WHAT IF?

From bicycle saddle to hospital bed – some existential thoughts about self and country

By David E. Kaplan

On Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day) on the 5th May, I went for a ride on my bicycle. Turned out – a regrettable mistake. In a quiet side road, I had a serious accident and ended up in Meir Hospital, Kfar Saba. I am recovering well but I ask the question:

What at the last corner before the accident I turned right instead of left?”

Lying in my ward later that night following a general anesthetic stitch-up, I reflected on the poem of Robert FrostThe Road Not Taken’ and pondered literally and figuratively if, in the words of the poet:

I took the one less traveled by

Clearly then – inter alia –  I would not be penning this prose!

But then I pondered beyond my bodily bruising and thought instead of the anatomy of the world whose condition too throughout history has either sored or soured dependent at critical moments when  fractured futures or favourable fortunes could have gone either way and the destinies of people would have been quite different.

As I was reflecting in an Israeli hospital, I thought back to those past pivotal – some even existential – moments in Israel’s modern history, when disaster or salvation hung in the balance:

WHAT IF on November 2, 1917, Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour had not written a letter to Britain’s most illustrious Jewish citizen, Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, expressing the British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine – a letter that would eventually become known as the Balfour Declaration.  In all likelihood, I would then not be lying in a ward of the seventh largest hospital in the Jewish state of Israel after 2000 years of exile.

Weighty Words. Lord Arthur Balfour and the letter that moved a dream towards reality.

WHAT IF Rommel’s African Corp had not lost the Battle of El Alamein in 1942, leaving the German Wehrmacht free to steamroll northwards to Palestine? Again, possibly no Meir Hospital would have been established in 1956.

WHAT IF Prime Minister David Ben Gurion had not demanded the unification of ideologically diverse Jewish armed forces during the War of Independence to forge a national army – the IDF?

WHAT IF? A British army recruitment drive in Tel Aviv during World War II. The big fear for the Jews before the Battle of El- Alamein was that Rommel would overrun Palestine.

WHAT IF Israel had not taken out the Egyptian Air Force in the opening round of the 1967 Six Day War?

WHAT IF Israel had not mounted Operation Thunderbolt in 1976 to rescue the Jewish hostages held in Entebbe airport following the hijacking of an Air France airbus A300 jet airliner? No Jew or Israeli plane would be safe anywhere. The message – don’t mess with us and expect  you will get way with it. Jews will “NEVER AGAIN” be slaughtered with impunity.

‘Plane’ Truth. What if Israel had not rescued the Jewish captives held by Palestinian and German terrorists in Entebbe in 1976?

WHAT IF there was not a young IDF commander of a tank battalion Avigdor Kahalani, like a biblical David that blocked a Goliath Syrian army from conquering the Golan Heights in 1973.

WHAT IF Prime Minister Menachem Begin had not embraced the peace process with Anwar Sadat of Egypt or authorized the surprise bombing of Iraq’s nuclear facility in 1982?

WHAT IF Israel had not mounted highly secretive operations to rescue the threatened Jews from Yemen and Ethiopia and absorbed one million Russian immigrants. In 1948, Israel had a Jewish population of 716,700; today over seven million, the largest concentration of Jews anywhere in the world! If the quest before had been for the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in their ancestral homeland, the quest today is to secure it for eternity.

Reaching a Crescendo. What if Israel had not neutralised Iraq’s nuclear ambitions in 1981 with Operation Opera.
 

ONE DOME TO ANOTHER

And then as I lay in the hospital bed digesting the distressing news of the Arab disturbances playing out at the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif, the compound housing both mosques, Al- Aqsa and Jerusalem’s most iconic Dome of the Rock, I reflected on exactly a year earlier when Hamas and its cohorts had unleashed over 4,300 rockets at Israel’s civilian population centers and pondered WHAT IF we did not have our IRON DOME?

