SOUTH AFRICA DARING TO DISCRIMINATE

As president of the BRICs bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) in 2023, should the ANC government  not exercise moral responsibility and apply foreign policy consistently?

By Rowan Polovin National Chairman, South African Zionist Federation 

(First published in Business Day)


Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, is fundamentally concerned with one international issue over all others, what she calls “the ongoing flagrant abuse of the human rights of Palestinians” which, in her view places “a moral responsibility on South Africa to act.”

It is remarkable that Pandor is able to command such exclusive action from the ANC government over a territory smaller than our beloved Kruger National Park, whilst remaining deafeningly silent to the cries of Ukrainians last year and numerous other serious human rights issues in Africa and around the world. Moreover, she blames Israel for the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians, and absolves all responsibility and agency from Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. 

Dressed to Discriminate. While consistently failing to condemn Russia’s barbaric war of aggression against the Ukrainian people costing the lives of tens of thousands of civilians, South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor – feeling most at home in a Palestinian headscarf – will always rush to virulently denounce the Jewish state following any clashes between Israel and Palestinians.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), and the South African public, should hold Minister Pandor accountable for her statement. Indeed our government certainly does have a moral responsibility to act decisively to assist global communities when it comes to the protection of human rights. Especially when they are being abused at a rate that only South Africans could begin to comprehend. 

The United Nations has confirmed that 170 deaths were recorded as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2022. While the loss of innocent lives on any side of a conflict is tragic, the vast majority of those casualties were Palestinian militants. By contrast, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, over 6 900 people were killed as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. It is estimated that 408 of these fatalities were children.

 
This is utterly devastating, and we are no strangers to this level of violence in South Africa, where over 7000 citizens were murdered in just the second quarter of the 2022/23 financial year. Tragically, over 550 of those deaths were children, according to the national crime statistics report as released by Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, last year.  

But, of course, it is easier for the government to deflect attention someplace else. 

Rampant Crime, Misguided Ministers. Nonthando Booi holds a picture of her murdered niece, Siphokazi Booi. While more than 7,000 people were murdered over three months (July-September) in 2022 in South Africa, the government prefers to deflect public attention elsewhere, like on the Middle East.  (Photo Kaylynn Palm / Action Society)

South Africa’s foreign policy appears to be singularly limited to Israel-bashing. This position prevents our country from playing any meaningful role in finding a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The ANC government’s obsession with Israel also precludes us from benefiting from the changing landscape of the Middle East and Africa. The Abraham Accords, where peace and normalisation has been achieved between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, as well as Morocco and Sudan here in Africa, has effectively ended the Arab-Israeli conflict. 

More countries in the Middle East and Africa could follow suit in 2023. The Negev Forum working group recently concluded groundbreaking meetings between these countries, focusing on food security, water technology, clean energy, tourism, health care, education, coexistence and regional security. Does South Africa want to be left out in the cold, and lose out on the advantages of these strategic partnerships?

The Outsider. While initiatives like the Negev Forum Working Groups hosted by the UAE on January 9-10, 2023 in Abu Dhabi with senior officials from the governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, the UAE, and the US discussed opportunities to advance initiatives that “encourage regional integration, cooperation, and development, for the benefit of their populations and the wider region that include initiatives to strengthen the Palestinian economy and improve the quality of life of the Palestinian people,” South Africa opts to be left out in the cold and lose out on the advantages of strategic partnerships.

Back home, our foreign policy decisions are irrational. Last week, ANC International Relations Committee Chair, Lindiwe Zulu, confirmed that the ANC had resolved to simply not take sides in the Russia-Ukraine war. She added that it would also be supporting China in its dispute with Taiwan. But the ANC went further. Its January 8th anniversary statement of this year calls on Western governments to end sanctions on global human rights abusers such as Iran, Syria, Zimbabwe and Venezuela. The ANC has a remarkable willingness to be on the wrong side of history just so long as it retains its Cold War friends.

The ANC could be positioned to act as mediators between warring factions, people and states, given its own experience of great pain and suffering at the hands of a political authority that abused South African human rights in ways we are only beginning to come to terms with today. The collective trauma suffered by millions of South Africans should have left us at war with one another for decades – and yet, under the leadership of President Nelson Mandela, the ANC was able to do something fundamentally extraordinary. It shifted people’s perceptions of one another, in a way that enabled us to see beyond any illusion, that we are all South Africans and that this territory is home to everyone residing within its borders. Different religions, traditions and languages were not barriers to our social cohesion – but rather a celebration of our diverse, yet collectively shared humanity.  

South Africa’s political leadership changed the trajectory of the conflict present in our country. And as such, our country is in a strong position to assist other states with doing the same. But when Minister Pandor turns a blind eye to almost all international human rights violations to discriminate over Israel, one cannot help but wonder what has happened to the ANC and its international credibility. 

If the abuse of human rights is the starting point for Pretoria’s commitment to assist foreign states with local causes, where is the South African initiative on Ukraine or many other conflicts closer to home? Will we stand by idly while Russia continues to put hundreds of Ukrainian children in early graves? Why have we not seized the opportunity to become world leaders in changing perceptions and illusions that alienate human beings from one another? 

Blind Sided. While photos like this of death and destruction in Ukraine that will likely lay the groundwork for future charges of war crimes against Russia, South Africa’s ANC government prefers to look the other way, advocating instead “to not take sides” in the Russia-Ukraine war.

Our country should seek to apply its foreign policies with uniformity, and show a degree of courage and leadership at the same time. South Africa holds the Presidency of BRICS in 2023 – will we use this position of leadership to hold Russia and others to account? Or will the ANC government continue to pick and choose its moral responsibilities based on its nostalgic political relevance of yesteryear?




About the writer:

Rowan Polovin National Chairman, South African Zionist Federation 







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).

FORGOTTEN HISTORY REMEMBERED

The heroic past shall be ‘unveiled’ at an upcoming ceremony at Johannesburg’s Jewish cemetery illuminating ‘bloodlines’ between South Africa and Israel

By David E. Kaplan

On the 27th November, people of all faiths and races – some wearing medals of battles past – will gather at the South African National Jewish War Memorial at West Park Cemetery in Johannesburg. They will do so to remember those South African soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the world wars of the twentieth century that not only “changed the course of history” but profoundly impacted on the destiny of the Jewish people. The acts of bravery by these soldiers – whether aware at the time or not – contributed to the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in their ancestral homeland in 1948.

Live stream link on Sunday 27/11/22, 10:30 (SA time) – https://www.facebook.com/SAZionistFed/

The drama of three long forgotten and for many never even known events, will be ‘unveiled’ together with the stones embodying their pulsating pasts.

STORY OF A STONE

When only a year ago, students at  UCT ( University of Cape Town) tried to expunge the memory of South Africa’s famed wartime Prime Minister Jan Smuts by defacing and covering his bust with plastic bags and ultimately removing it from the campus as well as renaming the historic men’s residence from Smuts Hall to Upper Campus Residence, the upcoming gathering on the 27 November has a contrary agenda of honouring his memory as it connects with the Jewish people. If UCT students sought to ‘cover’ Smuts’ bust, the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF), JNF (SA), the South African Jewish ex-Service League together with its committee member, Selwyn Rogoff and its former Chairman, Peter Bailey also representing the Isaac Ochberg Heritage Committee in Israel, have sought to uncover Smuts’ less known past, notably his contribution to the State of Israel.

Century of a Stone. The cornerstone originally unveiled by Prime Minister Smuts in 1922 to be again unveiled by his great-grandson Gareth Shackleford on the 27 November 2022 at West Park Cemetery, Johannesburg.

When it was brought to Bailey and Rogoff’s attention that a cornerstone honouring South African Jews who had fought and died in the Great War that had been unveiled by Prime Minister Smuts in November 1922 at the old Jewish Guild War Memorial Building in downtown Johannesburg had after a century of travels to different locations  resurfaced in the garden of a bowling club, they felt a special memorial event marking the centenary should be held. Bailey felt further that it should include two other monumental contributions of South African soldiers who died in the service of that biblical land that would in time emerge as the state of the Jewish people – Israel. Through this writer’s intervention, he contacted Benji Shulman of the SAZF that set in motion the upcoming event that will have Smuts’ great-grandson, Gareth Shackleford, who will unveil again the cornerstone that his grandfather originally unveiled a century earlier reminding the world of the love Smuts had for the Jewish people and his role in the creation of the Jewish state.

Dead at Delville. Included amongst Jewish South African soldiers killed in WWI was the writer’s grandfather’s brother, Victor Kaplan, who volunteered for overseas service and was killed in the Battle of Delville Wood in 1916. (Family photo)

Too few are aware that when Smuts and Chaim Weizmann met in London during the Great War, the two began a close friendship that lasted for the rest of their lives and greatly influenced events in Palestine. In an essay on Smuts and Weizmann, Richard P. Stevens writes:

perhaps few personal friendships have so influenced the course of political events during the twentieth century as the relationship between General Jan Christiaan Smuts, South Africa’s celebrated prime minister, and Chaim Weizmann, Zionist leader, and Israel’s first president.”

Meeting of Minds. They emerged friends with shared visions – Chaim Weizmann (left) and Jan Smuts, circa 1915 (photo credit: JERUSALEM POST ARCHIVE)

Research reveals that Smuts played a monumental backroom role in the drafting of the Balfour Declaration, providing Weizmann with a direct conduit to the War Cabinet. Another of Smuts’ great-grandsons, Philip Weyers, said of his great-grandfather, who he fondly refers to as “Oubaas” (old boss) that:

he was the anonymous partner to the Balfour Declaration. The spirit and even some of the wording of the Balfour Declaration came from the Oubaas’ mouth. His thoughts and views carried a lot of weight, and is imbedded in that fateful document.

