Whatever happened to the art of conversation and polite debate? There used to be a time when we could engage in robust, often passionate discussion and if we had divergent opinions, we would politely agree to disagree and then move on. No friendships were ended. No ties were cut. Nobody was “cancelled”.
Cancel culture is an ugly new phenomenon and lately it seems to be gaining a stronger tailwind than ever before. One only has to visit the social media platforms of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to see how anyone with a different opinion from the “woke” norm, are summarily subjected to online abuse and then cast aside. Cancelled. Persona non grata. You will never work in this town again!
It would appear that the first casualty of this is nuance. Understanding the complexities of issues is important if we are to find middle ground – and tolerance. Somewhere and nobody is certain when we lost our ability to politely and respectfully debate, discuss and engage in discourse. Having an opinion today can get you into serious trouble. As the momentum from Black Lives Matter protests grows around the world so to increasing extremism of some elements within the ranks that are pushing an agenda. One of the issues of this agenda is erasing those parts of history that explain the injustices of the past because they don’t support a narrative that the movement would like to promote. Statues, movies such as the classic “Gone with the Wind”, product branding and even great literary works like “To kill a Mockingbird” seem to have no place in current society because there may be references to inequality and racism.
From New York to South Carolina, and from London to Liverpool, statues are being pulled down off their respective plinths. The war on history and culture has started. But will cancelling important historical narratives really bring about racial equality or justice?
The only way to move forward, to teach tolerance and help to heal and understand the injustices and hurts of the past so that we can all do better is to have nuanced, robust and even painful conversations.
When Apartheid fell in South Africa, there were hearings conducted between victims and perpetrators of the racist system. The intention was to try and heal some of the terrible pain of the past and to help each side understand each other’s experience. Perhaps this is needed in other parts of the world so that the perpetrators can understand and learn, and we can all work towards a better, more just and tolerant society.
It is not just around issues of race where cancel culture is flourishing. Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling, created a storm that had muggles on social media channeling their inner Voldemort. All jokes (and bad references to the wizarding world) aside, Rowling’s attempts to explain her position regarding the transgender community. The row began after Rowling responded to a headline on an online article discussing “people who menstruate” by writing in a tweet: “I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
Critics accused her of being transphobic, but Rowling said she stood by her comments, saying it “isn’t hate to speak the truth”. Rowling took umbrage to the definition of women as “people who menstruate” and in an impassioned essay warned of the erosion of the identity of women.
Rowling was summarily called a “TERF” – transgender exclusionary radical feminist and cancelled across social media. Even the stars of her movies, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, whose careers were effectively birthed by the series, criticized Rowling. Was this because they honestly took offence or because they themselves were fearful of being cancelled should they be seen NOT to take a stand?
Cancel culture which is favoured by the far left is the most illiberal form of liberalism. There is nothing progressive about killing debate – or careers.
There is also a difference between cancel culture and holding someone accountable for their actions. By removing debate and discussion, the ability to teach the importance of taking accountability and the relevant consequences falls by the wayside.
The one area where cancel culture seems to have disappeared is around antisemitism. This ancient hatred is allowed to go unchecked. It is quite unbelievable that while the world holds important and necessary discussions around race, the rising discrimination and hatred targeted at Jews is roundly ignored. Those of us active in the fight against antisemitism are routinely told “don’t make it about you”. This is an appalling double standard. Jews are paying with their lives having been killed in synagogues, museums, grocery stores and in their homes from Pittsburgh to Paris. The time for silence is over.
The only way to fight racism is to deal with all forms of hatred and prejudice. Fighting racism effectively should not be done at the expense of promoting another form of prejudice, including antisemitism.
Cancel culture is dangerous. At a time when the world has become more and more polarized, we can ill afford more divisions, let alone shutting down conversation and people entirely. The dangers of this kind of extremism supported by the far left are that eventually the pendulum will swing in the opposite direction and give a tailwind to the alt-right.
The only way forward is to seek middle ground and engage in discourse and education.
Perhaps the time has come to cancel this cancel culture?
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
Well, there should be some comfort in that it is less harmful to fell an enemy made out of stone or metal than human flesh but where and when will it end?
What heroes of history that inspired at the time a statue, can structurally stand the test of time? If the pulling down of GeneralGeorge Washington’s statue, as occurred last Thursday in Portland, Oregon and that a statue of Sir Winston Churchill in London’s Parliament Square had to be boarded up, then few kings or queens, generals or their soldiers, philosophers, writers or poets, adventurers and explorers or even religious leaders are safe!
Maybe Israel is thankfully free from attack here! Apart from a bust of David Ben Gurion at Israel’s international airport and a comical statue of the first Prime Minister on a beach in Tel Aviv doing a handstand in a bathing costume, there are no official statues of its leaders or anyone else for that matter.
Of course, statues are not just material but are the embodiment of ideas and beneath the veneer in the current climate, lies the heinous legacy of slavery. However, to Israelis and Jews, coupled with the systemic racism embedded in American society is the concern of the spike in global antisemitism. It is hardly surprising why there is increasing immigration of Jews to Israel from those regions where it is most felt.
From a parochial perspective one can ask if there is a global calling for the pulling down of statues, why mostly focus on the 19th century; why not start say in the ancient land of the Pharaohs? There are the statues of Ramesses II, considered the principal villain of the Exodus story. Unlike the pharaoh “who knew Joseph”, the pharaoh of Moses was cruel and vindictive and when Moses asks him to release the Israelites, Pharaoh makes the slaves work even harder. (Exodus 5:7-8). So evil was this Pharaoh, it took no less – according to the Bible – God’s intervention to free the Jews from bondage, annually celebrated on Passover each year.
Should we expect today’s Egyptians to tear down statues associated with ancient slavery?
Do the lives of Jews matter enough that there should be a demand for the removal of the statues of King Edward I and some of his royal predecessors who had little problem persecuting the vulnerable Jewish community of their realm?
In Germany there is no shortage of statues to the influential and esteemed religious thinker Martin Luther – the seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation but who would clearly qualify today as a racist.
In a paragraph from his “On the Jews and Their Lies” , Luther deplores Christendom’s failure to expel the Jews. Moreover, he proposed “What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews”:
“First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools … “
“Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed.”
“Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them”
“Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb …”
“Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside …”
“Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them …”
“Seventh, I recommend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow …”
Considered a powerful influence this 14th century thinker on the 20th century Nazis, should not the statues of Luther who advocated the felling of Jewish life, so too be felled?
Of course not!
While for a time, the French crown was happy to have Jews in its lands paying taxes, however, that all changed in 1394 when Charles VI suddenly demanded they leave the country once again. Permitting a brief period to sell their possessions, the Jews of France were given the royal boot and there was hardly a Jewish presence in the land again until the 1700s, when Jews fleeing violence and discrimination further East arrived in Alsace and Lorraine. By the eve of the French Revolution, there were roughly 40,000 Jews in France.
Should the many statues of Charles VI inspire a storming today for the people of France that over two centuries ago lead to the ‘Storming of the Bastille’?