Not designed to attack or retaliate, this “life saver” defence missile system developed by Israeli companies and financially supported by the US, proved some 90% effective in intercepting enemy rockets, greatly reducing the death toll. No less significant, this remarkable instrument of Israeli ingenuity also reduced the need for IDF ground operations in and around the civilian areas that terrorists use for launching missiles and rockets at Israeli civilians. Invariably ground offenses result in greater loss of lives. All this was avoided or averted because of the IRON DOME!

Special Relationship. Israeli Iron Dome anti-rocket system (right) and an American Patriot missile defense system are shown during a joint U.S.-Israel military exercise on March 8, 2018. (Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)

A MAJOR LEAK

And then finally before retiring to sleep at Meir, the need for the bathroom reminded me of one final WHAT IF, which at the time of its happening was lavatorialy inconsequential but decades later proved monumentally existential.

What do I mean?

For many years, U.S.-Israel military ties  – so vital to Israel – were non-existent. From Israel’s creation in 1948 until the mid-1960s, US State Department and Pentagon officials argued against even providing American arms to Israel lest it provoke the Arabs to ask the Soviets and Chinese for more weapons, which in turn would stimulate a Middle East arms race.

U.S. policy fundamentally changed only after the 1967 Six Day War when France – Israel’s main supplier –  abandoned the Jewish state and the US stepped in to give Israel a qualitative military edge over its enemies. This was all due to a successful meeting between Israeli PM Levi Eshkol and US President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 leading to an agreement to sell Phantom jets to Israel marking the change in relationship between the two countries and establishing the US as Israel’s principal arms supplier.

Meeting of Minds. One of the most important meetings in Israeli history was Prime Minister Levi Eshkol (left) meeting here with President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 as the President’s Texas ranch, which established a warm relationship between the two countries which has stood the test of time.

Since then, Israel has never looked back.

All this however would not have happened, had LBJ not decided at a precise moment in 1942 to relieve himself at an airbase toilet.

A 33-year-old Representative from Texas, lieutenant commander Johnson on the 9th June 1942, boarded a plane called the Wabash Cannonball for a mission in the South Pacific. While the Wabash Cannonball was on a bombing mission, Johnson’s participation was as an observer to inspect and report back to President Roosevelt of Japanese troop movements over New Guinea. However, no sooner had the future US president boarded the B-26, nature called!

Toying with the decision to “hold it in” or go to the toilet and catch the next bomber, he chose the latter and alighted from the plane.

It was a history-altering decision.

After relieving himself, he then joined the crew of another bomber, the Heckling Hare

LBJ was lucky.

The  Wabash Cannonball  was hit by enemy fire and crashed with a total loss of life, while a crippled “hare” made it back to base.

So to my list of Israel’s “What Ifs?”, I add:

Where would Israel’s relationship be today with regard to the US, had not a young Lyndon B. Johnson not had the desperate need to at the right moment to take a leak?

And so while Israel never looked back, my final thought was if only  the driver of the car in Kfar Saba had ‘looked back’ – in her rear view mirror – before opening her door into which I rode!

The writer on a ride in northen Israel.






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

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).

A call to stop hate fell on deaf ears

The South African Muslim Judicial Council and South African Jewry

By Adv. Craig Snoyman

MEA CULPA!

I spent the last couple of weeks trying to hawk this article to South Africa’s main-stream media but to no avail – maybe too hot to handle.

I sent the article first to the newspapers that had first published the raging issue distressing the Jewish community, then to the larger media houses and eventually to the South African Jewish press. Maybe the language was too strong or too emotive, but then religious issues generally are.

I confess my sin in advance – hence Mea Culpa!

While there was no media interest – and one can question the reasons why – I believe it’s an important issue that needs to be aired.  So I took the article, dusted it off, spruced it up at little and here it is. Forgive me but this non-South African website, with a large South African readership, was at the back of the line.

