The Right Moves

A dance instructor’s  recollections of  defying Apartheid in South Africa

By David E. Kaplan

A marine biologist and tour guide friend of Fonda Dubb in Eilat had a bad fall and was rushed to Emergency at Israel’s southern coastal city hospital – Yoseftal Medical Center. After being patched-up, Colin Porter, said the stitching done by the Arab doctor on duty was so well done  that he characterised it as a “tapestry” and wanting to show his appreciation, offered to teach him snorkeling.

Touched by this gesture, the Arab doctor agreed and said it was the first time he would be socialising with a Jew!

What this story or extended “tapestry” of life unveils is that too few people from worlds culturally separate, fail to meaningfully engage beyond the workplace. “This happens across the globe,” says Fonda. “We leave it to the politicians who are generally lousy at this job instead of us ordinary people engaging on a grassroots person-to-person level.”

Fonda knows exactly what she is talking about from her experiences in South Africa during the darkest days of Apartheid when she went out of her way to bring people who would not otherwise connect – together!

She made every effort, frequently putting herself in danger in crossing boundaries – geographic as well as personal.

What her story reveals is that while we  are more familiar with the high-profile opponents of Apartheid, we are less so of the ordinary people who in their own ordinary way achieved extraordinary results. Such was the case of Fonda Dubb of Eilat.

As a dance teacher in the late sixties in Port Elizabeth, Fonda lead a kind of double life. While in the city she taught kids at a dance studio exclusively for whites, she also immersed herself in teaching boys and girls at the Gelvandale Toynbee Ballet School in the coloured district of Port Elizabeth.

Not Dancing to the Tune of Apartheid. Fonda Dubb’s students at Gelvandale Ballet School.

At the city studio “coloureds” were excluded because of the ugly Group Areas Act, which assigned racial groups to different residential and business sections in urban areas in a system of urban apartheid. So I used to drive backwards and forwards to the township, a one hour drive away. I was totally unperturbed visiting an area where very few Whites ever went, although I was under surveillance and at times stopped by the police enquiring where I was going and what I was doing.” When there were clashes with the police in  Gelvandale or on the route, “someone would phone and warn me not to come. ”

There was no stopping Fonda. If whites were blocked from being culturally exposed to the coloured community, Fonda ‘pirouetted’ devising a reverse step. “I was determined that my students performed in front of white audiences and so, I would apply for permits to the Administration of coloured Affairs for every such performance.”

Testing Times. Through Fonda Dubb’s perseverance, these coloured students would perform in White areas of Port Elizabeth.

Knowing the moves on the dance floor were not enough; Fonda had to ‘choreograph’ a path through Apartheid’s labyrinthian bureaucracy!

From a file, Fonda takes out a humiliating relic of the Apartheid era, the permit which imposed the following conditions:

“…that no social mixing with the audience occurs, that the coloured do not make use of any of the  change-rooms or any other facilities provided for Whites and that they leave the premises immediately after their performance.” And if they needed to use the toilets, “who knows what they were expected to do,” sighs Fonda, shaking her head.

A Good Mix. Fonda Dubb and her committee receiving a grant for the Gelvandale Toynbee Ballet School. Besides the Treasurer Colin Melmed (left), the only other white on the Committee, Fonda says “This to my knowledge was the only mixed committee during the Apartheid era.”

Fonda relates how they overcame problems that today, 26 years after the fall of Apartheid, appear strangely surreal:

If I received a permit, which only allowed for the exact number of my dances, then that would exclude the coloured staff, particularly their drivers. To surmount this problem, because we had to strictly comply with the conditions, of the permit, my late husband Mark and I would drive backwards and forwards in our own cars, taking and fetching the students.”

Aspiring Dancers. Fonda Dubb’s young students receiving awards in 1974.

Her coloured students frequently received the highest marks in Port Elizabeth. Following their progress, Fonda always felt proud to see how they overcame the many Apartheid-related obstacles. “Some would go on to UCT’s ballet School, others would become teachers, while a few went on to perform overseas.”

Following Dulcie Howes – considered the prima ballerina assoluta of South African ballet  – introducing Ballet as a matric subject in South African schools, two of the first graduates in the progamme “were  my coloured students who would go on to receive bursaries to study at UCT, where after they returned to teach at Coloured schools in Gelvendale. I think this was one on my proudest moments!”

Going Great. On a visit to the Toynbee Ballet School, the former principal dancer of the Royal Ballet, London Johaar Mosaval, says he was most impressed with the caliber of the students who Fonda Dubb had been entering for R.A.D Ballet exams since 1970.

What’s Cooking?

Leaving Port Elizabeth in the mid-1970s, Fonda and her family moved to the small country town of her youth,  Pietersburg, today Polokwane, capital of the Limpopo Province. There she switched from dancing to her other great love – cuisine! Boasting a strong Jewish community of some 200 families, Fonda was kept very busy catering for barmitzvahs, batmitzvahas, britot mila and weddings.

Recipe for Success. Following Fonda Dubb’s  cooking course in Pietersburg for blacks making the national media, she was inundated with enquiries across South Africa.

In time she was soon approached by an organization called “Woman Power” to provide cooking lessons to blacks, where they would receive certificates enabling domestics workers to command higher salaries. They were “earning at the time a paltry – in today’s Israeli currency –  NIS28 per month,” recalls Fonda. Approximately 80% of my students could neither read nor write but they were determined to improve their lives.”

Pathway to Progress. Tasty delights of Fonda Dubb’s students that paved their way for higher salaries.

The graduation ceremonies regularly appeared on national television, where after “we would receive calls from other organisations throughout the country for the guidelines to our courses.”

White by Night

As a child growing up in Pietersburg, Fonda’s young eyes were witness to the horrors of Apartheid. She recalls the vivid images of “blacks being randomly picked up in the streets by roving police vans and tossed in brutally like sacks of potatoes. I can still hear the sounds of the siren that used to sound every night at 9.00pm, whereafter no blacks were free to roam the streets of Pietersburg.”

She recalls her late cousin, Dr. John Gluckman, a pathologist, “who had the courage of his convictions to expose the horrible tortures inflicted upon the black school children held in police custody during the 1976 riots. Years earlier, he had represented the Timol family, whose son Ahmed, was one of the first detainees to die at the notorious John Vorster Square by allegedly jumping out a window. He later represented the Biko family,” following the black Consciousness leader Steve Biko’s death in police custody.

She recalls being at the police station in Pietersburg a few years before immigrating to Israel and hearing the screaming coming from the cells. “I asked one of the policemen what was happening. With a whip of a hand, he bellowed, “We’re going to donner (beat) them”. Such was South Africa.”

Wonder Woman. Fonda Dubb (left)  with the “Woman Power” group providing cooking lessons to blacks, where they would receive certificates enabling domestics to command higher salaries.

