Quo Vadis UCT?

By Stephen Schulman

On the eve of Israel Holocaust Day, it came to light that in a pre-recorded lecture shared online with first-year political science students, Lwazi Lushaba, a lecturer in the department of political studies at the University of Cape Town, said:

Hitler committed no crime. All Hitler did was to do to white people what white people had normally reserved for black people.”

That statement is shocking in itself, displaying bigotry, racism, anti- Semitism, a brutal callousness toward all the victims of Nazi oppression and an insult to the living survivors and their families. Its ignorance of and willful distortion of history is doubly shocking as it comes not from the mouth of a dyed in the wool member of a racist and Holocaust denier organization or from Louis Farrakhan but from a black South African whose people had suffered under the apartheid regime and who would have been expected to show some sensitivity for others who had suffered too. Moreover, his intense hatred blinded him to the obvious fact that had Hitler prevailed, his race – in the most optimistic scenario – would have been reduced to serfdom and slavery and he would certainly not be at UCT today.

Free Pass for Hitler. Dr Lwazi Lushaba told first-year University of Cape Town political science students in an online lecture that Hitler “committed no crime” because “all Hitler did was to do to the white people what white people had normally reserved for black people”.

Lushaba’s despicable statement flies in the face of all that a university stands for: an institution of higher learning  with teaching and research facilities, unfettered from bias, prejudice and current politically correct doctrines, guided by an objective, disinterested intellectual curiosity, an acceptance and tolerance of conflicting opinions and a moral integrity untainted by influence of interest groups.

Noble sentiments indeed, but unfortunately divorced from reality! Universities do not exist within vacuums. They function within communities and societies each with their own historical background, socio-economic composition, dominant creeds and narratives. Understandably, their academic staffs are not immune to these influences and whilst being influenced by all these factors, it is incumbent on the institutions to uphold all the values that constitute this institution.

Truckloads of Evidence. Dr Lwazi Lushaba, UCT political science lecturer, fails to see any “crime” here of the bodies of Jews being transported from the gas chambers to the five crematoriums of Auschwitz

Just over a quarter century ago, the country regained majority rule after many years of oppression by a white minority. Despite attempts to right past injustices, there still exists a huge reservoir of bitterness and rage. South African universities are faced with an especially difficult task in piloting a true course. They must acknowledge the past, incorporate its lessons in their teaching and devise curriculums that can benefit the country for the future. No less important, to ensure their academic status, they must also retain their academic and ethical standards.


Bird’s-Eye View. The idyllic setting for Africa’s premier university belies an academic situation that is far from idyllic.

Even though having left South African decades ago, as an alumnus of UCT I still have a link to and feel affection for my alma mater. Consequently, I follow with interest the developments in the post apartheid era as the institution seeks to define itself as an African university. While there have been many laudably positive achievements, sadly to say, there are those that I have found to be distressing.

The annual hate fest known as Israeli Apartheid Week has become a regular campus fixture. As a citizen of Israel, I had written an open letter to the Students Representative Council (supporters of the event) explaining my opposition to it as being libelous and defamatory to my country with a blatant misuse of the epithet “apartheid”. I offered to engage them in an open discussion with an honest exchange of views in order to correct this injustice. Needless to say, my challenge was ignored and I never even received the common decency of an acknowledgement.

The T.B. Davie Memorial Lecture on academic freedom is a prestigious annual event that has drawn distinguished speakers to address students and academic staff. In 2019, in order not to exacerbate existing campus tensions and/or not to offend Moslem students, the university disinvited Flemming Rose, the editor of the Danish newspaper that had published cartoons of the prophet Muhammed on the grounds that his lecture would sow discord and contribute nothing to the campus culture.

Double Standards. While UCT had no problem disinviting Flemming Rose, the editor of the Danish newspaper that had published cartoons of the prophet Muhammed  because it might offend Muslim students, the university showed no such sensitivity to Jewish students when it invited an advocate for academic boycotts of Israel, Dr Steven Salaita, to give its annual academic freedom lecture.

Somehow, this sensitivity did not extend to the Jews!

The organizing committee of academics, scraping the bottom of the barrel, in its stead, saw fit to invite Steven Salaita. Salaita, the holder of a dubious doctorate and odious views and that no American university wishes to employ, is notorious for his vituperative anti-Semitic sentiments that he crudely expresses and freely disseminates. His lecture, the text of which I ploughed through, was an object lesson in verbosity, obtuseness and obfuscation replete with sniveling self pity, plugging a brand of soft drink and the obligatory tropes of a Jewish conspiracy responsible for his plight. How sad that UCT had debased such an august event and sunk to such a nadir by honouring a third rate academic, bigot and anti-Semite.

Beneath the Veneer. Having removed the statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes that had become the focus of protests, is it no less important for UCT to address living offenders on the campus like Dr Lwazi Lushaba who dispenses to impressionable young students, that Hitler committed no crimes?

UCT prides itself on being a leading African university. Nevertheless, it remains remarkably silent on burning issues such as misrule, poverty and other injustices that afflict the continent. South Africa suffers from a government with its cronyism, nepotism and institutionalized kleptocracy to the great detriment of its citizens. It cries out to its universities, both students and staff, to condemn and correct the misuses of power. My alma mater, like all the others, remains conspicuously mute. However, approximately 18 months ago, the university council and senate found time to devote themselves to a far more burning issue: the promotion of a boycott of Israeli universities! In due time the initiative was quashed as the more pragmatic senate, faced with a wave of protests, realized the repercussions of such a drastic move: the condemnation of the academic world with a consequent loss of links and funding.

Events on the campus have not been propitious for the creation of a tolerant atmosphere. A philosophy professor has written an article exposing abuses: In the name of “social justice” there have been instances of vandalism and wanton destruction of university property. Teachers and staff including the previous vice chancellor have been physically assaulted. All of these acts have gone unpunished. There has been discrimination and expressions of racism against white students including accusations of “settler and colonialist mentality”. Pressure has been exerted on academic staff to conform, compromise their standards and give poor students passing grades on account of their skin colour for if they failed them, it was a clear sign of overt racism. Cancel culture is very much in evidence as those who disagree are stifled and sanctioned. It is sad to think that such prejudiced behaviour on campus has become a mirror image of the very hatred and bigotry of despised apartheid proponents that they condemn!

In 2019, the University of Cape Town extended an invitation to all alumni who had graduated over fifty years ago to participate in a “golden graduation” where they would attend the end of year graduation ceremony and be honoured by taking part in the academic procession. I replied, expressing my thanks, but declining the invitation. I felt that, with a clear conscience, in light of all the past and present events, I could not participate and be part of the window dressing for my alma mater that had betrayed so many of its ideals.

Questionable Standards! Lecturer at UCT’s faculty of political Science, Dr Lwazi Lushaba, who makes the case, “Hitler committed no crime.”

In the context of the prevailing campus climate, it is perhaps not surprising that Lushaba expressed such an outrageous statement that exceeded all bounds of common decency. He is a member of the political science department and as such, his lecture was given under the aegis of UCT. Undoubtedly, he was fully aware of the weight of his words, their fallout and his confidence in his impunity. His vile utterances are an affront to the bedrock upon which the university is based and he should be made fully accountable for them. The campus academic community cannot and must not remain silent. To stand true to its principles and retain its credibility, the senate of the University of Cape Town should unequivocally condemn his words, dismiss Lushaba or at the very least, suspend him from his teaching position. The senate must unhesitatingly react and use its authority, for its decision will have far reaching consequences in setting the future course of my alma mater as a worthy educational institution.   





About the writer:

Stephen Schulman is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist youth movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. He was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.






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

Weep, the Beloved Country

By Stephen Schulman

Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”

Winston Churchill

Laws alone cannot secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.”

