“In The Mood”

British Trade Union inclined to ignore Covid-19 while promoting anti-Israel sentiment

By David E. Kaplan

What’s with the United Kingdom’s second largest trade union with 1.2 million members? What does it say about Unite that its obsession against the collective state of the Jews – Israel – is far more important than the health and wellbeing of its million-plus members or its fellow workers abroad?

Mood in the Street. British trade unions vote ‘overwhelmingly’ in 2019 to pass motion boycotting Israel.

Unite has been angrily accused of ignoring the global crisis for workers caused by the Coronavirus pandemic after submitting a motion condemning Israel for its proposed annexation of parts of the West Bank to be discussed at this week’s 152nd annual Trade Union Congress (TUC) conference starting this Monday.

While the once proposed “annexation” is off Israel’s political agenda and news media, clearly with the British trade union Unite, it remains a ‘present and clear danger’ warranting a resolution. No matter that the landscape has shifted and there prevails a new  spirit of rapprochement towards the pursuit of peace and prosperity.

Unite’s antiquated understanding is hardly surprising when its boss, Len McCluskey, a former stalwart Corbyn supporter, once described allegations of antisemitism within Labour as “mood music”.

Red Alert. In battle mode, ‘Unite’ union boss Len McCluskey once called allegations of antisemitism within Labour “mood music”. (Photo: Getty Images)

What will likely set the misguided “mood” at this week’s trade union conference is the proposed anti-Israel Unite – Motion 66 – condemning Israel over an issue that is no longer relevant.

What raises the spectre of anti-Semitism is that this will be the ONLY international motion to be debated at the conference.  No other country in the world with the most horrendous human rights violations attracts the attention of Unite which is fixated on Israel.

It is little surprise that the proposed motion of condemnation by Len McCluskey’s union is being greeted with anger by some in the union movement.

Steve Scott of the Britain Israel Trade Union Dialogue (BITUD) told the London-based Jewish weekly, the Jewish Chronicle that

It’s strange that in a time of unprecedented struggle for workers worldwide, including massive job losses and health consequences of Covid, that the only international motion at the TUC doesn’t offer solidarity and support to workers across the globe.”

While ignored by Unite, Scott draws attention to the “considerable cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians during the Covid-19 crisis to get people back to work, noting that the “Histadrut (Israeli TUC) at the moment have issued notice of a General Strike to defend all public sector workers who face pay cuts.”

Asks Scott:

 “Isn’t this something we should be sending solidarity  messages for rather than condemnation?”

Adhering to the facts on the ground, Scott continues:

Considering that the annexation proposals have been rescinded since the recent recognition agreement between Israel and the UAE, this motion also seems to be out of date. Why aren’t we now calling for a return to talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships in light of the peace moves in the Middle East.”

By the time, the issue is raised for discussion at the Conference, Bahrain too will have joined the UAE in normalising relations with Israel. Yes, there will be challenges, but the trend and trajectory towards peace is set.

However, facts on the ground are not what interests Unite. One only has to look back at its past public positions over the past decade when during Israel’s conflicts with Hamas, the union consistently sided against Israel adopting the most inflammatory and one-sided language.

True Colours. Delegates to the annual Trades Union Congress conference in Manchester on 12 September 2019 waving Palestinian flags supporting resolutions denouncing Israel.

In 2012 during Operation Pillar of Defense, a statement issued under McCluskey’s name “unreservedly condemned outrageous Israeli aggression,” accusing the Jewish State of “terrorizing an entire population.” The statement made no mention of the thousands of terrorist rockets fired on the civilian populations of Israel!

Under some pressure at the time, McCluskey budged only slightly, conceding that Unite was “wary” of Hamas – only in part – because “the terror group had expelled the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions.”

Eighteen months later, during Operation Protective Edge, Unite’s statement only briefly noted the murder of three Israelis youths before railing against “Israeli-state racism and apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing”, “colonisation”, accusing Israel of committing “war crimes with complete impunity,” and suggested:

This isn’t about rockets from Gaza. It’s about Israel fighting to maintain its control over Palestinian lives and Palestinian land.”

