LET DEAD TERRORIST GROUPS LIE

Enlisting support against delisting terrorists

By Jonathan Feldstein

[Ed note: At the time of publication of this article, Politico  media reports that President Biden has “finalized his decision to keep Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on U.S. notorious terrorist blacklist.”]

There have been recent reports that the Biden administration is planning to remove five groups from the US’ foreign terrorist blacklist. Each of these groups is now considered defunct. But it’s strange that if they are defunct anyway, why anyone would worry about delisting them. It’s better to let dead terror groups lie.

The groups include Basque Fatherland and Liberty, Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese cult; Kach, an Israeli/nationalist Jewish group, and two Islamic groups: the Mujahideen Shura Council in the environs of Jerusalem, and Gama’a al-Islamiyya.

When I read the reports, I asked myself why, and why now?  A Christian friend reached out to me to get an understanding from an Israeli perspective, and whether it was something for which she needs to pray. I explained to my friend that it seems the delisting of these groups is connected with ongoing reports that the Biden administration is considering removing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the US terror blacklist as part of wooing Iran to renew the Obama-era nuclear deal.

Just to be clear, the IRGC is directly responsible for the killing of some 600 U.S. military and is far from defunct. A group of 46 retired U.S. generals and a growing number of Democrats and Republicans are on record urging the Biden administration not to remove the IRGC from the terrorist blacklist.

In this context, I explained to my friend that not only does it not make sense to delist defunct terror groups but doing so is deliberately dangerous. Typically, when members of a board, alumni of an institution, or other notables pass away, they are not removed but are identified by a note that they are now deceased. Why not just leave the list of terror groups as is, and make a note that they are defunct? Listing those that are no longer active actually shows success in the war on terror.

To Delist or not to Delist? Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei meeting with leaders of the IRGC last January. Will the Biden administration remove Iran’s IRGC from terror blacklist? (Photo: Handout via Getty)

I told my friend that delisting the defunct organizations is a smoke screen for plans to delist the very active IRGC. Anyone who cares about the threats of Islamic terror in general, and to Israel in particular, will be uncomfortable with the delisting of two Islamic terror groups.  However, the Biden administration’s machinations appears expedient – like the tossing a bone to placate some in Congress – by the inclusion of the Jewish/nationalist group Kach, creating the pseudo impression that the administration is being equitable.  There’s no reason to delist any of these – including Kach. It’s also offensive to those who were the victims of these and other terror groups.

My friend is a Hispanic pastor. She revealed how the removal at the end of 2021 of Columbia’s FARC off the US list of terrorist organizations proved traumatic for Hispanics who had suffered under the ruthless terrorist and drug trafficking group that raped and destroyed and kidnapped poor Colombians for decades.

FARC Fiends. On May 15, 2000 the Colombian FARC put an explosive collar around the neck of a woman, killing her and a man who tried to neutralize the device. (Photo of FARC soldiers: Pablo de Tarso Luz Meneghel Sparco)

The similarities are astounding. It was reported that the Biden administration’s delisting of the ‘now defunct’ Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group as a “foreign terrorist” organization was to support a tenuous peace agreement in Colombia. As a rule, wooing terrorists with promises of turning a blind eye rather than confronting and defeating them is not good policy.

This applies to FARC in Colombia, and IRGC in Iran.

Clearly what’s behind this is to bring Iran to sign a new or revised nuclear agreement which has become a pilar of US foreign policy.  Seeing the Biden administration’s eagerness to renew an agreement at any cost, the Iranians have used this as a make-or-break negotiating tactic.

The IRGC is on the terrorist list as a central part of Iran’s military. However, it operates far beyond a typical military unit simply preparing for combat. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, the IRGC has become a quasi-governmental institution, with vast independent power and actual oversight and control over key elements of Iran’s economy, industry, and energy sectors. It regularly calls for Israel’s destruction, and materially supports other terrorist groups around the world with money, training, and equipment.

Bad Boys. There is overwhelming evidence that the IRGC is the largest and most powerful sponsor of global terrorism, writes Navid Mohebbi in Al Arabiya News. (Stock photo)

While Biden has made a new Iran deal a key pillar of his foreign policy even before coming into office, reports to mitigate the looming disaster of delisting the IRGC, suggest Biden is personally resistant to such delisting. These conflicting agendas suggest a combination of schizophrenia, deliberate disinformation and possible incompetence which I discuss in the interview . Delisting the IRGC might help achieve his key foreign policy goal of an Iranian agreement, but looks weak regarding international terrorism, something that he and other Democrats don’t need as another foreign policy failure.  With the mid-term election in just six months, that’s part of the reason that even some moderate Democrats – already resistant to rejoining a nuclear deal that goes too easy on Iran – are urging Biden to stand firm on keeping the IRGC on the terrorist list.

Right is Might. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) that in his personal opinion, he does not support the delisting of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.

These issues will no doubt be top on the agenda when Biden is expected to visit Israel at the end of June, particularly in light of recent reports that Iran may be days away from enough material for one nuclear bomb. With his coalition shaky at best, Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett cannot afford to appear weak or allow anything to undermine his leadership in protecting Israel from the Iranian threat.

Towering Rage. The IRGC was found liable in 2018 for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 Americans and injured 260. (© AFP/Getty Images)

Is this a good cop, bad cop quasi negotiating tactic with Iran, or just a dress rehearsal for another Biden administration foreign policy failure? The implications of delisting these terror groups now, along with FARC, opens old wounds of their victims, brings Jews, Hispanics and all people of conscience closer together, and makes us all less safe.



About the writer:

Jonathan Feldstein ­­­­- President of the US based non-profit Genesis123 Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Christians – is a freelance writer whose articles appear in The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Townhall, NorthJersey.com, Algemeiner Jornal, The Jewish Press, major Christian websites and more.





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).

Killing President Sadat Again

By Jonathan Feldstein

With turmoil in the Middle East, and specifically threats from Iran and its proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Gaza, last month’s  anniversary of the signing of the Camp David peace treaty between Israel and Egypt on the 26th of March 1979  is something to look back on and celebrate. It would have been unimaginable before that to see Israel opening regular flights to Sinai as it will be doing this month, and Israel’s Prime Minister Bennett flying to Sinai for his second historic meeting with Egyptian President al-Sisi within a period of six months.

Last month’s meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, also joined by Emerati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ), was less about celebrating the peace, and more about their resolve against a common enemy. In 1979, who’d have ever imagined that.  Or even in 2019. But with Egypt breaking the ice in 1979, Jordan following in 1994, and then the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan all following suit in 2020, the milestone of Camp David is ever present.

Meeting of Like Minds. (l-r) Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi  and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, held a joint meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh
(photo credit: PMO)

Peace with Egypt was momentous on many levels. Israel was able to breathe a little easier having the largest and one of the most powerful Arab countries as well as sharing one of its longest borders, at peace. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat understood Israel was not going anywhere; that after several bloody wars which it lost, more war was not the answer, and it was in Egyptian interests to make peace.

