Something is happening in Israel today that fills its citizens with trepidation

By Stephen Schulman

I sleep ill at night, my slumber is restless and I do not breathe easy. I sleep ill because I am worried. I worry about my beloved country. I worry about our children and our grandchildren. I worry for their future here and how this country will be, for what I see at the present leaves me deeply unsettled.

Over half a century ago, I left South Africa the land of my birth and came to live in Israel. Like many of my friends and fellow graduates of a Zionist youth movement, who came too, I was imbued with an idealism to help contribute to a Jewish state that was both liberal and democratic. After completing our studies, we left our families and came alone. We were not cockeyed optimists. We were perfectly aware that Israel was a young state born in especially difficult circumstances, coping with many problems. There was much to be done, but we wished to do our part. With the passing of time, we worked in our professions, did our army service, married and raised families. We are part of the country and feel pride in its achievements. However, something has changed, bad things have been happening and I am filled with trepidation.

Proud to Picture. The same man Itzik Zarka (left) –  whom prime minister Netanyahu is proud to pose with for a selfie during a Likud Party faction meeting at the Knesset in 2018 is in 2023 calling anti-judicial overhaul protesters “whores” and saying that he wishes “another six million would burn,” a reference to the Holocaust. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

”Ashkenazim may you burn in hell.”  “Not for nothing did six million die. I’m proud.  If only six million more would burn.”  Words that would make Goebbels, Streicher and all their despicable followers, knowing that their vicious antisemitism was alive and flourishing, beam with happiness and satisfaction. If anyone in his/her naiveté thinks that these foul utterances issued from the mouth of a most extreme neo-Nazi, they err gravely.  They were said by forty-nine-year-old Yitzhak Zarka, a Jew from Ma’ale Efrayim, a settlement in the State of Israel, who was relating to the anti-judicial overhaul protestors.

Zarka, in spewing his vicious and venomous hatred desecrates the memory of the six million martyrs, man, woman and child who were murdered in the Holocaust. It also deeply insults and defiles all the Holocaust survivors both from Europe and the Arab countries that fell under the yoke of Nazism. It insults the memory of my late father-in-law Meir who lost his entire family and my late mother-in- law Tsilla who while surviving the war, lost her father and a brother. It insults the memory of my dear friends: Yehuda whose family was persecuted in Libya and Uri who hailed from Iraq.

This individual’s sick jubilation over the Holocaust and his fervent desire for another one to occur to all the Jews of Ashkenzi (European) descent living in Israel and in the Diaspora does not suffice. In a feverish mind stoked and warped by a consuming and blind hatred, all logic and decency has long been defenestrated. In a twisted, perverted line of thought defying all comprehension, he curses them, for in his eyes, not only were the six million who perished deserving victims but they and all their descendants are of the same ilk as their murderers.

Never Again! Israel comes to a standstill on Yom HaShoah remembering the mass murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust while in 2023, a “proud” Likud activist Itzik Zarka, desecrates their memory by referencing the anti-judicial overhaul protestors as “Ashkenazim” whom he hopes “If only six million more would burn.” 

In any enlightened country, and as is happening in Europe, such pronouncements are considered a clear contravention of the law and would arouse public opprobrium. It goes without saying that the speaker or writer of them would be speedily hauled into court and prosecuted.

The Holocaust and the persecution and expulsion of Jews from the Arab countries is seared in Israel’s conscience. Zarka’s vituperative statement is clearly a criminal offense and it would be expected that the arm of the law swiftly reach out for him. It would be expected that he be publicly condemned by members of the government for his harmful statements.

Shockingly and shamefully, not so in present day Israel!

We have yet to hear of his prosecution, and silence reigns supreme. It is a silence both disgraceful and ominous and the reason is quite simple. Zarka is not just (like most of us) another common garden variety citizen. Zarka is a member of the Likud Party. Zarka is not a simple party member either. Zarka is a  faithful, veteran Likud activist who is highly esteemed by fellow members and greatly valued for his efficacy in garnering votes mainly among his fellow Sephardic (Jews who have come mainly from the Arab countries) citizens . Zarka is even more highly esteemed by quite a few Likud ministers in the present government for giving them his vital support in obtaining them a high placing in party elections. There is a well known adage: “Never bite the hand that feeds you votes!” Therefore this influential gentleman must be assiduously cultivated, his affection and loyalty secured and scrupulous care taken not antagonize him and earn his enmity. So, when he has a celebration like a birthday party, there is always an impressive bevy of fawning Likud party notables, including the Speaker of the Knesset and assorted ministers, bearing gifts, bowing and scraping, waiting patiently in the long line to congratulate, flatter, embrace and be photographed with the man of the moment.  Not for nothing is there a picture of him hugging and bussing our prime minister.

Darker side of Zarka. Itzik Zarka (centre) at a rally in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is today supporting the moral decline of the Jewish state by his ugly dangerous rhetoric.(Photo Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Bibi Netanyahu in his usual spin declared that the miscreant would be expelled from the party – which Zarka’s wife promptly denied and said would never happen. And, as to be expected, on the morn, he mumbled some lame excuse and claimed his grandfather was a Holocaust survivor. What difference does that make?

I sleep ill for there is a bad smell in the air. It is the stench of moral and ethical putrefaction. It is the stench caused by politicians, choosing to turn a blind eye and prefer self interest over moral obligation to their citizens. It is amoral Realpolitik at its ugliest. Not one Likud member of the Knesset, not one single minister from the same party, to their everlasting shame, has opened his/her mouth. It is not only the silence of assent. It is the silence that condones an egregious act that deeply offends so many citizens and harms the country’s social cohesion. It is the official stamp of silence that makes such behaviour the norm.

To add insult to injury, there are many of the party faithful who see no wrong, view it as a trifling incident and justify such behaviour. “I do not remember any other party that expelled any of its members for excessive anger,” was one mealy mouthed pronouncement.

Is this the ‘Face’ of Israel 2023? A prime minister (right) that is allowing the hard-fought Jewish state to unravel and Itzik Zarka, a spewer of hatred against fellow Jews, who is a veteran and highly respected Likud activist. (photo: Mark Israel Sellem)

Growing up in South Africa, antisemitism was par for the course and I experienced it in various ways. Nevertheless, never in my darkest dreams did I think that I would have to live in Israel in July 2023 to encounter it in its vilest and most toxic form and see its purveyor speak with impunity. Never in my darkest dreams, did I think that I would see such abominable behaviour accepted with equanimity by members of his party. Never did I imagine that not one minister in the coalition government (and our small country is gifted with 31 of them!), to their everlasting shame, would open his/her mouth in condemnation and disassociate him/her self from the speaker.

South Africa has Julius Malema, notorious for his abhorrent racism. It appears that we might have his doppelganger living here. How many of his repulsive clones walk around in our country?

Tragically, this sick behaviour is not an aberration. It is symptomatic of this culture of public and political discourse that is now eroding the very foundations of our society and has become a norm. Civility, politeness, mutual respect and common decency have long gone the way of the dinosaurs with rudeness, vulgarity, intolerance, insults and disrespect superseding them. Verbal violence: bullying, threats and intimidation is becoming commonplace.

South African ‘export’ that Israel can do without. Is this South African politician, Julius Malema, notorious for his abhorrent racism who some Israelis would be proud to emulate?

Is this an exaggeration? Look no further than the floor of the Knesset and the behaviour of certain ministers. A few days ago, our Minister of Transport’s car was stopped at gates of an army base by a security guard. As she felt that her entrance was unnecessarily delayed and her pride hurt, in her arrogance and rage she ordered her driver to proceed regardless. Ignoring his pleas that he would run over personnel, she repeatedly shouted at him:

Drive, drive, drive!”