Albert Einstein


More than half a century has passed since leaving my native land of South Africa. I left a country dominated by an oppressive racist regime where free speech was nonexistent, all criticism was suppressed and its opponents subject to severe punitive measures. Thankfully, those bad days are long gone. In 1994, the country passed into majority rule, apartheid was abolished and through free elections a representative government was elected.

However, sadly to say, after more than a quarter century has passed, bigotry, intolerance and stifling of views that disagree with those of the powers-that-be, still persist. An eloquent testimony to this fact is the ongoing saga of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

Bravery on the Bench. Ordered to apologise and retract comments he made about SA’s relationship with Israel and even supplied with a scripted version of what he should say, Chief Justice Mogoeng has defiantly doubled down at a public prayer meeting, saying he had nothing to apologise for.

In July last year, the Chief Justice together with the Chief Rabbi of South Africa Warren Goldstein appeared on a webinar organized by The Jerusalem Post and moderated by its Editor- in-Chief Yaakov Katz. The Chief Justice, a devout Christian, used this platform to express his personal beliefs and views regarding the Middle East conflict. He prefaced his remarks by stating that as a citizen of his country he was bound by the laws and policies adopted by it. Nevertheless, as a citizen, he also had the inalienable right to criticize the very same policies and laws and suggest changes.

Ordered to Rethink! Jerusalem Post Editor-In-Chief Yaakov Katz (top right) moderates a discussion between Chief Rabbi of South Africa Warren Goldstein (bottom) and South Africa’s Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng (top left) whose comments upset the country’s ruling ANC party leading to an order for him to apologise and retract his comments about SA’s relationship with Israel. (photo credit: screenshot)

As a believer in the Bible and as a tenet of his faith he declared his love and prayers for Israel and the Palestinians as well. Neither a moral judgment was passed nor a condoning of Israel’s policies. He felt that South Africa, with its anti-Israel bias, was depriving itself of “a wonderful opportunity of being a game changer in the Israeli-Palestinian situation.” Moreover, he accused the critics of Israel of blatant hypocrisy and self-serving for maintaining relations with both former colonial powers and countries that exploit the continent today.

The expected public reaction was not long in coming!

The pro-Palestinian groups and activists, including Africa 4 Palestine, South Africa BDS Coalition and the Women’s Cultural Group, were outraged. In the eyes of the ruling ANC and the faithful, he had committed the heinous, unforgivable sin of deviating from the official line and criticizing the wisdom of their policies. Cancel Culture – the phenomenon of silencing, shaming and ostracizing people whose views or ideologies are considered problematic or offensive – came into full swing; the floodgates of official opprobrium were swiftly opened and Justice Mogoeng was deluged with protests, condemnations and questioning of his authority and moral integrity. He was insulted, besmirched and even subject to a vile, scurrilous caricature by the cartoonist Zapiro. Chief Justice Mogoeng stood his ground and refused to buckle under by renouncing his principles and beliefs.

Jokes Aside. For freely expressing an opinion outside court, the “Chief Justice” is ridiculed as being “Chief Zionist” by South Africa’s best known cartoonist, “Zapiro”.

I stand by my refusal to retract or apologize for any part of what I said during the webinar. Even if 50 million people were to march every day for 10 years for me to do so, I would not apologize. If I perish, I perish.”

The next chapter of the saga unfolded when a complaint of him becoming “involved in political controversy or activity” was lodged by the above mentioned groups with the Judicial Conduct Committee of the country’s Judicial Service Commission that then concurred with the complainants. It ordered him to apologize for his comments about the Middle East, apologize and retract his statements concerning his refusal to back down and to sign a prewritten document drafted by the Commission to that effect. This document would not only make him eat humble pie but cause him to refute his deeply held beliefs and relinquish his dearly held principles in order to fall in line with the government’s official policy. It was a harsh judgment reminiscent of the recanting and public humiliations of the Stalinist era and the techniques of Mao Tse Tung!

Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has vigorously refuted the charges against him and denied being involved in extrajudicial activities incompatible with the impartiality of a judge. He unequivocally stressed that he had nothing to apologize for; his conscience was clear that he would appeal the court’s decision and that he refused to sign the document. He reiterated his position that in exercising his citizen’s right of free speech, he was in no way attacking and undermining his government’s policy.

“…..judges are citizens and have constitutional rights of freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of thought and freedom of opinion. It is not correct to say as soon as you assume office, you automatically let go of your constitutional rights.”

The Chief Justice also rebuked the presiding judge of the Judicial Service Commission who accused him of appearing on The Jerusalem Post webinar in order to promote his own interests, those of the publication and those of the Israeli government.

Because it means every time a judge or a magistrate accepts an invitation by the SABC or eNCA or Newzroom Afrika they are advancing their own interests or the interests of the station so that it can have a large viewership and the judges must be punished for it.”

He stressed that this salient point could be extended to all the media.

At this point of time, the saga is still unfolding as the Judicial Service Commission’s decision regarding his refusal has not been forthcoming!

Most illuminating and possibly reflecting public opinion was an article, conspicuously devoid of any moral stance, that appeared in the Daily Maverick concerning the case of Mogoeng Mogoeng. The writer acknowledged that the ANC is virulently anti-Israel which it accuses of being (in the well-worn, inaccurate and misleading phrase) an “apartheid” state. In scouring for further justification of their attitude, he dredges up the unsubstantiated claim that Israel supplied the apartheid regime with the knowledge to build an atomic bomb. Desperately and rather pathetically, dredging even deeper, he states that: “Culturally, White South Africans sometimes saw themselves as having similarities with Israelis, an example of which can be found in at least one popular novel by Wilbur Smith at that time.” With all due respect to Mr. Smith, a talented and prolific author with over 30 novels of historical fiction to his credit and to the writer of this article, I modestly beg to differ. I was born, grew up in South Africa, attended a public school and served in the SA Defence Forces where I encountered and knew people from all backgrounds. Never once did I hear this belief expressed. Even at university where I studied South African history, did I find evidence of it! If it exists at all, it is confined to a miniscule lunatic fringe. The writer can also rest assured that Israelis would find no affinity with adherents to this credo.

The Daily Maverick contributor comforts himself by concluding that the committee’s findings and actions regarding Mogoeng Mogoeng will have a positive effect for here at last, the judiciary has actually functioned by acting in unison to prove “that judges can be, and are being, regulated and this might actually generate more trust in the judiciary among the general public.” This is a sad testament to a judiciary whose reputation is in tatters as when it quashed the case of misconduct and impropriety against a former Western Cape Judge President, and  former South African President Jacob Zuma now thumbs his nose at the commission investigating his multifarious misdemeanors by refusing to appear  before them.

Cold comfort indeed!

Most unfortunately, South Africa under its present government is on the road to becoming a failed state. Kleptocracy has become institutionalized. The ruling ANC party is dominated by nepotism and cronyism, appointing many incompetent people whose sole qualification for a post is family and/or political connections and who see it as an opportunity to fill their pockets. Crime is endemic with an ineffectual police force characterized by corruption up to the highest level. Statistics show South Africa to be the global murder and rape capital with citizens fearing for the safety of their persons and their property. Unemployment is rife with many citizens living in abject poverty. The infrastructure is crumbling with regular power outages and public transport is unreliable and unsafe: travelling on the vandalized trains involves risking life and limb. In some instances, local authorities do not fulfill their roles and in a few towns the residents have taken it upon themselves to collect garbage and supply municipal services. Has the judiciary spoken out on these burning issues?

The government ignores the injustices outside its borders. It turns a blind eye to the plight of the citizens of Zimbabwe suffering under a corrupt regime and remains conspicuously silent regarding the travesties committed on the continent. It retains close links with China – a notoriously violator of human rights and is not averse to maintaining diplomatic relations with other oppressive regimes. Nevertheless, it remains obsessively hypocritically, focused on Israel, the one democracy in the Middle East.