Of course not!
What of the statues of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon who sponsored the exploration of the Americas but also spearheaded in 1492 the expulsion of the Jews of Spain with the edict known in Spanish as Decreto de la Alhambra, Edicto de Granada? Only in December 1968, was this vile edict formally and symbolically revoked!
Should their statues not go the way of today’s discredited racists?
Of course not!
Systemic racism as with antisemitism should be addressed seriously not cosmetically. It is easy to ‘attack’ statues, but to assail deep-rooted hatred is far more complex.
But this is what is required!
The images in the media of the storming of statues reminded me of that famed dystopian novel by the American writer Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 that so intrigued me as a teenager. First published in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 presents a future American society where books are outlawed, and “firemen” burn any that are found. Irrespective of its content, all history and knowledge recorded in books are to be destroyed. Could ‘suspect’ statues face a similar fate?
Personally, as a lover of history – I enjoy being exposed to the statues of historical characters as I do exploring castles and cathedrals, fortresses and forts as well as the battlefields of Waterloo, Crecy, Agincourt, Towton, Yorktown, Gettysburg and closer to home – Megiddo and the Old City of Jerusalem. There will always be reason to find fault with the relics of the cataclysmic encounters of the past, but should we expunge their presence?
It was illuminating however, to discover gestures of monumental understanding by Israel following its wars with Jordan and Egypt with whom it now enjoys peace agreements. Soon after the 1967 Six-Day War ended, East Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents wanted to erect a monument to the Jordanian soldiers who had died in the battle for the city.
Faced with this request was Meron Benvenisti, the new Israeli administrator over Jerusalem’s eastern sector and later a Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem. He understood that there was formidable opposition to the idea among the Jewish residents of the recently unified city. As he later explained, “it was as if relatives of World War II German Luftwaffe pilots killed in bombing raids over England were demanding a memorial in Trafalgar Square.”
Navigating delicately through a labyrinth of emotion and sensitivities, Benvenisti approved the erection of a simple marble obelisk commemorating the Jordanian soldiers who died defending what had been the Jordanian-held sector of the city. Benvenisti hoped that it would help reduce intercommunal hatred and consolidate coexistence and while that may not yet have materialized, the monument still stands at the northeast corner of the Old City.
No less remarkable is that not far from the “Ad Halom” Bridge in Ashdod, stands a memorial to the Egyptian soldiers who died invading Israel in 1948. It was constructed as part of the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, where Egypt agreed not to dismantle and to protect two existing memorials in the Sinai to fallen Israeli soldiers.
As was pointed out in a 2012 Times of Israel article:
“Imagine a memorial in Paris to the German soldiers who died invading France in May of 1940 or a statue honoring the 65 Japanese airmen who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor.”
It would be unthinkable!
Nevertheless, an obelisk of red Egyptian granite with an inscription honoring the Egyptian war dead, in four languages – English, Hebrew, Arabic and Hieroglyphics – stands for all to see and honour.
Despite the hatred and threatening nature imbedded in the rhetoric of Israel’s once neighbouring enemies, Israel is proud to honour with these monuments, the dead of those Jordanian and Egyptian soldiers it once fought against.
There will be no dismantling in Israel of these monuments. Rather, they serve as structural reminders on our landscape to preferably pursue peace rather than war.
Maybe the only contribution I can safely add to this complex debate is to suggest that statues or monuments in the near future should be to our heroes in the medical profession who during the current Corona pandemic are risking their lives and of their families. These are men and women who soldier on not to HURT but to HEAL.
In this, we may find a global consensus.
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
“Annexation will mean Apartheid,” warns Benjamin Pogrund, a former South African living in Jerusalem since the 1990s and who was a great friend and ally of anti-Apartheid icon Nelson Mandela and a courageous crusader with the pen against Apartheid. Why is this voice sounding alarm today so important? Simply put, a respected political analyst who has the proven moral stature earning his spurs in some of the darkest days in the struggle against Apartheid, Pogrund has consistently, persuasively, and publicly, resisted the comparison of past South African Apartheid with the present political landscape in Israel. Despite taking flak – in sometimes disrespectful language – he persistently argues in books and articles and lectures in many countries that whatever inequalities or injustices transpires in the West Bank it is NOT Apartheid.
That is today; tomorrow has him worried!
It also has worried many of the Middle East countries that Israel has successfully improved relations with – a champion achievement. These moderate Arab countries are sounding alarm bells of the consequences of a unilateral annexation in large parts of the West Bank without offering Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians who live in these areas.
Joel C. Rosenberg writing in The Jerusalem Post writes, ( June 2) reveals that “Not a single one of my Arab contacts are telling me they will be fine with Israeli annexation. To the contrary, all of them are telling me this will seriously rupture relations with Israel. What’s more, they are baffled by the timing.”
Citing an Arab official in a Gulf state:
“I can’t understand why Israel is doing this now. Arab relations with Israel are so good, better than ever. The prospect of historic breakthroughs with the Gulf states are improving every day. The last thing we need is new tensions with the Israelis. We have too much on our plates. The COVID crisis has been devastating. Our attention is totally focused on protecting the health of our people and re-opening our economies. Who benefits from creating a new crisis now?”
Also worried over the Israeli government’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank are some of the most prominent and respected names in British Jewry, saying such a move would be an existential threat to Israel. Among 40 signatories expressing “concern and alarm” in an unprecedented letter to Mark Regev, Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, are:
Sir Ben Helfgott, one of the best-known Holocaust survivors in Britain; the historians Sir Simon Schama and Simon Sebag Montefiore; the former Conservative foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind; the lawyer Anthony Julius; the philanthropist Dame Vivien Duffield; the scientist Lord Robert Winston; the former MP Luciana Berger; the Times columnist Daniel Finkelstein and the author Howard Jacobson.
The signatories assure that their concerns are “shared by large numbers of the British Jewish community, including many in its current leadership, even if they choose not to express them”.
Writing as “committed Zionists and passionately outspoken friends of Israel,” they fail to see the annexation as “a constructive step.”
Rather, they view it instead, as “a pyrrhic victory intensifying Israel’s political, diplomatic and economic challenges without yielding any tangible benefit.”
Noting the “grave consequences for the Palestinian people”, they warn that Israel’s international standing would suffer as the annexations would be “incompatible with the notion of Israel as both a Jewish and democratic state.”
Why so? Primarily because annexing land and not its population has been tried before and we know where that ended up!
Apart from the damage to Israel’s international reputation – pointing out that the UK government will oppose the annexation plan and would bolster calls for boycotts and sanctions against Israel – the signatories further warn of “The impact on diaspora Jewry and its relationship with the state of Israel.” They counsel that “The British Jewish community is an overwhelmingly Zionist community with a passionate commitment to Israel. We proudly advocate for Israel but have been helped in doing so by Israel’s status as a liberal democracy, defending itself as necessary but committed to maintaining both its Jewish and democratic status.”
This is a serious warning from serious people – Jews and Zionists committed to Israel’s destiny – physically, spiritually and ideologically.
