The United Nations Is Giving the Names of Uyghur Dissidents to China

By  Josh Feldman

(Article appears courtesy of Newsweek)

The Chinese government’s violent oppression of the primarily Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang is no longer a secret. From forced sterilization of Uyghur women to the internment of millions in prison camps to the eradication and destruction of religious institutions, the Chinese Communist Party’s actions against the Uyghurs have been deemed worthy of the name genocide to many in the human rights community.

The ethnic Uighur population used to be the majority in China’s Xinjiang region

Many – but not all!

The United Nations, the very institution created to “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights,” is assisting China in its violent efforts to wipe out the Uyghurs by helping the CCP cover its tracks. These were the findings of a recent report in Le Monde about the efforts of UN human rights officer-turned whistleblower Emma Reilly. Reilly claims that prior to every UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in recent years, China has requested the names of Uyghur and other Chinese dissidents who were scheduled to speak. And despite this being explicitly forbidden by the UN’s own rules, the UN, according to Reilly, has made it a practice to share this information with Chinese authorities, who use it to harass the dissidents’ families who are still based in China.

It’s one thing for China to try to cover up its genocide; China boasts a long history of reprisals against human rights activists, Uyghurs included. But it’s quite another thing for the body charged with protecting human rights to lend them a hand.

Reilly says she first discovered the practice in 2013, when China’s Geneva delegation requested confirmation that certain “anti-government Chinese separatists” were set to speak at the Human Rights Council. Listed individuals included, among others, Dolkun Isa, current president of the World Uyghur Congress.

Le Monde reports that Reilly suggested that the request be rejected, just as the UN had rejected Turkish demands regarding Kurdish activists. But leaked emails appear to show Reilly’s superior, Eric Tistounet, head of the Human Rights Council Branch of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), advising staffers that the names be shared with China because the meeting was public, and delaying sharing the names would merely “exacerbate the Chinese mistrust against us.”

The Uyghurs are the largest minority ethnic group in China’s north-western province of Xinjiang.

The UN in fact confirmed Reilly’s allegations in 2017, when the OHCHR acknowledged that it confirms attendees’ names with Chinese authorities who “regularly ask the UN Human Rights Office… whether particular NGO delegates are attending the forthcoming session.” So too, did a 2019 UN tribunal confirm “the practice of providing names of human rights defenders to the Chinese delegation.”

But while the UN has at times acknowledged this indefensible practice, it has simultaneously provided contradictory statements denying it. When asked about the allegations in March 2017, Tistounet dismissed them as “extreme right-wing” propaganda—a mere month after the OHCHR’s admission that it did currently confirm Uyghur activists’ names with China. Two months later, in a letter sent to UN Watch, the OHCHR asserted that it “does not confirm the names of individual activists accredited to attend UN Human Rights Council sessions to any State, and has not done so since at least 2015.”

China is accused of committing genocide against the Uyghur population and other mostly-Muslim ethnic groups in the north-western region of Xinjiang.

Then, in an August 2017 letter to Human Rights Watch, High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein acknowledged that the UN “often receives communications from… China” with a list of individuals who the Chinese claim “represent possible threats to the United Nations.” Once UN security services determine the allegations are baseless, wrote Al Hussein, China is informed that its concerns are unfounded, and “no other information is transmitted to the State.” A UN judge, however, rejected Al Hussein’s assertions in 2020, stating that in 2017, the “OHCHR misrepresented the practice of giving names to a Member State’s delegation to ‘Human Rights Watch.”

Alarmingly, UN Secretary-General António Guterres is aware of the allegations; in 2018, his office ordered Al Hussein to “resolve” the dispute with Reilly, Le Monde revealed. And yet, since objecting to the practice in 2013, Reilly says she has been ostracized and “publicly defamed,” her career “left in tatters.” And despite being recognized as a whistleblower in 2020, she was fired the day after the Le Monde story’s publication.

What Reilly’s reports reveal is that the UN is more concerned with appeasing China than with combatting the Chinese-led Uyghur genocide. China, meanwhile, continues to retaliate against Uyghur activists. In a 2019 witness statement regarding the OHCHR sharing his name with China, a Uyghur dissident, Dolkun Isa, revealed that he didn’t know where his 90-year-old father was, or if he was even alive. His mother died in a Chinese detention center in 2018, aged 78.

Shockingly, world leaders are also aware of the practice. In 2019, UN Watch Executive Director, Hillel Neuer, sent letters to the Geneva delegations of the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, France, Germany, and Sweden, detailing instances of Chinese dissidents’ names (some of whom are citizens of Western nations) being shared by the UN. Citing China’s history of retaliating against human rights activists, Neuer explained that “providing China or any other government with names of dissidents accredited to attend UN sessions in advance of the sessions is harmful and potentially life-threatening to dissidents and their families, particularly family members still in China.”

Satellite images show rapid construction of camps in Xinjiang, like this one near Dabancheng. Human rights groups believe China has detained more than one million Uyghurs against their will over the past few years in a large network of what the state calls “re-education camps”, and sentenced hundreds of thousands to prison terms.

Not one country responded to Neuer!

Dutch parliament too, is well-aware. In a January 2019 letter to Dutch lawmakers, Foreign Minister Stef Blok noted both the OHCHR and UN Ethics Office’s admissions that the UN hands Chinese authorities “lists of names” of Chinese dissidents set to speak at the UNHRC. World leaders, however, have refused to confront this abomination.

For years and with total impunity, UN officials have aided China in committing one of the greatest human rights atrocities of our generation. It’s high time for world leaders to press the UN for answers and bring those responsible for such an abject betrayal of the UN’s guiding principles to justice.

History won’t judge them kindly for turning a blind eye.






About the writer:

Josh Feldman is an Australian freelance writer. His work has appeared in leading American, Israeli, Australian, and international publications, including Newsweek, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Jerusalem Post, the Age, and the Forward. Twitter: @joshrfeldman







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 Drums of War to Alarm Bells

Ratcheting up the rhetoric coupled with martial machinations, China, Russia and Iran have the world worried

By David E. Kaplan

We are living in uncertain times and it is unsettling what the big movers are plotting.

Who knows what China is planning against Taiwan? Is it thinking about anytime soon mounting a full-scale invasion? Analysts and government figures are debating less about if and more about when.

What about Russia? Having annexed Crimea, will the “Big Bear”  devour anytime soon, the rest of the Ukraine? After all, the notion that Ukraine is not a country, but a historical part of Russia, appears to be deeply ingrained in the minds of a Russian leadership who repeatedly express the narrative:

 There is no Ukraine”.

Well, there might not be in the near future with tens of thousands of Russian troops reportedly gathered at the border with Ukraine seemingly ready to pounce. The TV news networks are replete with experts fearing Russia could be about to stage a repeat of its 2014 invasion of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

What’s the Drill? ‘Showtime’ as Russian military armored vehicles roll into landing vessels after drills in Crimea on April 23, 2021. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

We all should be very worried, to be honest, I do share this assessment,” Michal Baranowski, director and senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund’s Warsaw Office told CNBC.

And if either of these bellicose giants – China and Russia – make a military move – and possibly in a coordinated manner and time –  what will the US do if faced with this nightmare scenario of a two-front conflict with both China and Russia?