The saga of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng whose sole crime was a suggestion that his government take a more even handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict caused him to be treated like a pariah is a sad testament to the state of affairs and bodes ill for the future of independence of thought and free speech in a healthy democracy.

I fervently hope that my prediction will be proved wrong.




About the writer:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Stephen-Schulman1.png

Stephen Schulman is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist youth movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. He was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.

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

Message from Megiddo – A Wrong Righted

Celebrating the centenary of Isaac Ochberg’s 1921 daring rescue of orphan children from war-torn Eastern Europe

By David E. Kaplan

Chairman of the Isaac Ochberg Heritage Committee (Israel)

Motorists in the Megiddo region could once have been excused when driving past signs marked “EVEN YITZCHAK”, designating a picturesque plateau of rolling green hills in Israel’s Lower Galilee,  and wondering:

 “Which Yitzchak?”  

Is it the Isaac from the Bible or the late Prime Minister, war hero and pursuer of peace – Yitzchak Rabin? Apart from local residents, few would have known it honoured the South Africa businessman, philanthropist, saviour of Jewish children and Zionist visionary – Isaac Ochberg.

No more …..

Man with a Mission. Isaac Ochberg (1878-1937) Ukrainian-born South African businessman, Jewish community leader, saviour of Jewish orphans in Eastern Europe and passionate supporter of  a Jewish State in Palestine.

Finally, one of South Africa’s greatest Jews, Isaac Ochberg (1878-1937), received the recognition he deserves when an estimated 13,000 people across the world linked on through Zoom and YouTube on the 14 March 2021 to participate in  the South African Jewish Report webinar marking the centenary of his heroic rescue of Jewish orphan children from Eastern Europe in 1921.  

“Daddy Ochberg”. Isaac Ochberg  (centre) wearing a hat with the selected orphans before leaving Eastern Europe for the UK on route to Cape Town, South Africa in 1921.

It did not matter that it was 4.00am in Sydney, 2.00am in Perth, 5.00pm in the UK, 7.00 pm in South Africa and Israel or 12.00 pm noon in New York City, the descendants of those rescued children joined a global viewership, enthralled by the wonders of a man that to this day, impacts the lives of so many thus embodying the dictum from the Talmud:

He who has saved one life is as if he has saved the entire world

Ochberg Centenary. Ochberg orphan descendants and members of the South African community  in Israel join representatives from JNF-KKL, Knesset, Telfed, the Megiddo Regional Council and members of the Isaac Ochberg Heritage Committee at an Ochberg  centenary ceremony at the Ochberg Park, Megiddo on the March 2021.  Covered by the national Hebrew daily, Yedioth Ahranot, the writer together with Hertzel Katz  (front left) hold up a portrait of Isaac Ochberg. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)
 

With the Covid pandemic preventing a planned centenary celebration at the Ochberg Park – inaugurated at the 90th anniversary in 2011 with visitors attending from all over the world – the Centenary instead was brought into the homes of thousands across the world. Initiated and organized by the Isaac Ochberg Heritage Committee, the Megiddo Regional Council and supported by the JNF-KKL that had originally sponsored the creation of the Ochberg Park, the Centenary webinar was hosted by the SA Jewish Report with Howard Sackstein moderating a panel of speakers ranging from historians, members of the Ochberg family to descendants of the Ochberg orphans. This was followed by a ceremony from the Ochberg Park filmed by Dr. Les Glassman in Megiddo with addresses from the State President in Israel, Reuven Rivlin, the Chairman of the Jewish Agency, Isaac Herzog, Chairman of KKL, Avraham Duvdevani, the Mayor of the Megiddo Regional Council, Itzik Kholawsky, Megiddo Planning & Development, Ayal Rom, Member of the Knesset, Ruth Wasserman Lande, the Chair of Telfed, Batya Shmukler and the Chairman of the Isaac Ochberg Committee, David Kaplan. These  addresses were interspersed with singing from youth choirs from Megiddo and the event concluded with the national anthems of Israel and South Africa, signifying the bridge built by Ochberg between his two pursuits – helping South Africa and helping the creation and development of a future State of Israel.

Member of Knesset, Ruth Wasserman Lande addresses the gathering in front of the memorial to Isaac Ochberg  Megiddo at the centenary event. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

Apart from the daring rescue of 187 Jewish orphans and bringing them safely to South Africa, and whose names are embedded on plaques on the ‘Hill of Names’ at Megiddo’s Ochberg Park,  what was largely forgotten was his substantial support for a Jewish state, in the days when it was still a farfetched dream. The bequest he left in 1937 through Keren Hayesod to KKL- JNF  – the largest to date ever made by an individual – was used to acquire the land that became two large kibbutzim in this area, Dalia and Gal’ed, both established before Israel’s independence and by Jewish youth movements, and both absorbed survivors from the Holocaust – precisely fulfilling Ochberg’s legacy of Jewish salvation.  If Ochberg personally saved lives of children in 1921, his legacy ensured that next generations of Jews were saved in the turbulent  years that followed. Is it little wonder as Megiddo Mayor Kholawsky  reminds us  why huge swathes of this region was called ‘Even Yitzchak’ – Hebrew for the ‘Stone of Isaac”. How appropriate that the Ochberg saga is solidly  embedded in the topography of Megiddo.

Past Preserved. Erin Kumin, points to the plaque of her great-grandmother, Janie Odes, one of the orphans saved by Isaac Ochberg in 1921 at centenary event at the Ochberg Park on the 12 March 2021. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

The Megiddo Regional Council and the Ochberg Committee are planning an expansion of the park  with a promenade and facilities to perpetuate the Ochberg legacy and attract tourism – a message that Ochberg himself conveyed way back in 1926. In an interview with South Africa’s The Zionist Record following his visit to Palestine with his beloved wife Polly that year, Ochberg urged all South Africans to spend their holidays in Eretz Yisrael, saying:

Even outside of political and national reasons it is well worth while. The glorious scenery, the fine climate, and its many historic places make a visit to this land a most enjoyable and certainly an unforgettable experience.”

Field of Dreams. Ochberg dreamt of a green fertile Israel such as this field with youngsters cycling at the Ochberg Park, Megiddo.(Courtesy Megiddo Regional Council)

What is quite fascinating is the entrepreneur and visionary characteristics of Ochberg’s personality being revealed in this same 1926 interview when he says:

I came away with a feeling of confidence that the Jewish problem can and will be solved ultimately in Eretz Yisrael and in Eretz Yisrael only.”

Alive Because of One Man. Descendants of Ochberg orphans from all over the world attend the inauguration of the Ochberg Park, Megiddo in 2011 are seen here at nearby Kibbutz Gal’ed, founded in 1945 by members of Habonim from Germany. The kibbutz was built on land purchased by the JNF-KKL from the Isaac Ochberg bequest.  (Photo D.E. Kaplan)
 

He then continues:

As a commercial man, I could not help but be genuinely impressed by the fine progress of industrial development in so young a country. There is every prospect of most important industrial development in Palestine as the country grows.”

For 1926, prophetic words indeed!

Always a man of action, Ochberg puts his words into action following his visit to Palestine, where he was deeply moved  by the new Hebrew University taking shape on Mount Scopus,  and set about financially supporting practical education in Palestine by sponsoring Chairs of Agriculture – which he felt was essential for an emerging Jewish state – at the new Hebrew University and the Weizmann Institute.