With such an example it is no wonder that violence is no longer limited to being verbal and has become part and parcel of daily life.

My sleep is troubled. This is not the country I envisaged and I worry for the quality of its future. It took many generations to build but is being rapidly destroyed. What shall it be like for our grandchildren?

About the writer:

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

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


Following Israelis expressing their anxieties within society today from protest to poetry, lay of the Land  publishes another in our ongoing series. From fractures in Israel society to a sharp rise in terrorism, the son of Holocaust survivors reflects through this poem of living on the edge. Even something as mundane as commuting on a bus, becomes in Jerusalem today an existential experience.
Is it paranoia or reality?
David E. Kaplan  Lay of the Land Editor


By Solly Kaplinski

Every morning
I normally take the 6.57 Egged bus
to the light rail station in French Hill
The train is usually packed
but invariably, someone stands up for me
a sort of back handed compliment:
respect for the grey hair and
me coming to terms with my ageing self
– and my impending mortality
Until 120, I tell myself

The 70 faces are all present and accounted for
women burying their faces in the Shacharit prayers
lips moving furiously
young soldiers and border police
high spirited and seemingly deep in superficial conversation
eyes darting in all directions
reluctant children going to school glued to their cellphones
vatikim with empty agalot off to the shuk
Our cousins are also on board conversing animatedly
and a tower of babel cacophony of tourist and worker languages

Such a normal slice of life – like anywhere else in the world
the rush hour for those who open up the morning.
But my usual paranoid self gets the better of me – as always…
I am a child of Holocaust survivors you know
and I have lived with exploding buses and burnt-out restaurants
and Jew butchers on the loose
And I cast suspicious eyes on my fellow travelers
looking for anything out of the ordinary:
someone in disguise
an over-stuffed duffel bag
a hand in a bulging pocket or
holding a scrunched-up Rami Levi sakit
ready for coiled action

I step out into the sunshine and blue sky
at the Hechalutz station
And there’s a spring in my walk
I’m almost at the office

Until 120, I tell myself


Shacharit: early morning prayers
Vatikim – seniors
Agalot – small shopping trollies
Rami Levi – a discount supermarket chain
Sakit – a plastic shopping bag
Hechalutz – pioneer

About the writer:

Solly Kaplinski headed up Jewish Day Schools in Cape Town, Toronto and Vancouver before making Aliyah with Arleen almost 25 years ago. His professional life in Israel is bookended by working at Yad Vashem and then at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Solly is also the author of the novella A World of Pain: A Redemptive Parable? His three daughters, their spouses and an egalitarian minyan of grandchildren all live in Israel. 

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


Israel should avoid replicating South Africa’s National Party shenanigans

By Peter Bailey

Counsel for the government of Israel, in applying for a postponement of the Supreme Court hearing on the Reasonableness Law said “The petitions involve historical, jurisprudential and doctrinal issues on a massive scale, and they likely lack precedent in the history of the High Court of Justice and other authorities. It’s doubtful that they have precedent in the entire Western world”. While there might not be an international precedent on the Reasonableness Law, there is certainly precedent material with regard to a democratically elected government trying to usurp the authority of a High or Supreme Court, and the end result.

The current situation in Israel is very reminiscent of political events in South Africa during the period 1951/1952 following the victory of the right wing Reformed Nationalist Party and its equally right wing Afrikaner Party partner in the 1948 general election. The primary objective of the governing coalition was to  pass legislation that would ensure its continuation as the governing party in a “democratic dictatorship”, by rigging the system. Ridding the voter’s role of the Mixed Race voters, colloquially referred to as Coloured voters, whose rights were entrenched, suited the Nationalist Party’s racial policies, while simultaneously removing a substantial block of voters who supported the opposition. Doing so would almost guarantee the coalition’s ability to hold onto power in future elections. This resulted in the Separate Representation of Voters Act of 1951, disenfranchising Coloured voters. The law was subsequently invalidated and set aside by the Supreme Court of South Africa as being unconstitutional, as it had not been passed by  the required two thirds parliamentary majority, but by the coalition’s slim 9 seat majority in the 150 seat parliament.

Onslaught on Judiciary. South Africa’s old Supreme Court in Bloemfontein when in the early 1950s was being undermined by the Nationalist government in furtherance of its agenda to disenfranchise the Coloured community.

The response from the governing coalition was to pass legislation in 1952 titled the High Court of Parliament Act, which would allow a simple majority in both houses of Parliament to set aside any judgment of the Supreme Court of South Africa. The Legislature consisted of an upper house, the Senate, with its members elected indirectly by the four provinces, and a lower house, the Parliament, elected by White and enfranchised Colored voters. During 1953, the Supreme Court invalidated the High Court of Parliament Act, with the Chief Justice stating:

 “The so-called High Court of Parliament is not a court of law, but simply Parliament functioning under another name … Parliament cannot, by passing an act giving itself the name of a court of law, come to any decision which will have the effect of destroying the entrenched provisions of the (Supreme Court in the) constitution“.

The Government response to the Supreme Court ruling came in 1955 when the Senate was artificially enlarged with government appointed members who would ensure a two thirds majority, and so the Colored voters were soon disenfranchised with a contrived two thirds majority vote.

These attempts by the South African government coalition to set itself above the Supreme Court between 1951 and 1955, bear many similarities to the current attempts by Israel’s governing coalition to empower themselves to overrule the High Court with a simple majority in the Knesset. While the South African right wing coalition was able to manipulate the rules to its own advantage by maintaining popular support, the turn of events in Israel have shown that there is a huge groundswell of public disapproval of the intended law reforms.

Cataclysmic Clash. Determining the future character of the state of Israel, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces off against Esther Hayut,Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel.

Returning to the South African example, once the parliamentary vote was rigged to suit the governing Nationalist Party, there was nothing to hold them back from passing a plethora of discriminatory laws which entrenched the Apartheid policies of the government. These laws encompassed every aspect of life for non-White South Africans, defining who they could marry and where they could live and work. While these three factors were crucial to enable government policies, what became known as Petty Apartheid soon reared its ugly head. White facilities such as parks, churches, shopping centers, cinemas and sporting facilities were soon denied to non-whites, with Black, Colored, and Asiatic South Africans each having to develop their own racially exclusive facilities.         

Parallels between the racist policies of the South African government are very evident in the racist and divisive policies enunciated by the extreme right wing parties in Israel, as well as by some on the extreme right fringe of the Likud.  These extreme racist views do not permeate the whole coalition in Israel, with the ultra-orthodox component more concerned with looking after its own constituency, while the extreme policies are designed to attend to the wants and needs of its own largely nationalist religious supporters. This brings us to the sought after law reforms of the Israeli right wing, where the similarity with South Africa ends, as each component of the coalition wants similar changes to the judiciary for very different reasons and to attain divergent ends. This desire to change the judicial system is the only cement actually holding the current coalition together.

The prime mover of the law reform has been justice minister Yaariv Levin, whose grandfather hailed from Kroonstad, a bastion of Afrikaner nationalism in South Africa’s Orange Free State.  Levin might well have an agenda of his own, but appears to be acting in the best interests of his boss, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu is facing several criminal charges with varying degrees of gravity, which he blames on the system, including the police, the attorney general’s office and the judiciary for fabricating. Laws dubbed as the Netanyahu Law have been passed to benefit the prime minister, with the courts apparently reluctant to allow laws with personal benefits to pass muster. So the Likud wants and supports legal reform to help to allow their leader to get off the hook.