Yiddish has just the expression:

Oy Vey!

Following the hurried, costly and inglorious withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, the US clearly has no appetite for any future military engagements, never mind squaring off against its equals – China and Russia – in concert.

In the Air. Is something more about to happen following a record number of Chinese warplanes entering Taiwan’s air defence zone? Taiwan has urged Beijing to stop these “irresponsible provocative actions”

While all these potential existential conflicts are worrying for an already paranoid global community over Covid, for Israel there is the added angst over a potentially nuclear-armed IRAN that is hardly concealing its desire to destroy Israel.

So while talks about reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed Monday in Vienna after a five-month break and for the first time since Iran’s new hardline President Ebrahim Raisi took office and under a caution from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson telling Israel’s President Isaac Herzog that the world “doesn’t have much time” to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, the message from Iran was clear:

Iranian Brig.-Gen. urges destruction of Israel prior to nuke talks

Time to Stand Firm. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) shares his concerns about a possible Nuclear Iran with Israeli President Isaac Herzog(right) in London on Nov. 23, 2021. (photo: AP/Justin Tallis/Pool)

This is hardly the message to put the parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) talks at ease!

It may be bluster but Israel cannot take any chances when the spokesman for the Islamic Republic of Iran’s armed forces, Brig.-Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, last Saturday urged the total elimination of the Jewish state during an interview with an Iranian regime-controlled media outlet.

Telling the Iranian Students News Agency,  Shekarchi said:

We will not back off from the annihilation of Israel, even one millimeter. We want to destroy Zionism in the world.”

So this is not only a threat against Israel – the nation state of the Jews – but a threat against Jews everywhere. Not satisfied with annihilating people, Iran wants to “destroy” the very idea of Israel – Zionism.

Chilling!

With the clock ticking to the frightening soundtrack of Shekarchi’s genocidal antisemitic remarks, is it any wonder that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett appealed to the international community and its leadership as negotiations resumed in Vienna on Monday:

Don’t cave in”.

Iran on the Level. Brig. Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi warned that the “slightest mistake” by Israel would lead the Islamic Republic to “level Haifa and Tel Aviv.”

With Iran’s sole aim for the US to lift sanctions while it will do almost nothing in return,  the PM warned:

Iran won’t just keep its nuclear program: From today, they’ll be getting paid for it.”

Vienna Waltz

So the fear in Israel is that the US and other world powers will ‘dance’ around and in the end, provide Tehran with economic sanctions relief, while the Iran regime will pursue the building of a nuclear weapons device. And if Brig.-Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi is to be believed and taken seriously, the coordinates for any future Iranian nuclear ballistic missile would likely be Tel Aviv.It there is a second target, it would likely be Haifa before any other international city.

How do we know this?

Well Shekarchi said so himself in January 2021 to Tasnim News Agency that Iran’s regime can:

  “level Haifa and Tel Aviv in the shortest possible time.”

A Nuclear Iran – Never. “A regime of brutal hangmen must never be allowed to have weapons of mass-destruction,” warns Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Common sense dictates in a parent’s thinking not to allow their kids to play with dangerous toys. Similar common sense should similarly dictate amongst the world leaders to do all in their power – most certainly not facilitate –  one of the most maniacal murderous regimes in the world to develop and possess nuclear weapons.

Venerable leaders in Vienna, adhere the message of Israel’s Prime Minister Bennett.

It is succinct and sound:

“Don’t cave in”





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).

Finding Common Ground

Far apart geographically, Jews and Hindus are closer than ever in shared history

By Fionn Grunspan

When India’s Narendra Modi on the final day of his historic visit to Israel in 2017 frolicked in the waves with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a visit to a Mobile Desalination Unit, it emblazoned to the world a visual affirmation of the relationship between the two countries having literally turned a tide.

If the Mediterranean water for the two leaders was warm, relations between Jerusalem and New Delhi had not always been similarly so.

Although Israel and India gained their independence from the United Kingdom within months of each other, they soon found themselves heading in different directions – India as a leader in the Non-Aligned Movement maintaining close relations to the Arab world and the Soviet Union, and Israel linking its future to closer ties with the United States and Western Europe. This lasted for nearly four decades until 1992 when India and Israel established full diplomatic relations  and since, then bilateral relationship between the two countries has blossomed.

Testing the Water. India’s Narendra Modi(left) with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during  his historic visit to Israel in 2017.

A major obstacle to building this warm relationship was India’s legitimate fear that close relations with the Jewish State might radicalize its Muslim citizens – numbering more than 100 million – and harm its relations with the Arab world.

Other than that, Hindus have never been a threat to the Jews, unless, as someone jokingly commented on social media:

 “Well, not unless you count competing for contracts in hi-tech.”

The Dawning of Relations

The relationship between the State of Israel and India goes back many millennia to abound 1,500 BCE when trade began between the two ancient kingdoms.

Excavations at Tel Megiddo in northern Israel  have revealed evidence of such trade proving the presence of turmeric, banana, sesame, all originating from south Asia. Further analysis suggests that the authors of the Old Testament were talking about India, when referencing the trade of animals such as monkeys and peacocks.

During Roman rule of Judea, expensive garments worn in the Temple are believed to have been imported from India via Alexandra.

Israelites in India. Arrival of Jewish pilgrims in Cochin, AD 68. The Cochin Jews who first arrived in the contemporary state of Kerala are dated to about 50 CE. The local legend states that they moved to the country after the first Temple was destroyed during the siege of Jerusalem and were warmly received by Cheraman Perumal, the ruler of the Chera dynasty.

Parallel Fight for Freedom

Jews lived in India among Hindus free of persecution and India periodically provided a refuge to Jews as they fled from persecution, genocide, and slavery. In the early-20th Century, both India and Israel, both under British rule, would fight for independence.

In 1919, British forces carried out the Jallianwala-Bagh Massacre where over 1000 peacefully protesting Indians were killed in Amritsar, India. Also known as the Amritsar Massacre

it caused fury among Indians, leading to the launch by Mahatma Gandhi of the Non-Cooperation Movement, where Indians demanded independence.

During the same period, the fight for independence by Jews in the British mandate was heating up as antisemitism across Europe and in the Arab world spiralled. While Britain had recognised Israel as the homeland for Jews in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, it nevertheless blockaded and imposed limits on Jews entering Palestine, including during the Holocaust.

Howzat! A Bene Israel family in Mumbai, (Bombay). The Bene Israeli, that numerically form the largest Jewish group in India are said to have descended form a group of Jews shipwrecked on the Indian coast in 500 A.D. From the establishment of the state until 1969, over 12,000 Bene Israel emigrated to Israel, settling mainly in Beersheba, Dimona, Ashdod, and Eilat. Some settled in kibbutzim and moshavim. They have contributed to the sort of cricket in Israel.

Jewish resistance took shape in the creation of defence groups such as HaShomer, Nili, Palmach and Haganah to resist attacks from the Arabs; as well as to fight for Independence.

While Britain imposed a brutal blockade on Jews fleeing Nazi persecution to Palestine, a half a world away, colonial Britain continued to commit further massacres in India, such as in 1930 at Qissa-Khwani now in Pakistan. As both India and the emerging Jewish state both fought for independence from Britain, the birth pains of both were agonising,  resulting in painful partitions.