It is little wonder that kibbutz Ramat Yohanan – founded in 1932  – was named in honour of Jan Smuts; ‘Yohanan’ being the Hebrew translation for the Afrikaans ‘Jan’ or English ‘John’, in recognition of his unstinting efforts on behalf of the Jewish people.

LETTER TO LEGEND

However, Israel’s ‘Magna Carta’ – the Balfour Declaration of 1917 – would have meant very little beyond a letter or footnote in history had not the actual ‘feet’ of commonwealth soldiers – including the Cape Corps comprising members of South Africa’s Coloured community – fought valiantly to relieve Palestine of the Ottoman Turks. Some 54 Coloureds  – Christians and Muslims – lost their lives in what became known as the Battle of Megiddo, opening the road for General Allenby’s breakthrough to Damascus. Most important from a Jewish perspective, while it “opened the road” for Allenby, it cleared the region of the occupying Turks, paving the way for a British Mandate and ultimately Jewish statehood in 1948.

Jubilation in Jerusalem. One month after the Balfour Declaration, General Edmund Allenby enters the Old City on the 11 December 1917 to accept the surrender of Jerusalem from the Ottoman Turks. Next battle to follow – Megiddo.

A year following the famous battle, Field Marshal Viscount Allenby, GCB, GCMG had this to say about the men of the 1st Cape Corps:

 “I heard you are creating a Roll of Honour containing Cape Corps names. I had the honour of serving with many of the Cape Corps in Palestine and I should like to add my tribute of appreciation. The record of those of the Cape Corps who fought under my command is one that any troops might envy. Especially on September 19 and 20, 1918, they covered themselves with glory, displaying a bravery and determination that has never been surpassed.”

A descendant of this battle, Cmdr. M. Adeel Carelse MMM (Ret.), whose grandfather Cpl. C. H. Carelse fought bravely at Square Hill and Kh Jibeit that were decisive battles within the larger Battle of Megiddo and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, will unveil on the 27 November a plaque to the Cape Corps. Today in Cape Town’s suburb of Retreat, there is Square Hill School that is named after this famous battle that too few remember or the sacrifices made.  However, these mostly forgotten battles fought in a biblical land, ended Ottoman Turkish rule and led to the eventual establishment of the independent states of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and ISRAEL!

Valiant Fighters. Men of the 1st. Battalion, Cape Corps(160th Brigade, 53 Welsh Division) in Palestine 1918.

WORKED TOGETHER, DIED TOGETHER

The third stone of history to be unturned at the ceremony, will be to remember and honour the 644 black Southern Africans who went down with 140 Yishuv Jews on the SS Erinpura during WWII.

They had all worked together as volunteers on a British labour project in Palestine for the war effort and were together in a convoy in the Mediterranean in May 1943 . The SS Erinpura was carrying more than 1000 troops, including Basuto and Batswanan members of the African Auxiliary Pioneer Corps and Palestinian Jewish soldiers of 462 Transport Company of the British Army when on the evening of 1 May 1943, German bomber aircraft attacked the convoy 30 nautical miles (56 km) north of Benghazi.

They Made History. On parade but soon to be tested in battle are soldiers of the Cape Corp during WW1 who performed so heroically at the Battle of Megiddo in 1918 against the Ottoman Turks.

In one wave of the attacks, a bomb hit the Erinpura in one of her forward holds, causing her to list to starboard and sink within five minutes. The crew of her 12-pounder anti-aircraft gun continued to return fire until she sank with a loss of life of 800 that included the 633 Sotho, 11 Tswana soldiers and 140 Palestinian Jewish soldiers.

Lives lost at Sea. The ‘SS Erinpura Memorial’ on Mount Herzl, Jerusalem is dedicated to the 139 Jewish soldiers of the British Army  462 Moving Unit in British Mandate of Palestine  that lost their lives on the SS Erinpura  that was sunk in an attack  by the Luftwaffe on 1 May 1943.

The monument on Mount Herzl  to the 140 Jewish soldiers who drowned aboard the SS Erinpura is shaped like a ship  with a pool of water representing the sea where on the bottom appear the names of the fallen. Above the pool is a turret adorned with the Hebrew text of Psalm 68, verse 22:

The Lord said, I will bring again from Bashan, I will bring my people again from the depths of the sea.”

Ship of Soldiers. The ill-fated SS. Erinpura that went down with South African and Jewish Palestinian soldiers in WWII.

This did in a sense happen with the emergence five years later  with the gathering of Jews and the established of the Jewish state in 1948.

It is only fitting that  Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa, Eliav Belotsercovsky, will unveil a memorial plaque at the West Park Cemetery ceremony to the tragic loss of life of both the Yishuv Jews and black South Africans who lost their lives together in a cause that others may live.

Entrance to West Park Cemetery, Johannesburg

EPILOGUE

The years have rolled by and like packed away old unread books, heroic lives were lost tucked away in forgotten chapters in recedingly remembered conflicts. The upcoming ceremony on the 27 November 2022  in Johannesburg is designed to address this amnesia and all across the world are invited to attend on ZOOM

https://www.facebook.com/SAZionistFed/

Before all these events played out, the instruction of ‘being careful not to forget’ was already present in Deuteronomy 4:7–9:“Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy son’s sons.





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).

TIME TO DO RIGHT, SOUTH-AFRICA

Pandor’s call for Israel to be called an ‘apartheid’ state laughable

By Pamela Ngubane

(Originally published in The Citizen)

At a Palestinian Heads of Missions (HOM) in Africa conference, on 26 July 2022, held in Pretoria, South Africa, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) Dr Naledi Pandor, told the international community that they ought to consider labelling the only democracy in the Middle East as an apartheid state. What is laughable, is that she expects these nations, which largely value and uphold democracy as the world’s most progressive political system, to take her seriously.

Pandor’s Pulpit. Draped with a Palestinian headscarf, South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor calls for Israel to be declared an ‘apartheid state’ at a conference held in Pretoria on 26 July 2022 of the Palestinian Heads of Mission in Africa.

As usual, nothing was said about the lack of democracy and transparency in the way the Palestinian Authority (PA) governs the West Bank. In the last few days, Palestinian lawyers staged a protest against the authoritarian Palestinian government that Pandor supports. The parliament is defunct and the only “rule of law” are the diktats which emanate from the pronouncements made by Mahmoud Abbas, who has become the de facto Palestinian president-for-life. Yet, according to Minister Pandor, the most unprogressive person on the African continent is the African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat because he granted observer status in the continental body to the State of Israel.

Israel in Africa. In July 2021, under the chairmanship Moussa Faki Mahamat, the African Union granted Israel observer status, a decision that does not sit well with South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

While Minister Pandor embarked on this political grandstanding, employees of the African National Congress (ANC) picketed outside the ANC’s pre-policy conference gala dinner, demanding they be paid their outstanding salaries. Medical personnel at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital are struggling to provide care to patients, using infrastructure built in the previous century. Sixty to seventy per cent of students who leave high school will be unemployed.

When it comes to the ANC, logic is not necessarily the lens through which issues are analysed. A logic-based examination of the situation between Israel and the Palestinians will show that the hallmarks of apartheid are not present in how Israel conducts itself.

Writing on the Wall. While pointing false fingers at Israel, South Africa’s inept and morally bankrupt ANC government is dragging South Africa down as reminded by these very own angry ANC staff picketing outside the party’s national policy conference in Johannesburg over unpaid salaries for June and July 2022. (Picture: Twitter/ @_cosatu)

Israel has shown through the adoption of systematic legislation that it upholds the rights of the Arab citizens of Israel. Not only do they have full voting rights, but the city of Jerusalem has also instituted a programme to provide higher education and employment opportunities in East Jerusalem with the establishment of a “Silicon Valley” in the area. Arab entrepreneurs in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector are receiving mentorship from prestigious Israeli tech organisations.

Work permits are provided daily for Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza whose only chance at earning a living is to be found in Israel. The incompetence of Palestinian governments in Gaza and the West Bank has created this economic crisis. And it uses the financial donations it receives, due to the goodwill of the international community, to line its pockets and pay terrorists to attack and kill Jews.

While Minister Pandor continues to cherish delusions of the Jewish state being made a pariah, most African states support AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat’s decision regarding Israel. African states continue to establish institutional mechanisms to fight the ills that have hindered the continent’s progress since the end of colonial rule. Moreover, they see in Israel a shared story of victory over oppression and marginalisation at the hands of the world’s great powers.

Out of thin Air. While South Africa’s ANC government has its head in the clouds, much of Africa is availing itself of Israeli technology such as this revolutionary device by an Israeli company WATERGEN that produces water out of air. (photo credit: Courtesy)

As Israel grows its partnerships with its neighbours through the Abraham Accords, it becomes clear to enlightened African leaders that Israel is a desirable partner to help Africa achieve its Agenda 2063 developmental goals. These include:

– the creation of an integrated and productive continental economy

– maintaining peace and security on the continent unlocking

– the potential of Africa’s people, through better food security, education provision and medical interventions.

A country’s foreign policy must reflect the aspirations of its citizens. It’s time South Africa reoriented its foreign policy in favour of nurturing productive relations with other states, by being an advocate for global peace, a facilitator of regional and international dialogue and doing what is right by its people.



About the Writer:

A Social Science Honours graduate, Pamela Ngubane is a history teacher who was recently appointed as the General Manager of SAFI (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 (0&EO).

HOW QUICKLY ORDINARY PEOPLE CAN TURN FROM LIVING ALONGSIDE TO EXTERMINATING EACH OTHER

Why the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre explores the history of the Holocaust and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda side by side.

By Tali Nates

(Based on an article first published online by DAFKADOTCOM )

In April 1994, while South Africans were jubilantly voting in the country’s first democratic elections, in Rwanda, a mere three and a half hours’ flight away, hundreds of thousands of Tutsi, as well as Hutu who opposed the genocide, were being slaughtered .