Hard-hitting, the letter concludes that this policy “not only lacks merit but would pose an existential threat to the traditions of Zionism in Britain, and to Israel as we know it.”
While it would come as little surprise for the EU to condemn such a move, individual European nations are making headline news in pressurising Israel to nix annexation, notably Germany, one of Israel’s staunchest friends and a supporter in the EU. The German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, FM is expected to visit Israel shortly to warn against annexation. There is little doubt that if Israel proceeds as the Prime Minister is so indicating, the pressure for sanctions will mount, and Israeli diplomacy will instantly shift from an advance position – a success that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can deservedly take huge credit for – to one of defence.
Is this what the Israeli public want and is prepared for?
Of course, there will be those supporters of annexation who would argue, like Brutus in Shakespeare’s’ Julius Caesar that:
“There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”
In other words, Israel has a window of opportunity with a supportive American administration, so best to act now than wait and lose the initiative.
As Brutus hammers home to point:
“And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures.”
While these wise words may impress theatre audiences, for Brutus it would lead him to perish at the Battle of Philippi.
It proved “A march of folly”, typically where leaders pursue policies contrary to their own interests.
Are Israelis, who must endure the consequences, prepared to take the risk?
At least half of the country’s people think not as reflected in a recent poll by the Israel Democracy Institute think-tank. While some in the media chose to headline, “Half of Israelis support annexing parts of the West Bank’, it no less meant that half do not or have serious doubts.
This was further evidenced by the thousands of Israelis Jews and Arabs who protested at Rabin Square last Saturday night against the proposed annexation.
And what of the financial implications?
As reported in The Jerusalem Post on the June 9, David Brodt, a former Finance Ministry director-general, warns that the cost to annex parts of the West Bank would cost the Israeli taxpayer NIS 67 billion per year. He bases his dire prediction using a small representative group of the Palestinian population that will potentially be included in the annexation focusing on the increases to the budget of the National Insurance Institute, the Education Ministry and the Welfare Ministry.
As with the costs of the Corona crisis that was not anticipated and hence unpredictable, what would be the added costs to security in the case of heightened tensions?
As Israel marches hastily into a future of unknown consequences, would it not be prudent that “We, the people…” collectively think through the plan so that if and when annexation may take place, it occurs not in haste but after thoughtful consideration?
Is that too much to ask for?
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
Street signs are telling lessons in Israel’s history, revealing friend from foe
By David E. Kaplan
There is good reason why there are streets in Israel named after the 33rd president of the United States, President Truman – even a moshav ‘Kfar Truman’ three kilometres east of Ben Gurion International Airport – and not his predecessor the 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR).
It is no careless omission but one of deliberate intent!
No less a statesman than Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion said of Harry Truman, “as a foreigner I could not judge what would be his place in American history; but his helpfulness to us, his constant sympathy with our aims in Israel, his courageous decision to recognize our state so quickly and his steadfast support since then has given him an immortal place in Jewish history.”
No such words could ever have been said about his predecessor.
FDR’s antipathy towards Jews both in word and deed is well documented. However, most revealing is Rafael Medoff April 5 article in The Jerusalem Post “The Saudis, the Jews and FDR’s dog” where one is left in little doubt that FDR – unlike his successor – would not only have NOT supported the creation of the Jewish state of Israel – he would have opposed it!
And this is with full knowledge of the enormity of the Holocaust!
Medoff’s article reports on FDR’s grandson, Hall Delano Roosevelt, working for an Iowa-based public relations firm – the LS Group – on a Saudi-financed public relations campaign to celebrate his late grandfather’s pro-Saudi policies. The campaign anchors on the 75th anniversary of FDR’s meeting with King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud that took place on February 14, 1945 on the deck of the USS Quincy.
It was not the optics of the meeting between the US president and the first monarch and founder of Saudi Arabia who ruled from 23 September 1932 to 9 November 1953 that was alarming; but the substance of the conversation between the two leaders as it pertained to Jews.
Taking notes at that fateful meeting was William Eddy, the US ambassador to Riyadh. He wrote down the remarks of the two leaders in the form of a “Memorandum of Conversation”, which both the President and the King signed. One of the major topics of discussion was:
Whether or not the Arab world could accept the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine
Roosevelt asked the Saudi King for his view of “the problem of Jewish refugees driven from their homes in Europe.”
Ibn Saud responded that he opposed “continued Jewish immigration and the purchase of land [in Palestine] by the Jews.” In supporting his position, the King noted that “the Arabs and the Jews could never cooperate, neither in Palestine, nor in any other country.”
The US President seemed to share this assessment as he “replied that he wished to assure his majesty that he would do nothing to assist the Jews against the Arabs and would make no move hostile to the Arab people.”
Hardly nuanced, this meant – no future Jewish state in Palestine.
The King suggested that the Jews should be “given living space in the Axis countries which oppressed them,” rather than Palestine.
Horrifying by its insensitivity was FDR’s response to Ibn Saud:
Willian Eddy writes:
“The President remarked that Poland might be considered a case in point. The Germans appear to have killed three million Polish Jews, by which count there should be space in Poland for the resettlement of many homeless Jews.”
Roosevelt colludes with the Saudi monarch of “resettling” Jews on the burial site of murdered European Jewry!
Several weeks after the meeting, on March 10, Ibn Saud wrote to Roosevelt, requesting the President oppose any support of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
FDR replied on the 4th April by recalling “the memorable conversation which we had not so long ago” and reaffirmed that “no decision [will] be taken with respect to the basic situation in that country without full consultation with both Arabs and Jews” but further asserting that he “would take no action, in my capacity as Chief of the Executive Branch of this Government, which might prove hostile to the Arab people.”
In other words – no support for a sovereign Jewish homeland.
Roosevelt, who was quick to recognize the “INFAMY” of Japan when it attacked Pearl Harbour in 1941 killing 2,403 Americans, failed to see the “INFAMY” of the Nazis and their European collaborators in the murder of six million Jews when he addressed a joint session of Congress on March 1, 1945 and said:
“I learned more about the whole problem, the Muslim problem, the Jewish problem, by talking with Ibn Saud for five minutes than I could have learned in the exchange of two or three dozen letters.”
Even members of his own party were astounded on his reliance of a sworn enemy of the Jews as his expert advisor. Colorado Democrat Sen. Edwin Johnson sardonically commented:
“I imagine that even Fala would be more of an expert.”
‘Fala’ was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s dog!
The following month, FDR suddenly died in office and President Truman was sworn in as the 33rd president of the USA. Three years later, on May 14, 1948, just after 6.pm, Charlie Ross, President Truman’s press secretary read aloud the following:
“Statement by the President. This government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine….The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the new State of Israel.”
This is why as Israel pursues its journey on the ‘road’ ahead, there will always be streets in the Jewish state called Truman and never one named Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Saudi Writers To Palestinians: Accept Trump’s Peace Plan Or “You’ll Regret It Later”
By David E. Kaplan
While British Prime Minister Boris Johnson lavished praise on Donald Trump’s vision for Middle East peace during the PM’s question time in the House of Commons, far more telling was the ‘Shifting Sands’ responses from Saudi Arabian intellectuals and journalists.
