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).

Respect for Freedoms

Israel scores high on Freedom House Global Score

By Bev Goldman

“Freedom House works to defend human rights and promote democratic change, with a focus on political rights and civil liberties. We act as a catalyst for freedom through a combination of analysis, advocacy, and action. Our analysis, focused on 13 central issues, is underpinned by our international program work.”

Freedom House is a non-profit NGO that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights in countries across the globe. Founded in October 1941, its first honorary chairpersons were Wendell Willkie, the 1940 Republican nominee for President of the USA, and Eleanor Roosevelt, former and longest-serving first lady of the USA; and it is founded on the core conviction that freedom flourishes in democratic nations where governments are accountable to their people.

A Force for Freedom. A central figure among Freedom House’s early leaders was First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt seen here holding up the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in November 1949. Eleanor Roosevelt was a strong supporter of Israel from that nation’s founding in 1948 until her death in 1962.

In analysing the countries, Freedom House speaks out against the main threats to democracy while encouraging citizens to exercise their fundamental rights through a unique combination of analysis, advocacy, and offering direct support to frontline defenders of freedom, especially those working in closed authoritarian societies. 

As an independent watchdog organization, its research and analysis focus on the progress and decline of freedom across the globe by empowering human rights defenders and civic activists to advance democratic change.

The 2020 Freedom House Annual Report on Israel is impartial, objective and candid, acknowledging the government’s faults but giving credit wherever it is due, and presenting a picture which to Israel’s enemies would be anathema, but to those who recognise her strengths, it is factual and accurate.

The report begins with an introduction, followed by rigorous analysis of the issues on which they focus: 

“Israel is a multiparty democracy with strong and independent institutes that guarantee political rights and civil liberties for most of the population. Although the judiciary is comparatively active in protecting minority rights, the political leadership and many in society have discriminated against Arab and other ethnic or religious minority populations, resulting in systemic disparities in areas including political representation, criminal justice, education, and economic opportunity.”

The coverage then focuses on the topic of free and fair elections. The report notes that the Central Elections Committee (CEC), which is composed of delegations representing the various political groups in the Knesset and chaired by a Supreme Court judge, guarantees the fairness and integrity of elections, and acknowledges that they are generally peaceful and orderly with results accepted by all parties.

Regarding political pluralism and participation, the reports delineates Israel’s multiparty system as “diverse” and “competitive” but adds that parties or candidates that deny Israel’s Jewish character, oppose democracy, or incite racism are prohibited.  It then includes comments by critics of the 2016 law – which allows the removal of any members who incite racism or support armed struggle against the state of Israel with a three-quarters majority vote – alleging that it is aimed at silencing Arab representatives.

Vibrant Voting. Israel’s “diverse” and “competitive” national elections always attract high turnouts. Seen here are people casting their ballot at a voting station in Jerusalem on March 2, 2020 in an election that at the end of voting, the committee put turnout at 71%. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The report illustrates the fact that while women generally enjoy full political rights in law and in practice, they are somewhat underrepresented in leadership positions and can encounter additional obstacles in parties and communities – both Jewish and Arab – that are associated with religious or cultural conservatism.

It discusses further that Arab residents of East Jerusalem have the option of obtaining Israeli citizenship in order to be allowed to vote, though most decline for political reasons. While these non-citizens are entitled to vote in municipal as well as Palestinian Authority (PA) elections, most of them have traditionally boycotted Israeli municipal balloting.

The report observes that Israel’s basic laws are considered equivalent to a constitution (which the country does not have). It adds that in 2018, the Knesset adopted a new “basic law” – the Nation-State Law – which granted only to Jewish people the right to exercise self-determination in the State of Israel. Those opposing it, according to further research done, claimed that it created a framework for the erosion of non-Jewish citizens’ political and civil rights.

This report was released before the election of the current coalition and stated that no Arab party had ever been formally included in a governing coalition, nor did Arabs generally serve in senior positions in government. But the current government under Naftali Bennett is the first to include an independent Arab Israeli party as an official member of the governing coalition. How things change!

History in the Making. An Arab dentist, Mansour Abbas, leader of the Islamist party  Ra’am, emerged as the “Kingmaker” in the 2020 Israel election and made history by ensuring for the first time an Arab party joined a governing coalition.