Largely brokered by US President Jimmy Carter, Camp David was one of if not the single most significant achievements, possibly domestically but surely internationally, during Carter’s one term presidency.  Surely, as a self-avowed Christian, Carter celebrated as he recalled Jesus’ words:

 “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

Indeed, Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin jointly won the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize. 

Hopes of peace breaking out were dashed as Egypt was expelled from the Arab League. Two and a half years later, Sadat would be dead, a victim of his bold statesmanship. The irony of Carter’s single greatest foreign policy success was foiled by his greatest foreign policy failure: the abandonment of the Shah of Iran, the Islamic revolution and rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the 444-day hostage crisis that was just a foreshadowing of the evil to come.

The Three Peacemakers. Today’s Egyptians and Israelis continue to reap the benefits of “No more war” – the cornerstone of the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.(l-r) Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at the U.S. presidential retreat, Camp David, in rural Maryland.

Four decades later, there are now six Arab countries that have made peace with Israel, and more talking and coordinating with Israel openly. As Sadat understood, Israel is not going anywhere, peace is much more to their advantage than war, and active open alliance with Israel is in their interests. That was clear in Sinai this past March, not as a celebration of Camp David per se, but very much part of its legacy.

What brought Bennett, al-Sisi and MBZ together was discussion of their common enemy and the threats they face.  Indeed, it was Islamists inspired by the Iranian revolution who murdered Sadat in October 1981. Today, a deeper entrenched and more hardline extremist Iran threatens Israel and the rest of the Arab world.  Iran’s nefarious reach today from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, as a southern front along with an outpost in Gaza is extremely startling. Israel is not the only target. This week, Iranian missiles were launched at Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

Parading Power. This handout photo provided by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) official website via SEPAH News on February 7, 2019 showed the “Dezful” missile during its inauguration ceremony at an undisclosed location. (photo credit: SEPAH NEWS/IRAN’S REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS WEBSITE/AFP)

As much as President Sadat broke the ice making peace, and paid with his life, now more than ever, the moderate Sunni Arab world recognises Iran as being a real threat and present danger.  That’s why we saw the Israeli, Egyptian and Emirati leaders together in Egypt last month. The Saudis and others were not present in person, but there was no question that they were represented.

Missile attacks like that which took place in Saudi Arabia recently are not new. Israel has been dealing with this threat in Syria and Lebanon for years, and of course is monitoring (and disrupting) the Iranian drive to obtain nuclear weapons. What is new, and one of the likely triggers for the surprise meeting in Sinai, is the US and other world powers seemingly running to reach a new deal with Iran, ostensibly to satiate their nuclear ambitions.  The 2015 (JCPOA) Iran nuclear agreement didn’t stop the Iranian ambition or ability.  It paid the Iranians billions, and paved a path to their ability to achieve a nuclear weapon. The Biden Administration seems to want to reach a new agreement at all costs, preferring to see the world as how they want it to be, rather than how it is. 

Reports about the new agreement are that it will be a bad remake of the poor 2015 original.  An element rumoured to be part of the new agreement’s terms is the delisting of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group. The idea is so absurd, and dangerous, that President Biden could truly look at himself in the mirror and say, “Come on, man.”   

Israel and the moderate Sunni Arab states know better and look at the world how it is, not how they want it to be.  Three successive US presidents have now pushed Israel and former Arab adversaries together.  One brokered an unprecedented four peace treaties. Two so disenfranchised the Arabs so much that their only course of action and self-interest was to ally with Israel against a common enemy. 

Preparing for the Worst. Where will Biden’s reviving of the Iran nuclear deal lead? Israel and most the Arab countries in the Middle East are stupefied.

Carter didn’t pull the trigger that killed Sadat. But by empowering Iran, he provided the ammunition. As Biden and other world leaders’ run to revive the disastrous 2015 agreement, further emboldening a terrorist state, it’s as if they’re reloading the Iranians with ammunition. They can’t kill Sadat again physically, but the Iranians have many targets in their crosshairs, and someone is likely to pay the price.

Israel, Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain and even Saudi Arabia know this.  That’s why the March meeting took place in Sinai. But one can rest assured that the legacy of Camp David generated new alliances, and the Iranian threat created the resolve of like-minded countries in the Middle East to stand firm in defense against this existential barbarism.

“Blessed are the peacemakers”. Amen. 

But sometimes enemies posing existential threats need to be defeated.




About the writer:

Jonathan Feldstein ­­­­- President of the US based non-profit Genesis123 Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Christians – is a freelance writer whose articles appear in The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Townhall, NorthJersey.com, Algemeiner Jornal, The Jewish Press, major Christian websites and more.





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).

“Don’t Look Up”

Masters of our own misfortune, the imminent new Iran nuclear deal is a threat to mankind

By David E. Kaplan

The 2021 Oscar nominated American apocalyptic  movie, “Don’t Look Up” tells the story of two astronomers attempting to warn humanity about an approaching comet that will destroy human civilization.

While there are lots of laughs in this black comedy, there are more reasons for tears with the tragic realisation that despite the threat being from outer space, the real threat preventing Armageddon, lies here on earth – human greed, indifference and self-interest.

Coming of the Comet. Poster for the star-studded Netflix satire DON’T LOOK UP,  about scientists desperately attempting to warn a jaded world about the imminent arrival of an extinction-level comet.
 

Are these not the failings prevailing today having us all wondering what kind of a world we are bequeathing to future generations?

We don’t need imagined threats from ‘out of this world’ to end humanity, we are quite capable of doing it ourselves.

We only have to look at Putin threatening to use his nuclear arsenal and genocidal Iran on a rapid track to acquire them while threatening to obliterate Israel for no rational reason. Iran has less incentive to attack Israel than Will Smith had to get up and belt Chris Rock at the Oscars! Israel does not share a border with Iran and has no designs on its territory in the same way that Russia has with Ukraine! What Iran has, is a fanatical irrational obsession to expunge the Jewish state from the map. Is this a country that should be facilitated – by some crazily convoluted and deeply-flawed agreement – to acquire weapons of mass destruction, despite the constant promises from the Biden administration that “Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon”?

Really?

Why do most the countries in the Middle East disagree besides the beneficiary – Iran – which is licking its proverbial lips like the hungry wolf in Little Red Riding Hood. The Mullah leadership understands that the new watered-down deal is not an obstruction but an accelerated path to achieving its nefarious aim.

What’s the Deal? Hands meet but what of their minds as Antony Blinken seeks to reassure Israel and Gulf allies ahead of possible renewal of nuclear deal.

While all kudos to Joe Biden who brought much of the world into a global coalition to impose the most rigorous sanction regime against Russia that is reminiscent of his predecessors – the two Bushes; who masterminded ‘collisions of the willing’ against Iraq – why then a weak, inexplicable cop-out when it comes to Iran?

With Iran on the ropes economically, should not the strategy be to further weaken instead of to resuscitate and then to strengthen?

Why feed the crocodile that will one day eat you!

However here is the conundrum. Why for the Biden administration are sanctions considered an effective strategy against Russia reducing the ruble to rubble – and soliciting support from countries around the world to support it – and yet against genocidal Iran, it proclaims sanctions are ineffective and advocates its removal?

Go figure!

It gets worse and even less compressible.