Clearly on McCluskey’s watch, the Unite union has shown an unremitting hostility towards Israel and Zionism.

Off the Mark to Off-line

Interestingly and no less intriguing is that Unite’s anti-Israel motion to be discussed this Monday and Tuesday afternoon will NOT be aired to members of the public or other trade union members who register to watch online coverage of the event.

Why?

Is it feared that certain ugly truths will be revealed to the public or might embarrass the new Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer who is set to address the conference? After all, his first act as party’s new leader, when he replaced Jeremy Corbyn in early 2020  was vowing “to tear out the poison” of antisemitism within his party “by its roots”.

Off the Air. While thousands of Trades Union Congress (TUC) members are expected to tune in online to the discussions and panels hosted at Congress 2020, including the keynote speech from leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer (above), the discussion on an anti-Israel resolution proposed by ‘Unite’ will not be broadcasted.

With positive signs of a Middle East transforming towards rapprochement, would it not be better for this conference to read the signs of shifting sands and instead of one-sided attack resolutions against Israel to rather adhere to the words of  Steve Scott:

 calling for a return to talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships in light of the peace moves in the Middle East.”

With Flying Colours. Proud to be on the path to peace, Tel Aviv City Hall  is lit up with the flag of the United Arab Emirates after Persian Gulf state announces peace deal with Israel on August 13. (Photo: AP/Oded Baliti)




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

Fortune Favours the Bold

The historical peace agreement between Israel and the UAE ushers in new era

By  Rolene Marks

Blessed are the peacemakers. Mabruk and Mazal Tov”. Many can agree with this sentiment expressed by US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo that describes a truly momentous occasion – the signing of a peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

The Deal Makers. Israel, UAE reach historic peace deal (left-right): Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, US President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: REUTERS)

The Abraham Accords, which is what this historical agreement is called, is a game changer for the region. This is not just a bringing together of the descendants of Abraham but is a signal to other regional countries and the world that the time has come to transcend the divisions and ancient hatred and work together towards a better future for the Middle East.

Any country that is willing to hold its hand out in peace to Israel will find a willing partner. The Abraham Accord is not necessarily a peace agreement because the two countries have not regarded each other as enemy entities, but rather a recognition of normalisation. This word is very important at a time when various entities that include the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement’s rally call against normalisation.

Read All About It! A man reads a copy of the United Arab Emirates-based The National newspaper near the Burj Khalifa in the Gulf emirate of Dubai on Aug 14, 2020. (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images.)

The Middle East is a region facing not just the impact that the Corona Virus pandemic has caused on our economies; but we face a collective threat in the form of hegemonic regime, Iran and their proxies, Hezbollah, Hamas and other terror groups. This agreement sends a clear message that the people of the region grow weary of terror sponsors and tyranny – we want change in the form of recognition, economic cooperation and a better future for us and the generations to come.

Sign of the Times. Tel Aviv City Hall is lit up with the flag of the United Arab Emirates on Aug. 13, 2020, as the UAE and Israel announced they would be establishing full diplomatic ties. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)

The gains for both countries will be tremendous. Apart from diplomatic, economic, innovative and other forms of cooperation, the Abraham Accords paves the way for other Arab states to follow. In another historical first, Israel’s Foreign Minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, spoke to his Omani counterpart who reiterated support for peace with the Palestinians and also hailed the agreement with the UAE. US officials have said that Oman, Bahrain and likely Morocco and even Saudi Arabia could normalize relations with the Jewish state. The real surprise was Lebanese President, Michel Aou, who  in an interview with French BFM TV news, claimed he didn’t rule out the possibility of peace with Israel. When asked if Lebanon would consider peace with Israel, Aoun stated, “That depends. We have problems with Israel, and we have to resolve them first.”

Streetwise. Israeli and United Arab Emirates flags line a road in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya after the two countries agreed to normalise ties. ( JACK GUEZ AFP)

There are those who are naysayers. Iran as expected has expressed its predictable rage, claiming that the UAE will be “consumed by the fires of Zionism”.