While the issue is about the South African Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and South Africa Jewry, I believe it may well be of global interest. Anti-Israel voices have a habit of morphing into anti-Jewish voices. Ignoring incitement and hate-speech doesn’t solve problems. Incendiary cyber-messaging and vicious online-abuse isn’t going to stop on its own. Disinviting an Israeli-owned food truck from a Philadelphia food fair is not going to cause a stir unless the issue is aired. Inflammatory rabble-rousing demanding that a particular school, which has mixed Jewish-Muslim learner ratio have to debate the Israel-Palestine issue, while insisting that only a pro-Palestinian radical speaker participate, does not contribute to a climate of calm. The flood of antisemitic tropes – only some of them masquerading as anti-Zionism – can be anticipated to lead to violence against Jews in the streets; or BDS activists deciding that they won’t tolerate Israeli products in shops. Once antisemitic violence has happened, it can’t be undone.  Unfortunately, this behaviour is not only expected, but is clearly foreseeable.

It was for this reason that South Africa’s Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Warren Goldstein extended an olive branch of peace to the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and Jamiatul Ulama South Africa. He called on them, by all accounts privately and discretely, to sign a Joint Statement, in which they would publicly call on their  respective constituents to respect each other as citizens of South Africa; and not threaten each other  because  of  their differing views on the Middle East. What he was really asking for, was a public statement by the MJC calling on its constituents to stop harassing his flock and make the clear distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

It was a call stop the hate

Call it out so that it will stop.

The Muslim Judicial Council took the proffered olive branch, broke it in two and then poked the Chief Rabbi’s eye with it!

It was not the MJC‘s constituents that were being harassed or intimidated. They could speak from a position of strength, and they did. The MJC unequivocally and publicly rejected the Chief’s overture and their rejection published in the national papers. They also went running to the Anglican Archbishop seeking him to agree that the offending eye should be plucked out.

Really?

Why does the rejection of a request make by a Jew to a Muslim require the sanction of a Christian?

Reacting to Rabbi.  South Africa’s Muslim Judicial Council  publicly and scornfully rejected the Chief Rabbi’s overture for tolerance and understanding between their religious communities.

The MJC – in further justifying their decision not to issue a joint statement – stated that:

  “The stance by members of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, headed by Chief Rabbi Goldstein, is diametrically opposed to our moral position that most of the freedom-loving people have adopted in so far as it refers to condemning the violence and apartheid policies meted out against Muslim and Christian Palestinians on a daily basis by the apartheid regime in Israel.” 

Factually, the justification is incorrect. The Chief Rabbi has no official position in the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD). The SAJBD is a separate independent body.  The Chief Rabbi acted in his position as head of the Union of Orthodox Synagogues and as titular leader of the Jewish community. On several interfaith functions, where the MJC has participated as well, the Rabbi has acted in this capacity. It is therefore surprising, at the very least, that the MJC could make such a clearly fallacious allegation. But the statement goes further. There is an inferential blaming of the South African Jews for the actions of the regime in Israel.  This skates very close to, if not on, a long-existing, well-worn antisemitic canard, that  Jews can be denigrated simply because they hold the “wrong” position on Israel.

While the MJC added that it did not support or condone intimidation, threats or violence at any level and called on all peace-loving pro-Palestinian protesters to maintain the necessary discipline at all times, this was hardly the case and the Chief Rabbi  was, and is, well aware of the turbulence that has racked and continues to rack his community. Apart from two reported physical assaults – one a Jew, allegedly by Muslims returning from a pro-Hamas rally and one in a shopping centre largely frequented by Jews – the threats of death (“Khaybar, Khaybar, the army of Mohamed will return”, “We’ll finish off Hitler’s work”) the other vocal abuse ( e.g. “Nazi’s” “Zio-Nazi’s”) are in a completely different class to the very vocal  chant of “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free”. Virtually every Jewish personality in South Africa with a public profile was overwhelmed with vitriolic antisemitic (as opposed to Anti-Zionist ) comments on their social media sites. The spate of  the vicious antisemitism that flooded social media may have died down, but it has not disappeared. There are still calls NOT to serve Jews, from certain shop-owners.  Most, if not all of this, seems to have originated from the MJC‘s constituency. The ongoing call to boycott Jewish citizens because they are stereo-typed as  supporters of  Israel  and the call for consumers to stop shopping at stores because they stock Israeli product, is also unabated. That the Chief Rabbi felt that the need to reach out to the Muslim leaders is understandable. One can be reasonably sure that these issues and perceived consequences, were raised by him in discussion. However, the MJC‘s bland response calling on “all peace-loving pro-Palestinian protesters to maintain the necessary discipline”  does not adequately address the issue; and allows for simmering intolerance.