Over the last two weeks, a fired up President Biden has ramped up his rhetoric against Putin, calling him a “war criminal”, a “murderous dictator”, a “pure thug” and his most recent “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power”.

By his choice of words, the American president expresses his clear understanding of “evil” and vents his abhorrence of the Russian leader. By bravely taking on Putin in this side-war of words, why is Biden ready to whitewash Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) delisting it  as a foreign terrorist group?

Cataclysmic Catastrophe? NATO’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, called Putin’s nuclear alert order ‘dangerous rhetoric’ that had made the world ‘much more dangerous’. (Photo: AFP/Kenzo Troibouillard)

Perplexed at Biden’s position on this issue as Washington shifts ever closer to reviving the nuclear agreement with Tehran, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid issued a joint statement, in which they urged the US not to delist Iran’s feared IRGC as a terror organization. They were hardly telling the Americans anything which they did not already know with these following words:

The Revolutionary Guards are a terrorist organization that has murdered thousands of people, including Americans. We have a hard time believing that the United States will remove it from the definition of a terrorist organization.”

In the same way as the resistance again Putin’s war in Ukraine was a global concern, Bennett and Lapid reminded the American president that the fight against terror was a global mission:

We believe that the United States will not abandon its closest allies in exchange for empty promises from terrorists.”

Worrying Words. Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami speaking on September 21, 2019 at  an exhibition marking four decades on from Iran’s Islamic revolution said, “We have managed to obtain the capacity to destroy the impostor Zionist regime…This sinister regime must be wiped off the map and this is no longer … a dream [but] it is an achievable goal.” (Atta Kenare/AFP)

If promises from Putin can so easily be dismissed as “worthless”, why not exercise the same suspicion with regard to Iran?

Continuing in their hard hitting language, Bennett and Lapid reminded the Americans:

 “The Revolutionary Guards took part in the murder of hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians, they destroyed Lebanon, they are engaged in the murderous repression of Iranian civilians. They kill Jews because they are Jews, Christians because they are Christians, and Muslims because they do not surrender to them.

…… Their hands are stained with the blood of thousands of Iranians and the trampling of the soul of Iranian society.”

Their case made; the two Israeli leaders conclude:

 “The attempt to abolish the definition of the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization is an insult to the victims and the erasure of a documented reality, with unequivocal evidence.”

With the IRCG considered one,  if not the most dangerous terrorist group in the world obstructing for decades peace in the Middle East, why reward this terrorist regime with any sort of legitimacy from the U.S. government? If labeling Putin as a “war criminal” and “thug”, why treat the Mullahs in Tehran differently and even rewarding them?

Don’t ‘Fuel’ global Terrorism. The value of Iran’s currency hit record lows in 2019 as a result of the US sanctions as economy falls into a deep recession.

Worst of all, if the world fears a confrontation with Putin because he could unleash his nuclear weaponry, imagine the danger to humanity – never mind Israel – if the fanatically crazed leadership in Tehran were in possession of nuclear weapons.

As I began; we do not have to look up for imminent danger – we need to look down and within.





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 ‘United Kingdom’ to the ‘Divided City’

Openly gay UK visitor finds city of Hebron full of surprises 

Written by Lay of the Land UK correspondent

For the purposes of this article, I have kept some of the names of Jewish and Palestinian leaders that work for co-existence in Hebron private. I have done so for their safety, fearing threats of violence and/or imprisonment from the Palestinian Authority (PA) with possible extra-judicial killings from local extremist religious groups.

I had not planned to visit Hebron. Hardly surprising as it’s a city that I, living in the UK, never paid much attention to, considering it far removed both geographically and cerebrally. Even when I did think of Hebron, what came to mind were images of a remote turbulent city with troubled communities – Palestinians beset by internal violence and Jews governed by strict religious laws.  

While I have been in contact with Israeli-Jews and Palestinians from Hebron on social media and personally found the city of very little personal interest, it was by a twist of fate that I would visit it. I had been contacted by an Israeli ‘social media friend’, who lived close to Hebron and works in the city insisting that I visit.

Illuminating Visit. It is important to hear both sides as both local Jews and Arabs have their own stories to tell.

After months of ‘pestering’, I finally agreed while on a holiday on Israel. Although I was anxious about visiting a strictly religious Jewish community as an openly gay man, I was surprised to find the community very accepting of LGBT+ people.

My ‘social media friend’ and contact, Shlomo, picked me up from Tel Aviv. Abandoning my customary caution, I hopped into a car with essentially a stranger and began my visit to a city once described as one of the most dangerous and conflict-ridden cities in the world. The two-hour drive felt like an eternity.  We passed through two easy security points, which where nothing more than a single guard with a toll style security. Checkpoints are often derided and dismissed by anti-Israel protagonists but are critical in providing security.

THE LONG SHADOW OF WAR

The city of Hebron is one of the most historically and religiously important cities to Jews and one of the most important cities, politically, for the PA. It is also a frequent flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The first thing that struck me about Shlomo as he gave me a private tour, was that he and his community just wanted to be heard. Giving me a private tour starting at the Cave of the Patriarchs and then moving on to the other local historical sites, I got to ask him as many question as I wanted.

Hebron’s Holly of Hollies. The Cave of the Patriarchs or Tomb of the Patriarchs, known to Jews as the Cave of Machpelah and to Muslims as the Sanctuary of Abraham, is a series of caves in the heart of the Old City of Hebron.

We visited the gravesite of Baruch Goldstein, the infamous Israeli terrorist and mass-murder, where he immediately warned me that the local Israeli authorities closely monitor the site and any public support for Goldstein would be met by an arrest.

I had no desire to stay and while Shlomo reassured me there were no security concerns,  he cautioned me to avoid drawing any attention to myself.

Touring Jewish Hebron, I was able to get a close-up of Palestinian Hebron. An old broken-down chicken wire fence – replete with wide gaps – was the only significant separation between the Palestinian and Jewish Hebron – a rather tenuous ‘barrier’ I thought, considering the tensions I was under the impression, fractured the city.

As I walked through the old quarter of Jewish Hebron, memorials for Jews murdered were common at every corner. They represented a sad reminder of the steep price in lives to choose to live in the second holiest site for Jews after Jerusalem. As I walked around, I saw bullet holes in old walls and doors with l potholes in the ground which I suspected were once caused by explosives.

Writing on the Wall. Hebron graffiti articulates peoples thoughts and dreams.

Shlomo introduced me to a local Jewish community leader and elder called Y, who with the kindness of his wife, invited me to stay at their house for regular vegan meals. Y and his wife were a jolly and inspiring couple with enthralling stories. 

They shared their past in the former Soviet Union being members of the underground and engaging in resistance activities to support persecuted Jews. Other stories from Y, included secretly hosting in Hebron leading LGBT+ Iranian dissidents as well as welcoming Hollywood celebrities.

SILENT PALISTINIAN COEXISTANCE

With Y as our guide, we handed out sweets to the IDF and were joined by two young, religious women. As we walked through the city’s broken pathways, handing out the sweets to the IDF soldiers, I saw many soldiers speaking and some playing football with Palestinian children. I quickly discovered that Y, was well-liked and known around to hand out sweets to the Palestinian children.