Educating about Ochberg. Award winners of a 2019 Ochberg Essay Competition at Alon Shool, Ramat Hasharon Israel organized by Hertzel Katz and the Isaac Ochberg Heritage Committee and judged by Steve Linde, editor of the Jerusalem Report. The Ochberg Saga was the cover story of the Jerusalem Report, copies of which the winners are holding up. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

Still on education, it was most revealing to note that in his will, the £10,000 bequest he left to the University of Cape Town for a trust in which the income was  to provide scholarships, there was a condition that “there be no differentiation between the students by reason of colour, creed or race”. Clearly reflecting his  character and his values, Ochberg specified that “should this policy ever be changed, the £10,000 would then devolve upon the Isaac Ochberg Palestine Fund.”

Forgotten Man Remembered

If my first article 20 years ago on Ochberg which was titled  ‘Righting a Wrong’, today I can safely title an article on the same subject – ‘A Wrong Righted’.

Set Out To Save. Poster to the 2005 documentary about Isaac Ochberg’s rescue of Jewish orphans by Oscar award-winning director, Jon Blair.

Books, articles, a documentary “Ochberg’s Orphans” submitted for an Oscar, essay competitions, addressing conferences, lecturing students at schools in South Africa and Israel and the opening of an Isaac Ochberg Park in Megiddo that emblazons in plaques along its ‘Hill of Names’ the names of all the children Ochberg saved, have all contributed to ensure that “The man from Africa” as he was called before he arrived to save them and “Daddy Ochberg” ever after, is known to future generations.

All in the Family.  Three generations of Ochberg Orphans at the Ochberg Park, Megiddo – Leon Segal, Benny Penzik , (both parents were Ochberg orphans), descendants of Archie Ruch and Cecil Migdal on the 12 March 2021. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)
 

The Isaac Ochberg Heritage Committee apart from the writer of Bennie Penzik, Hertzel Katz, Ian Rogow, Peter Bailey and Joel Klotnik (both on the advisory board to the Megiddo Regional Council), Leon Segal, Rob Hyde and Lauren Snitcher (Cape Town) and Lyanne Kopenhager (Johannesburg) are committed to preserving the legacy with the take away message that:

One good deed today can impact on the lives of many tomorrow

Celebrating Ochberg. Members of the Ochberg Committee, (l-r) Hertzel Katz, Ian Rogow and Bennie Penzik (whose both parents were Ochberg orphans)  together with family  descendants of Isaac Ochberg, Tessa Webber and Cynthia Zukas at the 90th reunion in 2011 at Kibbutz Dalia, which was build on land purchased by the JNF-KKL through funding from Isaac Ochberg.(Photo D.E.Kaplan)

You have only to ask the over 4000 descendants of the orphans Ochberg rescued in 1921 or heard what some of them said on the SA Jewish Report webinar. Many with tears in their eyes, like Lauren Snitcher, Paula Slier and Andi Saitowitz said:

If it weren’t for this one man, I would not be here today.”

Honouring Ochberg. Granddaughter of an Ochberg orphan, Lauren Snitcher (right) and daughter, Machala at the Ochberg memorial, Ochberg Park, Megiddo in 2011. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

With his ‘family’ having expanded into the thousands,  with Palestine being a Jewish State of Israel absorbing Jews from all over the world, its universities in the vanguard for superlative education, and thriving kibbutzim in Megiddo due to his vision and generosity, Isaac Ochberg can look down from his celestial perch and smile.

His legacy will always be identified with:

He who has saved one life is as if he has saved the entire world







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)

Clover Workers Hijacked

GIWUSA uses Clover Workers to Attack Israel

By Yossi Malherbe

Clover Workers have been in the midst of an employment dispute with Clover for some time and have had their cause hijacked by the anti-Israel Lobby. A march focusing on an international embassy instead of to their employers was led by The General Industries Workers Association and The Workers and Socialist Party

GIWUSA uses Clover Workers to Attack Israel

On Monday 26th October 2020, General Industries Workers Union South Africa (These workers have been on strike since 13 October 2020 and GIWUSA claim that they have “long opposed” the selling of Clover SA to Israeli Milco, which was approved by The Competition Tribunal in September 2019. 

They state, “CLOVER’s bosses continue to view workers’ demands for a living wage and against labour broking with absolute contempt and disdain.”

 They connected their view of Clover administration to Israel by stating:

 “This arrogant attitude is consistent with the attitude of the imperialist Israeli regime which continues to commit atrocities against Palestinian people in the occupied territories.”

GIWUSA then stated that they are marching on the Israeli Embassy to hand over a letter of demand.

Letter By General Workers Union South Africa:

Why do we have to speak out?

I feel like this is something that I, as a Zionist and a person that supports fair employment, have to comment on as the anti-Israel movements hijack innocent people from their plight and misdirects them with false promises and a free meal.

Misdirecting the Misery. The gripe is with a company Clover not a country Israel.

It is intriguing how the sale of Clover was approved over a year ago and only now do “The Clover Workers” march on an Israeli entity, when they should be marching at Clover. They claim that this march is due to their “long opposed” sale of Clover to an Israeli company, yet they only “chose” to act 13 months later, which just so happens to be days after our fellow African state, Sudan, announces normalization of ties with Israel.

This timing cannot be a coincidence!

This is clearly a local dispute with nothing to do with the Israeli Government. The description of “The Clover Workers” is designed to make us feel like Clover’s collective employment force  – which includes over 1,255 factory workers  – are striking, while in the video it looks like 40 people. 

Sadly, the Coronavirus pandemic has caused over 1 Million South Africans to lose their jobs this year and is sad and understandable how 3% of Clover’s staff are no longer under employ. Their statement about how their “bosses continue.. with absolute contempt and disdain” highlight how this is a long-term problem/dispute between these workers and their management from 2019 which predates the sale. 

 Nothing about “The Clover Workers” is discussed or addressed while all the focus is drawn towards the Israeli Government and the plight of the people of Palestine. 

 If the focus of the letter surrounds “The Clover Workers” who are striking, then why is a stance being taken against a nation and not their employer?

This was a march that is the total opposite of uBuntu where the GIWUSA have hijacked a group of people to service their own agenda and have done nothing to help the workers with their situation with Clover. In a time where Muslim nations such as Bahrain, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and every one of our BRICS partners(excluding South Africa) as well as multiple African Nations are either normalizing ties/partnering on projects with Israel, this feels like an attempt to show the public that our public do not support ties with Israel while nearly 80% of the citizens in Saudi Arabia do support it. 

I call on the GIWUSA and The Workers and Socialist Party to free “The Clover Workers” from their control and to support them in finding their hopeful resolution with Clover and to avoid using anti-Israel sentiments to misdirect people who are already distraught.


About the Writer:

Yossi Malherbe is a South African historian that specializes in African and Middle east politics. He has researched in multiple global archives with a focus on “the tipping point” where foe becomes friend and regime changes come into affect.




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 (O&EO).

A Corona Cry for Help

The JNF in South Africa responds

By Beverley Price

Domestic Fundraiser.   A familiar sight in most Jewish homes around the world, the KKL-JNF Blue Box served as a cherished and popular means to realize the Zionist vision of establishing a state for the Jewish people.

Jews over a certain age will remember the iconic little blue Jewish National Fund (JNF) collection boxes they had in their homes where any spare coins were deposited in the slit that went towards planting trees in Israel. Whether they were dimes in the USA, pennies in the UK or pennies and later cents in South Africa they added up and over time helped transform Israel’s landscape from desert brown to fertile green. They contributed to changing the landscape of  a Palestine from what  Mark Twain derisively described in his 1867 visit as “repulsive and dreary…..hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere” to being the only country in the world to have a net gain of trees in the last 100 years!

However, there would be further changes following the changing fortunes of South Africa and Israel.

If in the post-1948 Israel independence years, South Africa JNF was in the vanguard in supporting state-building projects in Israel, in more recent years, a new paradigm developed with JNF supporting projects in South Africa. Israeli expertise in overcoming harsh environmental challenges could and is benefitting South Africa.