Sowing the Seeds of Discord. Inviting the conflicts of the Middle East into South Africa.

When one looks at the MJC‘s declaration, stating that they do not condone violence and intimidation, it does not address cyber-hate  or ongoing threats to Jewish South Africans or even the relationship between Muslim and Jewish South Africans. Only the MJC‘s “peace-loving pro-Palestinian protesters” (does one hear of any other type of protesters?) are called on to maintain discipline. The issue of private individual conduct is not dealt with, nor is the aspect of on-line hate and other forms of specific ethnic harassment or ethnic interaction. The MJC could not have been oblivious to them. It issued a “catch-all” boiler plate statement to be wheeled out for all occasions.

Stocking Hatred of Jews. Demonstrators marching through the city centre in Cape Town on May 12, 2021 holding banners falsely accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza while ignoring the over 4000 rockets fired from Gaza into civilian areas in Israel.(RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images.)

The casual attitude taken by the MJC is confusing and a matter for concern. On the one hand its position seems to be: “Yes we acknowledge that there should be respect and tolerance between the different religions in South Africa”  while on the other hand it states that  “we cannot be seen to agree with you publicly on the issue of peace and tolerance, because then  we would be betraying the Palestinian cause”. 

These positions are a non-sequitur! 

  • Can one not support peace and tolerance in South Africa and still support the Palestinian cause? 
  • Can one say that one is obliged to refuse to sign a document supporting peace and tolerance because to sign it constitutes a betrayal of the “Palestinian cause”?
  • Can one say that the MJC‘s position is that the “Palestinian cause” is more important to the MJC than peace and tolerance between Jew and Muslim in South Africa?
  • Can one say that the MJC‘s position is that it is not necessary for the incidents of abuse of Jews by Muslims in South Africa does not need to be called out in an effective manner?

All of these propositions would seem to be justified.

The MJC then takes the matter a step beyond a domestic national issue of ethnic tolerance. Rather than address the issue directly,  the MJC deflects and introduces foreign politics and “the Palestinian cause into the equation or  can  one say  the Palestinian cause is made the totality of the equation?

How should one understand “the Palestinian cause” and “support for the besieged people of Gaza”? Does support for the besieged people of Gaza also include support for Hamas, an internationally recognised terrorist organisation, which rules the territory? 

Quo Vadis? Chief Rabbi calls on Muslim religious leaders in SA to issue joint call for tolerance over Gaza conflict was totally rejected.

Do they support the firing of over 4 300 rockets toward civilian targets in Israel from the Gaza strip? The MJC is silent on the issue of the conduct of Hamas but embraces the noble Palestinian cause as “a dignified struggle that requires demonstrating the highest integrity and discipline”. Is Hamas viewed as being included within this dignified struggle? Is Hamas – whose charter declares it seeking the destruction of Israel – also part of the dignified struggle of the noble Palestinian cause which it embraces? 

Where does one draw the line?

And why should this political opinion affect its conduct and attitude toward the safety of South African Jewry?

The MJC is aware of the opinion of its constituents in South Africa.   Numerous rally posters called for “Free Palestine”  nd  “From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free”. The MJC has not disassociated itself from these sentiments. So what is this noble Palestinian cause which requires a dignified struggle of the highest integrity and discipline?

Is it supporting one Palestinian state from the river to the sea, necessitating the elimination of the State of Israel?

Or is it supporting the existence of an independent Palestinian state, co-existing with an independent Jewish state of Israel?