Making a Difference

While Fonda is quick to minimize her contribution during the dark days of Apartheid, she recognised the injustice around her and through her routine activities made a difference. In Eilat, she again used her passions for dance and food “to make a difference”. Apart from assisting the blind and visiting the sick, she over the years,  would through organisations like ESRA and WIZO instruct dance to children with disabilities, teach English to Ethiopian children through cooking and would fundraise for causes by conducting food demonstrations.

What’s Cooking? Fonda teaching English to Ethiopean children in Eilat through the meduim of cooking.

It is little wonder that Fonda is a recipient of Eilat’s prestigious Miller Award, presented personally by former Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi for:

 “diverse volunteer work conducted with dedication and sensitivity in guiding and supporting the needy in all sectors of the population and for the empowerment of women.” 

If bad laws kept people apart in South Africa, Fonda Dubb found good ways to bring them together.


Planting the Seeds to City Survival

Is urban farming a solution for South Africa?

By  Kenneth Mokgatlhe

It is estimated that nearly half of the adult population of South African live in poverty.

It was reported in April this year, 2021, that of the 60 million South Africans, 10.2 million experienced hunger on a weekly basis according to the Nids-Cram and approximately 2.4 million faced perpetual hunger. One viable way to address this is by developing backyard and rooftop gardens that are inexpensive to maintain. 

The rising unemployment figures and effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have worsened the hunger situation in South Africa. It is evident that hunger threatens social stability as evidenced by increased criminal activity as a direct effect of poverty.

It is time to think out of the box. Recently, the Jewish National Fund of South Africa (JNF-SA) hosted an important webinar:

Survival in our cities, food and water security – A South African crisis, is urban farming a solution?

It is unacceptable and should be embarrassing that our country has such an alarming number of its people enduring hunger.

Food for Thought. Israel and South African experts provide fascinating insights on the problem of food security in South Africa.

The National Income Dynamics Study Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (Nids-Cram) has collected data on a broadly nationally representative sample of South African households covering the period from May 2020 to March 2021. This is the period wherein the country has been under lockdown regulations with vast number of people losing their jobs or having had to take salary cuts.

Stressing the importance of food security as well as the quality of the food, webinar panelist Dr. Naude Malan, a senior lecturer at the University of Johannesburg’s Development Studies, said:

Supermarket food is pretty expensive compared to the food which we produce for ourselves. A farmer can actually make a really good living by selling food at less than retail/market prices and still dominate the competition. You will capture the market and create a livelihood.”

Through ConvenesiZindaba Zokudla (Conversations about Food), Dr.Malan is working with the local communities around the province of Gauteng to create opportunities for urban agriculture in a sustainable food system. 

Urban Renewal. Dr. Naude Malan from the University of Johannesburg’s Development Studies is working with the local communities around Gauteng to create opportunities for urban agriculture.

One of the beneficiaries of this noble project is a family from Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg who own a state-sponsored house referred to as “RDP”  – a house that was built as part of a government-funded social housing project. The family have converted their parking space into a garden which they are using to feed themselves and sell the surplus to the community for profit.

Panelist Siyabonga Ndlangamandla, a BSc in Biological Science graduate, is one of the vibrant young South Africans who are using their knowledge to solve hunger problems in many struggling black communities. He is a board member of an enterprising and innovative organisation called Makers Valley whose priorities are food security and social matters.

Back to Basics. Through Makers Valley (above), SiyabongaNdlangamandla is encouraging the local inhabitants to develop small gardens in their backyard.

What is disturbing for me is the food waste that we are experiencing in our cities. While there is so much food coming to our cities so much is not being consumed. That is one of our biggest challenges in the food system,” said Ndlangamandla.

Through Makers Valley, Ndlangamandla, has encouraged the local inhabitants to develop small gardens in their backyard. “Low-income communities are more likely to install a shack to rent it out than start a garden.” Over and above the food problem, “There is also a water problem in South Africa,” reminded Ndlangamandla.

Orange Alert. A project underway at the Orange Farm community 40km South of Johannesburg where the township  – one of the largest informal settlements in South Africa, with most estimates giving a population of 1 million people – faces challenges of poverty, low levels of literacy, lack of basic services, lack of health care facilities, unemployment  and increasing crime.

Not only a scarce resource in South Africa, water is also expensive  – especially in cities. Most, if not all community protests regarding service delivery are mainly about shortage or lack of water. This makes gardening or agriculture challenging for the weaker sectors of society.

Contributing to the panel discussion from Israelwas Dorit Chassid, a Sustainability Manager at Dizengoff Center shopping mall in Tel Aviv. She illuminated a path forward by presenting a whole host of the work that they are doing on the rooftop of the mall named after the city’s famous and first mayor, Meir Dizengoff.

Today, Dizengoff Center houses a variety of activities in the field of urban sustainability like hosting school kids for planting trees activity, investing in energy saving systems, a center for hydroponic urban gardening on the Centre’s roof and more.

High Rise Solutions.  Roof top cultivation on Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv.

Not having access to land is no excuse for not starting a garden project; there is the option of doing it on top of the roof on tables, with or without soil. 

We have school children whom we teach about sustainability; we have lots of tools and we bring people to see the work that we are doing,” explains Chassid. “We have bats and we teach people about the importance of bats into our ecosystem. We also have beehives on the rooftop; we do them in a natural way. We do not harvest honey, we do not do anything to harm the bees; we just let them be there,” said Chassid

We bring about 1, 500 children each year to plant small trees on the rooftop of the mall which we sell when they are ready for planting, and the money is donated all over Israel,” Chassid added.

Leading Light. Panelist from Israel, Sustainability Manager at Dizengoff Center shopping mall in Tel Aviv, Dorit Chassid.

No less inspirational was the insights and suggestions from the founder of Green Roof Designs (a specialized environmental design company), Dr. Clive Greenstone, who works on various projects that deal with urban design, sustainable development, urban ecology, urban resilience and urban landscape activation designs.

Offering tailor-made greening solutions to enhance building functionality and design, Green Roof Designs provides a complete greening scheme including green roofs and ground level planting schemes.

Dr. Greenstone said that there are large, flat, and empty rooftops that are abundant throughout South African cities on institutional, private, residential, industrial, municipal, and commercial buildings.

These underutilized spaces are ideal locations to rethink urban spaces and create urban greening advancements. Very little research has been done in reimagining the socio-environmental benefits of developing these underutilized spaces to improve human-environmental relations within the cities.”

Going Green. Dr Clive Greenstone (right) with his Green Team Green Roof in Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal in ‎2011.

Listening to these panelists on the JNF (SA) webinar, it was evident to this writer that one of the main ways to combat hunger in my country of South Africa is to develop backyard or rooftop gardens. Food that we buy from our supermarkets is not as cheap nor as healthy as the food we could and should grow ourselves in our backyards or rooftops. Every family should start a garden that will serve the family and the surplus could be sold to those who do not own a garden.