Power Broker. Justice minister Yariv Levin, whose forbears hail from Kroonstad in South Africa, introduces plan to curtail power of judiciary that would boost the power of the elected officials over the courts. (Photo Ben Hakoon)

Thrown into the mix are the extreme right wing Religious Zionism and Otzmah Yehudit parties, who would like legal changes allowing them to have free rein in the West Bank to bring about a de facto, and preferably de jure annexation of the territory by Israel. They would then probably look to introducing policies similar to Bantustan policies that held sway in South Africa during the Apartheid years. Creating Arabstans (including Israeli Arabs) looks well suited to fitting their world view of settling the Israel Arab conflict. Nothing less than a totally subjugated Arab population subject to Jewish rule will satisfy Israel’s racist extreme right wing parties.

Next up with a ‘wish list’ are the haredi parties – United Torah Judaism and Shas – representing the ultra-orthodox communities in Israel. They have an interest in changing the legal status in order to obtain maximum financial benefits for their congregants, while keeping their children out of military service. Their support for the coalition has been bought with handouts from Netanyahu that will be paid for by the Israeli taxpayers, with very few ultra-Orthodox counted  among the tax paying public.

Few are Smiling Today. While there was much smiling at the President’s residence in Jerusalem on December 29, 2022, by members of Netanyahu’s new Israeli government, outside today in Israel’s streets, people protest against this government’s assault on the Supreme Court.  (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The needs and desires of prime minister Netanyahu, his right- wing Likud members and his coalition partners remain focused on self-gratification; they are quite prepared to see the rest of Israel suffer the fallout, from destructive damage to the IDF, right through to an economic collapse.

This article began with South Africa and the 1948 National Party victory which ushered in  disrespect for the established rule of law and ended in 1994 with an economic collapse followed by  precisely what the Nats were seeking to avoid: Black majority rule.

Let me end off by expressing the hope that the end result of extreme right and ultra-orthodox aspirations don’t bring about the end of the Democratic Jewish State of Israel.

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


Disentangling the toxic from merit-based judicial elitism

By Lawrence Nowosenetz

Bitter divisions are wracking Israeli society over the recently passed reasonableness legislation. This legislation is part of what was a planned package of judicial reforms by the coalition government. The reforms are touted as being necessary to restore democracy and return the will of the voters  to the elected representatives of the voters of Israel. The judges of the Supreme Court of Israel have been accused of overstepping the mark, entering politics, and making policy decisions based on their notions of reasonableness of government action and even legislation.

There is more than an undercurrent of criticism of the judges. Various commentators and politicians have stated that the  judiciary is undemocratic as it is unelected, and the judges are an elite and unrepresentative of a large part of  Israeli society.  The criticism of the selection of judges at present, is that the judges control this process and appoint their own peers. Thus a small self-appointed elite is making the important decisions and is out of touch with the wishes and needs of the electorate.  The reforms sought  are said  to aim at remedying this injustice and place the appointment of the judges in the hands of politicians and importantly the majority of whom are coalition government politicians. What can be wrong with this? Government by the people, for the people.

Sounds great except that it is not so simple. There are some gross distortions of social justice and violations of robust established principles of justice and good governance.  Misunderstandings about the role of the judiciary and gross disrespect for the rule of law also inform this most abused idea of elitism being at the root of all the evil within the judiciary.   

Unveiling or Unleashing? Justice Minister Yariv Levin unveils his plan for overhauling the judicial system at a press conference in January 2023 leading to protests across the country now in its ninth month. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

We are living in a populist era where the idea of a select few having a privileged position in society is looked upon with disfavour. We have become so obsessed with the notion of equality and our aversion of discrimination that we have lost sight of the moral basis of elitism, which is merit. We are all equal in worth and all men and women were created in the image of G-d. This is a noble immutable and just social principle except that it overlooks  one thing: We are not equal in ability. The more able are entitled to the fruits of their talents and contributions towards the welfare of society.  This entitlement is based on merit and not on patronage, popularity, political favour  or background.  Elitism is toxic when it is undeserved. George Orwell satirised this in his famous novel Animal Farm where the corrupt political doctrine “some are more equal than others” made a huge impact on  our thought.  We need to disentangle  toxic from  merit-based  elitism.      

Judges  are not public representatives and never were meant to be elected. Indeed popularity, particularly temporal political approval, is no criterion at all for fitness for judicial office. As eminent US law professor Allan Dershowitz has remarked,  the judiciary is actually anti-majoritarian. He has supported the existing  Israeli system of judicial selection as  better than the US system where the US Supreme Court is perceived as being politicised. To state the other side of the coin, judges are and should be  an elite. Peer recommendation plays a legitimate role. Senior jurists  are in the  best position to evaluate the competence and fitness of their colleagues. Successful societies  need top  jurists  who have earned their place by skill, character, experience, maturity, independence, and service to society.  Their loyalty is to the State and the protection of the rights of all that are affected by the laws. The State is not the same as the government. Political ideologies and governments come and go but the State binds every citizen to respect the founding values and rule of law. Judges are only answerable to the rule of law.    

We have elites in all walks of life and professions. Not only judges. We have engineers and scientists who design weapons and technology to protect  us from attack by our enemies.  There are skilled surgeons who save lives and improve the quality of our lives by their expert medical knowledge and dedication. There are hi-tech entrepreneurs who have gifted the world with innovations and  computer solutions which have brought huge investments, profits and tax revenues flowing to Israel.  They are the elites of the Start-Up Nation. None of these people were placed in their positions because they were popular or demographically representative. They succeeded on merit, and it made no difference what background they came from.   

Judges are in a similar expert category although they differ in that they are public officials. They constitute the third layer of government but unlike the two layers of the legislature and the executive, the judiciary is independent of them. That is the essence of the separation-of-powers doctrine. Each has separate spheres of power and competency. Judicial independence is not limited to independent decision making, but also to independence in their appointment from political influence.   This is an international standard protected by various declarations of the UN the EU and other international legal bodies.     

Judges are trained professionals and not ideologues or politicians. They are trained in concepts of rights, procedures, and legal theory. They gain  experience in real situations and have to distinguish conflicting claims of fact and law. They are required to uphold the rule of law.  They are required to make decisions which may conflict with their personal political convictions and have to distance themselves from  predisposed  personal political or social views.  The best of them have an independent outlook which does not change according to the governing politics of the day. Strong moral character and a commitment to basic justice defines them.    

Judicial review is a topic which has engaged lawyers since the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Marbury v Madison in the early 1800’s that established the principle of judicial review in the US, meaning that American courts enjoy the power to strike down laws and statutes that they find to violate the Constitution.

Marbury v Madison. US Supreme Court case that established the principle of judicial review in the United States. 

Law is work in progress. There is no definitive state of the art about the powers of courts to intervene in legislative and executive action. This is a balancing act within a county’s constitutional  framework.  Law develops slowly and sometimes painfully as do social values.  We  cannot however turn back the clock. The role of the judiciary not only in Israel but in other democratic jurisdictions is constantly evolving. The days of parliamentary supremacy are waning. We have seen  the slippery slope to political absolutism. It has led to the violations of basic rights, dictatorship and worse, as seen in Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa. Judges have to ensure the law meets the standards of successful, free, and prosperous democratic societies.  Paul Kruger, the President of the old Boer Republic of the Transvaal (ZAR) in South Africa at the turn of the twentieth century, called ‘judicial review’ the work of the devil. Neither he nor his republic lasted long. 