Israel’s laws, political practices, civil society groups and independent media are recognised as generally ensuring a significant level of governmental transparency, though corruption cases are not infrequent and high-level corruption investigations are regularly held. Israel’s judiciary is especially lauded in the report for its independence and its regular rulings against the government. As an addendum to this, the Supreme Court is verified as having played a crucial role in protecting minority groups and overturning decisions by the government and the parliament when they threaten human rights; and court rulings are almost always adhered to by the State, involving both Israeli citizens and Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Moving forward, the report commends Israel’s media as being among the most vibrant and free of any country. But while criticism of government policy is uninhibited, vociferous, candid, and forthright, the rules differ for print articles on security matters which are routinely subject to a military censor. Security considerations are behind the action of the Government Press Office which withholds press cards from journalists to restrict them from entering Israel. While a law passed in 2017 allows police and prosecutors to obtain court orders to block websites publishing criminal or offensive content, the report acknowledges that freedom of expression advocates are concerned that the same law could suppress legitimate speech if applied indiscriminately.

The report applauds Israel’s commendable respect for total freedom of religion, notwithstanding the fact that the country defines itself as a Jewish state. In matters of marriage, divorce and burial, Christian, Muslim, and Baha’i communities have jurisdiction over their own members, but it mentions that while the Orthodox govern personal status matters among Jews, this power they wield is often objected to by many non-Orthodox and secular Jews. It is also revealed that while the law further protects the religious sites of non-Jewish groups, the latter face discrimination in the allocation of state resources.

Mention is made of the ever-present security concerns in Israel which forced Israeli authorities to set varying limits on access to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in East Jerusalem in recent years, affecting worshippers across the broader area. However, in 2018 the government lifted restrictions on Jewish lawmakers visiting the site, restrictions that had been in place for nearly three years, a move much approved of by the citizens.

Jitters in Jerusalem. Freedom of worship is guaranteed in Israel but becomes problematic when praying at places held sacred to both religions as seen with Israeli security forces standing guard, as a group of Jews visit the Temple Mount (Al-Aqsa) compound in Jerusalem, on July 18, 2021. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

With reference to education, all primary and secondary education is national but is divided into multiple public-school systems (state, state-religious, Haredi, and Arabic). A law passed in 2018 bans groups that favour legal action abroad against Israeli soldiers, or that otherwise undermine state educational goals by criticizing the military, from entering Israeli schools or interacting with students.

Israel’s universities are celebrated as being open to all students and have long been vocal centres for argument, protest, and discord; but again, security concerns have resulted in restricted movement and limited access for West Bank and Gaza residents/students. 

Campus Freedom. A clear show of tolerance and freedom, it is no problem for hundreds of Israeli Arab students to demonstrate against Israel on “Nakba Day” at Tel Aviv University.  Arab students registered at Tel Aviv University comprise about 14.5% of the total number of registered students. (Photo: Al Ittihad).

The report refers to the persistent threat of small-scale terrorist attacks in Israel which usually involve stabbings or vehicle onslaughts; and this is combined with ongoing rocket and artillery fire from Syria and the Gaza Strip. While Israeli soldiers are always on alert, trying to obtain the truth from the terrorists, the report adds that while the Supreme Court banned torture in a 1999 ruling, it said that “physical coercion might be permissible during interrogations in cases involving an imminent threat. Human rights organizations accuse the authorities of continuing to use psychological threats and pressure, painful binding, and humiliation.”

Freedom of assembly in Israel permits protests and demonstrations which are typically peaceful. However, some protest activities – such as desecration of the flag of Israel or a friendly country – are seen as criminal acts and draw serious criminal penalties.

Education for All. The number of Arab students in Israeli universities grows 78% in 7 years. Seen here are Arab Israeli students at the campus of Givat Ram at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
 

Regarding NGOs, particularly those engaged in human rights – and governance-related work, the report observes that a 2016 law states that NGOs that receive more than half of their funding from foreign governments must disclose this fact publicly. The measure mainly affects groups associated with the political left that oppose Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. But foreign funding for right-leaning groups that support Jewish settlements in the West Bank, for example, more often comes from private sources.

The report deals with additional issues including freedom for labour organisations; due process in criminal and civil cases; freedom of movement; personal and social freedoms; equal treatment of all sectors of society; and equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation among others. However, they were not covered because of space constraints.