This is one of the sustainable ways to deal with the hunger and labour market challenges facing South Africa today.



About the writer:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Kenneth-Mokgatlhe1.png

Kenneth Mokgatlhe is a freelance writer and political commentator from Zeerust, North West Province, 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).

Pandemonium during a Pandemic

Reflections on the Jewish community in South Africa – crisis or no crisis?

By David E. Kaplan

In the wake of the unrest across South Africa’s northern provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal (9-17 July 2021) sparked by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma for contempt of court, there were a number of popular nightly webinars airing people’s perspectives and anxieties.

South Africa Erupts. Army called in to restore calm.

A country troubled in grappling  with the global pandemic, to then suddenly having to face rampant violent social unrest sent alarm bells ringing across South Africa – particularly in the ears of the ever-diminishing Jewish community hovering at the 50,000 mark – a little less that what would have filled up the grand Olympic stadium in Tokyo were it not for Covid.

South Africans turn on South Africans. People flee from police as they carry goods while looting and vandalising the Lotsoho Mall in Katlehong township, East of Johannesburg (Phill Magakoe/AFP)

South Africans found themselves  once again in a Quo Vadis mode asking:

 “Where is the country heading?”

While this question is being hotly debated on online public platforms, nothing was more eye-catching to this writer than the invitation to a webinar held on the 28 July –  a week after the unrest abated – in Melbourne, organized by Australia’s UIA (United Israel Appeal) under the title:

SOUTH AFRICAN JEWRY IN CRISIS

What stuck out for me was the omission – or was it – of a question mark at the end of the title. It appeared to present as a given  that there was a crisis and that the three guest panelists – all high profile leaders in the Jewish community – invited to present their overview “of the complicated situation which the South African Jewish community currently finds itself

The three panelists were Howard Sackstein – Chairman of the South African Jewish Report, Rowan Polovin – National Chairman of the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and Philip Kravitz – a high profile businessman, community leader and Chairman of the Trustees of the United Jewish  Campaign.

Signals of the Jewish community facing undue challenges in South Africa were quickly picked up in Israel.

Panelist. Howard Sackstein, Chairman of the South African Jewish Report

MK Ruth Wasserman Lande, who grew up in South Africa and matriculated at Cape Town’s Herzlia School, raised the issue of the South Africa Jewish community in a plenary session in the Knesset, followed up being interviewed on Israel’s Channel 12 on the situation, where she said:

I would say one very important thing, our eyes need to be on the Jewish community there.”

To the question “Do you think the Israeli government should act?” she replied:

 “First of all, I think we need to wait and see when there will be a request, if at all.…from the community leadership there.”

Equally attentive and responsive was Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs, Dr.  Nachman Shai, who penned a reassuring letter to the Jewish community of South Africa in which he warmly wrote:

All in Israel watched the recent events in Kwazulu-Natal region and around South Africa with deep concern. We stand with you in solidarity…..” adding that “the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs is your partner in ensuring the resilience of your community…”.

Most significant was his nuanced message in the line:

The secret of Jewish resilience rests on in our sense of shared responsibility towards each other.”

Concern for a Community. Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs, Dr.  Nachman Shai, who addressed a reassuring letter to the South African Jewish community would recall when he led a delegation of Israeli legislators to South Africa in 2017 how they were “snubbed” by the then current members of the ruling African National Congress at the Parliament in Cape Town.(Miriam Alster/Flash90).

Subtly acknowledging in the “shared responsibility” the appreciation of the Jewish community of South Africa’s contribution to the development of the State of Israel,  Israel today, stands ready to help and support the SA Jewish community – should such need arise.

However, has that ‘need’ arrived?

Sackstein cautioned the overseas viewership that the unrest – bad as it was – was restricted to select areas and that the majority of  South Africans remained, at least physically, unaffected. So, as Israelis who are all too familiar with how selective optics can created skewed perceptions abroad, the question really is whether, despite the horrifying optics of the unrest in South Africa, is its Jewish community in crisis as the title of the webinar suggested?

Is there a crisis? The UIA Australia Invitation to the panel discussion of the South African Jewish community.

The upfront answer by the three panelists was emphatically NO, preferring to re-character the situation as one less of crisis and more of challenges.

Following the showing of a distressing video clip on the recent unrest by Howard Sackstein which he referred to as  the “Week of Shame”, he then countered his pessimistic perspective of the unrest by saying:

 ‘Too soon to panic” and “there IS no crisis.”

Explaining that the community had been through a number of “difficult times” in the past sixty years and come through, “the South African Jewish community is not in crisis.” On quick reflection, he did then qualify this assertion with:

 “or maybe we have come to learn to live with crises.”

He emphasized that the country has moved on and praised the resilience of South Africans, saying “We have become world experts in resilience.”

Sackstein’s message was that “We are in SA because we want to be; because we consider this our home. We are here by choice and we want to build and create a better society for our community and all of South Africa. It’s not just one crisis but we juggle multiple crises at the same time.  And we are experts in this today.”

Panelist. Rowan Polovin, Chairman of the SAZF (right) seen here with then the Chairman of the Jewish Agency in South Africa, Isaac Herzog, today Israel’s 11th president.

Taking a different line, the Chairman of the SAZF, Rowan Polovin, assured that while Jews did not have to fear the threatening and sometimes lethal type of antisemitism that “we are seeing today in the US and Europe,”  the antisemitism that does prevail “is cloaked within the shroud of anti-Zionism, which pervades all parts of the country’s civil and political society.” Polovin elaborated on four areas:

– government diplomacy

–  the judiciary

– media

– academia.

“We have a BDS movement which has been very successful in infiltrating the ruling party – the ANC” and sites examples of how its impacted government decision-making, namely:-

– influencing the withdrawal of the South African ambassador to Israel and poising the atmosphere to block his return

– blocking a judicial appointment of a Jewish judge, David Unterhalter, to the Constitutional Court for once having been a  member of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, and

– on 28 July, the very day we were attending the UIA webinar, “the government could not hold back condemning the AU (African Union) for granting Israel Observer Status, after an absence of 20 years.”

Contributing to this increasingly uncomfortable climate for Jews, “We are faced with a very hostile press.” He cited the recent publication in the country’s largest Sunday paper, the Sunday Times, which was “a full-on assault on the Chief Rabbi – Warren Goldstein.” Over and above breaching the acceptable boundaries of civilised discourse, “it was viciously anti-Semitic” despite that the article was written by a Jew – Ronnie Kasrils. An attack on the Chief Rabbi for his strong emotional and spiritual support of the Jewish homeland, is an attack on the Jewish community “and we feel it.”

Studying in Israel. Students from all over the world – including from South Africa –  enjoying a chat with Jonathan Davis, the Head of Israel’s IDC’s International School outside his office window (centre).