Oh dear! They do seem a bit put out!

Kuwait has claimed to be the last to normalize and sadly the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The Palestinian Authority immediately withdrew their ambassador and recently announced that they will be boycotting the Global World Expo that will be held in Dubai in 2021. Hamas have expressed their fury and umbrage. Obstinacy and belligerence has doing nothing to further the Palestinian cause in the last 70 years. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, infamous for his propensity to engage in sabre rattling rhetoric against Israel, has threatened to suspend ties with the UAE. This is what millennials would call an epic face palm moment as Turkey and Israel have bilateral relations.

There are those among the Israeli right who are disappointed that any plans of application of sovereignty or annexation as some prefer to call it, are suspended. Was normalisation the carrot dangled by the UAE the reason for this? One thing is for sure, well over 80% of Israelis are thrilled with the result, happily embracing the opportunities on offer.

In the past, normalisation with Arab states was contingent on peace with the Palestinians. Today, Arab states grow increasingly frustrated with their lack of willingness to come to the party and negotiate. The ever looming threat of Iran means that alliances have to be found elsewhere and a strong partner has been found in Israel.

Predictable Paranoia. Palestinians burn cutouts depicting US President Donald Trump, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest against the United Arab Emirates’ deal with Israel to normalise relations, in Nablus in the West Bank August 14, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS/RANEEN SAWAFTA)

If the Palestinians are sincere about peace, they would see the positives of normalisation and the role that Arab countries can play in helping to negotiate. In a region where the rules of engagement, culture and honour are different to Western countries, perhaps the opportunity for regional powers to play more of a diplomatic role in helping to bring about peace and a state for the Palestinians may be more successful.

Flying High. Post Corona, Israelis will be flocking to the UAE as Israel look forward to welcome tourists from the Gulf.

A famous Latin proverb once intoned that “fortune favours the bold”. The winds of change are blowing in the Middle East, sweeping away historic divisions and barriers and bringing with it a bright future, filled with opportunity. The bold will find favour and fortune, the naysayers and rejectionists will flounder on the garbage pile of bitterness and hatred.









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

Cancelling “Cancel Culture”

By Rolene Marks

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!

Cancelling “Cancel Culture”2

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?

Cancelling “Cancel Culture”4
Cancelling Columbus. A group of protesters pulled down a statue of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

 

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.

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Tackling Truth. Maybe the world could follow the South African example following the fall of Apartheid when hearings were conducted between victims and perpetrators of the heinous racist system.

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?”

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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?

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Storm on Social Media. Famed British author of the Harry Potter fantasy series has dared to challenge the cancel culture narrative.

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.

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Antisemitism Neglected. A reminder of the unending hatred of Jews, a person pauses in front of Stars of David with the names of those killed in a deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, in Pittsburgh in October 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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

Storming Statues

Frenzied removals from their proverbial pedestals

By David E. Kaplan

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?

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World’s protector needs protection. Statue of Winston Churchill boarded up ahead of Black Lives Matter protest in London.

What heroes of history that inspired at the time a statue, can structurally stand the test of time? If the pulling down of General George 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!

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How the mighty have fallen. A statue of George Washington was pulled down from the lawn outside the German American Society in Northeast Portland on June 18, 2020. Rebecca Ellis/OPB

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.

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Only time BG had his head in the sand. Statue of Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion doing one of his famous handstands on the Tel Aviv beach.

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?

Of course not!

There are no shortages of statues in England to “the hammer of the Scots”, King Edward I who in 1290 ordered the expulsion of the entire Jewish community from England. The edict was only overturned during the Protectorate more than 350 years later, when Oliver Cromwell permitted Jews to return to England in 1657.

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“Hammer of Scots” To ‘Expeller of Jews’. Statue of Edward I “Longshanks” near Burgh by Sands who expelled the Jews from England in 1290.

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.

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Close to home of the ‘Black Live Matter’ movement is this bronze statue in Washington DC of Martin Luther who advocated setting fire to Jewish homes, synagogues and schools.