Y was extremely proud to show me Palestinian businesses popular with the city’s Jewish residents, notable dentists, pet shops, clothing stores and auto repair shops.

We came upon a cluster of small, very ordinary Palestinian stalls, one of which was owned by a friend of Y – his close contact within Palestinian Hebron.

His friend broke into a wide warm smile when he saw Y but it quickly disappeared when he spotted me. Feeling uncomfortable or suspicious by my appearance, I left the two of them alone to speak as I explored the stalls. I found beautiful, handcrafted items and was fascinated by  the daily co-existence so contrary to the image I had imagined  from the international media.  

Business is Brisk. Despite the tensions, life goes on in Hebron.

Creating their own security network, Y revealed that he and  his friend would secretly pass information to each other about which Jewish or Palestinian children were committing violence against each other in their communities, bypassing the local authorities. They believe that these local Jewish and Palestinian children are best served by being punished by local community leaders rather than subject them to Israeli or Palestinian justice. In this way, it is a far better way to maintain social calm between the two communities.

Y would later tell me on our tour that he believed that 60% of Hebron was supportive of Hamas because of their alleged anti-corruption agenda.  Many are frustrated with the corruption and lack of services from the Palestinian Authority.

The further we travelled around in the areas we were legally allowed to, we passed Palestinian housing estates that were burnt-out – not from clashes with Israelis – but the result of clan-based violence between the Al-Jabari and Awiwi Clans.

ECHOES AMONG THE CHILDREN 

Y openly regaled me with stories of battles that exploded across Hebron on street corners involving sniper, tank, and gun fire – where he was occasionally caught in the middle. Walking around Hebron, I was surrounded by Jewish and Palestinian children going about their daily lives, born after the horrors of the Second Intifada.

It is clear that neither Jews nor Palestinians will be leaving one of the most previously divided and war-torn cities of the conflict. I can only hope that the children that I saw will be able to grow up without the horrors of the past.

It was so reassuring to see children happily playing around, appearing unscarred by street battles that once raged across the city.

I shall carry with me forever the moment I saw a group of young Jewish children skating and rollerblading down a long street, which had once been the site of a fierce firefight.  Where once war characterised this street, the vista that embraced me was of Palestinian children playing football and chatting with IDF soldiers.

Engaging for a better Tomorrow. Jewish visitor from Israel meeting with a young Palestinian girl in Hebron.

What next for Hebron?

It is hard to say what its future will be. I once thought of Hebron of as a remote, impoverished, dull and deary and overly religious city – but I was wrong.

I felt honoured to be so warmly welcomed by everyone I met  and to have been so unexpectedly accepted by the religious Jewish community as gay, was for me, a pleasant surprise!

Having thoroughly enjoyed my visit, I hope to one day revisit and again connect with Hebron’s Jews and Palestinians that are making history and forging a destiny together.







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).

NO PLACE TO HIDE

Calibrating the fallout, Ukraine is a sobering lesson for the entire world

By David E. Kaplan

While Ukrainian cities are being pulvarised, compelling their residents to either fight or flee, there is hardly a country on this planet  – no matter how far removed from the conflict – which is not watching this human tragedy play out with calculating horror and questioning:

WHAT MESSAGE LIES HERE FOR US?

Like with Covid, there is no place to hide from the Ukraine fallout effecting every country  – big or small, near or far – in some way or another. You don’t have to follow world events to know that world events follow you when you fill up – and pay more – for gas!

While Putin behaves today like a Godzilla on a vengeful rampage teasing and testing all with his lethal leverage, the world shifts from ‘counting the cost’ from Covid to ‘counting the cost’ from Putin’s war.

Read all about it? War returns to Europe; will it spread beyond?

As countries calibrate the Ukraine impact and position their policies accordingly, the world is morphing into as yet an undefined ‘new age’ that has to settle down before historians give it a name.

What future students of history will baffle to understand, is that during such a ‘smart age’, people could behave so stupidly. Why oh why, after two years of a horrendous pandemic killing millions and still remaining a threat with the fear of future mutations,  Russia engages in a self-destructive brutal war with a no-less appetitive China watching and wondering when to pounce  on its nervous neighbour – Taiwan?

The worst take-away from this war is the likelihood of it leading to nuclear proliferation. This is precisely a direction a wary world would want to avoid. Countries around the world, including the hapless Ukrainians must be wondering, would Russia have dared to attack its neighbour had not:

– the Ukrainians voluntary surrendered its 1700 nuclear warheads back in 1994 in exchange for supposedly-binding promises from Russia and

– the US and the world assuring “peace” and “territorial integrity”.

Promises to Price Paid. Russia-Ukraine war puts spotlight on 1994 agreement when Washington contributed half a billion dollars for Ukraine to pass 5,000 nuclear weapons to Russia to be dismantled after brokering the deal. Seen here are soldiers preparing to destroy a ballistic SS-19 missile in the yard of the largest former Soviet military rocket base in Vakulenchuk, Ukraine.
 

Following the Soviet Union collapse in 1991, Ukraine emerged a formidable nuclear power controlling one-third of the USSR’s nukes. After bruising negotiations, it relinquished them all for promises – false promises.

For sure, had she not, a recalcitrant Ukraine would have been designated a “rogue” state, but who would argue: “better a rogue state than a dead state”, which is precisely Putin’s plan for Ukraine – a dead state! One can only imagine historically-minded Ukrainian men and women, boys and girls fighting today against Russian tanks with home-made “Molotov cocktail” grenades and thinking:

 “What suckers our leaders were?”

Clearly if Ukraine had nukes today, Russia would have thought twice about swaggering into its neighbour with such unabashed ardour.

Bottles for the Brave. Attacked by a superpower with nuclear weapons, a Ukrainian civilian trains to throw Molotov cocktails to defend the city, in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, March 1, 2022.  REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi

The only reason inhibiting the US and many European countries from providing air cover or air support to Ukraine is the fear of it being construed by Putin as “escalatory” and leading to a nuclear “WWIII” as the US President is oft to caution.

So the country that gave up its nukes and was then thereafter obstructed from joining NATO and enjoying its protection, is now fighting with its proverbial hand tied behind its back.

Ukraine was setup from the start as easy prey – all at the predator’s choosing! Crimea was the hors d’oeuvre  – an early foray for today’s main course.

How many countries are watching the daily carnage and wondering, whether they too will need nukes one day to protect themselves? Clearly some will reason that it offers better protection than “promises”.

It was chilling watching CNN’s Christiane Amanpour interview Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov who repeatedly refused to rule out that Russia would consider using nuclear weapons against what Moscow saw as an “existential threat”.

Battling with Bottles. Young local Ukrainians prepare Molotov cocktails, in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, February 27. REUTERS/Serhii Hudak

Clearly this rattled the US who condemned Peskov’s comments as  “dangerous“. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday:

It’s not the way a responsible nuclear power should act.”

Clearly it is not.

I look at my grandchildren and think how sad  that a new generation is being introduced to a nuclear threat.