In 1960, a British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan spoke of a ‘Wind of Change’ blowing across the continent of Africa. Could it be that in 2020, another such transformative shift could be blowing across the Middle East, emanating from the Arabian Peninsula –the birthplace of the Islamic prophet Mohammed?
While and to be expected, there is no change of the solid Saudi support of the Palestinian people and their quest for statehood, nevertheless, the official Saudi position on U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” was one of support, albeit qualified.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry reaction was clearly revealed in the Riyadh-based, pro-government Saudi daily newspaper, Al-Riyadh in the January 29, 2020 edition:
“the Kingdom appreciates the efforts made by President Trump’s administration to develop a comprehensive Palestinian-Israeli peace plan, and it encourages the start of direct peace negotiations between the sides under U.S. sponsorship, in which any dispute regarding details of the plan will be settled. This, in order to advance the peace process and arrive at an agreement that will actualize the brother Palestinian people’s legitimate rights.”
This is a marked shift in attitudes from the past and a clear indication to move the process forward.
To encourage the Palestinians and offer reassurance that they were not being abandoned by the kingdom’s “qualified” support for the plan, the Saudi press reported in Al-Watan that King Salman spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas by phone, assuring him of “the Kingdom’s steadfast position vis-à-vis the Palestinian cause and the rights of the Palestinian people.”
Over and above the royal position, most illuminating is the support the peace initiative has received from the Saudi media, as well as telling tweets by intellectuals and journalists.
Noting the famous line by famed Israeli diplomat, Abba Eban that “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”, a number have been calling on the Palestinians not to miss “this opportunity” and to approach the plan with a positive mindset.
The articles and tweets recall that every plan offered to the Palestinians has been worse than the one preceding it and that if they reject the ‘Deal of the Century’ now, they may well long for it in the future.
Hereunder are extracts from articles and tweets:
Ibrahim Al-Nahas in the Saudi daily Okaz
Hasten not to reject and examine the plan carefully is the advice to the Palestinians from Political Science lecturer at King Saud University and Saudi Shura Council Member, Ibrahim Al-Nahas.
In an interview with the Saudi daily Okaz, Al-Nahas expressed that “Trump’s Peace Plan,’ or, as media call it, the ‘Deal of the Century,’ is an important stage in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process in particular, and in the peace process in the Middle East in general.” While this “does not mean that it should be accepted without discussion of its goals and objectives,” he added that “all the Palestinian elements must examine the plan carefully, and especially while keeping in mind past experience [with previous proposals]. ……”
He advised that Palestinian decision-making should not be linked “to regional elements [such as Iran, Qatar, or Turkey], as some Palestinian factions and movements do,” and “cease the accusations of treason voiced by some of the Palestinians and Arabs against Arab countries that maintain advanced ties with the U.S.”
Ahmad Adnan in Okaz
Saudi journalist Ahmad Adnan wrote in his column in the Saudi daily Okaz located in Jeddah.
“The PA has made negative statements against the deal. I maintain that at this stage it needs a friend to be honest with it, telling it and advising it: Sign the deal and then curse it as much as you want, day and night. The Palestinians have in decades past specialized in missing golden opportunities because of [their] mistaken assessment of their capabilities and of the crisis.”
After listing a number of examples of these ‘missed opportunities”,
Adnan writes that “In actuality, the Palestinian cause is no longer the Arabs’ main cause – not because the Arabs have given up on Palestine, but because this matter [i.e., the Palestinian plight] is mirrored in all Arab states, as we have seen in Syria, for example. The Palestinians will hear the merchants of the Palestinian cause creating a great uproar and will discover too late that this uproar is aimed at exploiting them in order to take over and destroy the region.”
“Perhaps the merchants of the [Palestinian] cause will manage to torpedo the Deal of the Century, and, as we today bemoan the [missed opportunity of the] Arab peace initiative, we will tomorrow bemoan the Deal of the Century – while the Palestinians, unfortunately, descend towards the fate of the [American] Indians…”
Khaled Al-Suleimanin Okaz
Concerned that if the Palestinians reject the deal that they will be compelled to relinquish even more, Khaled Al-Suleiman wrote in his column in ‘Okaz:
“The history of the Palestinian cause has proven that reality is the greatest enemy of the Palestinians. The price of Palestinian and Arab rejection of every peace plan was [only] more concessions, beginning with the partition plan through the Clinton plan to the Trump plan.
It should be noted that the Palestinian decision-making has always been subject to pressure and control by Arab regimes that harmed the Palestinians as much as Israel did, if not more.
Today, the Palestinians again find themselves facing a peace plan that gnaws away more of their rights and sets them against options even more bitter than those in the past. But rejecting [the plan] this time does not mean that the [next] will carry a lower price-tag. International reality is now presenting the Palestinian cause with the worst possible scenario, since it is weak, isolated, and ignored. Therefore, the Palestinians’ options today are more limited, and cannot tolerate unrealistic positions.
“The Palestinians must calmly examine the reality of their struggle with Israel and of their relations with the Arab [regimes], so as to draw up a position that will serve their interests, not the slogans of others. All the Arab regimes that have in the past traded in their cause, and that continue to do so, live within their own independent borders, far from any state of war with Israel. Their support for the Palestinians consists of nothing but hollow slogans and incitement, for which the Palestinians pay with their spirit, blood and money.”
Muhammad Al-Osaimi in the Saudi daily Al-Yawm
Noting that the Palestinians have missed many opportunities over the years, columnist Muhammad Al-Osaimi in the pro government Arabic daily newspaper Saudi Al-Yawm daily, argues that had they grasped them, they would have been better off today. He therefore counsels they should not be quick to reject the ‘Deal of the Century’:
“Who knows how many opportunities [for peace] the Palestinians have had in the past 30 years? Had these opportunities been realized, they could have been today in a better situation as a people and as a country …… Now they face another opportunity that they are rejecting, and that they may long for in another five or 10 years.”
Truth On Twitter
“The Day Will Come When The Palestinians Yearn For It” is the message from Saudi intellectuals on Twitter.
Saudi intellectual Turki Al-Hamad tweets:
“The Palestinians are making a big mistake by not agreeing to the American peace plan. I mean, what’s the alternative? The Palestinians have missed numerous opportunities because of slogans that led [them] astray and strategies of ‘all-or-nothing.’ The end result was nil: continued occupation, loss of Jerusalem, erosion of large parts of the West Bank, and an internal Palestinian struggle harsher than the conflict with Israel.”
He followed with this further tweet:
“Previous opportunities were better than this one, but their answer was always no. This was when the Palestinian issue headed the global agenda. Today, the Palestinian issue has been cast into oblivion, and the Palestinians have no other alternative – unless the chaos of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or the powerlessness of the PLO can be considered options.”