Similarities in their shared history of shaking off the shackles of colonialism, it reached a crescendo in 1948 when both India and Israel gained independence from Britain. They would each – in different ways – have to confront the new independent state of   Pakistan that went to war against India and supported the Arab invasions of the newly established State of Israel.

After independence, India would remain overtly cold to Israel with a hard-line ‘non-aligned’ and pro-Arab policy, as India refused to engage with Israel until the early 1990s. Pakistan would again support further invasions and attacks on Israel in 1967 and 1973, while in 1971, Israel supported India in the Indo-Pakistani War. It proved a breakthrough in the countries relations. Even though India did not have diplomatic ties with Israel in 1971, New Delhi secretly sought and received arms from Tel Aviv as it prepared to go to war with Pakistan, according to Srinath Raghavan’s book “1971”.

Sasoon and Sons. One of the most influential names in the history of Jewish presence in India is that of businessman Shaikh David Sasoon who arrived in Bombay in 1828. His arrival marked the beginning of the prosperity of Baghdadi Jews in India.

Although Israel was in middle of an arms shortage, Prime Minister, Golda Meir stepped in to divert arms meant for Iran to India. She sent a note to her Indian counterpart, Indira Gandhi through Shlomo Zabuldowicz, the director of the firm handling the secret transfers, with a request for diplomatic ties in return for arms. The diplomatic ties, however, would only be established twenty-one years later  in 1992.

Destiny & Détente

After decades of pro-Arab policy, India formally established relations with Israel when it opened an embassy in Tel Aviv in January 1992. Relations continued to warm and in 1999, Israel supported India in the deadly Kargil War, in which Pakistan invaded India. India soon became Israel’s largest buyer of arms and would increase trade to Israel, as the relations continued to warm. India would become a much sought-after travel destination for Jews and Israelis, especially after IDF service, for relaxation and cultural exploration.

India and Israeli relations would continue to warm, strongly supported by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who welcomed Israel’s promotion of exchange student programmes.

Exiled in India. The Synagogue Judah Hyam Hall is the only place of worship in Delhi for Jews, a special minority group whose entry into the country can be traced two thousand years back. (Express Photo)

The Golden Age

In the 2019 British Election, British-Hindus had defended British-Jews, voting against antisemitism in an election, which around half of British-Jews indicated they would consider emigrating if Jeremy Corbyn would win. In 2021, Israeli Prime Minster Bennett and Indian Prime Minster Modi, stated they were close friends on Twitter and wanted to build relations between India and Israel, for future generations.

Bennet wrote:

Narendra, I want to thank you for your historic role in shaping the ties between our countries. Together, we can bring India-Israel relations to a whole new level and build a better & brighter future for our nations.”

Currently the Indian and Israeli Governments are negotiating for closer security agreements, as Israel faces aggression from the Iranian Regime and India confronts an insurgency in northern India.

Climate Change, Warming Ties. Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called PM Modi (right) “the most popular man in Israel” during an animated conversation with him at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

Great Expectations

On Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, the following appears:

 “While Israel and India established diplomatic ties in 1992, the Jewish and Indian people share a rich and deep relationship which dates back to ancient times. Jews were one of the first foreign groups in recorded history to arrive and settle in India and became an integral part of Indian society. Today, India boasts a vibrant Jewish community, which numbers close to 7,000, while Israel is home to 85,000 Jews of Indian origin. The warm ties between the Indian and Jewish people continue to enhance and influence the Indo-Israeli relationship today.”

While India today is Israel’s third largest trading partner in Asia and seventh largest globally with bilateral trade having expanded from being mostly dominated by diamonds and chemicals to areas such as electronic machinery and high-tech products, communications systems and medical equipment, the Indian export most emotionally appreciated in Israel, has been Zubin Mehta.

Maestro Mehta. Famed Indian conductor Zubin Mehta performing his final concert with the Israel Philharmonic on Saturday night, July 13, 2019 (Courtesy Hanoch Grizitzky)

Fondly referred to in Israel as the “Maestro”, in 1969 this illustrious conductor of Western classical music began his long tenure with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO), serving as music adviser before becoming music director in 1977. Four years later the orchestra named him Music Director for life, and he held the post until retiring in 2019.

Two years after India and Israel established full diplomatic relations in 1992, the IPO performed in India for the first time, and since then, has toured there periodically. Every few years it performs in Bombay. “Music has this transformative ability to bring people together,” says the Maestro.

When asked “why is Israel so important to you?”,  Mehta replied:

My association with Israel started even before 1969. I first went there in 1961 and immediately formed a bond with the people. This was later solidified through regular visits. Besides, it is also the only real democracy in the area, that values freedom of expression.”

And to the question “how was it during the years when India and Israel didn’t have diplomatic relations??, Mehta replied:

It was very frustrating for me personally. So as soon as relations were resumed, I got the IPO (in 1994) on an India tour. And they came and  performed absolutely free of charge. There is a lot of respect and interest for India in Israel.”

With the Indo-Israeli relationship continuing to reach new heights with growing ties between Israel and India, we can expect this trend to only strengthen into the future.



About the writer:

Fionn Grunspan is a sign language translator previously working for a number of charities. Since being a community teacher and activist within his Jewish community from his mid-twenties, Grunspan today, through  his “Clubhouse Page”, promotes news and information about the Jewish world, focusing on Israel.







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

What Short Memories the French have!

A  taste of their own medicine and the back-stabbers are peeved at being “stabbed in the back”!

By David E. Kaplan

The French are puffing profusely!

BETRAYED” is what they say they are feeling, infuriated over Australia pulling out of their multi-billion dollar defense deal, preferring instead to attain nuclear-powered submarines through a new deal with the United States and the United Kingdom.

Facing Off. France on September 16 cancelled a Friday evening gala celebrating relations with the United States over frustration with the Australian submarine deal.
 

Recalling its ambassador to the US for “consultation” – marking what’s believed to be the first time the French have resorted to such a move in modern times –  high-ranking French officials referred to the decision “as a stab in the back”.

I’m very angry and bitter,” said the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian about Australia’s new submarine agreement. “This isn’t done between allies…It’s really a stab in the back.”

REALLY?

The French should know all about “a stab in the back”.

French are Fuming. “Betrayal” is what French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said after Australia scrapped a big French conventional submarine purchase in favor of nuclear subs built with U.S. technology. (Jens Schlueter/Pool Photo via AP, file)

Some years ago but still very much in “Modern Times”, France  pulled a similar stunt – but much worse – when it “stabbed”  its ally Israel “in the back”.

Why “much worse”?

Apart from its ally living in a lethal neighbourhood facing then enemies bent on its destruction and the annihilation of its people, Israel had not simply “ordered” ships to be built in France but had already paid for the built ships waiting in Cherbourg when France refused to deliver them. Then French President Charles de Gaulle decided – at the time of the Six-Say War of 1967 – that the Arab region was a better bet economically and politically than a sole Jewish state in the Middle East and switched allegiance and reneged on the deal.

The Long and the Short of It. David Ben-Gurion and Charles de Gaul in happier times. By mid-1967, France and Israel no longer saw eye-to-eye.