One such project is  the community in Mamelodi,  a semi-rural town located 90 kilometres from Johannesburg.  In the  early 1990’s, the JNF initiated a long-term sustainable development project there on behalf of the Jewish community in South Africa by opening the Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre. They did so in the presence of another icon, the President of South Africa – Nelson Mandela, who had earlier suggested the area to the JNF, close to the Mandela Park Peace Garden that  teaches pensioners to grow and sell their own food.

Conservation Champions. The Jewish National Fund (JNF), Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre in Mamelodi, Gauteng Province, South Africa is an environmental discovery centre that aims to develop community “conservation champions” for the environment.
 

The JNF Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre is an environmental education and resource centre encompassing 72 Mamelodi Schools, the 186 schools in the Southern Tshwane Educational District and the surrounding community to learn about the environment and to create “champions for a sustainable future.”

And the reason it is named after Walter Sisulu is that he visited Israel as part of his “five Nation Tour” in the early 1960s so there was the connection between his name, Israel, the Jewish community of South Africa and the Mamelodi region.

Honing in on Heritage. Schools book their visits well in advance for the JNF-Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre where students are inspired and motivated to preserve and utilise the wealth of South Africa’s natural heritage.

Based on Israeli expertise, the Centre imparts knowledge about recycling, water conservation, cultivation of crops and waste. Every year, over 12,000 students from the region enroll at the centre to receive education in sustainable development from trained instructors.

Going Green. A major focus of the JNF supported centre is to work in the schools themselves, where it helps support “Green Clubs” that also participate in a regional quiz and a school greening competition. The center has won numerous awards including the Mail and Guardian’s “Greening the Future Award” in the education category.

However, when the Covid-19 pandemic began, alarm bells sounded leading National Chairman of SA JNF, Isla Feldman, to exclaim in alarm:

 “People are going to be hungry. We have to raise money and help our people in Mamelodi.”

And so began a fundraising drive by JNF-SA  to purchase much-needed food parcels, each of which contained 6.5 kg of food that Boxer Superstores supplied. The management of the JNF-WSEC, Frans Mamogobo and Miko Khalo found volunteers to assist with the distribution. After much operational planning, the delivery site was set next to the local police station in order to provide safety and security.

Back to the Roots. Students learning the techniques of planting flowers, fruits and vegetables.

To bring the good news to the people in the region, notices went out in both Sepedi and in English. Volunteers from the organisation, Cadena – a member of the global Jewish network delivering hand-in-hand assistance around the world – helped with the distribution on the day. Thabisile Vilakazi of the Tshwane Municipality and Shaun Wilkinson were also part of the team.

Project in Progress. Mendy Graumann of Cadena South Africa (left) checking names of prospective recipients for food parcels with Frans Mamabolo.

The initiative was not without drama.

The day before the scheduled delivery, there was civil unrest in Mamelodi, and in order to ensure the safety of all the volunteers, the deliveries had to be shortly delayed until the area was deemed sufficiently safe.

Stand and Deliver. The Jewish National Fund of South Africa distributed 500 food parcels to the Mamelodi community in Tshwane on 11 August with the assistance of volunteers from the Jewish philanthropic organisation Cadena.

That day was Tuesday the 11th of August and in the midst of a deadly pandemic, the food parcels, with the help of many kind volunteers and many generous donors, the JNF food parcels were distributed to the needy Mamelodi community.

People-to-People Project. Food parcels from the JNF wait to be dispersed  to a hungry community.
 

The Jewish National Fund has come a long way since it was founded with the sound of Theodor Herzl’s banging down his gavel at the Fifth Zionist Congress in Basel in December 1901. It was a momentous moment with the message resonating beyond the Conference walls in Basel that Zionism actually set foot in Erez Israel – not by mere words and declarations, debates and resolutions, but by land reclamation through a national fund of and on behalf of the Jewish people.

Helping Hand. Frans Mamogobo, Manager of JNF WSEC (right) with recipient.

So too when it comes to the JNF in South Africa, it is less about words and more about deeds as it looks to support the people of Mamelodi.

The Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre, Mamelodi. A JNF South Africa initiative



__________________________

Progressive Partnerships. JNF South Africa is currently seeking expat South Africans abroad to partner with its new “bridge-across-the-pond” project with JNF of America and with Israel. You can contact the writer at  bevp@beyachad.co.za.


About the writer:

Beverley Price. Educated at King David School, Lindfield and graduate of the University of Witwatersrand (Speech Therapy), Beverley Price is Education Officer at the Jewish National JNF South Africa in Johannesburg.







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

Christianity is Intertwined with Zionism

By Bafana Modise

The recent political uproar in South Africa triggered by its Chief Justice’s position on Israel has left many with unanswered questions, especially those less informed regarding the creation and existence of the state of Israel. While issues of law and religion are vying for prominence in this complex debate, I stand firmly in the camp that accepts the premise that modern-day Israel was born out of the Zionist dream of Jews returning to their biblical or ancestral homeland. I am proud – not embarrassed by this position

While scholars, politicians and jurists will persist in their arguments of separating religious and political Zionism in their attempts to try and undermine the legal basis of the Jewish state’s existence, the one fact that is irrefutable – irrespective of one’s politics or religion – is that Israel is a reality recognised as such within the community of nations. That Israel’s existence is further supported by Christian belief does not undermine or discredit our Christian position on the issue or reflect negatively on Israel.

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Rebirth of a Nation. The international community says YES to the establishment of the State of Israel with the UN proclamation of the independence of the State of Israel in New York, 1947. (Copyright: GPO)

So why the unfair crazed assault on our esteemed and proudly Christian Chief Justice?

Many of us Christians in South Africa proudly join with Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in his opinion that Israel is the realisation of biblical prophecy. Our Christian position is in no way contrary to Israel’s existence. On the contrary – it reinforces it; hence the title of my article – ‘Christianity is intertwined with Zionism’.

For those less informed on Israel’s founding, let us remember that the former Soviet Union was the first country to recognise Israel on the 17 May 1948. This was followed by Poland, CzechoslovakiaYugoslavia, Ireland and YES – South Africa! The United States extended de jure recognition after Israel’s first election on 31 January 1949.

The biblical texts envisaged the return of the exiles back to Israel in the end of times through prophets like Isaiah, Joel, Zachariah and Ezekiel who warned that nations shall rise against Israel.  Do we want South Africa to be amongst those nations foretold in the Bible that “shall rise against Israel”?

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Christian Concern. During the Israel-Gaza War in 2014, over 12,000 South Africans, mostly Christians from all across the country, gathered in Johannesburg calling on Hamas to stop firing its rockets at Israel and strive for peace and security for both the people of Israel and of Gaza.

If we deny Israel as Christians then we are denying the ‘Will of the Father’ and the truth of the very scriptures we believe in.

Recently, the church has been pushed into political correctness on their position on Israel due to increasing global rejection of the state of Israel accusing it of being “a colonial settler state”.

Does Israel have outstanding issues to resolve? Yes, it does. Does South Africa have enormous existential issues that demand resolution? Yes, it does.

But this should not undermine our respective countries existence or warrant our destruction!

What the enemies of Israel want, and those attacking the Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng is that Israel should be characterised like the discredited statues in the US and UK in the hope that it too will topple, tumble, disappear or fall into the sea!

It will not happen.

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Beliefs Under Attack. The South African Branch of The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem organised a petition against the statements by ANC spokesperson, Pule Mabe and other organisations attacking Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

It suits those attacking Christian support for Israel by resorting to such  statements that “the bible is a fallacy or a book of fairytale stories.” When they can devise a position in Christian scriptures to attack Israel, then the Bible is not “a fallacy or a book of fairytale stories.”

Sadly, what past wars between the Arab world and Israel achieved; was to divide the world into two camps.