1994. Two countries in Africa. Two very different paths!

Not that South Africa’s transition to democracy has been easy. As xenophobic violence has shown, South Africans too have the potential for horrific violence against an “other”. 

In 2006, during one of my visits to Rwanda, a personal experience profoundly impacted my thinking on the creation of a future Centre. At a visit to Ntarama Church Genocide Memorial site where more than 5000 Tutsi were murdered, a young survivor, Cocous, was visibly upset. That morning we had also visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial, the last resting place of over 250 000 Tutsi, including his parents. Sitting with Cocous, who bears a large machete scar on his head, I shared my own family’s history. I told him about the murder of my grandmother Leah Turner and my two aunts, Cela and Helen. My father Moses and his brother Henryk were rescued by Oskar Schindler, but the rest of the family were murdered in the Holocaust. He touched my face in disbelief saying:

“and still after that, genocide happened in my country?”

We spoke about the words ‘Never again’ placed on every memorial to the murdered Tutsi around Rwanda. They sounded hollower than ever.

Never again, yet again?

That encounter persuaded me that any museum in South Africa dedicated to the Holocaust and genocide had to include the story of Rwanda. ​

Personal Horrors. Sylvestre Sendacyeye, survivor from Rwanda, next to the Memorial for the Tutsi who were murdered in the genocide. (Photograph: Catherine Boyd)

This conversation took place while we were reflecting on the importance of memorialising the Holocaust and genocides in the 20th century and how to make such immense human catastrophes feel resonant, relevant and ‘personal’ to South Africans in the twenty-first century. Around the world museums are emerging more and more as institutions dedicated to facilitating human rights awareness and education, dialogue, and debate; we hoped that the Centre would encourage South Africans to grapple with our own history (and how that continues to inform our present), within the context of broader histories.

With or without our intervention, the Holocaust is present in South African public life. In 2007, the Department of Education included the study of ‘Nazi Germany and the Holocaust’ in the South African national social sciences and history curriculum for Grade 9 and 11 (15 and 17 years old). By first learning about the Holocaust and then about Apartheid, they hoped students would have a better understanding of human rights, peace and democracy. All good in theory, but to make this really work requires a huge amount of education before the first lesson is even presented. Much of the essential preparation is provided by three independent Centres, all under a national association, the South African Holocaust & Genocide Foundation. The first Centre was opened in Cape Town (1999) and a second one was established in Durban (2008). The Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre was officially opened in March 2019 but operated from temporary offices since 2008.

Illuminating Darkness. The Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre sheds light on the holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda.(Photo JHGC, Johannesburg)

In order to offer visitors a deeper understanding of recent genocides, the core exhibition, developed over many years, covers more generally genocides in the 20th century, starting in 1904 with the Herero and Nama genocide in Namibia and the Genocide of Christian Armenians beginning in 1915. It also looks at the development of the word genocide and explores the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and its aftermath. Finally, the exhibition connects to current human rights abuses in South Africa, particularly xenophobia and racism.

The iconic building is replete with symbolism. Its South African architect, Lewis Levin reflected:

How can the language of architecture be recruited to describe and symbolize the terrible events that took place in Kigali and Auschwitz?”

Asking Holocaust and Rwandan survivors what symbols they would like to see represented in the building, Levin recalls:

The first images that emerged from our discussions were those of trains, railway lines and the vast transportation network of Europe that was employed and diverted to haul people to their deaths. Trains and railways, once a symbol of industrial progress, in the eyes of 20th century modernists, were transformed by the Nazis and their collaborators into a vast killing machine. In Africa, the railways that represented the great dream of the colonialists, not only brought along empire, but also oppression and human misery”.

The building’s façade is lined with railway lines embedded in concrete and rock. The railway, a symbol of modernity and progress, as well as oppression and suffering, is a strong reminder of genocide, a man-made catastrophe.

 “The next images that haunted the survivors,” Levin continued, “were the forests and landscapes of death. The Nazis murdered Jews and others within the panoramas of the European landscapes, often in lyrical forest settings. In Rwanda, the genocide took place in a spectacular landscape of lush green vegetation and terraced hills”. Indigenous yellowwood trees wrap the building from all sides. As you enter the foyer, the railway lines disappear into voids, memorialising the loss and scars of genocide.

Story of a Survivor. Doris Lurie, survivor from Vienna, Austria, with her son Peter next to her portrait and story. (Photo: Catherine Boyd)

LOOKING IN AND LOOKING OUT

​The permanent exhibition area has wide, high windows, unlike many other museums that present this history in darkness. The design invites the visitor to remember that genocide does not happen only in the dark but in broad daylight while neighbours are watching. It challenges them to explore their role as bystanders today and encourages them to move to action. The exhibition journey ends in a Garden of Reflection with a soundscape, Remember/Zachor/Ibuka, by renowned South African composer Philip Miller, with music, songs and testimony of survivors of the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda.
 
The JHGC’s core exhibition and education programmes feature stories, photographs and artefacts of Johannesburg survivors that would not be found in any other museum in the world and are uniquely South African. The Centre collected many photographs, documents and objects from survivors of the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda. Genocide survivor Xavier Ngabo, for example, donated objects found with the remains of his mother Beatrice. In response to hearing his testimony, students sponsored his return to Rwanda to find the remains of his parents and bury them. 

Processing Evil. Most important are South Africa’s students, who will be tomorrow’s leaders, to visit the Holocaust Centre.(Photo Catherine Boyd)

The JHGC recorded hours of testimonies from Holocaust and Rwandan survivors. For many of the Rwandan survivors, when filmed, it was the first time they told their story – 20 years after the genocide. Holocaust and genocide survivors are also among the Centre’s volunteers and share their testimonies with students at schools, colleges and universities.

One recent student is 21-year-old Mikateko Mnene, in her final year at the University of Johannesburg; studying a Bachelors in Education degree, who describes her visit to the JHGC in April 2022 as “eye-opening” in that the experience “made us more aware that stereotypes, even though seemingly insignificant, can turn into mass persecution and murder. This is exactly what happened to the Jews.”

“Never Again”. Studying to be a teacher,  Holocaust Centre visitor Mikateko Mnene believes we need to educate“the world can become a better place.”

Struck firstly by how “such atrocious cruelties could ever happen, but they did and they can again if we do not make a stand and watch each other’s backs,”  Mikateko draws the lesson of her visit to what is happening closer to home when she says:

 “This experience also made us more aware of the current issues we are facing in South Africa and how the xenophobic stereotypes we are seeing now should not be taken lightly.”

She says that as a teacher in training:

I paid great attention to how the Holocaust affected children and teachers, and how the education sector was infiltrated to support and promote antisemitism. I realised the power and influence of teachers and the education sector. Loving children so much, it was so painful to read about the children in the ghettos and camps and how some of them were used for medical experiments through which some died. I am inspired by the few teachers who tried to continue teaching the children. I asked myself as a teacher, what would I have done? I strongly believe that if we could all do our bit to stand for what is right and just in our different career sectors, the world can become a better place.”

Auschwitz survivor and writer, Primo Levi’s words greet visitors as they enter the JHGC:

It happened therefore it can happen again; this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere”.

When visitors leave the Centre these words feel ever more painfully relevant.



About the Writer:

Tali Nates is the founder and director of the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre. She is a historian who lectures internationally on Holocaust education, genocide prevention, reconciliation and human rights. She has published many articles and contributed chapters to different books, among them God, Faith & Identity from the Ashes: Reflections of Children and Grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors (2015) and Remembering The Holocaust in Educational Settings (2018)






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).

NOT WITH A BANG, BUT A WHIMPER

By Adv. Craig Snoyman

This week, with a whimper, ended  probably  the longest-running  hate-speech case in South African legal history. Following a Constitutional Court order,  an apology was published on the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) website in which “Mr Masuku and Cosatu hereby tender their unconditional apology to the Jewish community and regret the harm caused.”

Spelling it Out. South Africa’s Constitutional Court has found remarks by Cosatu’s Bongani Masuku in 2009 to have constituted hate speech against the Jewish community.

The unionist and his union were obliged to give an  unconditional apology  to the Jewish community.  The  apology had to receive at least the same publicity as Masuku’s initial offending statement. As the hate-speech was published on a weblog that no longer exists it was sent to the SAJBD, which then released it on its website. Some of us missed the judgment that was handed down. Most of us missed the apology. All of us had heard about the issue.

Masuku’s apology  is the culmination of a 13-year debacle that started  during Operation Protective Edge, in January 2009. His trade union organization, Cosatu, led a march to the offices of the SAJBD and the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF)  in support of “the Palestinians”. During this “mostly peaceful” march there were swastikas in evidence and an Israeli flag was burned.

Masuku then posted, on a  now-defunct weblog, that:

 “[A]s we struggle to liberate Palestine from the racists, fascists and Zionists who belong to the era of their Friend Hitler!  We must not apologise, every Zionist must be made to drink the bitter medicine they are feeding our brothers and sisters in Palestine.  We must target them, expose them and do all that is needed to subject them to perpetual suffering until they withdraw from the land of others and stop their savage attacks on human dignity.”   

Now where have we heard something similar about ‘perpetual suffering’?

Maybe the utterance that the Jews and their  successive generations will bear a communal guilt in perpetuity for the killing of Christ perhaps?

Menacing Masuku. “We must target them [the Jews], expose them and do all that is needed to subject them to perpetual suffering” said Bongani Masuku (above) who has been finally ordered by the Constitutional Court to apologise to the SA Jewish Board of Deputies for his hate speech comments made back in 2009.
 