Israel’s Defense Minister, Moshe Dayan, was one of the many who were deeply disappointed by the swift shift of relations between de Gaulle and Israel, after all, in the 1950’s, Dayan had agreed with Prime Minister Ben-Gurion when he called de Gaulle:

 “a true friend, a true ally”.

Some “friend”; some “ally”!!!!!!!!!

De Gaulle, who had had sent Dayan a personal letter of congratulations on his book ‘The Sinai Campaign 1956’ refused to remove the embargo from the boats that had already been paid for by Israel.

And while tempting to lay all the blame on de Gaulle, he soon resigned and the French presidency passed in 1969 on to Georges Pompidou who affirmed his country’s boycott of Israel.

Before Relations Soured. French copy of Moshe Dayan’s book on the Sinai Campaign on 1956 that de Gaul had congratulated the author.

France again had turned on the Jews.

The Cherbourg boats were, in Israeli military thinking, essential for the modernization of her navy and the security of the state. However, France did what suited France and it was left to the ingenuity of the Israelis, to “steal” – hardly the right word as they had been paid for – the five remaining missile boats under the eyes of the French and sail them to Israel.

At some point on the night of December 24/25, 1969, the five missile boats clandestinely maneouvred their way out of Cherbourg harbour into the English Channel and into Israel’s proud history of striving for survival.

Solution Found. View of three of five French missile boats bought by the Israeli government arriving in the port of Haifa on the night of Jan. 1, 1970 that involved  a clandestine Israeli military action following the French arms embargo in 1969.

The ship-building contract having provided much needed employment in Cherbourg, many of the local residents, unlike their national leaders, were not unfavourably disposed towards Israel. They had grown accustomed to some “Norwegians” that had recently appeared on the local scene; even some oddities about them such as bring accomplished linguists that included Hebrew among their repertoire of languages. When the five ships suddenly disappeared that December night under darkness, in a dockside cafe, a barman was said to have remarked to customers huddled over their glasses of red wine:

 “I see the Norwegians have left for Alaska.”

His all-knowing noisy patrons roared with laughter.

Read All About It. On Christmas eve 1969, in a brazen caper, five small boats slipped out of Cherbourg harbor after midnight into a Force Nine gale. The boats, ordered by Israel from a local shipyard, had been embargoed for more than a year for political reasons by France.

Yet, it was no laughing matter that at a most perilous time in Israel’s history, when it feared annihilation by countries surrounding it, intent on fulfilling Hitler’s mission, France, its main supplier of its arms should suddenly turn on the Jewish state and impose an embargo.  With France’s history of its tragic treatment of its Jews, this was a harsh reminder of France’s understanding of the words “friend” and “betrayal”.

Sign of the Times. French President Emmanuel Macron at the Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, which was vandalized with Nazi symbols and other graffiti.

In recent years with the alarming rise of violent antisemitism in France from children ruthlessly gunned down at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 to the savage stabbing of an elderly Holocaust survivor in Paris in 2018; to the more traditional ‘blood libel’ variety in 2020 of widespread conspiracy theories about Jewish officials accused of spreading the coronavirus and profiting from the pandemic, there may not be too many Jews who are going to share France’s anguish at feeling “betrayed”.

Abnormal France. French Jews arriving to a new life in Israel. Asked what prompted to leave France, a young mother replied: “we understood that our lives there aren’t normal. The hardest part was to see the soldiers standing around outside of my children’s’ school every day.” (Photo: Motti Kimchi)

There are reasons why you hear more French being spoken on the streets of Israel in recent years.

France should look why they – their former citizens in Israel – feel “BETRAYED”!









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

A Cry for the Women of Afghanistan

The swift pullout of allied troops leaves a human catastrophe in its wake as the Taliban take over Afghanistan.

By Rolene Marks

For a brief moment in time, the people of Afghanistan had hope. The presence of allied troops in their beleaguered country, sworn to fight the war on terror and topple the oppressive, fundamentalist Taliban meant that the Afghan people could envision a future for themselves, they could have agency again and the most important, women and young girls could feel more safe, they could have access to education again and they could be treated as human beings.

This all came to a crushing halt as over a matter of days, the Taliban swept through the country, taking territory after territory until the capital, Kabul fell into their control. The former President, Gharni, fled and the images of the Americans hastily evacuating their embassy will now live on as a new day of infamy. The speed and haste of retreat was staggering and many compared it to images of the USA retreating from Saigon during the Vietnam War.

Traumatised by Taliban. Prepared to go to any lengths to escape,  horrific scenes as people fall from a plane in Kabul in bid to escape the Taliban.

The enduring image for me is the footage of human beings falling to certain death as they lose their grip on the landing gear of the airplanes they cling to as the plane climbs in altitude. This shows me the desperation and lengths that people will go, to escape what we all know will be a brutal future – if they are not caught first. It reminded me of those awful images from 9/11, when people jumped to their death out of the burning towers to avoid being incinerated. The irony is that the war on terror started with those images and came to an end in Afghanistan with eerie similarities.

In the wake of the fall of Kabul, the situation for women has deteriorated rapidly and is getting worse by the day. Prominent women have had their homes or business daubed with paint by the Taliban so that they are easily identified, female journalists have been taken off air and axed, rape squads roam the streets and there have been reports of Taliban men going from house to house, rounding up young girls to become sex slaves or wives for their “fighters”. It is a human rights catastrophe.

Homira Rezai, who grew up in the war-torn country until she was 13 and now lives in Dudley, described how the militants were already drawing up lists of women to target for future punishments.

Fear for the Future. Women in Afghanistan face an uncertain future

She told BBC Women’s Hour:

Just an hour ago, I received an update from Kabul where they are going house to house searching for women who were activists, women who were bloggers, Youtubers, any women who had a role in the development of civil society in Afghanistan.

“They are going door to door targeting those women and marking the doors with bright pink or bright-coloured paint to ensure ‘this is the house we need to come back to and do something about them‘.”

Afghan women, girls fear return to ‘dark days’ as Taliban enter Kabul 

I am watching Afghanistan with a broken heart. I am a woman, who enjoys all the freedoms and privileges that we women in western culture often take for granted. I live in Israel, a tiny spot of hope in a neighbourhood where many of our sisters in Gaza, Syria, Iran and other places don’t enjoy the freedoms that I do. I have the right to vote, enjoy the freedom of movement, own property, make decisions that govern my body, pursue education and a career and so much more. I can use my voice, as loud and as often as I want – and I think of the Afghan women who are now voiceless and who have been silenced.

I am watching Afghanistan like so many of you are, with a broken heart. I cannot help but think of the young girls forced to marry against their will, some as young as 12-years-old. They have barely begun to understand the changes in their bodies, how will they cope with the advances of men who will treat them as their property? I think of the brave, brilliant females now robbed of the right to an education. I think of Afghanistan’s first female Mayor, Zarifa Ghafari who said she is now waiting for militants to come and kill her.

Living in Fear. Afghanistan’s first female mayor, Zarifa Ghafari is now fearing for her life with the Taliban takeover.

Ghafari, told media on Sunday:

I’m sitting here waiting for them to come. There is no one to help me or my family. I’m just sitting with them and my husband. And they will come for people like me and kill me. I can’t leave my family.”