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.

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Royal Boot. Statue at the Palais de Justice in Poitiers of King Charles VI who expelled the Jews of France in 1394.

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!

Monumento a Isabel la Católica (Madrid) 04b
End of an Era. Statue in Madrid of Isabella of Castile who together with her husband, Ferdinand of Aragon ordered the expulsion of Jews from Spain.

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?

Storming Statues3
Hot Stuff. As resonant today as it was when it was first published in 1953.

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?

Monumental Milestones

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.”

Storming Statues4
Honouring Jordan’s Fallen. The monument for the Jordanian soldiers who died during the 1967 Six-Day War near the Muslim Cemetery along the Eastern Wall of the Old City near Lion’s Gate in East Jerusalem Israel.

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.

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Pursuance of Peace. The obelisk memorial to the fallen Egyptian soldiers from 1948 in Ashdod, Israel is an inspiring monument to creative diplomacy and reinforcing the quest for peace.

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

Streetwise

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).

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True Supporter. Initially called Bnei Harel (Sons of Harel), in 1950, this moshav in central Israel was changed to Kfar Truman, in honor of U.S. president Harry S. Truman who had supported the establishment of the State of Israel.

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 PostThe 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.

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Forging Friendships. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud aboard the USS Quincy in the Great Bitter Lake north of the city of Suez, Egypt on Feb. 14, 1945 discussing Saudi-US relations and obstructing the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. (AP file photo)

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.”

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Reenacting The Relationship. Celebrating in February 2020 the 75th anniversary of the meeting between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz on board the USS Quincy in 1945, Hall Delano Roosevelt, grandson of FDR (right), participates in the meeting’s reenactment on the USS Farragut. (photo by Huda Bashatah)

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.

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The Notetaker. US Marine Corps Col. William A. Eddy seen here kneeling left of King Abdul Aziz and President Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard the USS Quincy in Great Bitter Lake, Egypt. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum)

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.

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Retired US Marine Corps Col. William A. Eddy. (Getty Images)

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.”

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The Jewish Problem. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (at desk) addresses a joint session of Congress on March 1, 1945 when he astonishingly 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.”

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Seeing The Light. President Harry Truman receiving on 5 May 1951 in the Oval Office, a Menorah as a gift from the Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion (center) during his visit to the US with Israel’s Ambassador  to the US Abba Eban looking on.

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.

 

Shifting Sands

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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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-Suleiman in 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.”

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Al-Yawm daily

 

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…”

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Saudi Intellectual Turki Al-Hamad who earlier criticised the Palestinians for forfeiting an important opportunity by boycotting the Bahrain Economic Workshop in 2019. (Watanserb.com, March 10, 2019)

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…”

Changing Landscapes

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.

He tweeted:

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.”

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Al-Jazeera presenter Faisal al-Qasim.

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.

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Fueling mass hysteria against Israel in the sixties, President Gamal Abdul Nasser is seen here delivering a speech in Aleppo on February 17, 1960

South Africa Fails To See The Light

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?

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Hands Are Tied. With the image of hands shaking across the continents, senior military officials of Iran and South Africa vowed in March 2019 to increase military and defense cooperation between the two countries to achieve a long-term and strategic engagement.

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?

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Reza Pahlavi, the last heir apparent to the defunct throne of the Imperial State of Iran and the current head of the exiled House of Pahlavi speaks during an interview with Reuters in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/JOSHUA ROBERTS)

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.”

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The ‘Plane’ Truth. Iranian students gather for a demonstration over the downing of a Ukrainian airliner at Teheran University on January 14, 2020. (ATTA KENARE / AFP) Attachments area

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.

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Presidential Parlance. The official Iranian government website said SA President Cyril Ramaphosa had called the US’s assassination of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani “a cowardly act”. (Image: Masi Los)

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 Teheran’s Sharif University of Technology, protesters shouted: “We do not want coward directors.”