In countries with an English common law tradition, the courts have always had what is known as an inherent jurisdiction. This includes the power to fill lacunae or vacuums in the law. This includes  an interpretive function based on principles of justice.  Indeed Jewish values are based on  justice rather than  legal rules.  The Torah speaks of tzedek tzedek tirdof (justice  justice shall you pursue) rather than  mishpat mishpat tirdof  (law, law shall you pursue).  

The South African Constitution, internationally held in high regard, states in Section 173 :

 “The Constitutional Court, Supreme Court of Appeal and High Courts have the inherent power to protect and regulate their own process and to develop the common law taking into account the interests of justice.”  

The judges of the Supreme Court have few modern common law sources at its disposal as a result of the youth of the State of Israel and the repeal of English common law precedent in 1980. It therefore has to reach far wider and deeper in developing a system of law based on justice. Its inherent jurisdiction was recognised in the Israel Foundations of Law statute of 1980:

Where a court facing a legal question requiring  decision, finds no answer to it in statute law or case law or by analogy, it shall decide it in light of the principles of freedom, justice, equity and peace of Israel’s heritage”.  

The best lawyers  are required for  this daunting task. It requires wisdom, insight, a solid grasp of established legal norms and values, as well as the roots of Israel’s heritage. Surgeons are not second-guessed for their professional decisions unlike judges who are subjected to degrading and disparaging criticism. People are  often displeased with the outcome of a case and the immediate reaction is that the court is predisposed to favour or not favour a certain person or group. Few bother to examine the reasoning behind the decision.

It is up to the judiciary to interpret laws and apply the rule of law.  Their role is to fill legal gaps  (lacunae). Israel is replete with such gaps as it has no formal constitution,  a Bill of Rights, nor a developed common law. Judges thus have declaratory powers and in this respect they have the last say as to what the law is. This does not mean they are exercising judicial supremacy. They are rather custodians of the higher legal values which constitute the foundational legal  basis of the country. They do not generate legislation; they only exercise quality control and only decide on cases which are brought to them. The fact that they interpret laws and have declaratory powers about the cases before them does not make them dictators nor legislators. Anyone who reads the judicial decisions and  legal literature will soon realise that judges follow a policy of caution and a reluctance when  entering  the arena of government policy  and interfering with  existing laws.   Indeed in the past 30 years of judicial activism, there has  been    approximately one decision on average per year which has overturned  a law.  Judges make law as a last resort. Not a first resort.

The work of the Israel Supreme Court has been oversimplified and distorted in the public discourse raging in Israel. The loud voices proclaim that the court, an unelected elite, imposes its own agenda on government: It  obstructs  the will of the people.   These are at best misleading allegations and at worst shocking and discrediting misrepresentations about the conduct of the judiciary. Many of the loud  supporters of judicial reform possess no expert knowledge and experience in legal theory and practice. Seldom is there any  meaningful discussion of the offending judgments and there is no attempt to examine and analyse the reasoning of these activist  decisions. Some writers  have  made the absurd claim that  ‘reasonableness’ depends on the whim or subjective preference of the judge. This is grossly false. The very legal notion of ‘reasonableness’ is an objective test and stringently applied. Established jurisprudential criteria are carefully weighed up.  

Battle of the Buildings. Supreme Court and the Knesset (behind) in a showdown with the character of Israel’s democracy hanging in the balance.

Judges are highly disciplined professionals governed by strict ethical rules. They are restricted from public comment and cannot defend these accusations.  It subverts the social  order for the trust and confidence of the judiciary to be maligned. Criticism needs to be based on sound legal principles based on international best practice and not ad hominem attacks on the background and ethnicity of judges. This leads to tearing down the legitimacy of the courts and undermines respect for the justice system.  

It is time to value and respect the elites in the judiciary who are the guardians of our freedom and also the custodians of righteous  Jewish values according to the heritage of Israel.

About the writer

Born in Pretoria, Lawrence Nowosenetz obtained his BA at University of the Witwatersrand and LL.B at the University of South Africa. Admitted as an attorney and advocate in South Africa, he practiced at the Pretoria and Johannesburg Bar and worked as a human rights and labour lawyer at the Legal Resources Centre, a public interest law firm. Awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, Lawrence completed an internship in the USA and is presently a part-time Senior Commissioner at the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) as well as a panelist at Tokiso Dispute Settlement – the largest private dispute resolution provider in South Africa. He has also served as an Acting Judge of the Hight Court, 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).


While confidence in Netanyahu’s government drops, consumer prices rise

By David E. Kaplan

At last Saturday night’s demonstration against the governments judicial reform in Kfar Saba, a friend of mine, defying the deafening din, blasted profoundly in my ear:

You know, never in my wildest dreams did I ever believe when I was protesting as a 20-year-old medical student in South Africa that I would be protesting as a doctor in my seventies.”

Five decades later and in another country, and we feel we are back where we started. To get seventy-year-olds and older out every Saturday night standing for hours, listening to speeches repeating what we all know and agree, bellowing “Busha” (shame) repeatedly while holding aloft the Israeli flag and then walking home saying farewells to friends, “Same place, same time next week,” then clearly, to paraphrase the Great Bard:

 “Something is rotten in the State of Israel”.

Saturday Night Fever. A typical Saturday night at city square Kfar Saba with protestors. People tend to stand in same areas meeting the same people each week.

Much of the country knows it, including those brave enough in the Likud at admit it. In my recent article ‘IS THERE EVEN JUST ONE?I asked:

 “Where is the one in Netanyahu’s coalition who is going to finally stand up and say – “enough”?”

Well, maybe cracks are appearing.

Has now the proverbial ‘penny dropped’ – the shekel has – with Likud MK David Bitan’s headline admission in the news? Using the platform of Israel Bar Association’s 12th annual conference, Bitan in his address to Israel’s legal fraternity, admitted that his governing coalition had made a mistake with the judicial reform adding that his government was failing to give sufficient attention to other important issues unrelated to judicial reform – like the soaring cost of living! He alludes that he is not alone by revealing that  “There are [other] members in the Likud who think so too.” Seemingly unafraid – unlike his colleagues –  he publicly admits that his Likud party:

 “….was harmed by this move, and it will continue to be harmed if we don’t reach broad agreements.”

Bitan was clearly seeing what most his political bedfellows were failing see or as the astute 16th century saying goes:

There are none so blind as those who will not see.”

If the coalition pursued its judicial reform legislation warned Bitan, “credit rating companies would follow up on their threats and drop Israel’s rating.”

It was happening.

No Age Limit. Afar cry the writer recalls from the protests in South Africa against Apartheid where the average age was below twenty. Looking around at the protests in Kfar Saba, the average age appears to be 55 and over.

While affirming Israel’s rating in April at A1, Moody’s in July then warned Israel that continuing judicial overhaul legislation would have negative consequences on Israel’s economy. Ever since the judicial reform was presented, credit rating companies have warned that the situation would lead to a downgrade in ratings and hardly unexpected, at the end of July, Morgan Stanley did lower Israel’s rating.

Clearly, Israel’s government is battling with the basics. As Bitan continued in his Bar Association address, the government is failing to give sufficient attention to other important issues that are not related to the reform.

As Israel’s government struggles with bulldozing forward on judicial ‘reforms’ – a misnomer if ever there was one –  consumers struggle with rising prices.

We could be dealing with a lot of things at the same time,” Bitan continued. “The cost of living needs to be dealt with. It’s not just on the government, but the government needs to change directions. It’s not doing its part. The responsibility is ours, and we need to give attention to the rest of the issues outside of the reform. Unfortunately, only some of us are working in other fields.”

What an admission by this Likud MK and what a shocking indictment against the government in which he serves.