I also have tremendous sorrow for the brave men and women of the armed forces who served so valiantly. Many paid the ultimate sacrifice and many have been wounded, carrying the wounds of war on their bodies and deep in their souls. Was their sacrifice, their fight in vain?  I think of the thousands of workers translators, embassy staff and others who helped allied powers in the region and are now left to their own devices and certain harm from Taliban militia.

Afghanistan’s last Jew Zebulon Simentov decides to stay on amid humanitarian crisis. Kabul Crisis.

I have watched as our neighbours and sworn enemy, Hamas, congratulated the Taliban who declared the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” with gleeful celebration of their “victory over America”. I am reminded of how grateful I am that despite global indignation, Israel can defend itself; our country against a regime that aligns itself with the Taliban.

Dark Days Revisited. Women’s rights activist, Zarmina Kakar cries during an interview with AP in Kabul where she recounts as a child when her mother took her out to buy her ice cream, back when the Taliban ruled the first time and her mother was whipped by a Taliban fighter for revealing her face for only a few minutes. “Today again, I feel we will return back to the same dark days.” (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

The withdrawal of the USA and other allied troops empowers other terror groups like Al Qaeda, Al Shabab, Hamas and many others.

The response of the social media activists, the Squad, talk show hosts and many others who were very vocal during Israel’s defensive operation against Hamas in May, has been staggering silence. World leaders and institutions like the United Nations and New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern appealed to the Taliban to respect human rights. The Taliban claim to have “changed” and want international recognition but their actions of the last few days speak louder than placating tones for media consumption.

There will be reams of analysis written about what went wrong. We will debate over who is to blame politically for years to come. We will discuss this decision which will leave a human catastrophe in its wake.

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we will count the toll of the human cost of the last two decades and wonder if history will repeat itself.

I watch Afghanistan with a broken heart and I feel powerless watching the unfolding human tragedy. We cannot be silent for who will tell their story if not we?



Afghanistan’s first female mayor, Zarifa Ghafari waits for the Taliban to kill her.






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).

History Is A Cruel Teacher

Jews have had to learn to rely on themselves

By Justin Amler

It is horrifying seeing what is going on in Afghanistan today.

It is terrifying knowing that even after America and many other countries spent 20 years there, lost thousands of lives, spent hundreds of billions of dollars – the terrorists still won.

It is extremely sad seeing desperate people clinging onto the wings of US army planes as they flee – yes flee – that country.

And it’s a moment of absolute dread and despair when you think about what awaits ordinary men, women and children whose fate has been placed in the hands of monsters.

From Collapse to Chaos. Panicked Afghans flee in the streets of Kabul following the swift collapse of the Afghan government.

Make no mistake – America lost today. And they didn’t just lose the battle – they lost their moral compass, leaving people to a fate that can only be described as hell.

But there’s a lesson in this – a sobering lesson. It’s one we Jews know already and have always known. It’s one that has been a constant drum in our consciousness throughout our history. It’s one that we are reminded of time and time again. And in case there are those who may have forgotten, it is a timely reminder.

Jews can only rely on themselves.

Whenever we have had to rely on others for our security, living under their rule, we have been let down. Not just let down – betrayed, murdered, massacred.

The Romans did it massacring our people in Jerusalem, destroying our city and sending us into exile.

The Russians forced us to live in certain areas only, launching pogroms against us at their will.

The Poles did it – inviting us in, promising us security and freedom – only to turn later against us.

In Europe during the Holocaust, lifelong neighbours happily turned in their Jewish neighbours to the Nazis and the local collaborators who dragged us to pits and shot us. It was a good deal – they got to steal our property and our possessions.

In the Ukraine children and their parents would chase us in the streets, beating us to death with clubs while many ordinary people looked on approvingly.

In France, there were no widespread condemnations when we were forced into the Vélodrome d’Hiver without water or food or shelter, only to be taken to death camps from which very few returned.

The British, after defeating the most evil empire in modern history, rather than giving us security in our homeland, forced us back into the countries where the blood of our families still soaked the ground.

And America, at the dawn of the rebirth of our State, placed an arms embargo against us, even as we stood alone against the might of the Arab world.

When we look at history, it is scary to think what we have gone through without the security of our own homeland.

And it is terrifying to think what would happen if we lost that security again.

Because the reality is that those who try pressure Israel into giving up their security by giving up their land or creating a fictitious Arab country for others, asking us to trust them and to rely on them for the promises of peace and security are not doing it for us, but for themselves. For those are promises written in fairy dust and clouds that will evaporate as easily and as quickly as the morning dew on a crisp spring morning.

Every Jew in this world today should be so grateful we have a State of Israel – a Jewish state that has an army whose primary mission is to protect us and fight for us, not against us. Without it, we are as helpless and as desperate as those poor people clinging onto wings of departing aircraft.

Reality Check. Since the establishment of the state of Israel, Jews understand that when their lives are collectively threatened, they can depend on Israel.  Seen here in July 4 1976, Israeli commandos , in a daring mission, rescued 102 Jewish hostages from terrorist hi-jackers at Entebbe airport in Uganda.

History is a cruel teacher, but a teacher none the less whose lessons cannot be ignored.

It has taught us through a long and painful history that we can ultimately only rely on ourselves for our own protection, for our own security and for our prosperity.

Because if we do not look after ourselves, no one else will.




About the writer:

Justin - bio.jpg

Justin Amler is a noted South African-born, Australia-based writer and commentator on international issues affecting Israel and the Jewish world.





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).

Kabul Falls, Jerusalem Beware

A cautionary tale of trust and mistrust

By David E. Kaplan

Twenty-one years ago in 2001 in Toronto Canada,  584 million dollars was raised at a benefit concert by Music Without Borders for Afghan refugees.

Will there be a need for another?

Reporting on CNN from Kabul, Clarissa Ward described how “People woke up to the news in the morning that Taliban were at the gates just outside Kabul; there was chaos in the streets, everyone clambering to get to the airport, the road completely overrun;  others locked up in their homes; no idea what the future will bring; and no sense of clarity from their government as to what the situation is.”

Staying at her Job. Although risky for foreign reporters, particularly women, Clarissa Ward remains reporting from Kabul.
 

No “clarity” from their government – for sure, “their’ President  – now ex-President Ashraf Ghani – had fled the country!

Astute Israelis woke to this unfolding horror story with their antennae out   – extremely concerned!

With Iran at the gates of Israel through their proxies in Lebanon, Gaza and Syria and Defense Minister Bennie Gantz warning envoys from UNSC members that “Iran is 10 weeks away from amassing enough weapons-grade material for a nuke”,  Israel  must be questioning –  in the light of the Afghan debacle – how reliable and dependable is Israel’s “best friend”? There is more to concern Israel over and above the soon-to-be declared ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ turning into a hotbed of global terrorism.  With all the US’s best intentions to its allies and friends, can they be relied upon to safely revive the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) with a belligerent Iran, when they got it so wrong with a numerically smaller and inferior weaponised Taliban?

New Reality. Taliban fighters stand guard at the main gate leading to the Afghan presidential palace after taking control of the capital (Photo: Rahmat Gul/AP)

However the US spokespeople try spin the spectacular collapse of Afghanistan, people recall the words of President Biden who only as recently on the 8 May 2021 said:

 “The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”

How did the President come to this disastrous delusion? Refuting the comparison to the defeat and optic retreat in Vietnam, Biden went on national television to explain:

The Taliban is not the south – the North Vietnamese army. They’re not – they’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable.”

