Fleeting Moments

Images from Ukraine that are universal and eternal

By David E. Kaplan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

It blew a larger crater in their lives!

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Putin will not stop; he needs to be stopped.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s full speech to Congress

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

Time is Running Out

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

By David E. Kaplan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Oh no!

As reported in The Guardian,:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ukraine Today, Where Tomorrow?

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

By David E. Kaplan

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

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

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

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

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


Bucharest” replies Putin

Occupation?” asks the  official.

Of course” replies Putin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel prepares to move embassy from Kyiv to Lviv

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

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

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

 “Today The Pond! Tomorrow – The World!”

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

Today Ukraine, Tomorrow the Baltic

We are warned.

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

“High Anxiety”

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

By David E. Kaplan

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

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

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

And all happening during a global pandemic!

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

This is insane!

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

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

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

Cunningly coordinated, China is doing the same towards Taiwan.

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

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

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

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

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

Yes it can – for Israel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to Amnesty:

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

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

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

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

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

to dismantle the state of Israel.

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

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

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

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

From Open Windows to Opening Doors

Diplomatic tiptoeing  from Dhaka to Jerusalem

By Adv. Craig Snoyman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.

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 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.


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

Written by Lay of the Land UK correspondent

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.

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.”


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).