Polovin concluded with the impact of BDS at South Africa’s universities  where the anti-Israel sentiment has reached a fever pitch with all-year round activities, press releases, university resolutions and advocating for boycotts of Israel. “All this makes it an uncomfortable environment for Jewish students,” and which the third speaker, Philip Kravitz characterized as South Africa’s loss and Israel’s gain as an increasing number of young South African Jews are opting to study at Israel’s universities  in English “through a special Telfed programme. This is born out that there are over 100 South African students studying in English at Israel’s only private university, the IDC Herzliya, located north of Tel Aviv. “We have the largest concentration of South Africans at any academic institution in Israel and we only expect this too increase,” says an upbeat Jonathan Davis, the Head of the IDC’s Raphael Recanati International School, Vice President for External Relations and a former Jewish Agency emissary to Cape Town, South Africa. “Twenty years ago, we started with one South African student, now we need off-campus fields for students to practice rugby!” remarks Davis with satisfying amusement.

Panelist. Philip Kravitz, receiving in 2015 the Keren Hayasod Award.

Kravitz presents a sobering perspective of South Africa’s present and future. “The major threat,” he believes, “is that over 70% of our youth are currently unemployed; that is an absolutely frightening statistic and we have less than 7% of the population owning about 80% of the national wealth. Truly, we are sitting on a powder keg and until we tackle the issues relating to poverty, all it will take is a small spark to ignite it. We know this and we all of live with this every day.”

As the Executive Chairman of the Cape Union Mart Group of Companies which comprises some 300 stores in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana,  he says, “We were fortunate” in the recent unrest, “that only three of out stores were completely looted. But how they were looted? They walked out with the safes, every coat hanger, even the shelving.”

Coming Home. South African immigrants arriving in Israel during the pandemic being welcomed by the Minister of Aliyah and Integration, Pnina Tamano-Shata (Right).

This situation the Cape Union Mart chairman faced as a South African businessman together with many others, but as a Jew, being personally targeted, was nothing new! When he received in 2015 the prestigious Yakir Award for services rendered to Israel through Keren Hayasod, “the local newspapers picked it up; published articles and what followed was our stores were boycotted and I received death threats.” Then again, after the 2021 Israel-Gaza conflict, “we had demonstrations outside our stores, but I see this as badge of honour; we will carry on and we will survive.”

But will the Jewish community “survive?

We are an aging community and our death rate is higher than our birth rate,” says Sackstein. “Add to this, we loose each year between 500-1000 to emigration so that means we are a shrinking community.”

This means that there is less need for some of the existing institutions, and the name of the game is “consolidation” in order to sustain communal services. “We have had to close two of our Cape Town Jewish Day schools – in Milnerton and Constantia,” reveals Kravitz confirming this inexorable trend.

Israel Hears. MK Ruth Wasserman Lande addressing the concern for the Jewish community in South Africa during the Knesset plenum, in Jerusalem, Israel. (Courtesy)

All three panelists agree that “the numbers are going down” but still nevertheless project a positive front that the community will survive – albeit ever-diminishing  – and adamant that “Jewish life will remain vibrant.”

“There have never been more kosher restaurants in Johannesburg,” says one speaker.

But who would still be there to eat in fifteen or twenty years’ time?

Poignantly illuminating the Jewish community’s uncertain future was a question that solicited the briefest of answers during Q & A. Someone from abroad, probably Australian, asked about the current status of the Jewish community in South Africa’s norther neighbour, Zimbabwe as to how many Jews still live there and how they were faring. The panelists dispensed with the question in double-quick time, answering that the there is “no more of a ‘community’ to speak of”; that there “are very few Jews living there today, and mostly all living in Harare”. Kravitz added  they were being serviced by the country community rabbi from South Africa, Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, “who ensures they have the necessary foods during the Yontavim (festivities)”.

Could this be the future scenario for South Africa Jewry down the road?





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).

Shame, Shame, Shame, UCT?

The ongoing outrage at the insensitivity of South Africa’s premier university to the victims of Hitler

Following Lay Of The Land publishing an Open Letter by UCT alumnus Stephen Schulman to the Vice chancellor of UCT, Prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng, expressing outrage at the seemingly no action taken against a senior lecturer imparting to his students that “Hitler committed no crime”,  we publish the somewhat dismissive reply from UCT – received not from the Vice Chancellor but from the Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof. Martin Hall –  and Schulman’s fitting response.

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

This unfolding drama although set in Cape Town South Africa, is of global significance as the script and plot is emblematic of the worldwide upsurge in antisemitism and the tepid response of leadership as reflected in UCT’s lackluster interest and resolute willingness to take action.

Vision Impaired. Vice-Chancellor’s Professor Phakeng’s worthy vision for UCT of “Excellence, Transformation and Sustainability” is undermined by unworthy conduct of its lecturers and leadership.

Quick to support removing offending statues on campus or changing names of buildings for offending sectors of South Africa’s population, no such concern of sensitivity extends by UCT’s leadership to today’s Jews in South Africa!

Editor


UCT replies to Stephen Schulman:

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

University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3,

Rondebosch, 7701 South Africa

Phone: 27 (0) 21 650 2175/6

martin.hall@uct.ac.za

dvc.transformation@uct.ac.za

www.uct.ac.za


Dear Professor Hall,

Thank you for your prompt reply of the 29th instant. It is much appreciated as I understand that Prof. Phakeng is heavily burdened with her onerous manifold duties and so is unable to reply in person.

The gist of your letter is that some of Lushaba’s students, those who viewed the video clip and all others (including myself and a large number of other UCT alumni) who read the words he said, unfortunately not being endowed with his elevated faculties, were incapable of understanding his lofty wit because according to your interpretation as official UCT spokesman: “It is apparent from the full recording that Dr Lushaba’s reference to Hitler was intended ironically”. Moreover, we should also understand that these words having been said by a black African in the context of his lecture on “…acts of genocide committed by colonial powers against indigenous communities in the context of changing interpretative models within the disciplinary field of political studies,” should evoke more understanding and empathy. Accordingly, in the light of these facts we are in fact doing this gentleman a grave injustice by displaying an acute lack of sensitivity and leveling unfounded accusations of Holocaust denial and blind racism at him.

Lushaba’s very words: Hitler committed no crime.” are abhorrent in any context and in no way absolves him from condemnation. In some European countries, Holocaust denial is a crime and Lushaba would spend time in court explaining his warped sense of humour. Even if, as you claim, he also spoke ironically about white people as being putative genocidal perpetrators, then this is a sick and dismal failure at trying to be witty and a flagrant disregard for the feelings of others.

Scary Signs. “Hitler committed no crime,” says UCT Political Science lecturer, Dr. Lwazi  Lushaba, with no action to date taken. What are South African Jews to think as to the direction of their country?