Countdown to Chaos. Joe Biden speaks on April 14, 2021 from the Treaty Room in the White House about the withdrawal of the remainder of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool, File) 

From his Camp David retreat – an unfortunate added meaning today – the President can only look on with despair as he had to authorise sending more armed forces back into Kabul than they had left behind in order to safely rescue its embassy staff and other important personnel.

The human drama playing out on our TV screens is being characterised as one of the worst foreign policy blunders in half a century? Even US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, reluctantly admitted on CNN that that the Taliban advance and takeover was “more rapid” than expected.

Rushed Rescue. In America’s “Saigon Moment”, a U.S. helicopter is seen here landing at Kabul’s U.S. Embassy to begin the rescue of diplomatic staff amid the Taliban advanced on the Afghan capital. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gu)

Israelis have good reason to be worried!

As a US president that particularly prides himself on his foreign policy experience, we can expect that Biden’s delusional July predictions on the Taliban were not mindless musings but based on daily briefings from his intelligence agencies and the Pentagon. Are these the safe hands that Israel is being cajoled to place its future in as the US remains on course to pursue reviving or rejoining the JCPOA and removing the strategically-structured sanction regime? Does the US administration really believe that Iran, now since June 2021 with an even more extreme President Raisa that it can seriously restrict its nuclear ambitions as well as limit its ballistic missile programme and its support for groups that even the  U.S. considers terrorists?

New Leadership. Taliban fighters take control of the Afghan presidential palace on Sunday evening
(Photo: Zabi Karimi/AP)

The Biden administration’s hopes of a quick re-entry into the 2015 nuclear accord thankfully did not happen. What has happened can only be described as a stalemate compounded by Iran’s technological advances with reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has taken steps to make metal fuel plates with uranium it has enriched to 20% purity. This is banned by the “deal” with the world powers and marks a significant step toward the production of a nuclear bomb.

Desperate Departure. People struggle to cross the boundary wall of Hamid Karzai international airport as they try to flee the country (Photo EPA)

Such explosive revelations are worrying to a tiny country – the primary target of belligerent Iran.

As America’s longest war ends in ignominious defeat,  maybe its opportune to reflect on the cautionary counsel of the Chinese general, military strategist and philosopher  Sun Tzu who in his The Art of War wrote:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Fleeing in Fear. Women with their children try to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport
(Photograph: Reuters)

Reflecting on these words, does a such divided USA over so many far-reaching issues and grappling to understand its own national persona, truly understand the culture of its enemies?

Israel cannot afford the risk for such failures in monumental misunderstanding when it comes to Iran. The implications are existential.

Targeting Israel. A Shahab-3 long range missile (left) and Zolfaghar missiles (right), are displayed during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran on June 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

For Israel, a nuclear Iran hellbent on destroying the Jewish state,  cannot be understated. Will the fall of Kabul wize up a befuddled Washington on its perspective on Iran and herald the demise of the JCPOA?

Israelis are watching the news very attentively!








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).

The Days the Cameras Forgot

Palestinians have been protesting against the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority in Ramallah but the global media has been silent. Why?

By Rolene Marks

There is something that happening in the streets of Ramallah that is of huge significance – but has largely been ignored. The mainstream media have virtually turned a blind eye to it and it is not receiving the attention on social media from the armchair generals, social justice warriors and human rights aficionados that is should. What is this significant event I am talking about?

 For several weeks, hundreds of Palestinians have taken to the streets of Ramallah in protest against President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority over frustration and anger following years of corruption and intransigence.  Calls for Abbas to “get out” have resonated throughout the city and surrounding areas on a daily basis and have been met with brutal and often violent crackdowns by PA security forces. Images of protestors, including 5 female journalists, have been shared by brave activists, many of whom have received warnings for daring to expose this.

Not Budging. Despite pressure to resign since the death of Nizar Banat in custody that followed the President’s cancellation of the election that was to have been held in May, 2021, Mahmoud Abbas is standing firm.

Abbas, who is currently in his 17th year of his 4 year term, shows no signs of stepping down anytime soon and cancelled elections that were due to have taken place in May. This led to internationally recognised terror group, Hamas, using the opportunity to push for unrest and shore up their supporters in the West Bank and also conveniently, launching another conflagration with Israel. What ensued was 11 days of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas. Hamas fired over 4 300 rockets and projectiles into the Jewish state and Israel responded with a military offensive known as “Operation Guardians of the Wall”. We cannot dismiss that one of the objectives from Hamas was to grow its support base in the West Bank and also, to push for unrest inside of Israel. They succeeded. For several successive days, extremists from both the Jewish and Arab communities rioted and committed acts of violence against each other. Such unrest hadn’t been seen since the 1940’s. While this thankfully, has stopped, there is still a sense of deep mistrust.

Naturally, this captured the attention of a permanently salivating global media.

Sending Strong Message. Following Palestinian demonstrations over the death of Nizar Banat in Palestinian police custody, protestors in Ramallah are seen chanting for the departure of President Abbas and demanded an end to his rule. (Flash90)

What has precipitated these latest protests in Ramallah? Several weeks ago, Palestinian activist, Nizar Banat, died under mysterious circumstances while being taken into custody by Palestinians Authority security forces. Banat was a well-known critic of Abbas. His family have alleged that he was badly beaten during the raid. Hebron Governor Jamil al-Bakri said the public prosecution had issued a summons for Mr. Banat and that “during the arrest his health deteriorated“.

He was immediately transferred to the Hebron Government Hospital. After he was examined by doctors, he was pronounced dead,” he added, without commenting on the family’s allegations.

Voice Silenced. West Bank Palestinian and resident of Hebron Nizar Banat,  a prominent Abbas critic dies in PA custody after ‘vicious beating’ by officers. (Screenshot: Facebook)

But Nizar Banat’s cousin Ammar told the Middle East Eye that about 25 PA security personnel raided his house at about 03:30am. He alleged that officers stormed into the room where he was sleeping, sprayed him with pepper spray and then began beating him with iron bars and wooden batons. They later dragged him from the room, stripped him of his clothes and took him away in a vehicle, he added. Another cousin, Hussein, told Reuters news agency:

They kept beating him continuously for eight minutes. If you came to arrest him, take him. Why the brutality? And why the violence?”

Seeking Justice. Demonstrators on July 2, 2021, hold up images of the late Palestinian activist Nizar Banat, who died in late June during a violent arrest by Palestinian Authority security forces. (MOSAB SHAWER/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

Ammar said that about an hour and a half after the raid, the family learned through WhatsApp groups that Nizar Banat had died. He added that they had not been able to see his body at the hospital. “The announcement of his death at the hospital was a ruse,” he alleged.

Grieving Family. Nizar Banat’s family have alleged that he was badly beaten by Palestinian security forces. (Reuters)

That afternoon, hundreds took to the streets in protests that are still ongoing. The PA security brutality did not end with Banat – nor did crackdowns on anti-Abbas voices.