In a  televised statement in February, Putin was not mincing his words when he threatened in an address following his country’s invasion of Ukraine. “:

I would now like to say something very important for those who may be tempted to interfere in these developments from the outside.  No matter who tries to stand in our way …. must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history.”

That threat was widely understood in the US and Europe to be a nuclear one. The wording was clear – don’t interfere in Ukraine or we might nuke you!

At the very least, it is not “constructive ambiguity” but destructive ambiguity!

Watching this all unfold are two countries with opposite aims – Israel more determined than ever that Iran should not have nukes and Iran, more determined than ever to have nukes.

Apart from Israel  – that Iran has threatened to annihilate – how many Arab countries in the Middle East threatened by Iran are now thinking, if Iran goes nuke, how can we not follow suite?

After all, who otherwise will protect them?

Armageddon is no longer an “end-of-days” biblical prophecy or the far-fetched stuff  of Hollywood but a real possibility.

Which is why it is baffling that while Iran’s menacing influence in the Middle East region has significantly increased in recent years, the Biden administration is so gung-ho set to conclude a new but water-downed pact with Iran that most certainly would be bad for Israel.

Is Israel, like Ukraine, expected to be placated with “promises”?

Under the new deal, Iran will be monitored only for the next three years and will receive $7bn in released frozen assets, as well as sanctions relief on exports such as oil. On top of this, the Biden administration is considering removing the Islamic Revolutionary  Guard Corps (IRGP) from the US Foreign Terrorist Organisations list in exchange “not to attack Americans in the region”.  Earlier this month, it was reported on the Iranian news outlet Tasnim that IRGC commander-in-chief Hossein Salami, referred to Israel as having an “expiration date“. Addressing IRGC soldiers in Dezful in southwestern Iran, Salami said Israel will have to “endure the bitter taste of missiles if it is not careful.”

Israel and Arab countries in the region were shocked!

Israel’s Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid in a joint statement expressed that they , hoped that “the US will not abandon its closest allies in exchange for empty promises from terrorists,” while it is understood that  the UAE and Saudi Arabia uncharacteristically showed their displeasure  by “being too busy to take US President Joe Biden’s calls.”   

As an unnamed Israeli security official was reported on Israel’s Channel 13 news to have said, that while Israel considered the original deal to have been bad, the revived accord taking shape is “spectacularly bad”. For one major reason –  it fails to factor in the progress Iran has made since.

Out of Control! Even before the Russia-Ukraine war broke out, there were concerns not only about a spillover in Europe but also across the world from Asia to the Middle East.

Referring to a leaked draft of the imminent accord, the source revealed that Iran will not be required to destroy its advanced centrifuges; that while Tehran will have to reduce its uranium enrichment levels, it has already developed the capability to enrich at high levels. And while Tehran will also be required to cease producing uranium metal – a crucial component of the bomb-making process – the source noted that Iran now has the knowledge to be able to manufacture such materials in the future.

In essence,” the network’s source revealed, “it is an agreement that leaves Iran as a nuclear threshold state.”

For the Middle East, this is a horror story.

To allow Iran to acquire weapons of mass destruction would be nothing less than mass insanity!





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).

Fleeting Moments

Images from Ukraine that are universal and eternal

By David E. Kaplan

Away from the mass reportage in the written media and television, there are those brief ‘events’ – whether in word or deed – that encapsulates the enormity of the tragedy playing out in Ukraine but also reveals that spark in the human spirit to prevail.

Such was that bravery of the Russian woman who  went on live state TV news with a sign protesting the invasion of Ukraine. Marina Ovsyannikova is a name to remember. For those few brief seconds, Marina defied the might of Putin and his aspiring re-run of a Russian empire and achieved more than a fighter plane or tank. An editor on the Russian TV channel Pervyi Kanal (Channel One), this mother of two, boldly ran behind the newsreader and held up a sign during the main evening show, Vremya, that said:

Stop the war! Don’t believe propaganda! They’re lying to you here! Russians against war

It was Homeric heroism at its best! Lesser defiance in Russia’s Soviet past would have been met with a bullet in the back of the head in a dark underground room in Lubyanka or be exiled to a gulag in Siberia. In present Putin’s Russia, there is talk that Marina could be facing 15 years in prison! All for less than 5 seconds of telling the truth, a commodity being denied to her people.

Marina knew the risks but she also knew the need and the urgency. To surprisingly address her duped nation separated from reality, she  was prepared to expose  herself and her family to the wrath of Putin.

Maybe, just maybe,” she must have thought, it could awaken her people to  “stop the carnage.”

Will she be sacrificed like Joan of Arc by her own people or will she inspire that people to challenge their oppressor – Putin?

Russia. First channel. Marina Ovsyannikova. No war! (2022) News of Ukraine

THE PIANO PLAYER

The second image was in the midst of the carnage, another mother of two, Irina Maniukina playing her grand piano for one final time before leaving her bomb stricken home in Bila Tserkva near Kyiv. Before Irana sets about playing Chopin’s Étude Op. 25, No. 1, she dusts off the debris caused by Russian shelling scattered over her Steinway & Sons Essex piano. It may be the last time she will ever see, never mind play, this piano.

The beauty and grace of the music contrasts with the discord and disfigurement of her home captured in the video filmed by the pianist’s daughter, Karina. Melody juxtaposes over mess, as we see a living room  no longer for the living!

To the sounds of Chopin, we gaze in horror at the debris, shattered glass and rubble. The bomb, that landed 30 feet from the home, blew all the windows out and left a huge crater in the ground.

It blew a larger crater in their lives!

It was poignant to discover that the Chopin piece Irina played is also known as “The Shepherd Boy” following a tale that the composer advised a pupil to picture a shepherd boy taking refuge in a grotto to avoid a storm playing the melody on his flute.

To escape this Russian ‘storm’, where will this Ukrainian mother and daughter now take refuge?

The image of music rising from a home reduced to a ‘wasteland’ was reminiscent to this writer of a plant sprouting in an arid desert – the human spirit survives and will thrive again.

VLADIMIR vs VOLODYMYR

The third image is of a president, who has not only risen to the proverbial occasion but quite literally, rises daily from under the rubble. Like Spartacus, the Thracian gladiatorial slave who defied the might of Rome and is revered today more than the generals who opposed him, so to this young Jewish leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, defying the brutality and imperial arrogance of wannabee Tzar Vladimir Putin. Drawing his line in the proverbial sand in his capital Kyiv, this former actor and comedian  – now wartime leader  – is an inspiration to his people and the world.  Whatever befalls the body of the man, the image of this man is secure for all time.

Unlike the Afghan president, Ashraf  Ghani who only seven months ago fled his country as the Taliban approached his capital Kabul, Zelenskyy’s response to the offer of  leaving Ukraine and to set up a government in exile, was markedly different. While Russian troops were storming towards Ukraine’s capital, this president urged his people to “stand firm”. To the surprise of many around the world, he declined help to evacuate, saying on a street to the cellphone camera in what has become one of the most cited lines of the Russian invasion of Ukraine:

The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.” 

Spartacus could hardly have said it better to inspire his army of slaves over 2000 years ago!