I find your explanation completely unacceptable and your attempt to paper over his racism and whitewash his words (I hope that at UCT this term is still politically correct!) wholly unconvincing and I do not retract one word from my previous letter. Moreover, judging from your reply, you have dispensed with impartiality and have already reached a conclusion, exculpating him on the grounds of a simple ‘misunderstanding’.

I find the behaviour of the University of Cape Town devoid of any sensitivity. It is both shocking and outrageous. Since his words were made public and caused widespread outrage approximately two and a half months have already gone by and still UCT “is currently reviewing the full lecture”!! Why this foot dragging?

Why this prevarication?

At this pace of proceeding, it will take longer than the gestation period of an elephant to present the findings! 

In this lengthy period, the university as an influential public institution with an incumbent responsibility towards the community, well aware of the whole affair and its ramifications, has elected to remain silent.

Why the silence?

That silence speaks volumes. That silence has given Lushaba a tacit endorsement of his words and a license to continue disseminating his hatred. These are difficult times with increases in intolerance, racism and a rise in anti-Semitism.

The silence of UCT makes it complicit.

Even in the bad days of Apartheid, UCT was a liberal institution and would not have countenanced such behaviour by any staff member. The university is currently in the throes of transformation and from its treatment of this sad affair, we fear all is not well.

Talking of Irony! “Spes Bona” meaning “good hope” on the University’s logo,  South African Jews can be excused for questioning, “what hope?” when Hitler’s mass murder is explained as having been “no crime”.   

We call upon the University of Cape Town to promptly and publicly censure Lushaba, condemn his words and issue a public apology. If it wishes to continue bearing this august name, nothing else will suffice

Yours faithfully,

Stephen Schulman





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 call to stop hate fell on deaf ears

The South African Muslim Judicial Council and South African Jewry

By Adv. Craig Snoyman

MEA CULPA!

I spent the last couple of weeks trying to hawk this article to South Africa’s main-stream media but to no avail – maybe too hot to handle.

I sent the article first to the newspapers that had first published the raging issue distressing the Jewish community, then to the larger media houses and eventually to the South African Jewish press. Maybe the language was too strong or too emotive, but then religious issues generally are.

I confess my sin in advance – hence Mea Culpa!

While there was no media interest – and one can question the reasons why – I believe it’s an important issue that needs to be aired.  So I took the article, dusted it off, spruced it up at little and here it is. Forgive me but this non-South African website, with a large South African readership, was at the back of the line.

While the issue is about the South African Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and South Africa Jewry, I believe it may well be of global interest. Anti-Israel voices have a habit of morphing into anti-Jewish voices. Ignoring incitement and hate-speech doesn’t solve problems. Incendiary cyber-messaging and vicious online-abuse isn’t going to stop on its own. Disinviting an Israeli-owned food truck from a Philadelphia food fair is not going to cause a stir unless the issue is aired. Inflammatory rabble-rousing demanding that a particular school, which has mixed Jewish-Muslim learner ratio have to debate the Israel-Palestine issue, while insisting that only a pro-Palestinian radical speaker participate, does not contribute to a climate of calm. The flood of antisemitic tropes – only some of them masquerading as anti-Zionism – can be anticipated to lead to violence against Jews in the streets; or BDS activists deciding that they won’t tolerate Israeli products in shops. Once antisemitic violence has happened, it can’t be undone.  Unfortunately, this behaviour is not only expected, but is clearly foreseeable.

It was for this reason that South Africa’s Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Warren Goldstein extended an olive branch of peace to the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and Jamiatul Ulama South Africa. He called on them, by all accounts privately and discretely, to sign a Joint Statement, in which they would publicly call on their  respective constituents to respect each other as citizens of South Africa; and not threaten each other  because  of  their differing views on the Middle East. What he was really asking for, was a public statement by the MJC calling on its constituents to stop harassing his flock and make the clear distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

It was a call stop the hate

Call it out so that it will stop.

The Muslim Judicial Council took the proffered olive branch, broke it in two and then poked the Chief Rabbi’s eye with it!

It was not the MJC‘s constituents that were being harassed or intimidated. They could speak from a position of strength, and they did. The MJC unequivocally and publicly rejected the Chief’s overture and their rejection published in the national papers. They also went running to the Anglican Archbishop seeking him to agree that the offending eye should be plucked out.

Really?

Why does the rejection of a request make by a Jew to a Muslim require the sanction of a Christian?

Reacting to Rabbi.  South Africa’s Muslim Judicial Council  publicly and scornfully rejected the Chief Rabbi’s overture for tolerance and understanding between their religious communities.

The MJC – in further justifying their decision not to issue a joint statement – stated that:

  “The stance by members of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, headed by Chief Rabbi Goldstein, is diametrically opposed to our moral position that most of the freedom-loving people have adopted in so far as it refers to condemning the violence and apartheid policies meted out against Muslim and Christian Palestinians on a daily basis by the apartheid regime in Israel.” 

Factually, the justification is incorrect. The Chief Rabbi has no official position in the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD). The SAJBD is a separate independent body.  The Chief Rabbi acted in his position as head of the Union of Orthodox Synagogues and as titular leader of the Jewish community. On several interfaith functions, where the MJC has participated as well, the Rabbi has acted in this capacity. It is therefore surprising, at the very least, that the MJC could make such a clearly fallacious allegation. But the statement goes further. There is an inferential blaming of the South African Jews for the actions of the regime in Israel.  This skates very close to, if not on, a long-existing, well-worn antisemitic canard, that  Jews can be denigrated simply because they hold the “wrong” position on Israel.

While the MJC added that it did not support or condone intimidation, threats or violence at any level and called on all peace-loving pro-Palestinian protesters to maintain the necessary discipline at all times, this was hardly the case and the Chief Rabbi  was, and is, well aware of the turbulence that has racked and continues to rack his community. Apart from two reported physical assaults – one a Jew, allegedly by Muslims returning from a pro-Hamas rally and one in a shopping centre largely frequented by Jews – the threats of death (“Khaybar, Khaybar, the army of Mohamed will return”, “We’ll finish off Hitler’s work”) the other vocal abuse ( e.g. “Nazi’s” “Zio-Nazi’s”) are in a completely different class to the very vocal  chant of “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free”. Virtually every Jewish personality in South Africa with a public profile was overwhelmed with vitriolic antisemitic (as opposed to Anti-Zionist ) comments on their social media sites. The spate of  the vicious antisemitism that flooded social media may have died down, but it has not disappeared. There are still calls NOT to serve Jews, from certain shop-owners.  Most, if not all of this, seems to have originated from the MJC‘s constituency. The ongoing call to boycott Jewish citizens because they are stereo-typed as  supporters of  Israel  and the call for consumers to stop shopping at stores because they stock Israeli product, is also unabated. That the Chief Rabbi felt that the need to reach out to the Muslim leaders is understandable. One can be reasonably sure that these issues and perceived consequences, were raised by him in discussion. However, the MJC‘s bland response calling on “all peace-loving pro-Palestinian protesters to maintain the necessary discipline”  does not adequately address the issue; and allows for simmering intolerance.