Israeli journalist, Khaled Abu Toameh, tweeted last week that the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation has suspended 10 employees over their social media comments regarding the circumstances around the death of Nizar Banat. Another 36 employees received warnings from the PA security forces for the same reason.

Why would they do that if there was nothing to hide?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet and the United States  have appealed to the PA to allow the protestors to carry on in peace, a request that seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

Ramallah Resistance. The appeal of UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet to the PA to allow the protestors to carry on in peace has fallen on deaf ears.

The Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees condemned what they called the ‘organized assaults’ by the security forces on Palestinian women. Three women were beaten by Palestinian security officers in Ramallah during a protest against the Palestinian crackdown on activists.

Riotous in Ramallah. In full protective gear, Palestinian security forces prevent protesters from reaching the PA’s headquarters in Ramallah.

Very soon, the U.N. Human Rights Council will hold its perennial meeting on Palestinian rights but it is unlikely that this will be discussed:

Is it because Israel cannot be blamed?

What does the future hold? It is unlikely that Abbas will step down – or call another election. Hamas is gaining more and more popularity and this not only threatens Abbas rule but also Israel’s security. But the people have spoken. The corruption and brutality is untenable. What is really sad is that not only are they being ignored by their leadership but the mainstream media, usually quick on the draw when it comes to Israel’s conflict  with the Palestinians, have been silent. It would appear that they have their lenses pointed elsewhere and when it comes to the plight of the people, the cameras have been switched off.









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).

JUNETEENTH – What’s in a name?

Could the Americans have learned from the Jewish heritage?

(Author’s personal observation)

By Craig Snoyman

While South Africans were celebrating the heart-warming hoax of decuplets, the so-called “Tembisa 10”, the United States of America was midwifing its own birth.  With little advance notice, and starting labour on Tuesday 15 June, pushing through the birthing canals of the House and the Senate at great speed, the new-born was announced to the world on 17 June 2021.  President Biden, who confirmed the signs of life, signed it into law and held the birth-certificate up high for everybody to see. Although officially, its date of birth was declared as 19 June it was officially named “Juneteenth National Independence Day” and proudly touted to the nation. Joining a group of ten other siblings, it became America’s eleventh annual federal holiday. Named in honour of an event which happened on June 19, 1865 – or “Juneteenth” –  it recalls an incident where General Gordon Granger entered Galveston, Texas and announced that President Lincoln had freed the slaves almost three years earlier.

Usually, the creation of a national holiday is no easy task. Only four federal holidays had been added to the American calendar in the last one hundred years before this one. There had previously been several attempts to introduce a “Native American Day”, all of them unsuccessful. As a kind of substitute, a cultural “Native American Week” was introduced. Proposals for the introduction of new holidays is all about politics – the politics of identity, the politics of voting, the politics of affiliation, the politics of ethnicity, the politics of patriotism, even the politics of sport.  Yet somewhere amongst all of this congested political melee, Juneteenth National Independence Day – the fastest tracked Federal holiday ever- became law. If you were outside the USA, you might have missed it. While it was happening, it didn’t gather too much attention in the States either.

Juneteenth was initially only a specifically Texan celebration. There were other Emancipation Day celebrations commemorating the freedom from slavery. African Americans in South Carolina and Georgia had also been holding their own Emancipation Day programs but chose the date of January 1. Both groups memorialised the struggles of their people and sought to inspire upliftment in honouring those emancipated slaves. Why did the Carolinians and Georgians celebrate on 1 January? Simple, they followed historical fact. It was on 1 January 1863, that President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that all persons held as slaves were immediately free.  The Texans were only apparently officially informed of the Emancipation when Granger finally reached Texas on 19 June 1865. Ironically, notwithstanding the announcement, most of the slaves were only freed after the cotton harvest was completed, some months later.    The event of the announcement was thereafter commemorated annually mostly by the former slave, who combined the words “June 19th” into “Juneteenth”. As the Civil War became more distant, Juneteenth and Emancipation Day celebrations became less prominent, almost fading into obscurity until there was a cultural revival of Juneteenth, starting in Texas, in the 1970’s.

Jews also have also created their own holidays or “chags”.   When looking at the origins of these festivals, one can see the historic events which gave rise to the festivals. Each one of these Jewish holidays has a unified meaning for its followers. The aim of each holiday is to commemorate and remember the national, religious and world view identity of the Jews. The ideological connection between the Jewish holidays and with their national and cultural values is apparent. Jewish holidays, while established thousands of years ago, and grounded in the Torah, have not lost their relevance today. While the holidays may have been modified, they still continue to be celebrated with the same joy, unity, and cohesion as in ancient times.

It is not difficult to see how these Jewish holidays were created. It is, however, difficult to imagine that the crossing of the Red Sea could  have been celebrated  on the day when Jethro announced to Moses that  he and his kinsmen has  heard about the event and not on the date that the Children of Israel actually walked through the water on dry land. Similarly, that the “international day of independence” could fall on the day that Moses brought down the second set of tablets, rather than when Mount Sinai smoked and thundered and a Divine covenant was created, would seem absurd. Equally preposterous would have been for all the Children of Israel to be ordered to observe a second Pesach simply because some of them were impure for the first celebration and they could not participate.

Exodus from Egypt

But this is what has happened with Juneteenth!

It celebrates an announcement made to the slaves of Texas, telling them that they should have been freed about three years before they heard the announcement. However, the real problem is not the timing or to whom it was said, it’s that the nature of Juneteenth doesn’t support the ideals expected of a holiday.  It doesn’t support unity or nationalism or patriotism. There is also an existing division amongst the ethnic groups celebrating the liberation of the slaves about the date as to when emancipation should be commemorated. It is a very sectarian holiday. On the face of it, it should be a cultural event celebrated by Texans and enjoyed by anyone who wants to participate, much like Native American Week. Both the name and its significance had lost their relevance until its re-introduction about one hundred years after it had faded into virtual insignificance. Even then, it was re-introduced as a cultural event and not a political event! Historically, American slaves were emancipated when Lincoln’s Proclamation was issued, not when the slaves heard about it, or even when they were physically liberated. Emancipation took place on 1 January 1863, in the midst of a civil war. It was Winston Churchill who said that a nation that forgets its history has no future.  Can the rewriting of a nation’s past lead to different future?

President Joe Biden signs the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)AP

Maybe this is all hair-splitting. After all, 48 states recognised Juneteenth as a state holiday before it became a federal holiday. But they recognised “Juneteenth”; they did not recognise  “Juneteenth National Independence Day”. This federal holiday embodies neither Nation nor Independence.  A re-announcement of emancipation that has already been throughout the rest of the country to a territorial group of people who believed that they are slaves when they are not really slaves, is not  a national event. By legislating that Juneteenth is an Independence Day when it was not and when there is already a nationally celebrated Independence Day on 4 July is divisive and confusing. When an event commemorates an occasion affecting a small ethnic group is made a national occasion it is can only serve to  encourage  fragmentation  and factionalism instead of nationalism and patriotism. This application of a mixed ideological agenda at this time in America’s history does not advance its national aims. In the politically dismembering climate that exists today one must ask whether this was not just a short-term advancement of the non-inclusive political agenda of “Black Lives Matter”.