The following month Masuku addressed a Palestinian student’s group meeting at the University of the Witwatersrant (Wits}.  During his speech, he stated that he was making a distinction between Jews and Zionists. Three aspects of his speech drew attention.  First, he said that Cosatu had members at Wits and they can make sure that for “that side” it would be hell. He also continued by stating that South African parents who choose to send their children to be part of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) must not blame them when something happens to them with immediate effect.  The third aspect of his speech was that Cosatu supported the Palestinian cause and would do everything to ensure – whether at Wits or Orange Grove – that those who did not support equality and dignity should face the consequences even if it meant  “something  that may necessarily cause what is regarded as harm.”

Masuku’s utterances provoked an outcry with parties very vocally taking sides. The SAJBD  referred the initial blog statement and these  three portions of his speech to the South African Human Rights Commission seeking that the matter  be pursued as ‘hate speech’ in the courts.  The issue required to be determined by the  court, as set out in its most basic terms  was:

Did Masuku’s statements amount to hate speech in terms of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act? (sometimes called by its acronym PEPUDA,  but usually  referred to as the Equality Act).  Or are his statements constitutionally protected as freedom of speech? The equality and dignity as set out in the provisions of Section 8(3) of the Equality Act on the one side were  balanced against freedom of expression as set out in  Section 16 of the Constitution. Not for the first time were the South African courts called upon to interpret  poorly drafted laws with  unclear sections. Using the Act and the Constitution the Court had to decide the intention of Masuku.

Just as an aside, in a series of further  hostile communications with the blog,  Masuku also stated that “no pro-Israel Jews should ever consider South Africa to be their home (sic).  His further rabble-rousing statements were not  raised or dealt with in the courts, but one  – or should I say, “the reasonable person” – can get an idea of his mindset as he published his poison. Perhaps this ancillary little ditty was not deemed necessary to be included as part of the hate speech. However, in hindsight, this small voice believes that it would have been significant.

With the process through the South African courts grinding exceedingly fine, the  matter slowly wended its way through the Equality Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal and eventually the Constitutional Court. Finally, some twelve years after commencement, a final judgment was handed down in February this year.

Unmasked. Wearing covid masks does not hide the mass hatred of these protestors on the streets of Cape Town, South Africa against the Jewish state.

The court of first instance,  the Equality Court, the Commission was of the view that the statements were offensive and unpalatable to society; that they were of an extreme nature in that they advocated that the Jewish community should be despised, scorned, ridiculed and thus subjected to ill-treatment because of their religious affiliation. It found that a prima facie case of hate speech had been established.

While Section 21 of the Equality Act provides for numerous different sanctions, the Court imposed an apology on Masuku, holding that “an order for an unconditional apology is by no means lenient, and should not be viewed in the light of the proverbial slap on the wrist”.

It would represent a recognition of “the fact that the statements are found to be hurtful and hate speech”, and would constitute “a notable move towards compensating the target groups, in this case, the Jewish community”.

Masuku appealed  to the Supreme Court of Appeal. There he argued that  the Equality Court was wrong and that  just because most people who  ‘would most likely support’ Zionism, were most likely to be  offended were Jewish, did not mean that the statements were directed at them. Rather the statements were  directed at the State of Israel and his statements  could not be  transformed  into ones based on religion or ethnicity. In coming  to its judgment, the SCA seemingly placed great reliance on  the opinion of numerous academics that the “convoluted” Section  10  of the Equity Act expanded the definition of hate speech  and  was unconstitutional. The Appeal Court decided the case solely on the basis of Section 16 of the constitution  and ignored the Equality Act entirely. The Equality Court decision was entirely overturned.

Hate on the Street. While these protesters gather outside Parliament in Cape Town on the 12 May 2021, during a march organised by the Al-Quds Foundation and the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), it appeared less like solidarity with the Palestinians and more about antagonism towards Israel and Jews!  (Photo: Victoria O’Regan)

There was much celebration in BDS circles when the appeal Court decision was handed down.  One of the most notable quotes from BDS South Africa used its now “acceptable”  political expression. It  compared the SAJBD and its Zionist agents to Shylock in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”  – an intentional slur as  Shylock presents with its many false traits of “the Jew” that are universally recognised as antisemitic stereotypes.  The SAJBD had been denied its ‘pound of flesh’, they proclaimed. There could be little confusion  as to whether their reference was to Jews or Zionists. But they  were safe in their new-found freedom to defame.

The Constitutional Court,  in its customary eloquent manner then proceeded to give the Supreme Court of Appeal (and the Chief Justice of the Appeal Court, who was an assenting judge in the decision) a scathing  tongue-lashing and lambasted the  SCA judgment. It scolded that court for not applying the Equity Act at all.  It held that the Equity act had been  enacted to give life and extend context to the Constitution by the principle of subsidiarity.

The Constitutional Court picked its way carefully through a minefield and set out a clear course to follow in the future.  The statements should be judged objectively applying “the reasonable person’s” view. Applying this standard, the Court held that the statement in the blog constituted hate-speech, but nothing in Masuku’s speech made to the Palestine students fell within the definition of hate-speech.  It re-instated the order of apology.

Love Street. Countering the hatred embodied in a language of disinformation emanating from some quarters in the ANC, increasing numbers of Christians in South Africa are coming out in support of Israel.

This  decision, with much to  commend it,  still  shielded those who make harmful statements. It was abundantly clear that Masuku sought to incite harm and violence.  While the Court made clear its abhorrence of the statements made at Wits University, it  correctly held that the statements did not constitute hate-speech which protects only against race, ethnicity, gender or religion.  However, by acknowledging  the extreme nature of  Masuku’s  incitement, it was ideally placed to make an order in terms of  Section. 21(2)(n) of the Equality Act,  that  institution of criminal proceedings in terms of the common law or relevant legislation should have been ordered against  Masuku. The statements constituted criminal  conduct.  But in fairness,  it does not seem that it was asked to do so.

Jews who regard themselves as Zionists can hardly be expected to feel protected as a result of this judgment. The potentially devastating effects of the type of speech remain. The first statement  did not identify Jews by name, but it was viewed as hate-speech. In his  Wits speech is seems that because he said he was distinguishing between Jews and Zionists, there was no hate speech – although the speech was clearly more threatening.  Simply because Zionism is not regarded as race/ ethnicity/ gender/ religion and is excluded from the definition of hate-speech, it does not render that person safe or the atmosphere any less fraught. How is the reasonable person to decide whether I wear a Jewish kippa or a Zionist hat? In all these statements there were only referrals to Zionists. Jews, or even pro-Israel Jews, were never mentioned. Sometimes,  contextual circumstances and perception of the “reasonable man” do not intersect.

Can the reasonable South African objectively identify whether I am a Jewish Zionist? Certainly the opposing experts who testified in the court proceedings could not agree or make a clear contextual  distinction. So if I am confronted with a Masuku-like statement  I wish to repeat to you so that it is clear that if you send your son to the Israeli Defence Force then don’t blame us if something happens to you with immediate effect”  –  am I going to be objectively viewed as a Jew or a Zionist?  In either event, it must be regarded as a serious threat.  If I’m identified  as a Jew, then it is both hate speech and a criminal offence. However, if as  a Zionist, then it is only a criminal offence. The nature and gravity of  such an offence  will  likely result in  our over-worked National Prosecuting Authority declining to  pursue the matter criminally.   Clearly,  identifiable context is everything, especially  when the person making  the statement has also just said that these pro-Israeli Jews have no place in South Africa, (a judenrein South Africa?) 

The novelist, Upton Sinclair wrote:

 “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”  

The BDS spin doctors are spinning, and these experts are being paid according to their paygrade. Since the judgment, we have heard the spin:  Bongani Masuku remains a non-racist.  Cosatu still remains supporters of the oppressed Palestinians. BDS will continue to rely on the illustrious “human rights” organisations which hold that Israel is an apartheid state. There must still be a concerted effort to root out the kids signing up for the Israeli Defence Force. Sure, there is a  ‘Court ordered Apology’ on record,  but the judgment should still be seen as a win.  The publicity against apartheid Israel following Masuku’s statements was substantial, while his  apology wasn’t even really an apology. His apology was only  for “any harm caused” but he didn’t apologise  for what he said, or for the threat of immediate harm against those living in Orange Grove. He didn’t have to because the court held that that was part of the three out of four statements which were not hate-speech. Victory!

Masuku’s apology merely follows the pattern of his defence in these court cases. The Zionists deserve what they have coming to them and his freedom of speech should not be restricted.  His liberation credentials remain intact. His apology is hardly the apology that the Equity court had in mind! He must be well aware of it.  There was no compensation or remorse in his apology. The judgment against him must now viewed by reasonable people as  far less than a slap on the wrist, as far less than the pound of flesh. His sanction is more like a chewed-up piece of  nail that has been spat out by a laughing villain – and about as visible. He received millions of paragraphs of publicity flowing from what he said, but his remorse is reflected in a one sentence apology about causing harm and addressed to a substitute  of the source where he initially issued his hate-speech. That same press which expended all that ink, saved some by ignoring the apology.

But made no mistake,  the SAJBD can celebrate what is really a spectacular and very rare win, in overturning a unanimous full bench decision made by what was once  our highest court in the land. Pure nachas and major boasting rights.

Next time, and unfortunately there will be a next time, they must go for the jugular. The Masuku ilk should not get off so lightly.


About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.





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

The Danger of Desmond

A Light Unto his Nation – a Dark Side to Jews

By David E. Kaplan

The recent passing of Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa  presents a conundrum  – how could someone deservedly so loved and respected, referred to as “a moral compass” and the “conscience of the nation” be an antisemite?

It would seem unthinkable!

The Good and the Bad. The beloved late Archbishop Desmond Tutu internationally respected for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist also caused concern for his negative attitude to Jews.  

Tutu is only another in a long lineup of outstanding personalities who having contributed superlatively to making the world a better place but nevertheless expose this “other side”, this “dark side” – of antisemitism.

So how should Jews come to terms and relate to the legacies of legends?