With such Churchillian leadership, no world leader today could get away treating Ukraine the way British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain treated Czechoslovakia in 1938 referring to its existential plight with Nazi Germany as a “quarrel in a far away country, between people of whom we know nothing”.

On the contrary, Ukraine is country of whom the world today knows everything about – every horrific detail. As Zelenskyy reminded the American Congress in his video address that the people of Ukraine were experiencing a Pearl Harbour and a 9/11 “every day”.

‘Plane’ Truth. With his hand to his chest appealing for either a no-fly zone or planes to protect their skies, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses members of Congress from Kyiv.

Zoning in on the two most iconic attacks on American soil, Zelenskyy’s words and warnings could not fail to resonate on the American soul!

There is a message from the placard holder, the pianist and the President to the people of Russia about its leadership:

If you don’t remove the rubbish, it just piles up.

At some stage, they will be engulfed by the stench.

As I wrote in my last article and needs to be repeated:

Putin will not stop; he needs to be stopped.


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s full speech to Congress






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

Time is Running Out

With Russia’s invasion testing the boundaries of infamy on a daily basis, humanity cannot depend on anachronistic acronyms

By David E. Kaplan

Freedom is never more than one generation  away from EXTINCTION,” said former US President, Ronald Reagan. His warning resonates more than ever today.

We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream,” he explained, and then cautioned,  “It must be fought for, protected and handed  on for them  to do the same.”

If the world until very recently was troubled about democracy under threat and the loss of “freedom”,  today it is not only our ‘freedom’ in peril but  – if we listen to the warnings of western  leaders –  our very existence!

Russia has brought us – the world – to another low point in human history, where talk of “EXTINCTION” is now not the stuff of far-fetched movies but everyday political parlance. Listening to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby awkwardly squirm at the podium in his unenviable job of trying to furnish credible answers to tough but predictable questions, confirms our worst fears – that one  miscalculation could lead to WWIII – to a nuclear war, or simply stated in one word – ARMEGEDDON!

Neither Plan nor Plane takes off! Closing the door on a proposal to provide Ukraine with fighter jets, Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby explains that the transfer would risk escalating the war and the focus should be on supplying more useful weapons to fend off Russian forces.

Over the last two agonising weeks, the world has shifted from the 20th century  paranoia of a “Brave New World” to the 21st century of a very “Scared New World”.

Irresistibly glued to our TVs, we are paralyzed in disbelief  – and now fear  – as corona abruptly overnight gave way to Ukraine as the daily horror show. Grappling for the right words to describe this uncomfortable phenomena, I feel I’m immersed  in the irresistible observance of a ritual of mass human sacrifice and unable to stop it. Yes, we take some comfort – and pride – where individual people, governments and NGOs do what they can by rescuing refugees, providing humanitarian aid, providing some ‘defensive’  – heaven forbid ‘offensive’ weaponry –  but cannot stop the exorable grind of continuous carnage.

There is a ‘red line’ we are told we cannot cross because any meaningful action will amount to being construed by Mr. Putin as “ESCALOTORY” – the new catchword of the millennium. 

I don’t think I have ever used that word once in all my 70 years, and now I hear it all day by world leaders from Biden to Johnson to Macron and others.

Churchill, who understood  the danger of appeasement,  must be turning in his grave, which is precisely where the brave Jewish Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, will be re-located shortly, if this human tragedy continues to play out on the world stage.

All the once perceived mighty mechanisms conceived to prevent this tragic trajectory – the UN and NATO – are little more than anachronistic acronyms in stopping this daily carnage.

BREAKING NEWS

Horrific was the juxtaposition of two items of Breaking News last night – 9 March.

Like millions of others, I was battling to process a report of Russian forces having bombed a maternity and children’s hospital in the beleaguered port of Mariupol in southern Ukraine with pictures of a bleeding pregnant mother been rescued on a stretcher with the shelled hospital in the background.

Scorched Earth. Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman following the Russian bombing of a maternity hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol.

How do you listen without tearing up when you hear the appeal from President Zelensky in his bunker calling for NATO to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine with these words:

Children are under the wreckage. This is an atrocity! How much longer will the world be an accomplice by ignoring terror? Close the sky right now! Stop the killings! You have power but you seem to be losing humanity,”

All in vain. Maybe more effective might be the “No-Fry Zone” imposed by MacDonalds that are closing all its outlets in Russia.

Plane Speaking. Ukraine’s Zelensky desperately appeals to US for fighter jets.
 

POLES APART

With a world finding no traction to President Zelensky’s appeal for declaring a ‘no fly zone’ over Ukraine – not even a partial one for humanitarian purposes – the next item of Breaking News was the US dismissal of a Polish plan to provide fighter jets to be sent to Ukraine. The reasoning was, “Okay, if we can’t actively participate ourselves, we can at least send planes to the Ukrainians for them to defend themselves. We are already sending some defensive armaments, why not include planes?”

Oh no!

As reported in The Guardian,:

 “Pentagon says plan for Poles to give Soviet-era jets to US ‘not tenable’

Unable to effectively defend themselves, the Ukrainian people are now expected to die in slow motion before the eyes of the world, because to support them would be perceived by Mr. Putin as “ESCALOTORY”.

A woman walks outside the damaged by shelling maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. A Russian attack has severely damaged a maternity hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials say. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Its amazing how words  – even a single word – can kill!

The man in Moscow is holding the gun to the world’s head; except this proverbial gun is a nuclear button!

Now that we understand the price we are forced to pay, including our own moral degradation when leaders with evil intent have nuclear weapons, can the world seriously continue with the dangerously absurd  JCPOA and STOP Iran’s nuclear programme? Having imposed the severest of sanctions on Russia, is the world so crazy as to lift sanctions on a potentially nuclear Iran that strives for the destruction of the state of Israel!

Will the Jewish state of tomorrow, be like the Ukraine of today – EXPENDABLE?

The Putins and mad mullahs of the world cannot be appeased. They will not stop; they need to be stopped.





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).

Ukraine Today, Where Tomorrow?

The threat of a cataclysmic clash on European soil – Again!

By David E. Kaplan

I remember as a kid in the early sixties laughing my head off in a “bioscope” (cinema) in Cape Town, South Africa to the all-star American comedy “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”.

Chasing the Buck. The poster to the hilarious blockbuster on the sixties starring Spencer Tracy with an all-star cast of comedians.

Years later as a senior,  I sit riveted to a small screen in Israel and still “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” but I’m not laughing. There is nothing comedic in the news’ coverage of a Europe teetering at the edge of an abyss; of again heading headlong to war – an insane unnecessary war that the Washington Post predicts could lead to 50,000 civilian casualties and would trigger, according to Amnesty International, a humanitarian refugee crisis.

There is a cartoon doing the rounds that says it all.

Putin arrives as a casual tourist at passport control on entering an unnamed European country and is asked by the immigration official:

Destination?

Bucharest” replies Putin

Occupation?” asks the  official.

Of course” replies Putin.