And in a subsequent tweet::
“Politics is the art of the possible, and what is possible today is the proposed American plan. Should the deal be rejected, the alternative will be the continued erosion of the West Bank territories. Then the Palestinians will say ‘If only we had agreed’ – just like with the previous plans.
It’s time for the Palestinians to change their behavior so that it serves the interests of their people…”
A former columnist for Okaz and the Al-Arabiya website , Saleh Al-Fahid, tweeted:
“The Palestinians’ rejection of the Deal of the Century reminds me of their rejection of the 1947 Partition Plan and of all peace plans proposed to them since then. Each time they were offered less, and they pointlessly yearned for the previous plan. I am worried that if they reject the Deal of the Century, the day will come when they yearn for it …”
Another Okaz columnist, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Lahim tweeted criticism of the Palestinian organisations opposing the deal:
“Imagine you had a hen that laid golden eggs. Would you relinquish her? Never. You would make an uproar so as to fill your pockets. This is the situation of the Palestinians who trade in the Palestinian cause and reject peace…”
Away from Saudi Arabia, no less illuminating of changing perceptions on Israel was Al-Jazeera presenter Faisal al-Qasim tweeting that “Zionism was the most successful project in the twentieth century.” Despite risking the wrath of his 5.5 million followers for “his kind of praise for the Zionists”, al-Qasim was not deterred.
“Who are the most advanced, developed, democratic and successful … Israel or the Arab regimes?
…..The majority of Arabs, if they want to insult you, they describe you as ‘Zionist,’ knowing that the most successful project in the past century and the present is the Zionist project, while all projects of the Arabs, especially Arab nationalism, have failed. Before you use the word Zionist as an insult you must first reach the shining sole of Zionism.”
A Far Cry
These words reveal changing mindsets.
They represent a far cry from the crazed anti-Israel rhetoric of the 1960s fueling Egyptian strongman, Gamal Abdel Nasser to unite the fractious Arab states behind him leading to the Six Day War. Now, in 2020, that anti-Israel fanaticism has begun to dissipate, and a new somewhat more positive attitude toward the Jewish state has begun to emerge not only among rulers eager for allies in confronting Iran, but also among segments of the Arab populace across the Middle East eager for peace and prosperity.
Charles, The Prince of Wales, addressed world leaders on the 75thanniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Israel on January 23rd 2019. I was most moved by the words of HRH that “we must be fearless in confronting falsehoods and resolute in resisting words and acts of violence.”
Given this strong and powerful message, I was surprised and disappointed with his words spoken and message conveyed during visit with Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, the very next day in Bethlehem.
The “falsehoods” that he called out the day prior are the ones that emanate from the Palestinian Authority. Mr. Abbas is currently in the 15th year of a 4-year elected term. He serves unchecked as a dictator without any accountability. He terrorizes his own people with limited freedom of speech and arrests those that associate with Jews or sells property to them.
Under his leadership, Christians now make up less than 2 percent of the population in Bethlehem once a dominant Christian community. The Christians are subjected to discrimination and suffer great difficulty living in Bethlehem.
Mr. Abbas has operated unfettered with mismanagement of monies provided. Billions of dollars in aid from the US, EU and several other donor countries has flowed to Mr. Abbas. A lack of accountability and transparency from the Palestinian Authority has deprived Palestinians of a significant part of the funds.
Only after a public outcry of money wasted has the recently built $13mn Presidential Palace – that included helipads, guest quarters and administrative offices 4,700 square metres (50590.38 sq./feet) – been decided to be used “a national library” instead, according to the Palestinian Minister of Culture, Ihab Bseiso.
A $13mn library with helipads?
Beyond corruption, Mr. Abbas and the Palestinian Authority have used these funds to encourage violence. It is estimated in 2019 that $149.7 MM went for annual payments to security prisoners, terrorist “martyrs” and their families, encouraging people to kill Jews.
Instead of visiting with Mr. Abbas, I wished he had visited the sights of those killed by Mr. Abbas’ pay for slay program. I was in the region while he was there and made my commitment to bear witness where Ari Fuld (father of four), Dvir Sorek (an 18-year-old Yeshiva student) and teenagers NaftaliFrenkel, GiladShaar and Eyal Yifrach were kidnapped at a bus stop and then brutally murdered. I saw young lives taken away simply because they were Jews. Those who murdered them, solely because they were Jews, were paid approximately three times the amount they would have made working a regular job. The ramifications of this ‘Pay to Slay’ program are monumental. I can only imagine what his HRH might do if this program were to take hold in Britain.
When he visited Bethlehem, he spoke there that “It breaks my heart… that we should continue to see so much suffering and division. No one arriving in Bethlehem today could miss the signs of continued hardship and the situation you face.” The suffering is due to the choices made by the Palestinian Authority but does not accurately describe the vibrancy that does exist in many areas.
I also saw those who have made great success in their lives. I visited towns with Muslims that had thriving industry, large homes and luxury cars. I saw people that have chosen to focus on success not terror.
I had the honor to hear from Daniel Birnbaum whose company, SodaStream, embodies cooperation across Arabs, Jews & Bedouins to great success. While driven out of this area by those who choose to Boycott, Divest & Sanction Israel, SodaSteam relocated to Rahat and provides a model of coexistence between Jews, Arabs & Bedouins. This is only one example of co-existence.
At a time when anti-Semitic activity is at an all-time high, HRH’s failure to call out Mr. Abbas on his dishonesty and incitement of violence, ignites the flame that encourages hatred. His words do not bring peace but dehumanize and minimize the lives of those brutally murdered.
At every opportunity, including the most recent by President Trump, Mr. Abbas has turned down plans to aid his people and create his own “Start Up Nation.” Mr. Abbas does not seek peace; he acts as a despot and seeks the destruction of the State of Israel.
We praise the Royal family and your Princess Alice’s commitment to Jewish people at a most difficult time. However, at this juncture we must stand strong against hatred and stand firm on values of inherent democracy and decency.
Regina Raphael is a business owner in Los Angeles, CA and committed Zionist. Ms. Raphael works closely with Ben Goldstein, a reserve IDF officer and advocate for the State of Israel. The article shares moments from their visit together in late January 2020. Mr. Goldstein lives in the Region.
Why does the ANC Government Support the most dangerous regime In the world – IRAN?
By David E. Kaplan
An ever-increasing menace on the international stage by facilitating global terrorism, cunningly creeping towards military nuclearization, violently suppressing its civilian population, shooting down a Ukrainian civilian aircraft with 176 passengers on board then trying to cover up its crime – quite literally – with ‘bulldozers’, is it not time for Iran’s regime of the Mullahs to exit that stage?
Its own people are demanding so!
Coming onto the street in mass protests across the country, is this the proverbial “beginning of the end” as expressed by the former Crown Prince of Iran Reza Pahlavi this January at the Hudson Institute in Washington?
Pahlavi argued that the recent protests in Iran are different than previous demonstrations in that “People smell the opportunity for the first time in 40 years.” Drawing a distinction to the earlier protests of 1997 and 2009, “The people have had it,” says Pahlavi. “Today’s generation of young Iranians cannot take it anymore. They want to have an opportunity for a better future. They want to be on the path of modernity and freedom. The only thing that stands between them and the free world is this regime.”