To this day, Israelis  have a problem with the “genius” German composer Richard Wagner, who while revolutionising the course of music in the 19th century, remains controversial in the Jewish state not only because of his virulent antisemitism but the suggested impact of that hatred. Hitler’s favourite composer, the Fuhrer found Wagner’s music and world view – his antisemitism –  inspirational, begging the question:

What role did Wagner play in the cultural evolution towards the genocidal ‘Final solution’?

Struck a Chord. Hitler’s favourite composer, Richard Wagner, whose music and musings inspired the Nazi Fuhrer.

Jews are left with the question:

Can we separate the man from his art?

What of the Impressionists, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Edward Degas, who were both vocal about their antisemitism and at the time of the Dreyfus affair, were proud to stand and be counted in the anti-Dreyfus camp? Less nuanced than Renoir, Degas’ hatred was so deep-rooted that that he once threw a model out of his studio, screaming at her that she was Jewish – she was in fact Protestant!  During the Dreyfus affair, Degas ended relationships with Jewish friends, including Ludovich Halevy, who had been like family to him.

Beneath and Beyond. Belying his ugly antisemitism, the unquestionable beauty of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s ‘Two Sisters (On the Terrace)’, 1881

The works of Renoir and Degas are wondrous; their impact on pushing the boundaries of late 19th century French art incomparable.

Should Jews boycott appreciating their art?

True Colours. Edgar Degas’ ‘Dancers at the Barre: Point and Counterpoint’  captures on canvas his understanding and passion for ballet. Just the opposite was his attitude to Jews who he despised and proudly stood at the time in the anti-Dreyfus camp during the infamous trial that exposed French antisemitism.

Platform of Popularity

Is there a more iconic American motor car than the Ford and yet its fonder was a notorious antisemite. Has it stopped anyone from buying a Ford vehicle?

Sitting around a campfire in 1919, a friend of Henry Ford records him addressing their group of fellow campers raging that:

 “all evil to Jews or to the Jewish capitalists…The Jews caused the war, the Jews caused the outbreak of thieving and robbery all over the country, the Jews caused the inefficiency of the navy…”

Fueling Antisemitism. The iconic American automobile engineer and manufacturer Henry Ford – known for changing the auto industry but also for using his immense power and influence to vilify Jewish people – poses in the driver’s seat of his latest model, outside the Ford factory in Detroit, Michigan, c. 1905.

In other words, the Jews are responsible for all the country’s ills.

That same year, Ford began publishing a series of articles that claimed of “a vast Jewish conspiracy” that “was infecting America”. The famed industrialist would then then go on to bound the articles into four volumes titled “The International Jew” and distributed half a million copies. As passionate a car-maker, he was as passionate in his hate for Jews.

As one of the most famous men in America, Henry Ford legitimised ideas that otherwise may have been given little authority.

Archbishop Tutu joins this list of impressive influencers in the impact they can have in creating negative mindsets against Jews. The reverence Tutu justly deserved in his struggle against Apartheid and his subsequent role in facilitating national reconciliation through his adept chairmanship of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, provided him a platform and a protection when it came to his vocal attacks on Jews.

This is what made him dangerous in life and no less today in death. In paying tribute to the celebrated esteemed icon, eulogies in the media and online, spared no effort to exploit this ‘heavenly’ masqueraded opportunity to convey the Archbishop’s animus towards the ‘collective Jew’ –  Jewish state of Israel.

Cognisant of the danger of a Tutu protected by his international acclaim and popularity, Jay Nordlinger – a senior editor of National Review and author of a ‘Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize’ – wrote in 2014: 

The most harmful of them [Nobel Laureates] is Desmond Tutu: because he is a South African hero who  for decades  has peddled the lie that Israel is an “apartheid state”. Coming from him, it is more harmful than from (the countless) others.”

The accusation of being an antisemite did nor seem to bother the Archbishop. Whenever so questioned, Tutu would flippantly respond with his two preferred stock answers:

  • Tough luck” 

or

  • My dentist’s name is Dr. Cohen

There is however one major difference between the mindset of a Wagner, Renoir, Degas and Ford and that of Archbishop Tutu – the intervening  Shoah!

Lost in Thought. From the man who said “The gas chambers made for a neater death” begs the question what was Archbishop Tutu truly thinking on his visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, on 26 December 1989 (AFP)

It is doubtful that the nineteenth and early twenty century antisemites could have foreseen the Holocaust or predicted the impact of their animus in contributing to what was to follow. Tutu, on the other hand, had the benefit of hindsight and still could be so insensitive that on a visit in 1989 to Israel’s Holocaust memorial  – Yad Vashem – to say that the Nazis ought to be forgiven for their crimes to the Jewish people. Two thirds of European Jewry were wiped out in a methodic mass murder and at the memorial to their memory all the Archbishop could say was:

We pray for those who made it happen, forgive them and help us to forgive them, and help us so that we, in our turn, will not make others suffer.”

This, he said, was his “message” to the Israeli children and grandchildren of the murdered!

Where were the archbishop’s  prayers for the  six million victims, including 1.5 million murdered children?

Tutu’s behaviour baffled no less a fellow Nobel Peace Laurette, Elie Wiesel who said:

 “For anyone in Jerusalem, at Yad Vashem, to speak about forgiveness would be, in my view, a disturbing lack of sensitivity toward the Jewish victims and their survivors. I hope that was not the intention of Bishop Tutu.”

Clearly it was “the intention” otherwise how else do you explain Tutu saying that “The gas chambers made for a neater death” than Apartheid’s resettlement policies?

And for those who rush to ‘explain’ Tutu’s fulminations against Jews as ‘a perfectly understandable’ default position of viewing all perceived problems in the world through a South African lens, how do you excuse Tutu declaring back in 1984,that:

 “The Jews thought they had a monopoly on G-d” or his other insensitive observations:

  • Jews … think they have cornered the market on suffering
  • that Jews are “quick to yell ‘antisemitism
  •  that Jews display “an arrogance of power – because Jews have such a strong lobby in the United States.”

Tutu draws close to the antisemitic thinking of  Henry Ford when he expressed in April 2002 that:

People are scared in [America] to say wrong is wrong, because the Jewish lobby is powerful, very powerful. Well, so what? Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin were all powerful, but, in the end, they bit the dust.”

Tutu did not talk here of an Israeli but a “Jewish” lobby and longingly predicts that in the end, the implied devious and “powerful, very powerful, ” Jewish power brokers will be crushed like their kindred spirits – Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin. In the age-old tradition of antisemitic diatribe, what a despicable construct from the Archbishop designed to sow suspicion and foster hatred of Jews. All the worse in that the ‘voice’ behind this venom enjoyed the ‘moral’ authority of the South African Anglican church.

Written Proof. A letter written by Hitler’s favourite composer Richard Wagner in April 1869 to philosopher Edouard Schuré warning about “corrosive” Jewish influence on culture was auctioned in Jerusalem for $34,000.
Wagner wrote in this letter that Jewish assimilation into French society meant that it was harder to see that “corroding influence of the Jewish spirit on modern culture”.

Whichever way one tries to decipher these disturbing words, Tutu comes out “in his own words” an antisemite.

Beneath the beloved veneer of South Africa’s archbishop resided an unabashed enemy of the Jews and there lies the conundrum:

When famous personages, who contribute to mankind are acclaimed by an appreciative populace and then use their platform of popularity to turn on the Jews, are they to be revered or reviled?


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

A South African Lunch at Israel’s Reichman University

It left much to chew on!

By David E. Kaplan

As one neared the wooded deck of the cafeteria at Reichman University – formerly IDC, Herzliya – the alluring aroma of the “boerewors” (special South African sausage)  directed this writer’s nostrils like a GPS. I was headed in the right direction and then the all too familiar South African accents assured me I was in the right place – a picturesque setting for the Hanukkah ‘braai’ (barbecue) for the over 100 South African students at the Raphael Recanati International School (RRIS).

Tomorrow’s Leaders. South African students at Reichman University enjoy a Hanukkah boerewors braai (barbecue) and send the message: “Life is Good.” (Photo Yaron Peretz)

If one needed any further affirmation  of – right place, right time – this was provided by the displayed bottles of superlative Western Cape wines on each table shaded by Eucalyptus trees.

If it was the aroma of the ‘boerewors’ directing me, there were far more profound reasons ‘directing’ and an ever-increasing number of Jewish school-leavers to leave South Africa and chose to come study in Israel. It was also a case of “right place, right time” – for the majority of these young South African Jews who the vast majority are opting for Reichman University where there are over 2000 overseas students from over 90 countries. All studying together in English, one third of the student body is American, one third from countries across Europe, and the rest from Latin America, Africa, Israel and Asia.

For most the students this is largely the attraction – to be in a top global academic environment, interacting and networking with their peers, exploring the present, preparing for the future. Located in the midst of Israel’s ‘Silicon Wadi’ – with the highest number of hi-tech companies per capita of any region in the country – “the Reichman University enjoys a very strong connection with these companies,” says Jonathan Davis, head of RRIS and Vice President, Reichman University. “They provide cooperative hands-on education as well as offering internships.”

Boerewors Bonanza. The boerewors (sponsored by Meatland, Ra’anana) was a treat for the South African students at Reichman University as well as this writer who addressed the students. ( Photo Yaron Peretz)

Cooperating with top universities in the US, notably the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, University of California, Berkley, Washington University in St. Louis, Syracuse University and Harvard, Reichman University  – Israel’s first and only private, non-profit university  – is ranked first of 66 Israeli academic institutions “in terms of student satisfaction” for four consecutive years.

As I arrived, I joined a group of students who were in deep animated conversation with Prof. Uriel Reichmann, the university’s founder and President. I thought to myself, at what university in the world, would undergraduate students – many of them first year –  not only have the opportunity to meet but to socially interact with the President of a university. Casually attired in blue jeans, Prof. Reichman was engaging the students, enquiring:

Where do you come from?”