As this real-life Game of Thrones plays out with possible dire and deadly consequences, the world watches, waits and wonders if this is a new pivotal moment in history from which a new world order may emerge. Commentators and historians have been drawing comparisons to the First World War when bombs and blunders thunderously reset the political landscape far beyond the borders of Europe, the consequences of which are still reverberating today.

Whether Putin is playing a skillful game of chess or  a risky game of poker – note that while an invasion looks imminent the Russian media reports of forces leaving the border area designed to obfuscate –  President Biden had it right when he said in his address from the White House that should Putin invade his neighbour that the “needless death and destruction” that he will inflict will be the result of “A WAR OF CHOICE”.

The most significant words here are “he” and “CHOICE”. This “march of folly” is being pursued not by a people but a person – Putin –  and it is his “choice” alone.

Russia faces no existential threats, most certainly not from Ukraine.  On the contrary, it is the Ukraine, Europe and the world  who are facing Russian greed and gangsterism.

The Road to Kyiv? Russian armoured vehicles on route to Ukraine border. What is their final destination?

However Putin may have bitten more than he can chew. He may well have underestimated Biden’s resolve and ability to unify a shaky Europe to stand firm against the Russian bear, reminiscent of  President Bush in the first Gulf War orchestrating an array of nations to join the USA’s lead in a coalition, forming the largest military alliance since World War II. It may be that the current Coalition of the Willing that is prepared to engage in an economic war  with Russia may not have been what its appetitive president expected.

So what is Putin hoping to achieve with his cat and mouse machinations?

My personal view, is that Putin – long set on reclaiming all of Ukraine and boldened by his success of occupying and annexing the Crimea in early 2014 – the gambler in the Kremlin believed he would get away with it, particularly if Trump was still in the White House. 

Contrary to arguments put forward that Putin would not be doing what he is doing if Trump was still in the White House, I believe  the opposite; that Putin had a belief – not unreasonable –  that the former US president, who admires “strong men” autocrats and saw eastern Europe as the Russian’s sphere of influence would turn a blind eye to Russian ambitious shenanigans. In support of this reasoning, Trump did all in his power to undermine and belittle NATO, unsettle the European alliances amplified by his support of Brexit – offering Brittan “good deals”. The Russian bear smacked its lips,  salivating in anticipation of future land grabs!

Possibly, the most disappointed with a Biden presidential victory was Putin, his premier vodka remaining on ice until now – maybe!!!

Biden to Putin. Step back from the brink of war with Ukraine says US President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on the 15 February, 2022. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Hopefully it will remain on ice and the Russian forces will leave the borders of the Ukraine and “needless death and destruction” will be averted.

Europe does not need to build on its unenviable reputation as a mass graveyard to the outsized ambitions of autocratic leadership.

Jews on this issue are particularly sensitive. The Holocaust in Ukraine represented the first phase of the Shoah in which an estimated 1.5 million Jews were shot to death at close range in ravines, open fields, and forests. One in every four Jewish victims of the Holocaust was murdered in Ukraine.

With 75,000 Jews thought to be living in Ukraine, we don’t need to add to that  harrowing tally. That Israel is taking the matter seriously was evident in The Jerusalem Post’s Wednesday headline:

Israel prepares to move embassy from Kyiv to Lviv

The article also  reveals plans for providing security to the Jewish community as well preparations for a possible emergency evacuation.

From Frogs to Bears. A portent of things to come?

Recalling another movie  from the writer’s past, this time as a law student was the 1972  horror flick FROGS that had in bold on its poster:

 “Today The Pond! Tomorrow – The World!”

One could paraphrase the movie as BEARS and reword the poster as:

Today Ukraine, Tomorrow the Baltic

We are warned.





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).

“High Anxiety”

Baffled by bullies, a worried world tittering on the edge still finds time to oppose Israel

By David E. Kaplan

We have children and grandchildren, we don’t want war,” says an understandably terrified Ukrainian woman shop attendant to Clarissa Ward of CNN on assignment in a town near the ‘border’  – misnomer for frontline –  between her country and a poised-to-strike, militarized Russia.

Winds of War. Clarissa Ward (right) reporting on CNN from the Ukraine on the threat of “imminent” Russian invasion.

At the other side of the world, the Taiwanese people are no less living in fear – of an invasion from mainland China. Scenarios reminiscent of the 1930s with allied dictatorial appetitive superpowers  – one in Europe and another in the Far East – are again threatening war in their regions with uncertain dimensions but certain consequences –  human misery.

And all happening during a global pandemic!

If it’s not chilling enough that young children have to see their elders walking around faceless, covered up with masks; that they have to further fear that their seniors are ready to wage senseless wars.

This is insane!

Adding to the theatrics is a global atmosphere of anticipation with dictators playing  politics designed to obfuscate and confound while they bide their time. They playfully dangle diplomacy while massing for war.

Make no mistake this is serious stuff. After all, British Prime Mister, Boris Johnson – noted for his comedic antics and partying during the pandemic  – was not joking when he said:

 “Putin is holding a gun to Ukraine’s head.”

Cunningly coordinated, China is doing the same towards Taiwan.

Preparing to Defend. Taiwanese troops pose after conducting drills in front of the media at Kaohsiung in Taiwan. (Reuters)

And as this ‘theatre of the  absurd’ plays out, commentators speculate that the predators first want the entertainment or circus for the masses – the 2022 Winter Olympics. And who is the host – none other than by one of the two bullies –  China.

The Olympics, which stands for mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play is being hosted by a country that like its Russian counterpart is set to wage UNPROKED war and create chaos.

But before the bullets fly, it will away with a chunk of medals!

Last night I watched movie on streamer with Merle Streep and Leonardo Di Caprio called ‘Don’t Look Up’, which tells the story of two astronomers attempting to warn humanity of an approaching  meteor that will shortly destroy human civilization. The meteor is a metaphor for an impending disaster but what was more disturbing was the apathy of the political leadership, totally absorbed in self-interest.  Rather than trying to destroy or deflect the meteor it chose instead to try harness its potential wealth by mining it! Can this get more absurd?

Yes it can – for Israel.

While the world faces uncertainty and fallout from the actions of duplicitous players, so does Israel this week that was subjected to another false and “bully” report, designed to undermine its legitimacy and turn a world from facing existential threats to one attacking the Jewish state. Failing to ultimately remove Jews from this earth – despite endless efforts – the strategy has shifted to expunging the Jewish state – Israel.

The bully – Amnesty International whose February 1 report falsely accuses Israel of “Apartheid” has come under justifiable condemnation as being “antisemitic”. Even the Biden administration which is determined on drawing closer to the Palestinian Authority that unsurprisingly praised the report, rejected it as “absurd.” Some U.S. lawmakers denounced it as “rooted in historic prejudices and false narratives.”

Law, Lies and Labels. “We call it apartheid, because it is apartheid under international law,”  Agnes Callamard, the Secretary General of Amnesty International (left)  answered Becky Anderson on CNN to a global audience.

Avi Bell, a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, told JNS (Jewish National Syndicate) that “the big challenge would be to find any claims by Amnesty that are defensible from a legal point of view.”

According to Bell, the nearly 300-page report is “a compilation of tired propaganda, lies and distortions” and “boils down to a simple message: The world’s largest Jewish community should drop dead.”