– At the Isfahan University of Technology, students chanted: “Cannon, tank, explosives, no longer useful; mullahs should go.”

– 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”.

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Time To Defect. Kimia Alizadeh who won a landmark bronze medal in taekwondo in the 2016 Rio Olympics for Iran has defected.

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.

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Burying The Truth. Bulldozers had been operating at the crash site before Ukrainian investigators even arrived – sparking fears of an Iranian cover-up.

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.”

While a world grows wary of wayward Iran, South Africa has remained committed to maintaining diplomatic ties happily engaging in joint business-tech forumsscientific cooperation, and expanding tourism.

The South African media is replete with photographs of Iranian and South African foreign ministers frequently meeting to discuss enhancing cooperation.

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Friends In Deed. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif holding talks with Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation in  Teheran on ways to expand relations, Teheran, Iran, October 16, 2019. (IRNA/Nazanin Kazemi Nava)

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.

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Dealing With the Devil. A four-day forum in December 2018 on business and technology cooperation between Iran and South Africa held in Johannesburg in a bid to boost Iranian goods exports.

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!

Bravo Boris

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.

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Grave Concern. The man who would be PM, Jeremy Corbyn (second from left) holding a wreath in October 2014 at a gravesite in Tunisia near a plaque dedicated to members of the Black September terrorist group. (Facebook page of the Palestinian embassy in Tunisia)

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.”

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Reassuring Message. Michael Gove savages Corbyn’s extremism and says Jewish people “should NEVER live in fear”. (Image: BBC)

Summer Recess

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.

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PHEW! Clearly most Britons were happy with this sight and none more so than the Jewish community that breathed a sigh of relief.

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.

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When In Acre. While in Acre in 2013, the future British PM’s sister, Rachel Johnson dined at the famed Uri Buri, seen here with Chef Uri “Buri” Jeremias (right) whom she described as looking “… like Father Christmas and was the most interesting man. I ate the best thing ever — ‘Ben-Gurion rice’.

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 Jewish immigrants, members of the Habonim youth movement.

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Back In Jerusalem. A trip down memory lane, journalist and TV presenter, Rachel Johnson revisits Jerusalem in 2013

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.”

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Seeing The Sights. Boris Johnson in Jerusalem on his first trip to Israel in the summer of 1984. (courtesy Rachel Johnson)

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.

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On top Of The World. Looking down at the Dead Sea – the lowest spot on earth – Boris’ sister Rachel at the top of Masada in 1984.

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.

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Aspiring To New Heights. Boris Johnson as a 20-year-old in Israel in 1984 climbing to the top of the Jewish fortress of Masada following his 6-week of volunteerism with his sister Rachel 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 trail CREDIT: ANDREW PARSONS/ I-IMAGES

When Sports Wins

By Rolene Marks

This week I have been thinking a lot especially about sports. It could be because I am still feeling the high many of us, including ex-pat South Africans are feeling after watching the Springboks (South Africa’s national rugby team) serve England’s team a thumping to win the Rugby World Cup.

It wasn’t just rugby that won that day, it was a nation. The Springboks proved that it is possible to rise above your circumstances, your race, religion and past prejudices and that, coupled with tenacity and a will to win, delivered one of the greatest moments in sports. It was more than the speeches from coach, Erasmus and team captain, Siya Kolisi – the guys in green and gold played for unity. They played for hope. And they delivered.

We know that South Africa is fraught with problems and that winning a global sports championship will not provide an instant fix, but they proved what could be accomplished when you pull together and focus on the greater good. Growing up during the Apartheid years in South Africa, where rugby was emblematic of the regime, it was inconceivable that the Springboks would be a team of players from all races, with a black captain. I don’t think there was a dry eye across South Africa (well, save for a few spoil sports – pun intended – who see unity as anathema) or for many who knew we were witnessing history. The late human rights icon, Nelson Mandela, recognized the role that sports could play in healing and reconciliation. The Springbok win took many back to the day in 1995 when Madiba weaved his magic and mistrust and old hatreds seemed forgotten.