Sowing the Seeds of Discord. Inviting the conflicts of the Middle East into South Africa.

When one looks at the MJC‘s declaration, stating that they do not condone violence and intimidation, it does not address cyber-hate  or ongoing threats to Jewish South Africans or even the relationship between Muslim and Jewish South Africans. Only the MJC‘s “peace-loving pro-Palestinian protesters” (does one hear of any other type of protesters?) are called on to maintain discipline. The issue of private individual conduct is not dealt with, nor is the aspect of on-line hate and other forms of specific ethnic harassment or ethnic interaction. The MJC could not have been oblivious to them. It issued a “catch-all” boiler plate statement to be wheeled out for all occasions.

Stocking Hatred of Jews. Demonstrators marching through the city centre in Cape Town on May 12, 2021 holding banners falsely accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza while ignoring the over 4000 rockets fired from Gaza into civilian areas in Israel.(RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images.)

The casual attitude taken by the MJC is confusing and a matter for concern. On the one hand its position seems to be: “Yes we acknowledge that there should be respect and tolerance between the different religions in South Africa”  while on the other hand it states that  “we cannot be seen to agree with you publicly on the issue of peace and tolerance, because then  we would be betraying the Palestinian cause”. 

These positions are a non-sequitur! 

  • Can one not support peace and tolerance in South Africa and still support the Palestinian cause? 
  • Can one say that one is obliged to refuse to sign a document supporting peace and tolerance because to sign it constitutes a betrayal of the “Palestinian cause”?
  • Can one say that the MJC‘s position is that the “Palestinian cause” is more important to the MJC than peace and tolerance between Jew and Muslim in South Africa?
  • Can one say that the MJC‘s position is that it is not necessary for the incidents of abuse of Jews by Muslims in South Africa does not need to be called out in an effective manner?

All of these propositions would seem to be justified.

The MJC then takes the matter a step beyond a domestic national issue of ethnic tolerance. Rather than address the issue directly,  the MJC deflects and introduces foreign politics and “the Palestinian cause into the equation or  can  one say  the Palestinian cause is made the totality of the equation?

How should one understand “the Palestinian cause” and “support for the besieged people of Gaza”? Does support for the besieged people of Gaza also include support for Hamas, an internationally recognised terrorist organisation, which rules the territory? 

Quo Vadis? Chief Rabbi calls on Muslim religious leaders in SA to issue joint call for tolerance over Gaza conflict was totally rejected.

Do they support the firing of over 4 300 rockets toward civilian targets in Israel from the Gaza strip? The MJC is silent on the issue of the conduct of Hamas but embraces the noble Palestinian cause as “a dignified struggle that requires demonstrating the highest integrity and discipline”. Is Hamas viewed as being included within this dignified struggle? Is Hamas – whose charter declares it seeking the destruction of Israel – also part of the dignified struggle of the noble Palestinian cause which it embraces? 

Where does one draw the line?

And why should this political opinion affect its conduct and attitude toward the safety of South African Jewry?

The MJC is aware of the opinion of its constituents in South Africa.   Numerous rally posters called for “Free Palestine”  nd  “From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free”. The MJC has not disassociated itself from these sentiments. So what is this noble Palestinian cause which requires a dignified struggle of the highest integrity and discipline?

Is it supporting one Palestinian state from the river to the sea, necessitating the elimination of the State of Israel?

Or is it supporting the existence of an independent Palestinian state, co-existing with an independent Jewish state of Israel?

Or should one then accept that the MJC support of the “noble cause” includes the violent overthrow of the Jewish state and condones the launching of rockets against Israel’s civilians? 

Does the noble cause include Hamas’ fundamental position that Jews are to be killed wherever in the world they are to be found?  By rejecting the offer of peace between South African Jews and South African Muslims in favour of the “noble Palestinian cause”, is the MJC stating that the noble cause includes the elimination of Jews in South Africa? 

Is the MJC conflating antisemitism and  anti-Zionism?.

The seemly-obligatory defamatory attack on the State of Israel by the MJC is revealing. The public and political posturing of the MJC could only be for public consumption for a simple and polite rejection to Rabbi Goldstein would have been adequate. It is clear that the MJC‘s battle is one to win hearts and minds of third parties. Why the need to falsely declare Israel an Apartheid state, which is a distortion of the facts as well as a distortion of the definition of Apartheid?

Clearly there is a battle to win over the Christian communities. It sought support from the Anglican Archbishop in order to solicit an unconditional Christian endorsement of the Muslim rejection. So the MJC went public; they rejected the Jews and sought the endorsement of the Christians.

The South African Jews, save for Chief Rabbi Goldstein, almost – unforgivably – kept quiet!

So again to spell it out. Israel is not an Apartheid state, even if it is a catchy jingle. Every Arab citizen of Israel has the same political rights as any other citizen of Israel. There was never an African party allowed to represent its constituents in parliament during the period of Apartheid. Robert  Sobukwe was never offered a position in B. J. Vorster’s  Nationalist cabinet. However, Arab parties have been in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, since the inception of the State of Israel. Mansour Abbas and his Ra’am Arab Islamist  political party are part of a new Israeli government, with Abbas an equal amongst equals. Any specific allegation of Apartheid can be easily refuted.

Distortion and Deception

Following the MJC emotively and publicly seeking the support of the Christian community with its inflammatory false allegations against Israel, it was left to the Chief Rabbi to warn South African Christians to be on guard and at least question what was being fed to them by the MJC.

Those well versed in what is happening in the Middle East know the true situation of Christians living under Muslim rule. While there are more Christians living under Israeli rule than there have ever been, the same cannot be said for Christians under Palestinian rule.  In Palestinian Gaza, the Christian population had dropped from 5,000 to under 1,000 in 2018. From 5% of the population under the control of the Palestinian Authority, the Christians now constitute less than 2% and the Christian population in the disputed territories continues to decrease. In the “little town of Bethlehem” the beleaguered Christians once constituted over 80% of the  population. Today, under the Palestinian Authority they now count at less than 10,000 or less than 10% of the city’s population and continues to decrease. This is the real “Christ at the Crossroads” and has nothing to do with Israel as the MJC would like South African Christians believe.

The Chief Rabbi sought to protect his flock from foreseeable harm and alleviate a climate of increasing hostility. He extended a gesture of peace. The MJC scorned it.

The Chief Rabbi sought to avoid the issue of religious sectarian hate, violence and intimidation arising in South Africa. The MJC chose instead to play politics, importing issues of the Middle East into South Africa.

The Chief Rabbi called for a statement of peace. The MJC chose the Palestinian cause over peace.

