above us this time and we are told to retreat behind cover.
I don’t see him again, but I hope the situation will improve for both of us one day.
I call him Little Blue Hood.
About the author:
Yahya Mahamid is a former educator for Stand With Us. This self-described “Muslim Arab Zionist” currently serves in the IDF.