For Amnesty International, which apart from calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) “to consider the crime of apartheid in its current investigation” and further calling on all states to “exercise universal jurisdiction to bring perpetrators of apartheid crimes to justice”, this NGO bully goes much farther in its declaration of war against Israel.

According to Amnesty:

 “This system of apartheid originated with the creation of Israel in May 1948 and has been built and maintained for decades.”

This reference to 1948 exposes Amnesty’s animus, characterizing Israel as illegitimate since its inception.

From this revelatory platform it launched its global calling for a “comprehensive arms embargo on Israel” and for the UN General Assembly to re-establish the Special Committee against Apartheid in order to investigate Israel.

Telling it as he sees it. President Joe Biden rejected the Amnesty International report  accusing Israel of apartheid as “Absurd”.

While state bullies like Russia and China have designs to absorb Ukraine (the second largest country in Europe) and Taiwan respectively, the NGO bully Amnesty International is banking on the world’s increasing antisemitism to coalesce in the mission:

to dismantle the state of Israel.

Israel however sees through the smokescreens and subterfuges,  and unlike the populace mostly in a state of denial in the movie “Don’t Look Up”, recognizes the meteor falling to earth for what it is and what needs to be done.

Jews haven’t bounced back after 2000 years and not learnt a thing or two!

Ignoring the Truth. Lies, spin, profiteering, bickering, undermining the science, ignoring warnings and doing nothing useful are the themes in this depressing comedy that finds resonance in today’s global politics.






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 Open Windows to Opening Doors

Diplomatic tiptoeing  from Dhaka to Jerusalem

By Adv. Craig Snoyman

I came across an article in this week’s news in which there were suggestions that Bangladesh might open diplomatic relations with Israel.  This reminded me of a recent consultation in which I had occasion to consult with some Bangladeshis or Banglis, as they call themselves. My principal client was not fluent in English and had brought an interpreter with him. After having concluded our legal business the conversation moved to the issue of Israel,  as it almost inevitably seems to do when Muslims and Jews get together.

My clients seemed to see little difference between Jews and Israelis and offended my five-generation South African lineage by asking if I was born in Israel. Banglis were not supporters of Israel, he told me, they supported the Palestinians.  As proud Banglis, they explained just how widely dispersed the Bangli diaspora was and how successful they were. Then from diasporas of the Bangli and Jewish nature, we moved onto the topic of Bangladeshi-Israeli relationship. It started with my principal client telling me that the Banglis did not particularly like the Israelis. And then I received a quick crash course in Bangli history. Originally referred to as East Pakistan, it was separated from West Pakistan by a huge swath of the Indian sub-continent. (interesting fact – he told me that Bangladesh is the most densely populated country on earth – so move over Gaza!) In the early 1970’s, West Pakistan mounted an operation to eliminate the Bengali nationalist movement. This resulted in millions of refugees fleeing into India and to the Bangladeshi war of independence against Pakistan, in which India took part.

Man on a Mission. Lt. Gen. (retd) Jack Farj Rafael (JFR) Jacob was head of the Indian Army’s eastern command during the 1971 India-Pakistan war that resulted in the creation of Bangladesh.

It was at this that the interpreter stepped in and introduced a Jewish -Israeli dimension to the history lesson. There was a Jew by the name of General “Farj Jacobjee” ( I  subsequently found out his name was Jack Farj Jacob,  the “jee”  attached to the name as a sign of respect) who was the head of the Indian Army (or something like that) that fought against the Pakistanis on the side of the Bangladeshis. He took his troops and carefully avoided fighting in the little cities and attacked the capital, Dhaka, directly. This surprise strategy resulted in the quick defeat of Pakistan and the independence of Bangladesh. The interpreter  continued with more amazing details. The Israelis had been supportive of Bangladesh, while the Palestinians had been supporting Pakistan. The “Israeli woman prime minister” immediately recognised the independent state of Bangladesh, but Bangladesh would not recognise Israel.

Golda Meir (1898-1978) Was an Israeli politician, teacher who served as the fourth prime minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974. 

Now with  talks of recognition between Dhaka and Jerusalem, will it be that General Jack Farj Raphael Jacob  may be one of the forgotten men who is instrumental  in advancing the cause of Israeli diplomacy? After all,  how many people still remember the names of  Eddie Jacobson and  Ivan Maisky?

Surprise Support. Ivan Mikhailovich Maisky (1884 – 1975), the Soviet Ambassador to the Court of St James may have been instrumental in influencing Josef Stalin to support a vote at the UN surprising in favour of a Jewish state.

In the desperate times when the Zionists were seeking the independence of Palestine, many people – some now only  vague footnotes to history – strove very hard to make this ideal a reality. One tends to forget that the United States of America was not particularly in favour of the independence of Palestine.  General George Marshall, the great WWII military general, father of the Marshall Plan, and Secretary of State to President Harry S Truman was adamantly opposed to the recognition of a Jewish State. This position was supported by the Foreign Office as well as the CIA. Truman refused to even meet with the Zionist delegation. As Golda Meir states in her biography, it was only because he agreed to meet with his old war-buddy and business partner, Eddie Jacobson, that Truman had a change of heart (it appears that Marshall and the Foreign Office did not) One crucial but relatively unknown meeting resulted in  the USA crucially voted for Israel’s  independence.

Ivan Maisky, Russian ambassador of the Court of St James, may also have been instrumental in obtaining the consent of the virulently anti-Zionist Josef Stalin of the USSR to give a favourable vote.  In trying to gain support, Chaim Weizmann may have suggested that an independent Jewish State would move out the sphere of the detested British to a more socialist outlook, but Maisky seems to have played a part in Stalin’s inexplicable decision so surprisingly announced at the United Nations by Andrei Gromyko. A Jew, and a Russian diplomat, being pushed by Weizmann, Maisky also  visited Palestine and then submitted a secret memorandum to Lenin. While the details still remain unknown, the change of stance by the USSR occurred shortly after the delivery of that memo. Its effect may have impacted the politburo, but it was also strongly felt in the heart of the British Empire  where  Harold Laski, the British socialist leader, later told Ben-Gurion that “I read Maisky’s secret report, and I became a Zionist.”

Missouri Men Making History – Together . Former President Harry S. Truman (left) with Eddie Jacobson (right) in Kansas City, Missouri.

My favourite historian Paul Johnson wrote “in terms both of Soviet and of American policy, Israel slipped into existence through a window that briefly opened, and just as suddenly closed. Once again, timing—or, if one likes, providence—was of the essence.”

In the delicate negotiations that are no doubt going on behind closed doors, one hopes that the late General Jack Farj Raphael Jacob may yet serve proverbially and ‘providentially’ to  hold open another window to reshape history.


Story of Jacob. A file picture from 2015 of Lt Gen JFR Jacob on Israel’s Independence day celebrations. Lt. Gen. (retd) Jack Farj Rafael (JFR) Jacob was one of the most prominent members of India’s relatively small Jewish community, serving as a Lieutenant General in the Indian Army and later as a Governor of two Indian states-Goa and Punjab.




About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.





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