However, what also “stands between them and the free world” are countries still supporting the menace of the Mullahs like South Africa.
Criticized by its own people for literally “not seeing the light” with its endless power outages now referred to in local parlance as “load shedding”, South Africa’s ANC government fails to see or chooses not to see that Iran’s present leadership is evil and a danger to world peace.
Writing in ForeignAffairs.com in November 2019, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick reveals that amongst hundreds of Iranian intelligence reports recently leaked shedding light on Teheran’s success in bolstering its influence throughout the region – notably Syria, Iraq, the Lebanon and Yemen – the Islamic Republic’s reptilian reach extends far beyond the Middle East. Facing crippling sanctions as well as increasing diplomatic isolation, Iran has developed a close partnership with South Africa.
Fitzpatrick writes that “South Africa has long been a cornerstone of Iran’s South-South strategy, which aims to strengthen ties with African and South American states.”
Being one of the first countries to resume trade with South Africa following the end of Apartheid, the Islamic Republic has enjoyed strong relations ever since. “Trade has been an integral element of this relationship, with Iranian officials estimating the value of Iranian Foreign Direct Investment in South Africa in 2018 at roughly $135 billion.”
South Africa has well reciprocated proving a strong ally and friend to the murderous and mendacious regime. It did not hesitate in calling the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear deal “regrettable”; advocating for Iranian interests at the UN; siding with Iran on critical issues at the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency; and more recently with President Cyril Ramaphosa calling Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to convey his condolences on the US dispatching of Iranian arch-terrorist Qasem Soleimani.
According to the official Iranian government website, Ramaphosa called the assassination of Soleimani “a cowardly act” and expressed that he was “very shocked by the news of Lt-Gen Soleimani’s martyrdom who was very popular among people.”
So popular that people are risking their lives in protests.
Videos and reporting convey Iranian popular anger:
– At the University of Kurdistan in Sanandaj, protesters defied authorities: “We are so sick of crime, why should we be afraid?
Iranians are proving less afraid to make a stand.
Take for example Kimia Alizadeh, the lithe, six-foot-tall athlete with raven hair who won the bronze medal for Iran in Taekwondo at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The only Iranian female to ever win an Olympic medal, the 21 year-old athlete – this January 2020 – defected from Iran announcing on social media that she did so because she didn’t want to be part of “hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery”. She described herself as “one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran”.
In a message on Instagram, she wrote, “How do I start? With a hello, a goodbye or to offer my condolences? Hello to the oppressed people of Iran, goodbye to the noble people of Iran, and my condolences to the perpetually mourning people of Iran.”
She recounted being “a pawn” of a regime that told her how to dress, dictated what she said, and paraded her and her medals around for political gain. “To the kind and oppressed people of Iran: I did not want to climb to a pedestal whose steps are paved with lies and deceit,” she wrote. “I am willing to bear the difficulty of living in exile because I could no longer stay at a table where dishonesty, con-artistry and injustice were being served. Making this decision was more difficult than earning the Olympic medal.”
No more “a pawn”, Alizadeh is a today “a Queen” for her public defiance against evil.
While this movement may lack leaders or a clearly defined goal, it does convey a palpable sense of disgust and anger and a willingness to defy the authorities. Even Iranian journalists have joined in the struggle.
While reporters for Iran’s state media routinely toe the government line, in the chaotic aftermath of Iran’s admission that it shot down a Ukrainian airliner, that admission appears to have pushed several journalists to resign.
It would seem professional red lines were crossed when Iranians in media were being coerced to blatantly lie by initially reporting of the deaths of 80 U.S. soldiers in Iranian strikes against bases in Iraq in response to the U.S. killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani and repeated claims that technical problems had caused the crash of a Ukraine-bound passenger jet shortly after its takeoff from Teheran.
Several journalists revealed on social media that they had quit with one state TV anchor, Gelare Jabbari, apologizing for “having lied to you on Iranian TV for 13 years.”
The South African media is replete with photographs of Iranian and South African foreign ministers frequently meeting to discuss enhancing cooperation.
Despite Iran’s menacing foreign policy across the Middle East, South Africa has emerged as an important defense partner. Writes Kitaneh Fitzpatrick:
“Teheran has sought to leverage its longstanding relationship with South Africa to support Iranian naval expansion outside of the Middle East, and has conducted limited out-of-area naval operations in South Africa, according to a recent U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report. Iran and South Africa have also signed basic military cooperation agreements. …..South Africa is part of Teheran’s effort to offset the cost of U.S. sanctions and increasing diplomatic isolation from the West.”
Unlike South Africa, other countries are “seeing the light”.
There is increasing acceptance by western European nations that Iran’s desire to achieve nuclear proliferation was not curbed by the 2015 nuclear deal known as the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). January 2020 saw Britain, France and Germany formally accusing Teheran of violating the terms of the agreement with Britain’s new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson telling the BBC, “If we’re going to get rid of it then we need a replacement.”
At the same time, an assessment by Israeli intelligence reveals that Iran has enough enriched uranium to produce a nuclear bomb by the end of 2020 and a missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload within two years.
An Iran under pressure – internationally and internally – is unpredictable and dangerous.
Rather than the misguided South African path of cozying up to the Mullah regime, better to heed the advice of Pahlavi who has called for Ayatollah Khamenei to step down to allow a peaceful transition with a minimal number of casualties.
To the Iranian forces that are employing repression as a tool, Pahlavi says “there are not enough people they can kill to maintain this regime in power. They better stand down and join with their brethren.”
He concluded his message at the Hudson Institute with “This regime cannot be reformed and must be removed,” emphasizing that there is no point to try and negotiate with the Islamic Republic.
And the message to South Africa’s political leadership – considering its own history- be a friend of the Iranian people not its murderous regime!
A letter to Israel’s iconic first female prime Minister
By Rolene Marks
I have often wondered what I would say to you if I ever was to meet you. What would an immigrant to the beautiful country that you helped establish, say to one of the greatest leaders of all time? You were Israel’s fourth Prime Minister and very first female leader at a time in the world when this was virtually unheard of; and remain an inspiration to this day. You gave the impression that even though you were a formidable leader, you were still “savta” (grandmother: Hebrew) Golda, with your trademark bun and cigarette, an approachable “bubbe” (grandmother: Yiddish) who we could count on for advice.
It is 2020; and the tiny little country that you helped birth is a thriving, cosmopolitan and beautifully flawed democracy. Women’s rights have grown in leaps and bounds since you paved the way for us to realise we can become so much more than we ever thought we could. We are pioneers and trailblazers, entrepreneurs and home makers, politicians and doctors, ballerinas, soldiers and teachers. We are nation builders. In a neighbourhood where many women are silenced, persecuted, raped and denied basic human rights, Israel’s women are the backbone of our great state.
A lot of this we owe to you.