David Denounced. Likud MK David Bitan in the Knesset. What he had to say at the recent Israel Bar Association’s 12th annual conference did not please his Likud colleagues, who were quick to respond that it did not represent the party’s position.

Since Netanyahu returned to the premiership at the beginning of 2023, prices in Israel have only continued to rise. Despite campaign promises to address the high cost of living, most of the prime minister’s focus in 2023 has been on passing sweeping judicial reforms, something hardly addressed during the campaign. Although  inflation and the rising cost-of-living were Likud campaign promises, once in government, it relegated these issues to a low priority, subordinate to the judicial overhaul. The result – as confidence in the government has plummeted, consumer prices rise.

Commensurate with Netanyahu government’s failure to grapple with reality, more and more regular Israelis are failing to grapple with their financial situation. Struggling to make ends meet, Sharona Bat Haim, a cleaner and single mother of two girls, told The Jerusalem Post’s Media Line that:

I have no money and prices keep going up. I don’t know how I will cope. I will probably have to stop buying meat for my other daughter, but I don’t want to discriminate.”

Tapping into this cry from the people, opposition leader, Yair Lapid said at a recent protest, “Milk, fruits and vegetables, meat—all the prices are going up. We will come back to power, and we will lower the prices.”

In the first quarter of 2023, foreign investment dropped by 60%. This is according to a Treasury report revealed by Israel’s chief economist on Wednesday.  The preliminary data paints a troubling picture of a steep drop in foreign investment transactions, totaling approximately $6.2 billion. Comparing with the quarterly averages in previous years, the data represents a “HEFTY PLUMMET”.

Is this not a sufficient sobering confirmation of the dire warnings for months by esteemed economists against the government’s controversial judicial overhaul?

Israel needs to recalibrate its priorities. Sadly, the Likud has distanced itself from its lamenting MK David Bitan refuting his public utterances at the Israel Bar Association as “not the position held by the party.”

Warned and Ignored. Rating agency Moody’s warned in July on the negative consequences of the government’s judicial reform for Israel’s economy.

Considering the destructive makeup of the governing coalition and the ‘March of Folly” its leading this country, what is needed is  YES – a pressing overhaul – but not of the judiciary but of Israel’s present political leadership!

This is why seventy-year-olds like every other age of participating protestors across Israel, will continue to block off their calander’s Saturday nights for the foreseeable future.

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).


You cannot hide it nor disguise it; Israel is facing a political crisis. It’s a crisis not only of the state but the state of its people. From a decidedly happy people, we are a people less than happy at the new direction of their country since January 2023 caused by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s governing coalition’s unpopular and controversial overhaul of its judicial system. This is causing anxiety.

Some have found an outlet of this anxiety by expressing  what they are feeling not only in protest and prose but also in poetry. Here below is a poem by a Lay of the Land contributor from Israel’s southernmost resort city of Eilat.

David Kaplan (editor)


By Fonda Dubb, Eilat

Sometimes I feel  my heart beating fast
My breath breathing faster
How can I stand aside and say or do nothing
I loathe the words that are spoken
I loathe the division that is so split and divided
I loathe the violence
That like an inferno rips the country apart.
It affects me so deeply
That I have to write
In the hope that there will be a change of heart
That I can look in the mirror and say
I did something!!
So I feel forgiven
But just for a little while
It takes time to adjust ones thoughts to one of gratitude for the many things bestowed on me
Family and friends to brighten up our days
Eilat with its beauty of mountains and sea.
They are not in the conflict of helplessness that I experience
They are G-d given
The joy of nature, of flowers and trees, butterflies and bees
They too like the birds that sing and fly at night are a gift of life.
I count my blessings every day
To remind myself of the many gifts of life
So never to forget that the opposite of helplessness is light and joy in the miracles of life.
It is my fervent prayer that we all believe in gratitude
To change our thoughts to one of prayer and forgiveness to make a better world to see the ” other side of life”.
Just to be kind to one another is goodness itself
to rid the helplessness we feel and see
A belief that one hand will stretch out and touch each another
So we can cling to hope that will never be abandoned
But will forever with our gratitude
Be intertwined together
While we pray for peace in our blessed land.

*Feature picture: A protester lies in foliage during a demonstration in Jerusalem July 24, 2023 against PM Netanyahu and his governing coalition’s judicial overhaul. (photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters).

About the Poet:

A former South African who daringly in her own unique way challenged the apartheid regime by teaching dance and cooking in “Black areas” in the Eastern Cape and Northern Transvaal, Fonda Dubb today resides in Eilat, Israel. (See article: The Right Moves). Her lifelong concern for others has led to her receiving numerous awards, most notably in 2012 the ‘Woman of the Year Miller Prize’ for volunteerism from the Mayor of Eilat.

In recent times, Fonda has taken to writing poetry drawing from her experiences both in South Africa and Israel, her values, as well as the natural beauty of Eilat. Her guiding star she says, is “a yellowing piece of paper” that hung in the consulting rooms of her late pathologist cousin, Dr. Johnathan Gluckman, who exposed the truth with his post-mortem of the famed Black anti-apartheid activist, Steve Biko, who met his untimely death in police custody. The words on that piece of paper read: “Good men have only to remain silent for evil to prevail”. These words says Fonda, “always stuck with me and influenced my way of thinking.”

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).


What’s happening under the Netanyahu coalition has former South- Africans in Israel worried.

By Larry Butchins

We are under dire threat. Whether many people are ready to accept and believe or not, we are on the brink of becoming what all our detractors and enemies have claimed for decades – an apartheid state. With laws that call for discrimination against Arab Israelis – yes, when funds are held back from Arab communities, that is discrimination; when law makers on the right talk about “giving job preference” to Jews over Arabs, that is racism; when women are told to “cover up” and sit at the back of the bus, that is prejudice – whether we like it or not, and it doesn’t matter if that is “official policy” or not , it is this government which is enabling that type of thuggish, racist, discriminatory behavior. Empowering those who do believe it, to act it out.

I believe that as a former South African, who grew up and then lived under the apartheid regime all my life until making Aliyah, it is my moral duty to raise a red flag and wave it vigorously, to warn what could happen here. It is my moral duty to caution that while I have fervently defended Israel against those who condemn it as an apartheid state, we are rapidly heading in that direction, to hell in a handbasket, and I am horrified by that possibility.

Shades of Shame. Visual imagery of South Africa past that the writer never wanted to revisit elsewhere.

Allow me to hark back to the days of apartheid in South Africa, as a reminder of what life under doctrinaire and dogmatic rule, was really like back then.

One of my earliest memories of apartheid was when I was probably around 10-years-old. Late one night, my parents insisted I accompany my father to take our black maid Mavis to the central train station in Durban. I had to sit in front of the car and Mavis had to sit in the back seat. When on the drive home, I asked my father why I had to go with him, he replied that he had to have proof (me, his white little boy) that he and Mavis were not contravening the Immorality Act. Had he been stopped by the police, driving alone with a black woman, they both would have been arrested on charges under that “immoral” act. He would have copped a large fine (because he was white), and she would have been thrown in jail (because she was black), processed in the system, and not seen the light of day for weeks, possibly even months. I couldn’t quite internalize the message at that age, but it followed me the rest of my life in SA, always looking over my shoulder to check that the dreaded security service, BOSS (Bureau of State Security) wasn’t following me or checking everything I had written, said or done.

Disturbing Developments. At a change of command ceremony on Wednesday night, outgoing Binyamin Regional Brigade commander Eliav Elbaz, said in reference to increasing settler violence that “It should be said in a loud clear voice, that actions of this type are not ethical, not Jewish, and do not contribute to security.” (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

I will quote from a chapter of my book, “Train in the Distance” in which the protagonist, Adam Marks, a reporter on a weekly newspaper in the 1970s – the height of apartheid – laments about his so-called “privileged freedom”.