The Chief Rabbi opened his hand in peace. The MJC redefined the concept of peace and figuratively spat on his hand.

Resolute Rabbi. Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein who had earlier stood up to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s anti-Israel statement in the media, when asked for Muslim leadership to join him in calling for tolerance and non-violence was met with angered rejection.

It is time that the Muslim Judicial Council come forward and set out its position publicly, in the same way it did when it summarily dismissed Chief Rabbi Goldstein’s approach.  Where does it stand  and what lines are crossed if one calls for ethnic tolerance in South Africa? Similarly, having announced that it supports the “noble Palestinian Cause”, one should be able to understand if this a policy rather than a slogan. If support for a distant Palestinian cause is preferable over peace and tolerance toward fellow South African citizens who happen to be Jewish what then is the MJC‘s attitude toward Christians who are also supporters of Israel? Will they too be attacked or are they too large a group to be bullied as was the case with South Africa’s Chief Justice, who also called for peace in Jerusalem? Are they also to be sacrificed on the high altar of the Palestinian cause? The Muslim Judicial Council’s strategy of public rejection has a concurrent obligation – a reasonable explanation not simple slogans of “noble Palestinian causes”. 

Talk policy, don’t mouth slogans! 




About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.





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

A Rabbi and a Self-Hating Jew walk into court with a Newspaper

By Adv. Craig Snoyman

South African Jewry is resilient. They know that their government is vociferously anti-Israel and that when an incident flares up in the Middle East between the Israel and its neighbours, they know to keep their heads down and try and weather the storm.  This time, the captain of the ship was on the starboard, plotting a course to safety and became a target.

Two weeks ago, a three-quarter page article appeared in South Africa’s most widely read national newspaper, the Sunday Times. The headlines blazed:

 “A chief rabbi who is a disgrace to his faith and to human decency.

This prominently placed article was written by a former politician, who is now well past his sell-by date. Once a cabinet minister in the Thabo Mbeki cabinet, his star has faded, but he tries his best to appear news-worthy whenever he can. His sure-safe recipe is knocking Israel or the Jews.  He can do this because he was born a Jew and it’s therefore “acceptable”. It always makes for great conversation when a Jew publicly attacks another Jew, even if the first “Jew” has not an iota of Jewishness, save for the accident of his birth.  This was the situation with our self-hating “Jew”, Ronnie Kasrils. His target was the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Warren Goldstein, and he could hardly fail!

The Rabbi vs the Rebel. Ronnie Kasrils’ article in the Sunday Times attacking South Africa’s Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein.

Kasrils, who has very publicly renounced his Jewishness, has pooh-poohed the idea that the Jews were chosen by God. He has declared that Jewishness is merely a charade for Jews to hide their racism and their Zionist exclusivity. His article, which he called an open letter to the President, was much of the same.  Many didn’t read past the headline.  It was a sickening headline. In fact it is exceedingly difficult to find a more disturbing headline than this, in any mainstream newspaper anywhere in the free world. It was incredible that a newspaper was prepared to print it. How does one react to big, bold in-your- face print that says – “A chief rabbi who is a disgrace to his faith and to human decency”.

The article itself was filled with the normal vitriol about Israel and the Jews, but it also made an unjustified and unheard-of attack on Rabbi Goldstein. In fact, the last time that I can remember a chief rabbi of South Africa being so viciously attacked was when Rabbi Rabinowitz attacked the Nationalist government for its policy of Apartheid.  It was an uncalled for, ad-hominem attack on the Chief Rabbi  and a rant against many things Israeli or Zionist.  It was an article that had no place in any respectable publication. Kasrils started off his letter by referring to “the illegal occupation by Israel of Palestinian land” which was “the greatest moral issue of our time”. It only got worse from there.  He referred to the anger at the pain and humiliation inflicted on the Palestinian people, to which was an offence South Africa’s core values of equality, justice and human rights. Clearly, Rabbi Goldstein had no justice or compassion of the hundreds of innocent Palestinians who perished in Israel’s “so-called precision bombing” The Chief Rabbi’s version of “the truth” about Sheikh Jarrah was the same as Apartheid’s eviction policy. Similarly the Chief’s statement that there had been many attempts to create a Palestinian state, was “sheer sophistry”. This was because Israel had colonised Palestine in 1948 and had thereafter engaged in expansion, land theft and ethnic cleansing.  It was the Israeli government that had refused to be a partner for peace, while the Palestinians, even Hamas, “had gone out of their way to consider a two-state solution”. It was the Israelis that had rejected proposals, instead insisting on a Bantustan solution. The Chief Rabbi was “obfuscating” if he suggested otherwise. As for Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas’ rockets, “Goldstein [had] callously ignored the rain of death poured into the world’s most densely populated concentration camp where two million inhabitants have no place to hide.” How can he support a “people that smash a small densely populated territory to smithereens because they sustained 12 deaths?” Kasrils did not forget to refer to the dubious quote of Richard Falk that “Palestinian resistance to occupation is a legally protected right” and that Israel was violating international law. He also scoffed at the Chief Rabbi’s reliance on “a property-dealing God who presented another peoples land to the so-called chosen” which was in stark contrast to the belief of Palestinian Christians and Muslims. He concluded by holding that “numerous devout Jews interpret the Hebrew bible very differently to Goldstein and his ilk. His views are not representative of Jews in general” and that “Goldstein’s utterances contradict the golden rule of all religions to treat others as you wish them to treat you”.

Up to his Neck. No, Ronnie Kasrils is not wearring a tallit (prayer shawl worn by Jews) but a Palestinian keffiyeh.

With the Jewish community in shell-shock, the response came in last week’s Sunday Times. Entitled “Kasrils breached acceptable boundaries of civilised discourse” virtually every leading organisation within the Jewish establishment attached its name to this public rebuke.  A small photo-replica of the original article with the offensive heading was attached to the Jewish establishment’s response (just in case it could have been forgotten).  In defending the Chief, Kasrils was accused of breaching acceptable boundaries, demonising and defaming the state of Israel and vilifying and crassly impugning “the integrity of the chief rabbi, Dr Warren Goldstein, the public face of the Jewish faith community in South Africa” and inflaming race relations in South Africa. Notably, the Chief Rabbi was not a signatory to the article.

Like any Jew, I know some things and I have an opinion on some things. They don’t always overlap. I have an opinion on Kasrils’ conduct (which might not be fit to publish) and I know something about the law of defamation in South Africa. My opinion based on my knowledge of defamation is that he has opened himself up to a massive lawsuit. Kasrils, who has been on the winning side of a defamation case previously, must also be acutely aware of this as well.

The law of defamation in South Africa balances the existence of various conflicting constitutional rights such as the right to privacy and dignity against the right to freedom of expression and political rights. In principle, to succeed in a defamation case one needs to prove the following: 

(1) there is a statement

(2) it has been published 

(3) it concerns that person

(4) it is defamatory

(5) it has injured that person in his reputation.