The Springbok win got me thinking a lot about the power of sports in healing conflict in other parts of the world.

Sport plays an important role in trying to heal rifts in the Middle East as well. While sometimes respect and sportsman – like behavior is a casualty and some pay a heavy price for their efforts to be conciliatory, there is no doubt that whether it is facing off on the soccer pitch or wrestling on the mat, people are brought together for the common goal – winning.

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The power of sports to bring people together has also been recognized by entities like BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanction) who will try every trick in the book to try and scupper any attempts for normalization between Israelis – and anyone else. Their belief that boycotts, be they culture or sports, will force Israel to change policies they see as racist.

Their latest pet project of hate is trying to encourage a boycott of the sports apparel company, Puma, who sponsor the Israeli soccer/football team.

This has backfired spectacularly.  The Team is a microcosm of Israeli society, including Bedouin, Circassian, Muslim and Jewish players and nobody is interested in BDS’s divisive tactics. Needless to say, the boycott failed miserably.

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At the same time BDS were whining about boycotts, Brazil and Israel were planning a match to be played in Haifa. The Shalom game, a friendly match between Brazil and Israel was played on the 29th of October, 2019. This was billed as a celebration of “Football, Peace and Fraternity” and featured legends Ronaldinho, Kaka, Rivaldo, Batu, and other major Brazilian team players who have won the World Cup and visited the Jewish State to promote the message of peace and brotherhood. Ronaldinho took to his social media to speak about how happy he was to be in Israel and faced a barrage of hatred. It didn’t bother him at all – the message of brotherhood and peace is greater than hate.

Some have not fared as well.

This lesson was learnt the hard way by Iranian Judoka, Saeid Mollaei who was instructed not only to lose his match with Israeli counterpart, Sagi Muki, but said that even his family were threatened should he face off against his rival. Mollaei was afraid to return home after exposing and criticizing his government’s pressure on him to deliberately lose and avoid a potential bout against an Israeli opponent.

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Moallei fled to Berlin after the championships, where he had been hoping to secure a place at the 2020 Olympic Games. He was recently granted asylum.

International Judo Federation has suspended Iran indefinitely for the regimes’ discriminatory treatment of Israel.

Sport has the unique ability to unite and inspire and improve the prospects of tolerance and brotherhood.

It doesn’t matter what kind of sport it is or what level, when unity and tolerance trumps conflict, this is the ultimate championship. Just ask Siya Kolisi.

Supreme Irony Of Omar And Tlaib Crying Foul At Israel Ban

Currently features at the  Herald Sun (Australia)

By  Alex Ryvchin 

It is difficult not to savour the irony of two United States congresswomen who advocate boycotts of Israel crying foul at being denied entry into the very country they seek to erase.

Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, two members of the Democratic Party’s “Squad” of neophyte congresswomen from the Party’s radical left faction, have made their names by seeking to collapse decades of bipartisan support for Israel in US politics and using America’s democratic ally in the Middle-East as a wedge issue to divide their Party.

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Divide & Conquer. Sowing seeds of discord, US Democratic Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar at a news conference at the Capitol, July 15, 2019.J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Omar, who courted Jewish support during her election campaign by declaring her opposition to organised boycotts of Israel, before promptly embracing them upon her election, has brandished virtually every antisemitic slur imaginable in her brief political career. She accused Israel of “hypnotizing the world” and called on “Allah to awaken the people” to Israel’s evil.

She accused American Jews who support the Israel alliance of dual loyalties.

She accused American Jews of buying political influence.

And she has declared her support for boycotts, divestment and sanctions of Israel artists, academics, and businesses, a campaign which in the words of its framers seeks the “complete and total isolation of Israel”, and the end of a Jewish state within any borders whatsoever.