“Do you think I’m free?

“When I write and publish the word ‘Amandla (Freedom in Zulu) under my name in the columns of a widely circulated newspaper, do you believe that I will not be condemned for that? Do you not understand that I am putting my freedom – and the welfare of my family – at risk? I cannot express my opinions freely, I cannot associate with whom I please: if I wish to invite Black friends to my home for dinner, I will be watched and under suspicion. If I meet Black friends for a day at the beach…well, that’s not going to happen, because we can’t even go to the same beach! I cannot even meet them for a picnic in a public park – unless my Black friends are seen to be my servants – haulers of wood and drawers of water for my benefit.

“Do you not understand that I cannot read, or view or listen to what I want? If I wish to read ‘The Communist Manifesto’, or ‘Lolita’, or ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, or hundreds of other banned books, magazines; or see certain films; listen to music by certain musicians – can you believe Maria Callas singing Lucia di Lammermoor fell under the censors obliterating red pencil? Fats Domino, The Beatles, Rodriguez…how many more?

“Radical new ideas, by writers, artists, musicians and committed, passionate people, are influencing and shaping dynamic new thinking throughout the world…and here we sit, under the yolk of an evil system with evil intent, all because of our ‘privilege’.

“I am not free; my ideas are not free; my life is not free – despite all my privileges, I am still a white victim of apartheid. YOU are white victims of apartheid; and I don’t know when or if it is ever going to end…”

Separate entrances in post offices and banks, stairwells in train stations, trains reserved for different races; busses – those which allowed blacks on board in the first place, insisting they sat at the back – the last three rows reserved for blacks; Christian National Education – indoctrination of school children about the “right” of the white man to conquer the land and confine others to “homelands” or “locations”; the imposition of the morals and religious authority over what we could read, or view, or listen to, or even discuss…

Back of the Bus. Some of the hundreds of Israelis demonstrating against the segregation of men and women on buses in certain neighborhoods of Jerusalem, where the women must sit in the back. (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

I could write volumes on the apartheid regime, its beginnings, middle and end… and how White South Africans enjoyed a multitude of benefits, lifestyle choices and preferential treatment. About how the Afrikaner-led government set itself up as the highest authority in the land – except for the Supreme Court and a group of courageous justices. Despite virulent government opposition, criticism and the possibility of arrest, banning orders, 90- or 180-days imprisonment, they were a light of sanity in a very dark nation.

Under the General Law Amendment Act, the Special Branch was allowed to arrest anyone they suspected of being engaged or involved in any act against the State and to hold them incommunicado for 90 days (and later 180 days) at a time. The Special Branch could interrogate and extract information, and the public was not entitled to any information including even the identity or whereabouts of people being detained. Detainees could literally and effectively “disappear”. If no charges were to be laid, the Special Branch had to release the individual or individuals after 90 (or 180) days. At the time, Prime Minister John Vorster boasted that this was repeatable “until this side of eternity.” A perfect example of the absolute need for an authority higher than the government.[1]

Am I suggesting that bleak Kafkaesque scenario could happen here in Israel? Not exactly, but there are certain resonant and frightening parallels. I do believe that former South Africans, those who came to this beautiful land of ours to flee discrimination and mind control, who came here to a democratic homeland; who came to work for and build a beacon of freedom and enlightenment – albeit somewhat flawed – should now stand up and cry out:

 “We are NOT an apartheid country – and NEVER WILL BE: IT CANNOT HAPPEN.”

[1] South Africa, Overcoming Apartheid, Building Democracy – Detentions Without Trial During the Apartheid Era

About the Writer:

Larry Butchins – I was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and started my journalistic career as a cub reporter on Durban’s morning newspaper, The Natal Mercury, covering fires, accidents, shipping and beach news. I then moved to the Sunday Tribune’s Johannesburg branch office, covering everything from visiting celebrities to political scandals and student anti-apartheid riots. At a protest at Wits University, I was arrested along with student protesters and spent the weekend in a cell in Johannesburg’s notorious John Vorster Square.

Eventually lured into Public Relations, I opened my own PR firm in Durban. On moving to Israel with my family in 1987, I branched from classical PR into Marketing Communication, running a small English-language agency promoting Israeli products abroad, working with Israeli hi-tech enterprises. Five years ago, I self-published my novel Train in the Distance based on my actual experiences as a journalist working under (and often against) apartheid’s rules and regulations.

In addition to professional writing, I write articles and stories, travel blogs – The Offbeat Traveller – and children’s books, two of which have been published in the US and South Africa. I am now entering my third career as a screenwriter and producer for an international TV series based on my novel.

My wife, Marlyn, and I live in Tzur Yitzhak , north of Kfar Saba; have three grown children and four  grandchildren who all live in Mitzpe Ramon.

Contact Details:

Email: larrybtrain@gmail.com

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).


Where is the one in Netanyahu’s coalition who is going to finally stand up and say – “enough”?

By David E. Kaplan

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

                     Simon and Garfunkel (Sounds of Silence)

After 32 weeks of ‘sound’ counseling from the streets  of Israel – not to bring down a government but to save it from self-inflicted folly – lamenting lines in the iconic lyrics of Simon & Garfunkel sadly resonate.

Is ANYONE in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s governing coalition even listening? Are we going to be in the same situation  six months from now?

Is there even one; never mind the biblical 10 from 50 righteous men that Abraham negotiated down with G-d to save the city of Sodom from annihilation?

Millennia later, it is not a desert city but the flourishing nation state of the Jewish people that is at peril and even more difficult than it was for Abraham, we cannot find even one in the governing coalition who will stand up for what is just and sensible and say to his prime minister “Maspik”- (Hebrew: “enough”).

In Whose Hands? Guiding Israel’s destiny are unabashed racist May Golan (left) with fellow arch-supporter of the judicial overhaul and far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

After eight months in power, this government has little to show for itself besides showing contempt for the protestors. Take for instance the Likud Minister for the Advancement of Women’s Status May Golan who in response to being faced by protestors at a restaurant at Ben Gurion Airport, wrote on the X media platform (formally twitter): 

To what other depths of decay will those anarchists sink?”


After all these months of protestors trying to protect and preserve Israeli democracy, this government minister labels them –  “anarchists”.

Is the Likud minister so unaware that an “anarchist” by definition seeks to destroy state institutions not protect them as Israeli protesters are struggling to do. It is coalition members who are behaving like “anarchists”, hellbent on weakening – if not ultimately destroying either by design or indifference – Israeli democracy. They are doing so – despite their protestations – by undermining the efficacy and integrity of the Supreme Court, the hallmark of Israeli democracy. Without a second tier of government  – Israel has no Upper House or Senate – nor a constitution, what check do Israelis have on the excessive exercise of government power besides the Supreme Court? Can this government think beyond its appetites and partisan dispositions? We should be strengthening not weakening the Supreme Court. Until such time of major constitutional changes, what Israel needs and what its economy needs is a robust independent Supreme Court.

It protects the country from the dangerous mindset of the likes of Likud minister Golan.

It says much for the understanding Golan has for democracy when she characterises the protesting milieu in Israel as:

 “depths of decay”.

Golan tweeted further:

 “I have one message for all the anarchists: Move on. This reform will continue to advance even more vigorously …….”

There you have it from the minister and captured in the lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel: “hearing without listening”. No hint of outreach, compromise or future talk; the path forward is “to advance” the judicial overhaul, “even more vigorously…”

Intoxicated like her peers with power, Golan displays only contempt for those who oppose the controversial and unpopular judicial overhaul.