It is unfair and malicious to attack Christians for their love for Israel. Would fellow Muslims, unhappy with certain policies in Saudi Arabia, try undermining that county’s existence and advocate for boycotts? Would they dare suggest to BOYCOTT the Hajj – the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca?  Of course not and should not.

Our love of Israel has nothing to do with its government or its military but rather a spiritual obligation to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Christian criticism of Israel is vital to improve and develop the only democracy in the Middle East to become the beckon of social justice for the preservation and advancement of Judeo-Christian values.

Recent attacks and condemnations against Israel are deeply rooted in antisemitism irrespective of human rights accusations based on the fact that Israel is the only country in the world with more than 200 condemnations at the United Nations, compared to such countries with grievous human rights abusers like China, Burma, Libya, North Korea, South Sudan, Iran, Syria, Turkey and many others. Most of them are notable for their antipathy to Israel and rush to condemn Israel at global forums.

If we are selective in our activism for ‘Human Rights’ then our activism becomes corrupted to satisfy particular political agendas.

We should continue to push and help constructively in the mediation between Israel and the Palestinians to try achieving a lasting peaceful resolution for all the people in this region.

To this end, however, Christians should never be blackmailed to support narratives which are in contradiction of their biblical scriptures.

Zionism was born out of the desire of exiles to return to their homeland which coincides with biblical prophecies as reflected in Mathew (5:9):

Blessed are the Peacemakers, For They Will be Called Children of God.”

Hence, I am firmly of the belief that Zionism is intertwined with Christianity.

Following this reasoning, it is not possible for any Christian to deny the existence of Israel and not support its development as a nation commissioned by God and ultimately to serve as a banner for the Almighty’s faithfulness and love of all nations. Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was bold in taking the stance for his belief against political correctness hence we fully support and echo his sentiments which are universal and in accordance with biblical truth.

SAFRICA-POLITICS-PARLIAMENT-PRESIDENT
An Appeal to Heal. Christians across South Africa are coming out in support of their country’s Chief Justice, Mogoeng Mogoeng’s balanced position to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

 

 

About the writer:

image004 (8).pngBafana Modise, is  Radio Personality, Public Speaker, Leadership Coach, Christian Activist and Voice-Over Artist who serves as Education Coordinator at South African Friends of Israel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

South Africa Hangs in the ‘Balance’

South Africa’s Chief Justice under fire for acting like a judge!

By David E. Kaplan

Should not a country’s Justices – even more notably its Chief Justice – be imbued with the qualities of “open-mindedness”; of willing to hear and consider the views of all sides of a case?

In other words, possessing a mindset that is  “balanced”.

 Law students, long before they ever enter a courtroom are only too familiar with the Latin phrase Audi alteram partem meaning “listen to the other side”, or “let the other side be heard as well”. It is the principle that no person should be judged without a fair hearing and in which each party is given the opportunity to respond to the evidence against them. It is a fundamental principle of legal systems the world over and most certainly in South Africa where I studied and practiced Criminal Law. I quoted it regularly, not so much in court where it was self-evident but in social situations whenever I was ‘accused’ of defending clients who “were obviously guilty”.

I would reply:

Audi alteram partem”.

Everyone deserves a fair hearing.

That same principle to people should apply no less to nations  – and in this case – the State of Israel. South Africa’s Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng understands; his ruling ANC government clearly does not.

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Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. (Picture: Puxley Makgatho)

The ANC viciously turned on its Chief Justice following Mogoeng’s recent participation in a webinar hosted by The Jerusalem Post where he lamented his government’s “lopsided attitude” toward the Israel-Palestine conflict, adding that “it would have greater influence if it displayed a more balanced approach.” Mogoeng took part in the webinar along with South Africa’s Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein.

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The Three Chiefs. (Press on the picture to watch the discussion) South Africa’s Chief Justice, Mogoeng Mogoeng, Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein with Jerusalem Post Editor-In-Chief Yaakov Katz moderating the discussion on Zoom. (Photo credit: screenshot)

The response was quick. The ANC’s National Spokesperson, Pule Mabe, said Mogoeng had entered the arena of “political commentary”, which could make him vulnerable to adjudicating on human rights matters in the future.

How so? By exhibiting understanding and exercising balance?

Is this not what one would expect from a judge, particularly from a Chief Justice?

The ANC spokesperson added:

 “It was rather unfortunate for the Chief Justice to state that the ‘South African government policy was binding upon himself and that he was not seeking to reject it’, but then clearly and openly opposes it as a citizen.”

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ANC spokesman Pule Mabe. (Photo by Gallo Images / City Press / Denvor de Wee)

The expectations of a judge relate to law, not to a political party’s policies not yet embodied in law. There is no law in South Africa – not yet at any rate –  that says a person, or a judge cannot express a viewpoint advocating open-mindedness and balance.

Yes, South Africa has “downgraded” its diplomatic relations with Israel, but it was an executive not a legislative “decision” to recall its ambassador. South Africa still runs an office in Tel Aviv that is staffed dealing with bilateral issues between the two countries. It is hoped that full diplomatic relations be resumed sooner rather than later.

Rather than criticize Mogoeng, the honourable Chief Justice should be praised for exercising the characteristics for which he was most likely first appointed.

South African citizens are cognisant that their country has uniquely three capitals – Pretoria the administrative capital, Cape Town the legislative and Bloemfontein the judicial. It is not so much the separation – geographically – of the three cities across the country that is significant but more the metaphor of the ‘separation of powers’ between the three branches of government. Chief Justice Mogoeng was not acting contrary to any law; he was questioning a prevailing controversial policy motivated by the BDS movement that is committed to Israel’s destruction, that he felt was not in his country’s best interests. The Chief Justice’s position is supported by South Africa’s own intent as seen over the years from the days when Nelson Mandela was president.

– How often has South Africa expressed that it would like to be a player in trying to resolve the intractable Israel-Palestine conflict?

– Have I not personally heard each South African ambassador to Israel remark every year on South Africa’s Freedom Day celebrations in Tel Aviv, how South Africa can, with its expertise in conflict resolution, help bring the parties together to try reconciling their differences?

– How often have I heard the response of Israeli politicians welcoming and thanking  South Africa’s offer with the words: “We have so much to learn from your experiences and expertise in conflict resolution.”

Well, you cannot be a player, or expect to be a player, if you are openly one-sided, only criticize one party to the conflict and display little or no understanding of the concerns of the other party to the dispute. This is something a judge would be keenly aware of and this is what Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was expressing when he added at the webinar:

As a citizen of our great country, we are denying ourselves a wonderful opportunity of being a game-changer in the Israeli-Palestinian situation.”

South Africans should be proud of their Chief Justice for acting like a judge instead of him now being targeted by his government!

Following the webinar, the Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has had many an insult hurled at him. According to some, he should “shut up and focus on judgements”, that he “is a disgrace”, “ignorant”, and “should step down”.

On the contrary. Born to a father who was a miner and a mother who was a domestic worker, young Mogoeng became politically active at high school and was briefly suspended for organising a memorial to the victims of the Soweto uprising. Senior Mogoeng knows all about the struggle and the issues involved.

No; he should not “step down”. On the contrary, the people of South Africa should “step up” to support him.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Jan Smuts vs Corona

A colossus against global evil – the Nazis –  how would South Africa’s WWII leader have shone today against a global disease – Covid-19?

By Philip Weyers, great-grandson of General Jan Smuts.

A few days ago, “Lay of the Land” Editor, Dave Kaplan, posed to me what I thought to be an interesting question:

“How would a Jan Smuts’ government have dealt with the Corona crisis?”

Jan Smuts vs Corona2
Professor Frederic William Maitland (© National Portrait Gallery, London)

Before being a Soldier-Statesman, my grandfather was a brilliant scholar. While one of his tutors,  Professor Frederic William Maitland – regarded as the modern father of English legal history – said of Smuts “the most brilliant student” he had ever met,  Lord Todd, the Master  of Christ’s College, said that “in 500 years of the College’s history, of all its members, past and present, three had been truly outstanding – John MiltonCharles Darwin and Jan Smuts.”