Her congressional colleague Rashida Tlaib, openly supports a “one-state solution” to the conflict by which the solitary Jewish state is replaced by what would be the 22nd majority Arab state, and has recently taken to falsifying history, claiming that good-hearted, kindly Arab Palestinians opened their homes to Jewish interlopers fleeing the Holocaust. In fact, the majority of Israelis are from the Middle East and have no historical connection to Europe. More so, the Palestinian leadership sought at every turn, through violence and political maneuvering, to block entry into the land by fleeing European Jews. Their leader, Haj Amin-Al Husseini was a key Nazi collaborator and recruited Muslims to the Nazi killing squads and called on them to “kill Jews wherever you find them; this pleases God, history and religion.”

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Shared Vision. Devising the demise of Jews globally, Muslim leader in Mandatory Palestine Haj Amin al-Husseini meets with Adolf Hitler, 1941. Photo: Bundesarchiv / Wikimedia

To be sure, the decision to bar entry into Israel to Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib is a fraught one which will have immense political implications for Israel. For decades, the imperative of American Jewish leaders has been to ensure that support for Israel transcends party politics. While some US Presidents and Congresses have been more sympathetic to Israel than others, baseline support for the peace and security of Israel has been remarkably resilient, even as politics has become more bitter and divided. But the decision of the Israeli Government, which (although now said to be unconnected) followed a Twitter statement from Donald Trump that “it would show great weakness if Israel allowed” the congresswomen entry, will only serve to rally the Democratic Party around the anti-Israel congresswomen and position them as the popular symbols of opposition to Donald Trump.

Just last month, despite intense lobbying by Omar and Tlaib, the US Congress adopted a resolution by a whopping 398-17 that rejected the anti-Israel boycott campaign, affirmed the two-state solution and calling for increased military aid to Israel.

But seeking to travel to Israel was a clever gambit by the congresswomen, who have carved out a unique ability to at once advance their agenda by using their power as influential public figures, while decrying the “privilege” of opposing political forces that supposedly keeps them in subservience.

A leaked itinerary for the congresswomen confirmed that they weren’t scheduled to meet with any mainstream Jewish groups or political figures and were being chaperoned by the NGO Miftah, which has accused Jews of using the blood of Christian children for Passover rituals and regularly praises Palestinians who kill Israeli civilians as “martyrs”.

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True Colours. The Palestinian organization, Miftah, that had organized Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar’s planned delegation to Jerusalem and the West Bank once claimed that Jews put Christian blood in matzah, echoing a centuries-old anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

If Israel allowed them entry, the congresswomen would have without question used the opportunity to advance their aim of turning public and political opinion against Israel by embarking on a carefully choreographed and live tweeted escapade showcasing the noble Palestinian struggle against the insatiable blood-lust of Jewish Israelis.

But by refusing entry, Israel inevitably opens itself up to criticism of being, at best, glass-jawed, and at worst, non-democratic. The former is a judgement call, but the latter is a spurious claim, given that countries routinely bar entry on character grounds, even to elected politicians of friendly countries (Dutch MP Geert Wilders was initially denied entry to Britain in 2009). Only in the case of Israel does this lead to the country’s democratic character being called into question.

The claim appears more dubious still when it is advanced by those who support the Palestinian national movement, the leadership of which is split between the wholly corrupt Fatah, whose President Mahmoud Abbas is currently luxuriating in the fourteenth year of a four-year term, and the Islamist Hamas, which regularly takes to tethering political opponents, suspected homosexuals and trade unionists to the backs of motorcycles and dragging them through the streets of Gaza.

The long-term implications of the Israeli Government’s decision on public opinion in the United States and Democratic Party support remains to be seen, though the alliance has spanned seven decades and has withstood far greater challenges than this. But with both a pro-Israel US President and the anti-Israel congresswomen cynically using the Jewish State in their campaigns to divide and conquer, it is difficult to envisage a scenario in which this latest skirmish ends well for Israel and those who support it.

 

 

 

 

Alex-Ryvchin.jpgAlexander (Alex) Ryvchin is an Australian writer, advocate, commentator, and lawyer. A former spokesman for the Zionist Federation UK, Ryvchin’s writings on the Arab-Israeli conflict and Jewish history have been published in numerous international newspapers including The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian, The National Post and The Jerusalem Post. Ryvchin is a regular columnist for The Spectator.