The test to be applied to decide whether a statement is defamatory is whether the words complained of, are reasonably capable of conveying to the reasonable reader a meaning defamatory of that person. One does not need to prove falsity. The quantification of damages is dependent on reputation and character, standing in the community and the extent of the publication.

The party being sued has a variety of defences at his disposal. The most common defence is that while the statement appears on the face of it (prima facie) defamatory, the words were used in a non-defamatory sense and special circumstances are set out.  Other defences might include (a) the absence of intention to cause harm (this defence is not available to the media) or (b) that it was made in jest or (c) that the words were spoken in sudden anger as a result of provocation (referred to as “Rixa”) or (d) lack of knowledge of wrongfulness or (e) denial of wrongfulness i.e., that the defamation was not wrongful. 

There are also defences that would apply where the statement was made in the discharge of an official duty such as (f) qualified privilege or where it was made in parliament being (g) absolute privilege. For statements appearing in the media, there are two   defences that are invariably raised, viz. (h) truth and public interest and (i) fair comment. 

When one looks at the requirements that the Chief Rabbi would have to prove, then elements (1)-(3) are self-evident. The crux of the case would be – the reasonable person test.  If this is successful then element (5) falls into place. I regard myself as a reasonable person. On a simple reading of the article, I find it to be unacceptably egregious. On a deeper reading of the article, I find it to be irredeemably and grievously reprehensible and having no redeeming merit. Thus, on the Chief Rabbi’s version, I believe that he cannot but succeed.  As the Chief Rabbi is the pre-eminent Jew in South Africa, I believe that he should qualify for the largest sum of damages ever awarded for defamation in South Africa.

Heading to Court. The man Kasrils has accused of as “a disgrace to human decency”, South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein speaking at Nelson Mandela’s memorial ceremony on December 10, 2013. (Sky News, YouTube)

Strategically and tactically the response was brilliant. Whether intentionally or by chance (or should I say by fate, as Rabbis don’t believe in chance), with the stroke of a pen, the people of the book  vindicated the Chief Rabbi. The entire upper echelons of the Jewish Community, unquestionably comprising of reasonable people, found the article to be, not only defamatory, but as exceeding the bounds of civil discourse and both vilifying and crassly impugning the chief rabbi’s integrity.  One can’t get a much stronger condemnation of Kasrils’ statement than that. No doubt the Chief has a superior legal team advising him. His father, Ezra Goldstein was one of the sharpest judges on the South African bench and certainly one of the most compassionate.  But the Chief Rabbi, no doubt, has a Greater Hand guiding him. I think the whole Jewish community would derive immense satisfaction in seeing him nail this ###%##   BIG TIME, through the agency of this Greater Hand.

Kasrils, on the other is not without his defences. He has revelled in his article, has not denied a single word of it and his only complaint is that it was not published in its totality. Various defences are immediately ruled out. Having called the Chief Rabbi an obfuscating sophist whose views, and that of his ilk, are not representative of Jews in general, he can hardly be seen to raise a defence of absence of intention to cause insult, or that they were not intended to defame the Chief Rabbi.  The defence of lack of knowledge of unlawfulness is moot. Many of our jurists hold that it is an element of intention. Whether unlawful forms part of intention or not, Kasril’s   statement falls within this larger category.  So Kasrils is left with a choice of two defences: truth and public interest or fair comment. To succeed in the defence of truth and public interest requires proof that both (1) the statement was true and (2) that its publication was to the benefit of the public. Just on a summary of his statement as set out, it is unlikely that he can prove either. Which leaves Kasrils with one defence, that of fair comment. The elements required to be proven for this defence are (1) that it was a comment and not a statement of fact; and (2) that the comment was “fair” (in that it does not exceed certain limits); and (3) the facts commented on were truly stated and (4) the matter was in the public interest. With several facts indisputably incorrect as well as a response from the entire Jewish establishment that Kasrils’ comment breached acceptable boundaries of civilised discourse, it will be difficult for a judge to hold that this defence has any merit either.

Last but not least, the law also provides the Chief Rabbi with a further useful line of attack. Even if Kasrils were able to show circumstances providing a justification for his statement, such a defence should fail, if it can be shown that he intended to injure the Chief Rabbi in his reputation. As my maths teacher used to say: Quod Erat Demonstratum! (Roughly translated: this which has been proved)

In defamation cases like this, not only is the writer of the article sued, but the publisher is as well. There have been cases where even the distributor and the printer of the newspaper have been sued as well. In this case, it would probably be adequate to sue Kasrils and the owners/ publishers of the Sunday Times.

Like all juicy court cases, there is invariably a twist in the tale.  This one is no different. Following this notorious article, Kasrils was interviewed on a Muslim television channel.  He went on record as stating that he was not responsible for the headlines that appeared above his article, that was done by the newspaper itself. It is almost inconceivable that the largest national newspaper, with top-class legal advisors on tap, could have created such a stupefyingly defamatory headline. Our Supreme Court of Appeal has made it abundantly clear that the public media cannot rely on the absence of animus injuriandi to escape liability, (although it may rely on absence of negligence.) If Kasrils is to be believed, not only would it appear that the Sunday Times had been negligent, but it would seem that a case might be made for malevolent premeditation and malice in choosing the headline.  That the Sunday Times first published and then republished the headlines a week later, when the response was published, places it in a very invidious position. Not only has the headline been published twice in hard copy, but these headlines appear around the world in soft copy and remain on record.

No place to hide!

The newspaper’s legal team are going to have their work cut out for them, in the event of defamation litigation being instituted.

I am one of those South Africans who keeps my head down. I am not part of the Jewish establishment. I don’t know what the Chief Rabbi will do. In response to the article, I have bought a Jewish National Fund Certificate so that a tree will be planted in Israel in the name of Ronnie Kasrils.  I really hope that the Chief Rabbi will sue and get the biggest defamation award ever issued in South Africa and then donates it to a Zionist cause in the name of Kasrils. ….and it all has to published in the Sunday Times!



About the author:

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) .

Sheikh Jarrah – On a wing and a missile

By Craig Snoyman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.





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

Shape of Things to Come

South Africa could help reshape and redefine the Middle East

By  Kenneth Mokgatlhe

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a lie that needs to be exposed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





About the writer:

Kenneth Mokgatlhe is an independent writer and political critic.

From Zeerust, North West Province, South Africa.

078 9754 182




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

Quo Vadis UCT?

By Stephen Schulman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Somehow, this sensitivity did not extend to the Jews!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





About the writer:

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






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

Weep, the Beloved Country

By Stephen Schulman

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

Winston Churchill

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

Albert Einstein


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

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

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

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

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

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

The expected public reaction was not long in coming!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cold comfort indeed!

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

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

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

I fervently hope that my prediction will be proved wrong.




About the writer:

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

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

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