While offered by his old Cambridge college, Christ’s College, a fellowship in Law, he declined, choosing instead to return to the Cape Colony, determined to make his future there. He sure did!

Apart from leading his country inspirationally through WWII, Smuts contributed substantially to the creation of both the League of Nations and the United Nations – writing the preface to the U.N. Charter. Participating in so many milestone happenings of the 20th century, it should come as little surprise  that the only person to have signed the charters of both the League of Nations and the United Nations was General Jan Christiaan Smuts. Sadly, Smuts’ United Party lost the election in 1948 to the Nationalist Party of D.F. Malan that introduced Apartheid  – system of institutionalised racial segregation – that existed to the early 1990s.

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Mobilising People Support. Smuts won the South African vote to join the war against the Nazis.

Of course with Smuts gone for nearly 70 years any attempt to answer the question relating to Corona would be purely speculative and based on our understanding of his personality and how in the past he confronted monumental challenges.

I do however believe we have sufficient evidence to create at least some credible scenarios.

Covid-19 made its presence known with people dying in droves in Wuhan, China, subsequently high percentage of deaths followed in Italy, Spain, the UK and the USA where New York City has been the worst hit.

The South African Government did react relatively swiftly applying lockdown measures with individual movement restricted to medical reasons and the purchase of essential items. Socialising of any nature was forbidden. Initially there was understanding and compliance from the vast majority of the urban population, but in the informal settlements, life continued much as usual. It is important to note that the initial lockdown included prohibitions on the sale or purchase of inter alia cars, clothing, hardware, children’s toys, stationery including puzzles and of course the two “sin” items – alcohol and tobacco products.

 

It is reasonable to believe that Jan Smuts would have reacted in much the same manner initially; he would have been attempting by best means possible to combat what was for the entire world  – a complete unknown. It is also fair to believe that Smuts would have permitted a larger component of the South African economy to remain active than was the case, under conditions to minimise the transmission of the disease.

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Two Men And A Baby. In the gardens of the British Embassy in Cairo on the 23rd August, 1942, Winston Churchill (left) and Jan Smuts fuss over Victor Lampson, the baby son of the British Ambassador. (Photo: Birmingham Mail and Pos)

After nearly five weeks of what was advised to be “Stage-5” of the lockdown, President Ramaphosa advised that their efforts had been successful in slowing down the spread of Covid-19 and that there was to be a move to “Stage-4” on 1 May. Perplexing the public – some amusingly others irritatingly – the sale of alcohol remained illegal, while tobacco products could again be purchased. Much joy and relief followed this announcement, not least of all the11 million South Africans who smoke!

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Corona Crazy. A cartoon by Zapiro in the Daily Maverick that satirizes South Africa’s policies to Corona.

Those who were missing a drink resorted either to the highly active and exorbitant black-market or started brewing their own mampoer  – South Africa’s highly intoxicating “moonshine” derived mainly from pineapple. Within days of President Ramaphosa announcing a relaxation of the sale of tobacco products, it was announced by Nkosana Dhlamini-Zuma, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, that the matter had been re-assessed and the tobacco would remain embargoed, resulting in astonishment and much anger amongst the population.

It is at this point I believe that Jan Smuts’ path would have taken a significantly divergent course to that adopted by the South African Government, and in a number of ways.

The Great Communicator

Jan Smuts was an accomplished communicator, and believed in the value of accurate, comprehensive, and regular communications. He was a prodigious correspondent and a highly accomplished writer – in longhand – of his own speeches. It would be inconceivable that at a time of such perceived threat and uncertainty, he would not regularly appear on all media platforms, placating and reassuring the population, certainly he would not have been silent for weeks at a stretch.

We can see today from Smuts’ many speeches how his voice resonated with his audience and how he instilled confidence. This is precisely what is needed today and is surely lacking!

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General Jan Christiaan Smuts

Furthermore, it would be inconceivable to believe that a Smuts Government would not have consulted every credible source of expertise covering such essential aspects as the economy, medical (in particular epidemiologists both locally and abroad), commerce and business and modelled the regulations imposed according to guidelines that he would have gleaned from such consultations. A balance between all critical elements would have been achieved as far as possible.

Smuts would have realised from the start that trying to legislate a population into compliance, would have produced at best short-term results. He would not have been autocratic, aggressive nor condescending when dealing with the people. He would have been well aware that compliance would result from cooperation rather than legislation, particularly when the regulations would seem  – with some justification –  to be nonsensical and of little tangible value.

To achieve public compliance would invariably have involved law-enforcement but certainly no heavy-handed and unnecessary force. Violent enforcement would not have been tolerated – particularly of petty contraventions.

There can be no doubt that following the initial lockdown and greater scientific data became available offering the wisest counsel to this “mystery disease”, Smuts would have moved swiftly to get the economy back on track. It would have been clear to Smuts that without revenue, a government is restricted in its ability to control or treat the virus.

Disrespect To Disregard

Essential to gaining the people’s support and compliance is to return their lives to as normal a situation as possible. Smuts would realise that a population will only adhere to regulations while they present at least some logic and make sense even at an unsophisticated level. Nonsensical and seemingly irrelevant restrictions would enjoy a short period of compliance before the public at large despaired and disregarded them. The extended restrictions on clothing, for one, were apparently devoid of logic and benefit.

One could buy a long-sleeved shirt, but not a short-sleeved one! Ladies could buy “winter” shoes but not shoes with open toes!

Smuts would not have countenanced such nonsensical regulations believing them rather to further aggravate an already incensed population.

One can of course hypothesize almost without end how the ‘soldier-statesman’ Smuts would have mounted a campaign to counter Corona. In truth, we could never really know. I sense that a Smuts Government would not have acted very differently to the Ramaphosa government in the initial four-week period, but beyond that period, there would have been a marked divergence.

Therefore I feel confident to surmise, that under a Smuts leadership, South Africans would be in far better position than that in which we currently find ourselves.

 

 

About The Writer

PHILIP WEYERS1.jpgPhilip Weyers is Past Executive Director of General Smuts Foundation. An “Amateur historian” on Jan Smuts, the South African Air Force and the Royal Air Force, Weyers is President Emeritus of the South African Air Force Association. He is currently a member of SAAFA NEC; SAAF/SAAFA Liaison, Foreign Relations. As a “Friend of Israel” and like the “Oubaas”, a confirmed Christian Zionist, he addresses audiences in Israel and England.

 

 

 

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

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

By David.E. Kaplan

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

Africa for Palestine (AFP)”

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

image001 (22)
Antisemitism Over The Air. In this meme shared in March 2020, the coronavirus is depicted as being Jewish men.

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

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

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

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

Of course not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 So while since March 19, 2020:

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

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

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

and:

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

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

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

Said Hadad:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you mean Palestine?”

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

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

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

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

All this finally begs the question:

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

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

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

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

“A Reptile By Another Name”

 

 

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

Bravo To Academic Freedom

South Africa’s Premier University – UCT-  Rejects Call To Boycott Israeli Academic Institutions

By David E. Kaplan

Common sense prevailed.

Deciding in its own best interest, the University of Cape Town (UCT) decisively rejected this November; the call to boycott Israeli academic institutions and how does the pro-Palestinian lobby in South Africa react?

They blame “wealthy donors” and “Zionists

With this predictable antisemitic response to a solid, sound and sensible campaign at preserving UCT’s academic stature as the premier university in Africa, is it not time for South Africans to ditch BDS and its cohorts who are undermining the future of South Africa and many of its esteemed institutions in pursuit of its narrow nefarious agenda?