True Colours. A clear image of freedom and liberalism is Israel’s annual Pride Parades that attract hundreds of thousands of people from across the world. The parades are the largest in Asia and the Middle East. (photo:Guy Yechiely)

The final summation awarded Israel 73 out of a possible 100 points on the Freedom House Global Score, acknowledging it to be a free state, one of 77 out of 196. Included in those not free, with very low results (some in brackets), are Algeria, China (9), Egypt, Gaza Strip (11), Iran (16), Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Liberia, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia (7), South Sudan (2), Sudan, Syria (1), Turkey, UAE, West Bank and Yemen. All Israel’s enemies.

The results speak for themselves.


About the writer:

Bev Goldman national president of the Union of  Jewish Women South Africa (UJW), worked for many years in education and journalism, and she holds a master’s degree in Feminist Literature. Prior to joining the SA Zionist Federation where she dealt with media and education for 12 years, she was the editor of the ‘Who’s Who’ of Southern Africa; a member of WordWize which taught English language skills to Russian and Polish immigrants in South Africa; an occasional lecturer in English at RAU (now the University of Johannesburg); and Director of Educational Programmes at Allenby In-Home Studies.  Currently, she runs the Media Team Israel for the SA Zionist Federation; she sits on the Board of Governors of the Rabbi Cyril Harris Community Centre (RCHCC); she is an executive member of the International Council of Jewish Women (ICJW); and she edits and proofs Masters and PhD dissertations.





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

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.”

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).

Poles Apart

Cordial, if never sweet, Polish-Israeli relations have  assuredly soured

By Dr. Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center

The restitution of Jewish property in Eastern Europe has never been a topic of any great interest to the wider public, even in Israel, and has very rarely received serious media attention. Until now!

During the past several weeks, a bill passed initially in the Polish Sejm (Parliament) and Senate, and signed into law on August 14 by President Andrzej Duda, has sparked an extremely heated controversy which is seriously  threatening the future of Polish-Israeli relations, which had been quite cordial since Poland’s transition from Communism to Democracy. The law in question does not specifically mention Jews, or the Holocaust, or World War II, but in practical terms makes it almost impossible for Holocaust survivors to be able to reclaim their pre-World War II property or obtain commensurate compensation, even if they have already filed the appropriate claims in a Polish court.

President Duda justified the passage of the bill by pointing to the fact that there had been numerous cases of fictitious claims and that criminals had been able to unjustly obtain property that had never belonged to them, resulting in the ejection of “tens of thousands of people being thrown onto the pavement.” In his words, “re-privatization to restore justice became almost synonymous with injustice and human harm.” In that respect, it is important to mention that the bill was passed by a huge majority in both the Sejm and the Senate, and was fully supported not only by the government coalition, but by the opposition as well. Undoubtedly, part of that support stemmed from economic factors, given the large number of properties owned by Jews in prewar Poland, especially in urban centers.

True Colours Exposed. Polish President Andrzej Duda(left) who signed the law in early August  limiting claims to property seized by the Nazis and later by Poland’s communist government, and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid who rebuked this decision, labeling it as “unethical and antisemitic”.(Getty)

Israeli officials were already aware of the seriously negative implications of the bill for the efforts to achieve restitution (or compensation) for Jewish-owned property before the votes in the Sejm and Senate. Israeli chargé d’affairs Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon gave an impassioned speech to the joint  Senate committees before the vote was taken, in which she emphasized Israel’s obligation to “give a voice to Holocaust survivors and their descendants…who have the right, historically, morally, and legally to present their claims and to receive the compensation they deserve for their property.” Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears, and the support for the bill was overwhelming, which prompted strong criticism from the U.S. government and international Jewish organizations, but especially from Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. He not only called the bill “unethical and antisemitic”, but also instructed the new Israeli ambassador to Poland to remain in Israel in the meantime, immediately recalled our Chargé d’Affairs, in Warsaw for indefinite consultations, and suggested that the Polish ambassador to Israel remain on vacation in Poland. In his words, “This time should be used to explain to the people of Poland the meaning of the Holocaust to the citizens of Israel, and the extent to which we will refuse to tolerate any contempt for the memory of the Holocaust and its victims.”

