Surfside Strong

By Ruthy Benoliel

It is hard to put into words the anguish that so many people in Miami and all over the world have suffered over the last two weeks since the collapse of Champlain Towers South on June 24, 2021. In seconds, our whole community was put to the most dreadful test ever imagined. The pain we feel is a surreal and an overwhelming sense of loss. As we watched the news over and over again, nothing made sense. Within hours our community came together to help support and comfort the bereaved families and pray for miracles.

People embrace at a makeshift memorial outside St. Joseph Catholic Church in Surfside on Monday, June 28. (The Associated Press)

Immediately, organizations and thousands of volunteers came together to collect, pack, deliver, feed, find accommodation, lend a helping hand, or be there to give a hug. People put a pause on their lives to be on call for whatever need arose. Teams of first responders from the USA and other countries, including police, firefighters, engineers, governmental authorities, mental health professionals, and our dear IDF rescue soldiers, became our hope. The search and rescue mission became the priority for all those heroes that not only had to deal with the consequences of the collapse, but with several fires, rain, hurricane winds, the shifting of the remaining structure, the controlled demolition of the left-over structure, and exasperation of not finding people alive. Each corner of our streets was filled with police, checkpoints, and access by car was almost impossible.

It felt like a war zone!

Soriya Cohen shows a picture of her husband, Brad Cohen, who she said was missing after the partial collapse of the 12-story condo tower that he was in on June 24, 2021 in Surfside, Florida.

     The human touch and sensitivity towards each other were always present. We witnessed IDF soldiers break down and cry; the sergeant who gave us the daily reports kept trying to control his tears, and rescue teams needing emotional help as this tragedy consumed their lives. Grieving families, rescue teams, volunteers, people from different faiths and religions became one.

Champlain Towers was extremely special for my family. It was my home for many years. It was the place where my husband picked me up on our first date, where we got engaged, where three of my four children were born, where beautiful memories were made and will never be erased. Many of my old neighbours, friends, and acquaintances were there the night of the collapse; some were spending only one night in the building.

Col. Golan Vach receives the honour of being called to the Torah.

Over the last two weeks, we all have felt numb, waiting for the next briefing to give the latest answers, holding hands, crying collectively, and feeling the agony of the victim’s families. There is nothing to be said that can alleviate this grueling pain.

A few days ago, the search and rescue mission transitioned into recovery with a moment of silence. When the IDF colonel spoke, he said:

 “Look at me in my eyes. I promise we did everything possible to find your loved ones.”

Even though there was despair and agony in hearing those words, there was gratitude and love that filled the room. Many have started to mourn their loved ones, who unfortunately did not survive this catastrophe.

There are no answers, just tears.

Rabbi Sholom Lipskar (right), of The Shul of Bal Harbour, prays during the search-and-rescue operation after the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside on Thursday, June 24, 2021, with Rabbi Mendy Levy(left), and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. (ALEXIA FODERÉ FOR MIAMI HERALD)

Where do we go from here? It will take an exceptionally long time to process what has happened and to ease this ache. I know for sure that we will be there for each other every step of the way. We are blessed to live in this loving community. We will forever have in our hearts the beautiful children, and people who perished on the collapse of Champlain Towers South, and we will continue to pray for their Neshamas.  (“souls”)

Surfside strong!











About the writer:

Ruthy Benoliel is Vice-President of WIZO USA and is based in Miami.









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) .

Ghastly in Gaza

That’s life under Hamas

By David E. Kaplan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is Hamas ‘justice’.

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

Rewaa Merchid’s bruising was more than physical.

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

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

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

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

No kidding!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Probably.

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

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




Gaza kids put on play about stabbing, killing Israelis





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

Sheikh Jarrah – On a wing and a missile

By Craig Snoyman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.





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

“A Fiery Debate”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

Shape of Things to Come

South Africa could help reshape and redefine the Middle East

By  Kenneth Mokgatlhe

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a lie that needs to be exposed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





About the writer:

Kenneth Mokgatlhe is an independent writer and political critic.

From Zeerust, North West Province, South Africa.

078 9754 182




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

Dodging Death and Delusion

Israelis dodge rockets while the world media dodges the truth

By David E. Kaplan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, wait. There may be falling debris.”

Dead right!

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

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

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

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

People are playing the Lottery of Life at home!

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

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

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

How come?” asked the interviewer surprised.

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

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

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

NO!” corrects the young kibbutz resident:

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

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

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

This Tuesday was just such a horrifying day!

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

The Menace of Mortars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hardly a calling to engender “quiet”.

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

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

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

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

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

Support the Gazan people by not supporting Hamas

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



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

I Placed a Tile on the Wall of Peace

By Rolene Marks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it is a strategy that is working.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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