What are you studying?”

How you managing, particularly during Covid?”  

The students were doing most the talking, Reichman was listening attentively.

When Reichman formally addressed this lunch, he revealed in anecdotes and insights much about himself and the university – but all with the emphasis on the students. “When I conceived the idea of this private non-profit university based on the ivy-league universities of the US, people thought I was crazy. It cannot in Israel be done. Well, look who is crazy and look what has been done.” As he said these words, I looked out  beyond and above the deck to a massive new construction going up – it will be the new ‘Building of Innovation’, sponsored by the Franco-Israeli businessman and telecommunications mogul Patrick Drahi, who also owns in Israel both HOT TV and i24NEWS.

If Israel today is so much about “INNOVATION” and aptly termed the “Start-Up Nation” for its outside-the-box entrepreneurship, then Reichman University feeds and fuels this national aspiration and direction. Reflecting on this trend, I noted that I had earlier parked my car outside the Adelson School of Entrepreneurship!

“Island of Opportunity”. President and Founder of Reichman University, Uriel Reichman (right) engages with South African students at the Hanukkah boerewors braai (barbeque) at Reichman University. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

Continuing, Reichman emphasized the care and welfare of the students that does not end on graduation. “We ensure you find your right place in the labour market. We are there for you always.”

The writer too had the honour in addressing the group and recounted how over the years the number of South African students at Reichman University had grown from  four to over 100 making it today the number one university in Israel with the most students from South Africa.

Soon it will have a competitive rugby team,” I quipped!

So what makes Reichman University so appealing to South Africans?

Commenting on how well the South African students do academically, Davis’ praises the educational system of the Jewish Day Schools in South Africa. He sites as an example that “Twenty-seven students were accepted to our prestigious Computer Science programme of which nine are from SA. This is impressive.”

Universal University. With students from over 90 countries around the world, Jonathan Davis, head of RRIS and Vice President, Reichman University addresses the South African students. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

Davis was happy to go on record saying that “the South African Jewish Day School education, particularly its matric mathematics  is of a much higher level than in the US.”

He further noted that the South African students “are rich in Zionist values and stand out, showing great leadership qualities.” Despite  the negative perception that Zionism is not as strong as it once was in South Africa, “That flame has not been extinguished. Far from it. The SA students here are a testament to this!”

 On this note, I set about to tear away some of the students from their boerewors and chicken kebabs to interview them.

First year Computer Science student Aaron Osrin from Cape Town, followed his sister who graduated the previous year in Communication. “I saw how much fun she had studying here and knew this is where I wanted to be.” Asked about the ‘uncomfortable’ atmosphere for Jews on South African campuses in recent years over anti-Israel activities, Aaron says, that “while thankfully I had never been exposed to it, many of my friends and cousins have; it’s scary and all it does is further force Jews in their bubble.” Here, on the other hand, “We are free but not in a bubble.”

The Global Connection. First year Computer Science student Aaron Osrin from Cape Town, praises the networking potential from connecting with fellow students from all over the world. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

I could not escape the though of how Ghettoization – the scourge once for the Jews of Europe – has found a nuanced presence on South African campuses!

In Israel only two months, Aaron has made friends from all over the world. “I have made connections that I would never have made had I studied in South Africa.”

Raising a glass of his Cape wine and toasting to his life in Israel and Reichman University, “It’s been a brilliant experience.”

Twenty-one year-old Melissa Moritz from Cape Town in her first year at the School of Psychology, first went to the Israeli army for two years.

It was unbelievable; it was tough in the beginning;  I did not really know Hebrew when I came to Israel; so firstly serving in the IDF gave me the confidence to be a leader; I now have the tools and feel prepared.”

Her parents back in Cape Town are extremely proud. “It was their dream as well and still is and will happen within the next few years.”

Marvelous Melissa. Thriving on challenges, 1st-year psychology student Melissa Moritz from Cape Town, first served in the Israeli army for two years. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

Melissa feels that by coming to Israel and “going to the army and then studying here, offered me a sense of challenge which was not the case if I stayed in South Africa where the pathway is predicable  ….. coming to Israel threw a spanner in the works;  made things more challenging but for the better. Also, there is a lot of meaning being here and doing what I am as a Jewish woman.”

Melissa then introduces me to her brother Dan Moritz, who says he was sold on the idea of studying at Reichman University when he visited the campus with his parents at the age of sixteen. “We were on holiday from Cape Town and we toured the campus. My Mom and Dad were already looking ahead for our education, and when I saw the Communications School, I was sold and here I am in my second year specialising in an intensive interactive track – designing websites and applications.” This reminded me of my tour around the School of Communication some years earlier when our guide told us of a student who had designed an app for a class project. A few months later an Israeli hi-tech company bought his app for a whopping $2 million!

Not bad – better than the usual student waiter jobs!

On Track. Studying at the School of Communication, Capetonian Dan Moritz is specialising in an intensive interactive track – designing websites and applications. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

Yaron Eisenberg made Aliyah six years ago also from Cape Town, has also served in the Israeli army and is a  second year psychology student. Raised within a very Zionistic family, in 2017, Yaron volunteered for Tzanchanim (parachute brigade), finishing his service in 2019. “I don’t regret a single second.” He says living in the campus dorms during corona was an eye-opener about the nature of Israeli society. “The way people genuinely care for you. People would come during quarantine an offer food and ask what they could do for us. It showed how Israel is like one big family. When the chips are down, people are there for you.”

Yaron presents his perspective on his Jewish peers in South Africa. On his return visits to Cape Town representing Reichman University, he has addressed pupils at Herzlia High School and students at the University of Cape Town (UCT), speaking about life in Israel.

Master of his Destiny. Having proudly served in Israel’s prestigious parachute brigade in the IDF, Yaron Eisenberg from Cape Town is a 2nd year psychology student. He already has his sights set on pursuing a Masters. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

Today, the Jewish community in SA is increasingly diverse. There is an alternate Jewish community who think differently to that their peers of 10-15 years ago. I have Jewish friends  who subscribe to the BDS narrative and there are others  who are looking forward and seeing South Africa is no more a place  for Jews and view Israel as an option.” Affirming this trend, Yaron’s twin sister has since made Aliyah and his younger brother is following, starting soon his service in the IDF. His parents are destined to follow.

I planted the flag.”

Even from the small towns in South Africa where there is hardly any Jewish life, young Jews are finding their way to Israel and Reichman University.

Josh Buchalter is from Knysna, a coastal resort town in South Africa’s famous Garden Route. Apart from Josh’s parents, “there may be another three Jewish families” living in this town of some 76,000 residents. In 2013, as a teenage student, Josh came on the Encounter programme that planted the seed.

After school, life’s journey took him to Miami where he worked for a number of years on cruise ships until the corona pandemic closed down the industry. Returning to Knysna to reassess  “my  future”, Josh thought back to his “ENCOUNTER” and decided to apply to Reichman University. The rest is history and the future. For someone like me, who did not grow up in a Jewish community, I could not think of a more lifechanging trip than Encounter; it really was lifechanging. If I had not come on that 2013  trip I would not have the friends I have today at Reichman and I would not have had such a strong connection to Israel.”

Imagining the different direction of his life had he instead  gone to a South African university, Josh believes:

 “I have gained diversity – the ceiling is a lot higher;   maybe there is no ceiling here – the sky is the limit.”

Chucking, Josh concludes:

I think getting on a plane with a one-way ticket to anywhere, the concept means you have booked a passage for opportunity, excitement, growth, learning and uncapped experiences. I believe I have gained this all here.”

Even though Tel Aviv was recently ranked as the most expensive city in the world, it  does not deter the likes of Josh. “For someone in their 20s and 30s, there is nowhere else in the world I would rather be. And if it’s so pricey, does that not indicate that everyone wants to be here?”

21-year-old Yaron Peretz from Johannesburg has a fascinating pedigree that includes Moroccan, Israeli, Greek, South African and Lithuania lineage. “This is what I love about being Jewish,” says Yaron. “It is not just one nationality. It does not matter where you come from in the world, you are Jewish…. And you are part of the Jewish nation and so I look forward to contributing to this society in spreading Israeli creativity.”

L’Chaim (“to health”). Toasting to a healthy, peaceful and enriching future are Communication students, Yaron Peretz (left) from Johannesburg and  Josh Buchalter from Knysna. (Photo D.E.Kaplan)

The official photographer at today’s lunch, Yaron is a visual communications student and is “into movie-making to scriptwriting and all that stuff….I am loving it so much.”

Yaron, who recently made Aliyah, says:

 “I was sold on studying here since I first visited the campus in 2016 on Habonim’s three weeks ‘Shorashim’  (”roots”) tour and then what clinched it, was listening to a student address us at King David School, Victory Park. What appealed to me  was the idea of being together with students from so many different countries and the potential for networking.”

He admits:

 “it’ was a leap of faith  but one that paid off. I feel a sense of belonging. This is where my heart feels at home.”

Fun in the Sun. Enjoying today and inspired about tomorrow are Rebecca Breger, who is studying Psychology and Skye Solomon studying Business and Economics, both from Johannesburg. (Photo Yaron Peretz)

I had a sense that this sentiment was shared by all the South African students I met who although were far from home geographically, felt at home spiritually. The boerewors and Cape wines were fine – it represented the pleasant past.

Far more exciting they now had a taste for the future full of opportunity and adventure in 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 (0&EO).

Weep, My Alma Mater

By Stephen Schulman

I feel a deep sadness, the sadness felt at the loss of something that was dear to me that is now lost and is no more. It is my alma mater, The University of Cape Town (UCT).

The campus is still situated in its magnificent location, the buildings are still standing and the students are present, but for me it is an empty shell for as what constitutes the essence of a true academic institution: the spirit of tolerance, disinterested academic research, open discourse accepting often contradictory points of view; and accompanying perspicacity that once was the hallmark of this venerable institution has long since gone. The campus calls itself UCT (at least at this moment of time!) but the spirit that characterized this once true liberal university has vanished.