Another  Federal holiday, Christopher Columbus Day, may be the harbinger of the trouble that Juneteenth National Independence Day may bring. Christopher Columbus Day was recognised by 45 states  before it became a federal holiday in 1968. Congress said  that the nation was honouring the courage and determination which enabled generations of immigrants from many nations to find freedom and opportunity in America.  South Dakota then objected to this view. It has called that holiday  “Native American Day” since 1990.  In 2014 , the Seattle City Council followed South Dakota’s lead and unanimously voted to rename Columbus Day “Indigenous People’s Day”.

Will the issues about  Juneteenth National Independence Day be more pervasive and more damaging? There are already certain groups  which have stated that they will not recognise it. Other militant groups will no doubt ensure the holiday receives its due recognition (or notoriety). Recognising the holiday as a National Independence Day brings with it the underlying inference of  the currently trending “existing systemic racism” and all the baggage attached to it. Is it unrealistic  to expect the “colonial Independence” of 4 July comes under further attack, bearing in mind the inroads into education of the 1619 project?  Will one see  the Juneteenth flag  waving, contests pride of place with  the Stars and Stripes? It also becomes quite feasible that other  existing federal holidays will now be subjected to attack due to their historical, but colonial origins. There is already a struggle to claim the foundations of American democracy, this holiday is only going to add to that struggle.  And by calling it a National Independence Day, it opens the door for  claims of  for  reparations for slavery.   With the stoke of a pen, has the nation unwittingly placed itself  back  into a civil-war, even if this is not yet visible?

Perhaps, in the same way that there is precedent as to how the Sanhedrin interpreted Zechariah’s word to eliminate certain fast days, the US government will not feel constricted to re-examine certain Federal holidays and their names. While one must always remember  and celebrate the abolition of slavery (were we not once  slaves as well?), one wonders if a holiday called Juneteenth National Independence Day  is the appropriate step in advancing an agenda of  national patriotism and common identity.

So while some South Africans celebrated hoax-babies on Saturday 19 June 2021, and some Americans celebrated Saturday 19 June 2021 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, some of us  also celebrated Saturday 19 June 2021 as ….. Shabbat.



About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.





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

China’s One Tweet Too Many!

The tweet of the ‘Grim Reaper’ is a for Jews a Grim Reminder

By David E. Kaplan

China and the USA are in major strategic competition and constantly maneuvering for one-upmanship. Fair enough, but why bring Israel and the Jews into  this quarrel? After all, Chinese investment in Israel has grown significantly in recent years, especially in the fields of software, IT services, and electronics. According to 2018 data from the World Bank, Israel imports the most goods from China ($10.4 billion), with the U.S. a close second ($10.2 billion), and China is the second biggest destination – following the U.S. – for Israeli exports ($4.8 billion).  And despite sound concern and strong opposition from the USA, has Israel not agreed for a Chinese company  –  Shanghai International Port Group –  to run the new Haifa port for the next 25 years?

So while China ranks relatively low on the Anti-Defamation League’s rankings of anti-Semitic countries, it thus came as a surprise that the Chinese Embassy in Japan tweeted  – albeit later deleted – an anti-US meme with strong antisemitic and anti-Israel imagery.

Grim and Grotesque.  The offensive cartoon tweeted from the Chinese Embassy in Japan depicting the partnership of the US and Israel in bringing death and destruction to Muslim counties – beware!

The tweet featured a cartoon image of a Grim Reaper draped around in an American flag and inflicting death with his scythe emblazoned with the Israeli flag of the Star of David.  For those less acquainted, the Grim Reaper is a common enduring image over many centuries of a skeletal figure, usually shrouded in a dark, hooded robe and carrying a scythe to “reap” human souls. It’s eerie, disturbing and frightening!

In the offending tweet, the reaper appears knocking on a door labeled ‘Egypt’  having left a trail of Muslim blood behind after having ‘visited’ through the other doors in the image – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Libya, and Syria. Now if China is so heavily invested in the Middle East including Israel, why sow discord?

While China – through its embassy tweet –  may feel it is justifiably retaliating against the U.S. in its competition for world leadership by warning of the dangers of American democracy, but why bring Jews and Israel into this ‘picture’ by emblazoning on the reaper’s scythe the Jewish Star of David?

It only gets worse. The tip of the scythe is dripping in Muslim blood and the caption in Japanese reads:

If the United States brought ‘democracy,’ it would be like this.”

In other words,  it’s a warning from the Chinese embassy:

Beware of the allure the USA because beneath the veneer, you Muslim countries will receive death and destruction at the murderous hand of  Israel.

This was reminiscent of a Nazi German cartoon circa 1938 depicting the Jews as an octopus encircling the globe.

As reported in the New York based Jewish newspaper, The Algemeiner, the cartoon was featured on several extremist websites and proved popular with white supremacists and Holocaust deniers. The damage was done!

Role Model for China. Nazi propaganda which often portrayed Jews as engaged in a conspiracy to provoke war, depicts here a stereotyped Jew conspiring behind the scenes to control the Allied powers, represented by the British, American, and Soviet flags. The caption reads, “Behind the enemy powers: the Jew”. (Circa 1942. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Helmut Eschwege)

When Israel’s Ambassador to Japan, Yaffa Ben-Ari called her Chinese counterpart, Cheng Yonghua, last Friday saying that “the cartoon demonized Israel”, Yonghua responded that he had not noticed that Israel was part of the image. It is true, the Star of David appears small in relation to the size of the US flag but  the horrific and bloody image draws the viewer closer, and while the U.S. is depicted as the agent of death, Israel and Jews by appearing on the scythe are seen as the instrument of death. Together, “Big Satan” and “Little Satan” are graphically portrayed as cunning, conniving mass murderers of the innocent and vulnerable.

Sounding the Alarm. Israel’s ambassador to Japan, Yaffa Ben-Ari, Ambassador who called her Chinese counterpart in Japan about its Embassy’s antisemitic tweet.

This is something Israelis have become accustomed to seeing in official Iranian social media and on banners at pro-regime mass rallies in Teheran – not from China!

Despite Cheng Yonghua’s ‘failure to notice’ the detail  of the Israel-Jewish connection to the cartoon from his embassy’s website, an hour after the call, the tweet was deleted. It may also have resulted

From Israel’s Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General for Asia and the Pacific Gilad Cohen contacting the Chinese Embassy in Israel to inform it about the tweet.

However, despite having deleted the grotesquely offending tweet, the Chinese embassy did not tweet an apology!

The incident comes at a time of high diplomatic frictions between China and both Japan and the United States over a broad range of issues, including China’s regional territorial ambitions.

Hence many Japanese Twitter users responded angrily to the tweet, some including the famous June 5, 1989 photo of a man standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square. What they failed to respond to  – whether they did not seem to notice or take issue  – was the antisemitic element!

Is This What China wants to be Associated With? German antisemitic cartoon from 1938, using Octopus symbolism of Jewish tentacles  stretching over the entire globe.

Jews need little reminder of the existential danger of cartoons as part of Nazi propaganda to win the support of millions of Germans in a democracy and later in a dictatorship to facilitate persecution and ultimately genocide.

We need to be vigilant and respond.  Its not acceptable to say “We did not notice” like the Chinese ambassador, because to do nothing is to wait until it’s too late!







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)