You mentioned in your memoir of how emotional it was to sign the Declaration of Independence. I wish you could see us now!
Dear Golda, Israel has always been the birthplace of ideas. You were so proud of this fact and always encouraged education and now we are world leaders in science, medicine, agriculture and technology. We have been renamed “The Start-Up Nation”. You would be amazed at the incredible creativity bursting from our young, innovative citizens. We even sent an unmanned vehicle to the moon and arrived with a bang! It wasn’t the landing we were hoping for; but we did it regardless and now we have our sites set even higher. The sky is not our limit – we seek to explore the universe!
One of your most memorable quotes was that there would be peace “when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us”. Golda, it breaks my heart to tell you that this has not changed. You wrote in your memoir “My Life” that you worried about preparing the next generation of 9 and 10-year-olds for the army. Sadly, the same incitement and terror that you worried and opined about has not stopped and we have had to fight several more wars and endure two “Intifadas” as a result of such hostility. But you know we are a stubborn people and we sanctify life and will never lose our hope for peace. We never lose hope that our neighbours will choose to educate their children to become members of the start-up generation instead of educating them with hate filled rhetoric. We face a brutal enemy in the form of Iran and its proxies, but our hope lies with the Iranian people who seek to overthrow this brutal regime. While this is happening, many Arab countries are starting to see the benefits of warming ties with us. Who would have thought that this could happen!
Dear Golda, we have mourned together and suffered loss as a nation. Our heads have been bowed but our spirits have never been broken. Our defiant love for life sustains and motivates us to carry on. At a time when stones are weapons of war, we use ours to build homes. When barbaric terrorists behead their victims, we use ours to look for groundbreaking solutions and at a time where women are maligned and mistreated in our neighbourhood, we endeavor to follow in your trailblazing footprints.
Dear Golda, you raised the ire of some, but I reckon if people applaud every single thing you do, you probably aren’t doing your job effectively enough. You sometimes made decisions that were not always popular but as a true leader, always had Israel’s best interests at heart.
Africa held a special place in your heart, and you believed that many of the countries shared a similar history and yearning for statehood that we did. You would be delighted to see the contribution Israel is making on the continent in helping with sustainability and growth. We pride ourselves in living up to the tenet of Tikkun Olam and wherever there is a crisis or natural disaster, you will find Israel leading the way. Our enemy Syria has been engaged in a civil war for many years and despite this, Israel has saved over 2000 lives. Wherever there is a call in distress, we answer immediately and send our finest to help.
You would be amused that some of your most awe-inspiring quotes are used by us, generations later, to effectively communicate how much we love our country and how we share the same frustrations you did. You had a way with words and in today’s technologically driven world I cannot help but wonder what you would have thought about social media and its importance in telling Israel’s story? Today we will not be silent in the face of adversity and rising antisemitism and even though you are no longer with us, your words continue to inspire us and give us fortitude.
Dear Golda, we may not share the same taste in shoes but I would so love to join you in a celebratory glass of your favourite Israeli wine and toast to Israel, to her pioneering people and to you, a venerable leader who burst through the ceilings, raised the standards and blazed a glowing trail.
If someone has said to me a few years ago that the Arab world would start opening up to the State of Israel, I would have thought that they are losing their minds. But an amazing new phenomenon is taking shape in the Middle East. The frosty relations between Israel and Arab countries are starting to thaw and warm up significantly over the last couple of years and this has been demonstrated by a series of overtures from Arab countries towards Israel.
It is no secret that one of the key issues that has influenced the warming of ties between Israel and Arab states is the threat to the region posed by Iran. The hegemonic regime poses a massive threat to Gulf States who have aligned themselves more with the USA and has created a corridor via Syria and proxies in the north with Hezbollah, and South with Hamas to further encroach on Israeli territory.
One positive side effect of the Iranian threat is the realization that the tiny state of Israel is more of a potential friend or at least ally, than enemy. There is growing concern that relations between Israel and various Arab states have been somewhat covert but there have been rumours circulating that the Jewish State may be close to signing non-aggression pacts with several of these countries.
Israel has peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan but formal bilateral relations with other Arab countries would contribute greatly to stability and economic growth in the region. In fact, Israel will be exporting natural gas from the lucrative Leviathan gas field to Egypt within the next few weeks. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz calls the permit a “historic landmark” for Israel. He says it’s the most significant economic cooperation project between the countries since they signed a peace deal in 1979.
In 2019, the Trump Administration revealed part of its much anticipated peace plan with the “Peace to prosperity” proposal that shared how the administration, with the backing of Arab states, intends to build Palestinian civilian and cultural infrastructure that would lead to job creation and lead to the foundations of a future state. This plan was presented in Manama, the capital of Bahrain and while Israel did not send an official delegation, representatives from the business sector were present – and warmly welcomed! Palestinian businessmen, who despite the invitation to participate in the conference being spurned by the leadership, attended and were promptly arrested by the Palestinian Authority for daring to engage the US administration and Israel on possible commercial solutions. Also significant, was the invitation to six Israeli media outlets to cover the event.
Since the Manama confab, the Foreign Minister of Bahrain, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, and his Israeli counterpart, Israel Katz, met in the United States and in October 2019, an Israeli official, Dana Benvenisti-Gabay, attended the “Working Group on Maritime and Aviation Security” in Manama. In December 2019, Jerusalem chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, visited Bahrain for an interfaith event. There is hope that this has helped create the climate for future official ties.
Bahrain is not the only state that is welcoming Israeli visitors. The United Arab Emirates is preparing for Expo 2020, where countries will showcase the best of their offerings for six months and Israel will be included.
UAE Tourism Minister announced that not only would Israeli passport holders be welcome at the event, a phenomenon that was previously unheard of, but that he hoped citizens from the Jewish state would continue to visit long after its conclusion. The real Chanukah miracle was a tweet from the UAE Embassy in London sending warm wishes to Jewish friends celebrating Chanukah.
And if Twitter is the platform where friendships are revealed, then this one between Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Emirati Foreign Minister sure says a lot:
It is not just the Emiratis or Bahrainis that are showing Israel some love. Recently, 7 bloggers from Saudi Arabia visited Israel and the results have been quite extraordinary. The bloggists have taken to their social media platforms to speak quite openly of their newfound fondness for the Jewish state.
“There is no problem with Israel. It is important because of Jerusalem that is holy to Jews and Christians, while Islam’s holy places are Mecca and Medina,” Sultan said via the social media platform.
Is this the yearning of the younger generation to have normalization of ties or is there some indirect influence from Saudi officials? Saudi Crown Prince, Mohamed bin Salman is trying to change the image of his country and perhaps the best way to do this is modernizing attitudes towards countries like Israel and recognizing that there is more to be gained bilaterally and regionally through warmer ties.
It may still be a while until formal ties are recognized but the winds of change are blowing in the Middle East and this time, they are rich with promise.
The HANDS of British voters eased the MINDS of global Jewry
By David E. Kaplan
Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in Western suspicion, evident by the endless number of spooky horror movies set on this day.