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Advocating Boycott. South African BDS advocate Prof. Farid Esack is among those supporting the academic boycott call against Israel. (Photo: File)

This was born out by revelations on the dirty tricks employed by BDS against Jewish students in South Africa by Wendy Kahn, National Director of the SAJBOD. Warning in a 21 November article of the disastrous ramifications to UCT of a boycott of Israel, she reveals that “The BDS on campus have impersonated SAUJS students to fool people into thinking that they represent an official Jewish body.”

Thankfully, at the 11th hour – after three years of wrangling – disaster was averted  not so much for Israel academic intuitions that enjoy enriching collaborative partnerships with the world’s most prestigious universities; but more so for the reputation and sustainability of UCT. May the decision further herald a warning to the would-be-hijackers of South Africa’s future – “beat it”.

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Moment Of Decision. The anti-Israel lobby tried to isolate Israel, but UCT realised the danger of internationally isolating itself instead. Result  – the UCT senate members voted against the resolution. (Tracey Adams/African News Agency)

Most endearing and might prove enduring was how alumni from across the globe came out of the woodwork and energized for a common cause – to defeat the resolution that would have in the words again of Kahn, “trampled the bedrock values of academic freedom upon which every credible institution of higher learning is necessarily founded.”

Galvanized From Around The Globe

It is not too often, apart from the infrequent class reunions, alumni from around the world really connect with each other or their Alma Mater.

This was different.

The proposed resolution was a trigger that awakened generations of UCT students from homes across all the continents.

No sooner had the South African Zionist Federation and the SAJBOD appealed for alumni to petition against the proposed UCT academic boycott, former students, reminded of their activism against Apartheid, got into action signing petitions, encouraging others to do so, writing articles and sharing their open letters to the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Registrar, Senate and Governing Council.

One of the multitude of letters written is this one from a 1969 science student living in Israel.

As a proud graduate of UCT (1969 B.Sc. Geology), a diligent member of the UCT Students Representative Council (1963), a committed member of the UCT Academic Freedom Committee and a former leader in the UCT Students Jewish Association, it is with a deep sense of outrage, shame and disgust to know that my former alma mater is planning to implement an academic boycott of Israel.

I have lived, studied and worked in the State of Israel since 1970 and, while no country can objectively claim to be perfect, I know that this embattled nation to be a true light of democracy, tolerance and freedom to the hostile world around it. The conflict with the Palestinians is a sad reality and one can only hope that the leaders on both sides will find the boldness and resources to reach a political solution which will provide security, economic prosperity and hope for better times to both people.

However, I fail to understand what makes Israel the unique target of UCT’s animus and imprecations to the extent that an academic boycott is being seriously contemplated. Has the distorted incitement of the Palestine Solidarity Forum on the campus become so influential that UCT concedes in bending the knee and implementing this extreme and abhorrent act of boycotting the distinguished centers of Israeli academia?

Has the UCT leadership attained such a moral utopia that it can conclude that only Israel deserves to be punished with an academic boycott for its inability to resolve the two sided conflict with the Palestinians? That this isolated issue is the most ominous in a world of numerous wars, hostilities and enmities that have claimed untold casualties and refugees and caused devastation and ruin is  beyond belief?   

It appears to me that in recent times UCT has lost its moral mettle in determining what truly constitute academic issues; that it has become prone to acceding to the demands of political groups on the campus whose outlooks and policies are duplicitous and mendacious.

I have no doubt that should UCT decide to impose an academic boycott on Israel, it will be UCT that will be the loser!

This ineffectual and puerile act will diminish the reputation of one of Africa’s leading universities in the eyes of western academia – after all, caving in under pressure is not considered a valiant deed. Israeli universities and colleges will continue to produce potential Nobel Prize winners and leaders in science, technology, IT, agriculture, medicine, aero-space and you-name-it!

Unfortunately the government of South Africa has decided to reduce its diplomatic representation in Israel. To all practical purposes this does not affect Israel in the least.

It is with no pleasure that I can attribute this same remark to the dynamic academia of Israel, should UCT implement an academic boycott of Israel.

For what it is worth, my pride and esteem that I feel to my alma mater, will sadly dissolve.

In my student days, I was in the front ranks of those struggling for the independence and autonomy of UCT as an academic institution, whose portals were to be opened to all students based on academic ability, not on their colour. I never believed that this same university would now implement an academic boycott against a country that struggled against unbelievable odds in achieving its independence and creating edifices of learning which enjoy universal admiration.

I can only hope that rationality and spirit will infuse the declining vitality and strength of UCT’s leaders and that they will treat this attempt for imposing an academic boycott on a brave and successful country, with the contempt it deserves!

I respectfully request that this letter be circulated amongst UCT’s management, lecturers and students.

Your kind acknowledgement is thanked in advance.

Sincerely,

Lennie Lurie

Israel

 It was hard-hitting letters like these that won the day.

The word was out that UCT would find it impossible to defend itself from retaliatory moves that a boycott would likely produce.

As expressed by Prof. David Bernstein of the Scalia Law School at George Mason University:

Once you endorse an academic boycott yourself, you don’t have any standing when it comes to opposing people who then engage in a boycott of your institution.”

At the vote on Friday 25 November, 68% of the 363 members of the senate opposed the resolution that pro-boycott activists had been pushing since 2017.

“We thank the Senate for standing up to this campaign of hate and asserting the importance of academic freedom over narrow political agendas,” said Rowan Polovin, the National Chairman of the SAZF (South African Zionist Federation). “The academic boycott campaign against Israel was driven by the antisemitic BDS movement and loomed over the University for almost three years. Its goal was to single out and isolate the one and only Jewish state for unfair sanction and discrimination. The campaign consumed a disproportionate amount of airtime at the Academic Freedom Committee, Senate and Council at the expense of more relevant and important issues for UCT. Its repudiation sends a strong message that freedom of academic enquiry without limitation is essential for academic freedom to thrive. Academics, students and faculty at UCT are free to engage with Israeli academia, or that of any country they so choose, without restriction.”

Thankful that UCT can now move forward “with its reputation intact,” Polovin concluded by thanking “all the efforts of those who played a role in this pivotal fight for academic freedom at UCT.”

Director of Public Policy at the SAZF, Benji Shulman expressed that he believed that “this was an important win for the community and its allies. UCT’s repudiation of this resolution shows that South Africans are interested in peace in the Middle East and a positive future of South Africa. It is now time to push on forward and increase constructive engagement between South Africans and Israelis such as our new initiative to promote cooperation between UCT and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, whereby two UCT science students have been offered by the Weizmann Institute of Science, a 3-month research scholarship.  This will enrich the research capacity of the next generation of UCT scientists.”

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Sock It To Israel. The logo fist of the Palestine Solidarity Forum (PSF) at UCT. This ‘round’, they felt the counter punch from the alumni.

As expected, the Palestine Solidarity Forum (PSF) at UCT and BDS are furious. The former spewed “It is a clear indication of the persisting conservatism of UCT and the fact that UCT, and the vice-chancellor in particular, is beholden to its donors and the Zionist lobby,” while BDS spokesman, Bram Hanekom, said his campaign “would continue to call for South African academic institutions to cut ties with the apartheid Israeli state.”

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Bram The “Breeker”. BDS spokesman Bram Hanekom persists in breaking academic ties with Israel.

The majority of the UCT Senate view the future differently.

In rejecting the proposal to boycott Israeli academic institutions, the Senate also encouraged faculty “to establish positive academic links with Palestinian academic institutions and individuals, with financial and logistical assistance from the UCT.”

One bad resolution nixed, now its time to be resolute in pursuing constructive academic engagement for a better  South Africa, Israel and the Palestinian people.

That’s the way to go. Build bridges; not break them down.

 

*Feature Picture: A pro-Israel march in Cape Town in 2018. Photo: SAFI.