Creators of Chaos. Prime mover of the judicial overhaul that is rocking the country, Israeli justice minister Yariv Levin (right) listens to May Golan during a session of Israeli parliament last month. (Photo: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP/Getty Images)

Is it any wonder from this MK, who has made a political name for herself by denouncing African refugees in Israel, calling them, as reported in The Guardian (April 20), “Muslim infiltrators”, criminals and rapists. She said many have Aids, suggesting they were spreading HIV by working as waiters, and demanded they be expelled from the country. “If I am racist for wanting to defend my country and for wanting to protect my basic rights and security, then I’m a proud racist,” she said at a political rally in 2013 as a member of the far-right Jewish Power party, a descendent of the Kach party that was outlawed under Israeli anti-terrorism laws.

Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party is flush with members who think just like self-proclaimed racist May Golan. Its embedded in the rank and file.  

Forty-nine-year-old Yitzhak Zarka, from the settlement of Ma’ale Efrayim, who said he has been active in the Likud party for 40 years, made headlines last month when he called anti-judicial reform protestors “AshkeNAZIM” who should “burn in hell.”  In case  he was not fully understood, he added, “Not for nothing did six million  die. I’m proud. If only six million more would burn.” In case this man and his behaviour can be dismissed as an aberration, Zarka has been photographed cozying up with many top Likud ministers and MK’s. While there is a move to expel Zarka and others for the embarrassment caused, it is being met with opposition by some in the Likud, with one member saying:

 “I do not remember any other party that expelled any of its members for excessive anger.”

Kiss of Death. Seen here at the Knesset cuddling Benjamin Netanyahu is Itzik Zarka who at last month’s protest near Beit She’an in northern Israel, while  holding a sign reading “the people demand judicial reform”, said “Ashkenazim, whores, may you burn in hell” and “Leftists are traitors, you are the cancer of the country.”  (Photo: Zarka’s Facebook page)

This is not the verbiage of “excessive anger”, but of a disturbing  mindset that should not be anywhere near the levers of power.  With this level of UNREASONABLE behaviour amongst members of Netanyahu’s governing coalition, is it any surprise that the first bit of legislation they pushed through as part of the overhaul of Israel’s judicial system was the passing last month of the controversial “reasonableness” bill which strips the Supreme Court of the power to declare government decisions unreasonable! “It was passed in the most heavy-handed way possible – without a comprehensive discussion of the law’s consequences for the economy or for Israel’s security and foreign relations, and with complete disregard for their recommendations and warnings issued by experts in Israel and abroad,” write two former Governors of the Bank of Israel, Jacob Frenkel and Karnit Flug in their chilling article ‘Stop the legislation, save the economy’. (The Jerusalem Post August 22). They so astutely observe that following the passage of the ‘Reasonableness Bill’ along narrow partisan lines that what had until its passing “been a  negative scenario that might come to pass, has become a negative scenario that is now being realized. Indeed, the market reacted immediately with a sharp devaluation of the shekel, alongside a decline in stock market indices.”

Sounds of Silence to Sound Advice. Ex-Bank of Israel chiefs Karnit Flug (left) and Jacob Frenkel warn judicial overhaul is causing a severe blow to Israel’s economy that may, if not stopped, prove irreversible. (Yonatan Sindel and Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Is this the “reasonable” behaviour we expect from our ‘elected’ office bearers?

The former Bank of Israel governors  continue  that:

 “As of today, investment in hi-tech, the growth engine of Israel’s economy in recent years, continues to fall. This sector is seeing a decline even as the hi-tech industry globally is showing signs of recovery. Moreover, over the past six months, almost NO new hi-tech companies have registered in Israel. Instead, they are registering abroad, which means Israe will lose out on a large share of their future economic activity and the tax revenue they generate. In parallel, there has been a sharp decline in employment and number of jobs available in the hi-tech sector.”

Following the debilitating impact of three years of Covid on the economy, the self-inflicted mess of this government’s policies might cause irreparable damage to the point that it “could become potentially irreversible,” warns former BOI governors Frankel and Flug.

We shudder to think what is “unreasonably” next  from Netanyahu and his reckless band in the Knesset that are ruining instead of running the country.

Which begs the question:

Where is the one that will break rank, speak up and stop the madness?

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


How else to message Jerusalem before it’s too late?

By David E. Kaplan

Late last Wednesday afternoon, I was at the kid’s playground at Tel Aviv’s popular Sarona market, expecting little more than a fun few hours with my grandkids.  Apart from the obvious enjoyment of engaging with the li’l ones, it’s also one of those rare times I can get away having a ‘glida’ (Hebrew: ice-cream), usually “verboten”.  However, what time should have been simple and sweet became complex and sour, for instead of running after them between the play equipment, we the grandparents were met with “Mah..?” (what?) followed by “Lamah…?” (why?) concerning the sudden cacophony of sound, loudspeakers, and angry police keeping “big people” apart. The protest and counter protest was not something to avoid; it was happening adjacent to the playground. How does one explain to  3 and 5 year-olds that the ‘big people’ are angry; that they are trying to send a message to “important” people in Jerusalem but no-one is listening and that if it was Saturday night, their grandparents too would be among the “big people” protesting.

Quite before the Storm. The playground at Sarona in Tel Aviv next to where the protestors from opposing camps congregated necessitating a large police presence.

While this complex drama was playing out, my mind drifted to that profound observation in the 1970 movie classic, Cromwell, when Oliver Cromwell played by the late Richard Harris, arrives in London on horseback from his country estate summoned to an agitated Parliament and says anxiously to his enquiring two teenage sons amidst a public commotion in the streets:

 “When men run out of words, they reach for their swords. Let’s hope we can keep them talking.” 

Wisdom in Words. Says Oliver Cromwell, played by Richard Harris says to his teenage sons, “When men run out of words, they reach for their swords.”

The “we” did not succeed because the king, Charles I, was not interested in listening and a painful civil war ensued.

Today, the Israeli “we” are talking; that is what these protests are about. They are the collective voice of the people. How else can they make their voices heard? Write letters to newspapers and if published will have as much impact as having been drawn in beach sand? Wait until the next election by which time the ethos of this country will be unrecognizable? One could still petition the Supreme Court, which is precisely why Netanyahu wants to  disembowel it of its judicial gut!

Sarona, a Sound Setting. Back in January 2023, Israeli tech company workers stage a one-hour protest at Sarona in Tel-Aviv against judicial overhaul. (Courtesy)

The Supreme Court is to Netanyahu what Thomas Becket was to King Henry II.  Some eight centuries after the first Plantagenet king cried out “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”, Israel’s justice minister, Yariv Levin, hears his “King Bibi” appeal and reaches for his proverbial sword. That is why we are in the mess we are and why the protest will and needs to continue.

At present, we too have neither ‘king’ nor coalition listening.

They say that democracies do not disappear overnight; that they  erode over time, little by little, surely but assuredly until that day the people awake to discover it’s absence. This is not what is happening in Israel. The process could not be more out-in-the-open nor rapid, with a prickly populace awakening every day with an OMG and a groan to the news of another outrageous embarrassing statement or act of misconduct by members of this coalition government. An integral part of this pathetic political pantomime is the prime minister, the master of oratory that has less of an audience at home besides his safe Channel 14, explaining in English to a gullible overseas media, mostly in the USA that the judicial law is “minor” and that democracy fears by the protestors are “silly”.  What Bibi and his gang are orchestrating is not “minor” and the people’s fears for Israeli democracy are not “silly”.