Going Downhill. UCT in decline.

The saga of Lwazi Lushaba is just another sad testimony to this decline for in April of this year, in a pre-recorded lecture delivered online with first-year political science students, on a date that happened to coincide with Israel’s Holocaust Day, 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.”

His words displaying blatant racism or at the very least, abysmal ignorance and/or an abhorrent lack of sensitivity caused outrage amongst his students, many alumni and the community. Protests were lodged and their outcome was awaited. However, the university choosing a policy of “hear no evil and see no evil” and with the backing of the head of the Students Representative Council perceived nothing amiss, dismissed the protests and elected to remain silent.

Black and White. UCT lecturer Dr Lwazi Lushaba was reported to the Human Rights Commission after stating Hitler did nothing wrong when he stated: “Hitler committed no crime. All Hitler did was to do to white people what white people had normally reserved for black people.”

On the 27th June, after naively and patiently waiting three months for UCT to respond, I penned an open letter to Vice Chancellor Rosina Mamokgethi Phakeng expressing my dismay at the silence of the institution at Lushaba’s words, the damage it had caused to the university and the distress of the community at large. Somewhat surprisingly, I received a prompt communication albeit not from the VC but from Prof. Martin Hall, the acting deputy VC in charge of transformation.

Dear Stephen Schulman

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

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

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

Regards

Emeritus Professor Martin Hall

Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, Transformation

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

My reply to Professor Hall expressed concern at the delay and hoped that the university would take prompt action as promised. Alas, my hopes were dashed! It is now December; four months have passed since reception of his letter and UCT still remains silent.

The University of Cape Town prides itself on being Africa’s premier university. It proclaims itself as being the continent’s beacon of academic achievements, enlightenment, morality, and social justice. It also purports its involvement in helping to ensure a better future for all the inhabitants. Moreover, Vice Chancellor Phakeng repeatedly stresses on a multiracial campus, the institution’s policy of inclusion and caring.

Between the Cup and the Lip. UCT VC, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng repeatedly stresses the institution’s policy of inclusion and caring. However, have the actions of the university borne these fine words out?

Have the actions of the university borne these fine words out?

If Lushaba’s words were taken out of context, why did the university, at the very least, not see a moral obligation to publish the lecture text to substantiate this claim and clear up misunderstandings?

Why did the university, out of respect for and duty to the community, not issue a statement clarifying this issue?

Why did the Acting Deputy Chancellor put it in writing that the university was reviewing the issue and then do absolutely nothing?

Why was the matter swept under the carpet?

Why the silence?

Unfortunately, this is not the only glaring example of ethical decline. The T.B. Davie Memorial Lecture is a prestigious annual event where internationally distinguished speakers have addressed the student body and convocation. In 2019, a discredited academic known for his crude antisemitism and filthy mouth (e.g. “I wish all the fu____g West Bank settlers would go missing”)  was invited to be the speaker, giving an address that hit a nadir in its vacuity, obtuseness and antisemitic tropes. The university seemingly has no problem in trampling the sensitivities of the Jewish students and community and then soliciting donations.

Inviting Antisemites. In the 2019 TB Davie Memorial Lecture at UCT, the American anti-Zionist academic who lost a tenured university position over his graphically-antisemitic outbursts on Twitter, delivered a fierce attack on the “corporate university” and depicted Israel as the supine tool of an international “ruling class”.

The Students Representative Council (SRC), an accurate weathervane of the prevailing campus winds, actively promotes the so called “Israel Apartheid Week.” On more than one occasion, I wrote to them expressing my disagreement with their decision and calling for an open dialogue. Needless to say, in true Cancel Culture tradition, my letters were ignored.

Emeritus Professor Hall’s appointment as the Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, Transformation has aroused anger both from the SRC and the Black Caucus who see his main disqualification for the post being the colour of his skin. The SRC declared that “the appointment signalled the institution’s endorsement of patriarchy and whiteness, perpetuating historic power imbalances” They continued: “We are not confident that an individual, long lost to UCT, and who is ignorant of the lived realities and struggles of the many marginalised identities who desperately seek the transformation of the institution, is in any way suitable for the role.”

So much for the trumpeted inclusivity and tolerance!

In 2015, the “Rhodes Must Fall” movement demanded that Rhodes’ statue be removed from the campus since it was a symbol of white colonialism and racism. Nevertheless, the students and administration conveniently ignore that it was Cecil John Rhodes who bequeathed the ground to the university and that black students are not averse to accepting the “tainted” money of a Rhodes Scholarship! The smell of hypocrisy is just as strong as that of the faeces that were disgustingly smeared on the statue!

Tomorrow’s Leadership. UCT SRC wants Smuts Hall residence to be renamed to a more ‘suitable name’. Seen here are students covering with plastic and tape the bust of the statue of South Africa’s WWII Prime Minister who mustered the support to oppose the Nazis, Jan Smuts.

UCT is in the throes of ‘Transformation’ i.e. renaming frenzy and one of its decisions has been to rename the men’s residence, the former Smuts Hall. Jan Christian Smuts certainly was not a proponent for racial integration but as Prime Minister of South Africa in 1939, he fought against Fascism and led South Africa in the struggle against Nazi Germany. The university Council with its selective amnesia would do well to remember that had there not been people like him and many others of all races, UCT would certainly not be able to call itself an African university today.

Rhodes Removed. In 2015, students at the University of Cape Town   began the Rhodes Must Fall  protests directed against a statue at the University commemorating Cecil John Rhodes. The campaign for the statue’s removal received global attention and led to a wider movement to “decolonise” education across South Africa. Exactly a month later, the UCT Council voted for the statue to be removed.

On the 17th of November, Vice Chancellor Phakeng, in an official communication titled “Renaming of upper campus places and spaces“, once again urged UCT alumni in keeping with the ‘Transformation’ spirit to devote serious thought to renaming various campus buildings and open spaces. The university council will undoubtedly find a wealth of suitable names amongst the known ANC luminaries and those yet to be discovered!

South Africa is beset with many problems and is on the way to becoming a failed state. The university remains mute, preoccupied with choosing names and ignoring its commitment to community and country. Bigotry and intolerance dominate and the well-worn slogans of caring and inclusiveness ring hollow. Many of us UCT alumni, in the light of its actions, no longer wish to have contact with our once beloved alma mater.

Postscript

At the time of writing, a book by Professor David Benatar “The Fall of the University of Cape Town” has been published that meticulously documents UCT’s losing of its moral compass. The writer, a respected professor and senior member of the academic staff has long been a witness to this decline. His words corroborate the conclusions and sentiments of so many of us all.

“The Mad and the Bad”. In his “THE FALL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CAPE TOWN”, Professor David Benatar’s probes the destructive forces that have been eroding Africa’s leading university. Exposing the methods of protest that became criminal – “including intimidation, assault, and arson”, the university leadership capitulated to this behaviour, which “has fostered a broader and now pervasive toxic environment within the 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 (0&EO).

Farewell Eli

His passing reveals the best of a South African family and the worst of its government

By Lay of the Land Co-founders David E. Kaplan, Rolene Marks and Yair Chelouche.

The cruel murder on the 21 November 2021 in the Old City of Jerusalem of Eliyahu (“Eli”) Kay (25), a recent immigrant from South Africa has shocked the nation as it has the ex-pat community in Israel and the Jewish community in South Africa.

Who it has not shocked  – which is shocking – is the political leadership in South Africa!

Future cut Short. Raised in Johannesburg and moving to Israel on his own in 2017,  Eliyahu David Kay was shot while heading to prayer at the Western Wall and died of his wounds in  hospital.

The fact that it took the South African government nearly a week – and only after disappointment and disgust was expressed from the Jewish leadership in press releases as well as letters to the media from dismayed members of the Jewish community – did the government  finally –  and one senses reluctantly – send a letter of condolence addressed to the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and with a request to pass it on to the Kay family.

This belated response fooled few.

The wording “…we are deeply saddened…” rings rather hollow from a government that is more  receptive and responsive to the opinions and sentiments of Africa4Palestine than the SAJBD.

Formerly known as BDS South Africa, the organisation Africa4Palestine issued a statement following the brutal gunning down in cold blood of the 25-year-old former South African, describing Eli as a “South African mercenary” who was not murdered but “was  killed in gunfire with the indigenous population” and that he “loved Apartheid – a disgrace to our South Africa.”

Yes, there IS a “disgrace to our South Africa”, but that disgrace is the ANC government that lends a warm ear to the disseminators of such vile accusations and lies as Africa4Palestine.

Compare South Africa’s belated reaction to the murder of Eli Kay with its embarrassingly hysterical response to its beauty queen, Lalela Mswane, participating in the 2021 Miss Universe pageant next month in Eilat, Israel.

Only last week, Lay of the Land published an article on the ANC government’s vehement opposition of  South Africa participating in the beauty competition.

While this issue riled up the South African government influenced by the BDS movement, the brutal murder of a South African national on the other hand was met with initial official silence. The common denominator or explanation to both sets of calculated conduct by the ANC government was ISRAEL – the national homeland of the Jewish People.

Eli’s Final Journey.  The young man, Eliyahu David Kay on his way to his final resting place in Jerusalem, the city he loved, studied and worked as a tour guide at the Western Wall.

After 2000 years of exile and persecution, Jews have a name for this – ANTISEMITISM.

Compare the week’s reticence of the South African government with the choice words of the representative of the Israeli government at the funeral of Eli in Jerusalem. Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs, MK Nachman Shai – who in 2017 led a 5-member delegation of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) to South Africa “to promote dialogue, understanding and cooperation between Israel and South Africa” – spoke of strangers to the Kay family who at the funeral, felt like family:

So many people came today to say goodbye to you. Many  never had the opportunity to meet you, who only learned your name yesterday and decided they wanted to be with you to say goodbye.”