Not so Friday 13th 2019!
Jews the world over awoke on this worrying day, breathing a collective sigh of relief that Jeremy Corbyn would not only be the next Prime Minister of Great Britain but received such a thumping that will send him packing.
For Jews in the UK, the election was less about Brexit, which was the main issue, and more about antiSemitism. If we would go by conversations in Jewish households prior to the election, it might have ended up as “Jewexit” instead of “Brexit”!
If there was any doubt about that before the election note the British Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, entering the political fray in an unprecedent step by describing Corbyn as “not fit for high office” in a November 25 op-ed in The Times.
The Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth was imploring people not who to vote for, but who NOT to vote for.
The future of the UK Jewish community lay in the balance – in the hands of the British voter.
And If there was any doubt about this apocalyptic fear by Jewish voters, it was affirmed in the immediate post-election assurances by the former Tory leadership candidate, Michael Gove addressing a victory rally in Surrey Heath:
“You have had to live in fear for months concerned you may have a prime minister who trafficked in anti-Jewish rhetoric and embraced anti-Jewish terrorists. You should never have to live in fear again.”
Just think about it; this is what it has come down to! That the Jewish community in the United Kingdom has to be assured “You should never have to live in fear again.”
By contrast the man who is going to occupy number 10 Downing Street for the next five years is not only well known in Israel but the Jewish state is well known to Mr. Boris Johnson.
Boris’ connection to Israel ‘journeys’ back many years to the days in which no one was on the tarmac to welcome him at Ben-Gurion International Airport and no red carpets were in sight.
In 1984, two young Brits arrived in Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi as volunteers; they were the future Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his sister the future British journalist and television presenter, Rachel Johnson.
It was the summer of 1984, and the Johnson siblings undertook a six-week experience in Israel. In those days, it was “the thing to do”.
Rachel was on a gap year before heading to Oxford University, while Boris, 14 months her elder and already a student at the same university, had just finished his first year at Balliol College, where he was a classics scholar. “Our father thought this was a good way to get rid of us for the summer,” recalls Rachel.
In 2013 Rachel wrote on MailOnline of those experiences of nearly three decades earlier at Kibbutz HaNasi started by group of British Jewishimmigrants, members of the Habonim youth movement.
“I was a pale-skinned, fair-haired teenage girl visiting Israel for the first time with her even paler-skinned and fairer-haired older brother.
We’d come to work as volunteers at a kibbutz north of the Sea of Galilee, on the green banks of the Jordan river, just below the volcanic pointy hills of the Golan Heights and a few miles from Syria.
We arrived at the kibbutz in the blasting heat of July. ‘Warm breeze,’ I wrote in my diary at the time. ‘Smell of blossom … and latrines.’ Soon after arrival, we were assigned our work sections. I had the Augean task of ‘male sanitation’.
Boris was bundled into the communal kitchen, which catered and cleared up after kibbutz Kfar Hanassi’s 600 members and volunteers who dined together three times a day on yogurt, houmous, eggs, houmous, yogurt and tomatoes (that’s all I remember eating at every meal, anyway).”
While comically depicting the scene with “There could not have been worse gigs for pampered, pale-faced public-school spawn,” Rachel reveals much about her brother, the future Prime Minister who would cause Labour its worst defeat since 1935.
While Rachel “moved to picking fruit, and then, after striking up a friendship with an attractive shepherd called David” and promoted “to being a shepherdess,” Boris, “doughtily remained at his post, his skin peeling from the heat and steam, and stayed sane by reading Homer and Virgil in the library in the evening.”
Boris Takes The Cake
In the land of destiny, the young man was destined for leadership.
Alec Collins, who hosted the future PM in his home at Kfar Hanassi in 1984 revealed in a recent interview “Even back then, he used to say, ‘I will be a leader one day”.
“He is a great guy to be around with and chat with,” continued Collins. “Boris can strike up a conversation with just about anyone, on the spot. He has a great sense of humor, and this will be of great benefit to the UK.”
This has proved so.
To quote Boris:
“My position on cake is clear: I’m pro-having it and pro-eating it. And once you have your cake and eat it, too, you’ve effectively laid claim to two cakes.”
Equipped with his unique twist of logic and inimitable wit will leave his adversaries baffled as he scales the proverbial ramparts.
Taking on Brexit, the most monumental issue since WWII, Boris can take inspiration from his political hero and wartime victor, Winston Churchill who too was tasked to lead armed with a mastery of rhetoric.
The Jewish Connection
Like Sir Winston Churchill – a great greatest supporter of the Zionist movement and of the 1917 Balfour Declaration – Boris too refers to himself as “A passionate Zionist”
In an article to commemorate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration in 2017, Boris wrote:
“I served a stint at a kibbutz in my youth, and… saw enough to understand the miracle of Israel: the bonds of hard work, self-reliance and an audacious and relentless energy that hold together a remarkable country.”
And on his visit to the country when he was the mayor of London, he lashed out at BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement – and pronounced Israel the only “pluralist, open society” in the region.
This is a far cry from the man too who aspired to be the resident of 10 Downing Street – Jeremy Corbyn.
While Boris has Jewish ancestry traced back through his mother to the revered 19th century Lithuanian Rabbi Elijah Ragoler, his feelings about Israel may stem just as strongly from Jenny Sieff, who became his stepmother when he was seventeen.
From a prominent Anglo-Jewish family, Jenny’s stepfather, Teddy Sieff, served as chairman of Marks and Spencer and was vice-president of the British Zionist Federation. In 1973, Sieff survived an assassination attempt by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine when he was shot by the assassin Ilich Ramírez Sánchez more familiarly known as Carlos the Jackal. Carlos fired one bullet at Sieff from his Tokarev 7.62mm pistol, which bounced off Sieff just between his nose and upper lip and knocked him unconscious; the gun then jammed and Carlos fled.
It was Jenny’s family in Israel, the distinguished South African-born Israeli diplomat, Michael Comay, who had been Israeli ambassador to Canada, the UN and the UK and his wife Joan, who would help arrange for Boris and his sister Rachel to volunteer at Kibbutz Kfar HaNassi.
According to Rachel, her brother showed great mettle volunteering on the kibbutz. While she admits how she finagled her way out of cleaning the men’s bathrooms and got herself reassigned to picking apples with “an attractive kibbutznik,” Boris dutifully stuck to his appointed job in the communal kitchen. There – as Rachel describes in her diary – “he showed inner steel scrubbing pots and pans and sweating it out in the heat of the kitchen, meal after meal.”
Clear early signs of the makings of a leader if one adheres to the wise words of President Truman: “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen”.
With Brexit the first order of business, the political ‘MasterChef’ is ready to make history. Clearly Israel has a friend at 10 Downing Street and can look forward to welcoming on the red carpet at Ben Gurion Airport that unmistakable blonde mop who first came to Israel on the way to kibbutz Kfar HaNasi 35 years ago.
Feature Picture: Boris Johnson on the campaign trailCREDIT: ANDREW PARSONS/ I-IMAGES