The Israeli people that produced a magnificent country in record time are wise to the  attempted undoing by this catastrophic coalition. They have fought off the enemies from without; they will fend off the enemies from within.

Time to Listen. Uproar over the government’s plans to change the way the judicial system works, has led Israel to be in the grip of one of the most serious domestic crises in its history.

At some stage we hope that reason will prevail and that the judicial overhaul will be SUSPENDED allowing people to talk before they reach for their swords. The constitutional issues that have unsettled this nation are complex having to meet multifarious interest groups across the political, ethnic and religious divide and need time to study, present and then decided upon. Possibly even voted upon in a referendum.

In this way we will avoid the impending implosion and grandparents can safely return to the playground without having to engage five-year-olds about politics.

I may even catch up on the “glida” (ice-cream) I unjustly missed out on.

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).


From the intrepid woman who penetrated the inner sanctum of Iran’s leadership and survived, a warning to the UK to outlaw Iran’s IRCG – before it’s too late

By Catherine Perez-Shakdam

(see her revelations in ‘THE MOSSAD AGENT WHO NEVER WAS’)

Leadership expert Simon Sinek once said, “Leadership is not about being in charge. It is about taking care of those in your charge.”

Regrettably, when it comes to the threats posed by Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the UK’s leadership has fallen short of fulfilling its promise to proscribe the IRGC and hold Tehran accountable.

It is high time for Western capitals, including the UK, to fully assess the dangers such a lack of leadership represents. From Iran’s expansionist agenda to its encroachment on Western institutions through various networks, manipulation of opinions via social media, and the rising threat of sectarian violence, it is crucial to recognize the urgency of addressing these challenges.

She Saw, She Met, She Reveals. Seen here in Tehran is the writer, who like a chameleon, blended into the most dangerous political environment in the world.

Despite acknowledging the threat posed by the Revolutionary Guard to its national security and the safety of citizens, the UK’s leaders have not taken effective measures to proscribe the organization.

Britain’s rulers are more concerned with politicking and avoiding risking the burden of a tactical mistake. But true leadership demands vision and, above all, the courage to stand by one’s beliefs.

Leadership is a call for action, and though wisdom, requires reflection, not chaos. To observe terror tightening its grip on our democratic institutions, threatening not only the integrity of our borders but the very safety of our nationals, is too close to treason for any of us to look away.

The USA designated the IRGC as a terrorist organization in 2019 for:

– its acts of global terror

– violations of the laws of armed conflict

– assassination attempts

– support for regional terrorist groups.

The UK’s delay in following suit raises concerns about the effectiveness of its approach to countering Iran’s malign activities. Iran’s expansionist agenda is a significant concern for global security. The regime’s continual disruption of peace by heightening military tensions in the Middle East and North Africa, along with threats to seize control of the Strait of Hormuz while arguing ‘maritime security,’ are too grave a challenge to our strategic interests – never-mind that of our regional partners – to turn a blind eye in the hope that the Ayatollah might come down from his pulpit long enough to broker a lasting peace.

Global Menace. The IRGC developed itself as a “parallel” or shadow government of Iran, accountable to the supreme leader Ali Khamenei only.

Iran’s regime hunger for conquest and ideological domination – one only needs to listen to the words of its ideologues.

The Revolutionary Guard plays a pivotal role in advancing Tehran’s interests beyond its borders, supporting proxy groups and armed militias in the Middle East. To proscribe, it would draw a line in the sand and signal that Britain is no longer prepared to cede ground. That in the face of the advance of terror, our democracies are willing to stand by their beliefs.

If we are what we believe we are, then I must ask, what is the UK today in the face of the single biggest threat to our way of life?

Public Execution. This year alone, more than 350 Iranians have been hanged, according to Norway-based Iran Human Rights. The rights group noted a 36% increase on the same period last year, likely exacerbated by the ongoing uprising since the death in morality police custody of Mahsa Amini and the subsequent unrest sweeping the country.

The UK’s inaction over proscribing the IRGC hampers efforts to address Iran’s regional influence and its potential to destabilize the Middle East further.

It has skillfully infiltrated and established networks within Western countries, including the UK. Its extensive presence in diaspora communities allows it to wield influence, fundraise, and conduct intelligence operations on foreign soil.

The rise of social media has also become a potent tool for the IRGC to manipulate public opinion, both in Iran and abroad. It seeks to shape narratives and sow discord through coordinated disinformation campaigns, undermining Western institutions and public trust. By not holding the IRGC accountable, the UK inadvertently allows this disinformation campaign to persist unchecked.

The IRGC‘s efforts to radicalize certain demographics by fanning negative religious sentiments pose a growing threat to societal stability. The UK’s lack of action in proscribing the IRGC indirectly perpetuates an environment in which sectarian tensions can escalate, contributing to potential violence and undermining social cohesion.

To effectively counter Iran’s expansionist agenda, encroachment on Western institutions, manipulation of social media, and the rising threat of sectarian violence, decisive leadership is imperative.

State Terrorism. EU foreign policy chief said in January that “the bloc won’t label the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a ‘terrorist’ organisation, for now.”  Protesters gathered in front of the European Union headquarters in Brussels to demonstrate against the Iranian government. (Photo: Ohanna Geron/Reuters)

By fully assessing the dangers associated with a lack of action, Western capitals, including the UK, can take the necessary steps to protect their nations and preserve global stability in the face of the IRGC‘s malign activities.

Only through bold and resolute leadership can we hope to address the multifaceted challenges posed by Iran and safeguard our shared values and security interests.

In the words of another leadership expert, Roselinde Torres, “Great leaders are not head down, they see around corners, they are shaping their future not just reacting to it.”

It is high time for the UK leadership to embrace this philosophy and act decisively to confront the IRGC threat, safeguarding the nation and its citizens from potential harm. As we navigate the complex geopolitical landscape, the importance of strong leadership cannot be overstated.

Tiptoeing around Terror. The UK has rejected calls to proscribe Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a terrorist group in favour of expanding the criteria by which supporters and companies can be put under sanctions. Members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps attend a rally marking the annual Quds Day in Tehran on 14 April 2023. (Photo: Wana News Agency/Reuter)


About the writer:

Catherine Perez-Shakdam is  co-founder and director of Forward Strategy, a boutique media and consultancy company based in the UK. She is a prominent expert in the Middle East, particularly in the domains of Iran and Yemen. With a rich background, including consultancy work for the United Nations Security Council in 2012, she has played a crucial role in shaping policy decisions by providing invaluable insights into Yemen’s War Economy, uncovering the intricate web of corruption, trafficking, and money laundering.

Catherine has also established herself as a respected voice in the media landscape. She has been a frequent contributor and commentator for outlets such as the I24, Al Jazeera, the BBC, The Jerusalem Post, Politico, the Daily Express, and the Daily Mail. Her contributions have shed light on critical issues, offering a nuanced understanding of complex situations.

Having previously served as a Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, Catherine has authored compelling policy recommendations and research papers to address the increasing influence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, exposing its activities and providing a deeper understanding of its operations.

In 2021, Catherine gained international attention when news broke of her remarkable decade-long infiltration of the Iranian regime, during which she was able to gain access to the highest echelons of the regime’s inner circles. Unsurprisingly, she was promptly labeled an ‘enemy of the state’ by the regime. Undeterred, Catherine has courageously utilized her extensive knowledge and expertise to denounce the activities of the Islamic Republic, helping to unveil a system that had long operated under a shroud of secrecy. Her revelations have provided a unique perspective on Iran’s actions, challenging its narrative and exposing the true nature of its operations.

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).