In sad contrast, the only “goodbye” the South African government would truly be happy to say would be as a final farewell to the State of Israel! After all, compare South Africa’s ANC government downgrading its diplomatic relations with Israel – with no ambassador since 2018 – while in 2015, it welcomed to South Africa a Hamas delegation, even hosting it in the South African Parliament in Cape Town. This is the same Hamas that is committed to the destruction of Israel and who only this week was declared a terrorist organization by the UK, joining the US, the EU and other powers.

Laying Eli to Rest. Israelis far and wide, join family and friends attending the funeral at Har HaMenuchot Cemetery in Jerusalem on November 22, 2021of 25-year-old Eliyahu David Kay from South Africa who was murdered in a Palestinian terrorist attack the day before in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

This is also the same Hamas that praised and took credit for the murder of Eli Kay. Official Hamas media identified the assailant Fadi Abu Shkhaydam as a “leader of the Hamas movement  in East Jerusalem” saying “the operation” was designed to be a warning to Israel, which it said would “pay for the inequities” at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Writing in the South African national daily, Business Day, Kenneth Mokgatlhe, makes the observation before posing the astute question:

A hysterical SA government withdraws its support for a young woman to participate in the Miss Universe contest in Israel, but doesn’t say a word about a South African Jew killed by terrorists. Surely there is something wrong with this?”

Is this  the direction South Africa is morally heading – associating and identifying with the murderers of Jews?

Clearly concerned at the government’s silence of a  murder of a fellow South African by a Hamas gunman, the South African Zionist Federation released the following statement on the 22 November 2021:

It has been over 24 hours since Eliyahu David Kay, a Jewish South African national who emigrated to Israel, was murdered in an act of terrorism in Jerusalem by a Palestinian gunman affiliated with Hamas. The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) condemns the deafening silence from the South African Government and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) on this issue. There has been no message of condolence to the family of the deceased, nor any public condemnation of this attack. DIRCO has in the past issued statements against terrorist attacks in the City of Jerusalem, and it is appropriate for them to do so now in respect of a South African national. 

Hamas is an extremist organisation, as recently confirmed by the United Kingdom which designated Hamas as a terrorist organisation and has outlawed support for the group. This antisemitic and anti-Israel hate group gladly claimed responsibility for the killing of an innocent civilian and injuring others as the gunman opened fire in the Old City of Jerusalem.

We call on the South African Government to publicly condemn this heinous incident and to offer support and assistance to the family of the deceased.”

Finally, the ANC felt the heat and on the 25th November – after five emotionally-charged days following the horrendous murder – sent out its official letter of condolence. The circumstances surrounding South Africa’s response, reveals its antisemitic perspective, namely:

The killing of Jews when carried out by Palestinians is understandable.

Note the carefully selected wording in its belated letter of condolence.

The South African government condemns the actions which led to the death of Mr. Kay…”

What actions?

The implication in this cunningly crafted verbiage is that it could be the behaviour or “actions” of Israel’s Jews that is responsible for the death of Eli Kay. In other words, Israel is responsible for what happened to Eli Kay not the murderer, who will soon be honoured as a victim and martyr in Palestine and within some sectors in South Africa.

The SA government is sending a chilling message to its Jewish community and it’s a message that is being read loud and clear and may explain why in 2021 there will be more Olim (immigrants) to Israel from South Africa than over the past 25 years.

These Olim will be following in the heroic example of Eli Kay and his family, taking a journey that is securing the Jewish state for all eternity.

In the words of Nachman Shai at the funeral:

 “Eli, you died a hero, an example to us all.”










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

South African Government Boycotts Miss South Africa

The South African Ministry of Culture boycott the country’s representative to Miss Universe pageant because host country is Israel

By Rolene Marks

The stage is set, the sequins extra shiny, the sashes ironed and the tiara polished – Eilat is getting ready to host the Miss Universe 2021 pageant to be held on the December 12 and are looking forward to welcoming representatives from around the world to compete for the coveted title. For the first time, there will be representatives from the United Arab Emirates and Morocco. This is historic and fitting with the flourishing peace afforded by the signing of the Abraham Accords normalization and peace treaties. The symbolism of the two beauty queens competing for the first time on the international stage in Israel is highly symbolic of the seeds of peace bearing real fruits.

The Way Forward. Israel’s premier coastal resort, Eilat on the Red Sea, which will host the 2021 Miss Universe pageant is sandwiched between Egypt and Jordan, both countries which the Jewish state is at peace  with – a shining example to South Africa of the way forward.

While talking about beauty pageants is not my normal beat (having failed to place anywhere in Junior Miss Pears at the age of four, much to my mother’s chagrin), I find myself for the second time in a matter of weeks commenting on the Miss Universe pageant. Several weeks ago, Lay of the Land published an article explaining how Chief Mandla Mandela was calling for not just Miss South Africa; but other countries to boycott the Miss Universe pageant because it is being held in Israel.

With peacemaking clearly skipping Mandla in the Mandela gene pool, the former poster child for scandal, now turned BDS front man is going full throttle on his campaign and has roped in his cohorts-in-hate from the BDS movement to pressurize the new Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane to pull out. The beautiful and accomplished Miss South Africa, graduated with a degree in law and deserves every opportunity to not only achieve her dream but also the chance to proudly represent South Africa on the world stage, make lifelong friends and draw focus on the humanitarian causes that she champions.

With the pressure from hate groups like BDS mounting, the Miss South Africa on behalf of Lalela, released a statement that stated not only would she compete but Mswane has spoken out openly about being bullied as a child and she will not be bullied as an adult against fulfilling her ambition.

Dashed Hopes. The crowning of an excited Miss SA 2021 Lalela Mswane whose dreams of competing at the 70th Miss Universe pageant in Israel were subsequently crushed by the misguided bullying of her own government.

Miss SA CEO, Stephanie Weil said a “very, very small, but extremely vocal, group” had attempted, and failed, to derail Mswane’s chances at the prestigious international pageant.

Bullying is what BDS do best and artists like Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney and many others can attest to that – including having the lives of themselves and their bands threatened by BDS activists.

Joining the BDS is the African National Congress (ANC) and this is an excerpt from their statement they released:

“Following unsuccessful consultations initiated by the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture, it has proven difficult to persuade the Miss SA pageant organisers to reconsider their decision to partake in the Miss Universe event scheduled to be held in Israel during the month of December 2021. What during initial consultations appeared like engaging, constructive and progressive discussions, was later met with an unpleasant demeanour that is intransigent and lacking appreciation of the potential negative impact of such a decision on the reputation and future of a young black woman.

 The atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians are well documented, and Government, as the legitimate representative of the people of South Africa, cannot in good conscience associate itself with such. In an attempt to demonstrate what partaking in Miss Universe means for South Africans and many others across the world, the Miss SA pageant organisers were referred to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s views following his visit to the area. Indicating that Israel was guilty of the apartheid treatment of Palestinians, he said, “Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government.”

The South African Zionist Federation  (SAZF) as well as the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) have taken a strong position in support of Mswana.

The SAJBD said in a statement:

 “It is quite clear that Minister Mthethwa’s view is a minority one.  A poll conducted by Newzroom Afrika on Thursday night as to whether Miss SA should withdraw from the Miss Universe event in Israel showed a plurality of nearly 2:1 in favour of her competing. The PSA protest attracted a bare handful of activists.  This is despite the barrage of intimidation by groups such as Africa4Palestine and SA BDS in the media have resulted in comments calling for them to stop bullying Lalela and for her to participate in the event.

South Africa has diplomatic ties and extensive commercial trade relations with Israel.  It engages in events such as this one, such as hosting the Israeli Davis Cup team in 2018. The way we influence situations is to engage, not to withdraw.  The SAJBD believes that closing doors merely isolates us from contributing and any contribution we can make to finding peace in this country.  What better opportunity for a South African to be part of an event where she can connect with 70 countries around the world, including many Arab countries, in sharing our story of dialogue and peace-building?”

The SAZF added to that saying:

 “The SAZF is appalled that the South African government is self-sabotaging our country’s hopes and chances of participating and shining in an international event just because it happens to take place in Israel. Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa may think that South Africa is making a grand moral statement because the ruling party has been misled by a perversion of facts about Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy, but in fact, our country is simply signalling its isolationism and irrelevance on the world stage. The government has been silent on actual and serious human rights abuses occurring in many other countries where we participate in sports and contests, but self-righteously reserves its opprobrium for the world’s only Jewish State.”

Perhaps South Africa is doing this to draw focus away from the myriad of problems plaguing the country. Extremely high levels of unemployment, government corruption, rolling electricity blackouts and many more issues are confronted by South Africans on a daily basis. Surely this is more important than sash-and-tiara wielding beauty queens? The ANC and BDS would have you believe that it is all about human rights but they remain resolutely silent on the genocide of the Uyghurs in China, the hanging of members of the LGBTQ community in Iran or the decimation of women’s rights in Afghanistan. Nothing like cosying up to some tin pot dictators to bring out the hypocrite in some folk!

It is interesting that another man has weighed on the Miss Universe pageant and the opportunity it brings to showcase young empowered, humanitarian driven women. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a strong advocate for BDS last visited Israel in 1989 and at Yad Vashem called on Jews around the world to “forgive the Nazis”.

I wonder if “The Arch” would pull this same stunt if the pageant was to be held in Venezuela, Cuba, China or any other country responsible for gross human rights violations? Probably not but this just exposes the hypocrisy and yes, antisemitism of BDS and its supporters.

It is a pity that the Miss Universe pageant which is non-political in nature but serves as a chance for women from different cultures and countries to build bridges has become the cause that  the ANC who fought so hard for equal rights for all, now chooses to boycott its country’s women.





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).