Needless to say, Lapid’s harsh attack on the Polish government did not go unanswered. In an obvious response, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pavel Jablonski told journalists this  on August 16 that the government was “reviewing” the trips to Poland of Israeli high school students, approximately 40,000 of whom travel annually to Poland for Holocaust study trips and visits to sites of ghettoes and death camps under the auspices of the Israeli Ministry of Education. Jablonski called the trips “propaganda” – an unequivocal insult to the manner in which Israeli schools teach the Shoah.

No Entry. In retaliation to Israel’s opposition to the bill, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Paweł Jabłoński (above) says his country is weighing the future of Holocaust education trips for Israeli youth to Poland. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

At this point, it is not exactly clear how this crisis in Israeli-Polish relations will be resolved, but in order to understand its roots and causes, we have to return to a somewhat similar, previous dispute between the two countries over a law passed in Poland in 2018, which also aroused considerable anger and indignation in Israel. The so-called “Holocaust bill” criminalized use of the term “Polish death camps”, as well as any attempt to attribute Holocaust crimes to the Polish state. And while the first part of the bill was in fact justified, because it was the Germans who built the death camps in Poland, and the only Poles in death camps (Auschwitz and Majdanek) were inmates not collaborating perpetrators, the second clause was a brazen attempt to whitewash the widespread participation of individual Poles in Holocaust crimes. Negotiations between Polish and Israeli officials and historians led to a very bad compromise signed by former Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart, which was strongly criticized by Yad Vashem, because it appeared to accept the Polish narrative of World War II and the Shoah, which promoted the canard of equivalency between Polish participation in Holocaust crimes and assistance by Poles in rescuing Jews from the Nazis, when in fact the number of Poles guilty of the former, surpassed those who rescued Jews many times over.

Death and Destruction. Whatever became of the property of this group of Polish Jews being led away by German SS soldiers during the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943? Poland passes bill cancelling all claims of ownership of property if 30 years have elapsed since the confiscation. (AP Photo)

Thus the heart of the debate between Poles and Jews over Holocaust-related issues is the false narrative of the events of 1939-1945. The Polish narrative is primarily one of their own undisputed suffering under the Nazis, with little room or empathy for that of their Jewish neighbours and fellow citizens. Poland was one of the most antisemitic countries, if not THE most antisemitic country in Eastern Europe prior to World War II, and the estimated figure by reputable Polish historians, such as Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking, of approximately 200,000 Jews murdered directly by Poles, or turned over by Poles to the Nazis to be killed during the Holocaust is a clear manifestation of that animus. The fact that Poland’s suffering under the Nazis has not received the same treatment as that of Jewish Holocaust victims further complicates the situation.

In Jeopardy. Will Poland stop the annual Holocaust education trips of Israeli high schoolers visiting Nazi death camps like the concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau (see above)?

This situation, it must be noted, is not unique to Poland. Practically every post-Communist democracy in Eastern Europe has created a fake narrative of their Holocaust history, primarily to hide the important role played by their nationals in Holocaust crimes, and to promote the canard of equivalency between Nazi and Communist crimes, which they insist constitute genocide. These measures are all being taken  in order to emphasize their suffering under Communism and deflect attention from their Holocaust crimes. While the Nazis were able to enlist helpers in every country which they occupied or with whom they had an alliance, only in Eastern Europe did collaboration with the Nazis include participation in systematic mass murder of Jews. Until now, the policy of the previous Israeli governments was to ignore these lies, in order to maintain friendly relations with the countries of Eastern Europe, although the fake narrative created by these countries was an unforgivable insult to the victims, their families and the entire Jewish people. The new policy by Foreign Minister Lapid is a welcome and necessary change, but ultimately we will have to enter into serious dialogue with our Eastern European friends to convince them that telling the truth about their role in the Holocaust will ultimately be most beneficial to them and their citizens.


About the writer:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Distorting-the-Truth2.jpg

Holocaust historian Dr. Efraim Zuroff is the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the director of the Center’s Israel Office and Eastern European Affairs. His most recent book, with Lithuanian author Ruta Vanagaite, is Our People; Discovering Lithuania’s Hidden Holocaust (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020) which deals with Holocaust distortion in Lithuania.


For further information on this issue  and on Holocaust distortion in Eastern Europe, please visit www.swcjerusalem.org and www.wiesenthal.com





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).