Or should one then accept that the MJC support of the “noble cause” includes the violent overthrow of the Jewish state and condones the launching of rockets against Israel’s civilians? 

Does the noble cause include Hamas’ fundamental position that Jews are to be killed wherever in the world they are to be found?  By rejecting the offer of peace between South African Jews and South African Muslims in favour of the “noble Palestinian cause”, is the MJC stating that the noble cause includes the elimination of Jews in South Africa? 

Is the MJC conflating antisemitism and  anti-Zionism?.

The seemly-obligatory defamatory attack on the State of Israel by the MJC is revealing. The public and political posturing of the MJC could only be for public consumption for a simple and polite rejection to Rabbi Goldstein would have been adequate. It is clear that the MJC‘s battle is one to win hearts and minds of third parties. Why the need to falsely declare Israel an Apartheid state, which is a distortion of the facts as well as a distortion of the definition of Apartheid?

Clearly there is a battle to win over the Christian communities. It sought support from the Anglican Archbishop in order to solicit an unconditional Christian endorsement of the Muslim rejection. So the MJC went public; they rejected the Jews and sought the endorsement of the Christians.

The South African Jews, save for Chief Rabbi Goldstein, almost – unforgivably – kept quiet!

So again to spell it out. Israel is not an Apartheid state, even if it is a catchy jingle. Every Arab citizen of Israel has the same political rights as any other citizen of Israel. There was never an African party allowed to represent its constituents in parliament during the period of Apartheid. Robert  Sobukwe was never offered a position in B. J. Vorster’s  Nationalist cabinet. However, Arab parties have been in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, since the inception of the State of Israel. Mansour Abbas and his Ra’am Arab Islamist  political party are part of a new Israeli government, with Abbas an equal amongst equals. Any specific allegation of Apartheid can be easily refuted.

Distortion and Deception

Following the MJC emotively and publicly seeking the support of the Christian community with its inflammatory false allegations against Israel, it was left to the Chief Rabbi to warn South African Christians to be on guard and at least question what was being fed to them by the MJC.

Those well versed in what is happening in the Middle East know the true situation of Christians living under Muslim rule. While there are more Christians living under Israeli rule than there have ever been, the same cannot be said for Christians under Palestinian rule.  In Palestinian Gaza, the Christian population had dropped from 5,000 to under 1,000 in 2018. From 5% of the population under the control of the Palestinian Authority, the Christians now constitute less than 2% and the Christian population in the disputed territories continues to decrease. In the “little town of Bethlehem” the beleaguered Christians once constituted over 80% of the  population. Today, under the Palestinian Authority they now count at less than 10,000 or less than 10% of the city’s population and continues to decrease. This is the real “Christ at the Crossroads” and has nothing to do with Israel as the MJC would like South African Christians believe.

The Chief Rabbi sought to protect his flock from foreseeable harm and alleviate a climate of increasing hostility. He extended a gesture of peace. The MJC scorned it.

The Chief Rabbi sought to avoid the issue of religious sectarian hate, violence and intimidation arising in South Africa. The MJC chose instead to play politics, importing issues of the Middle East into South Africa.

The Chief Rabbi called for a statement of peace. The MJC chose the Palestinian cause over peace.

The Chief Rabbi opened his hand in peace. The MJC redefined the concept of peace and figuratively spat on his hand.

Resolute Rabbi. Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein who had earlier stood up to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s anti-Israel statement in the media, when asked for Muslim leadership to join him in calling for tolerance and non-violence was met with angered rejection.

It is time that the Muslim Judicial Council come forward and set out its position publicly, in the same way it did when it summarily dismissed Chief Rabbi Goldstein’s approach.  Where does it stand  and what lines are crossed if one calls for ethnic tolerance in South Africa? Similarly, having announced that it supports the “noble Palestinian Cause”, one should be able to understand if this a policy rather than a slogan. If support for a distant Palestinian cause is preferable over peace and tolerance toward fellow South African citizens who happen to be Jewish what then is the MJC‘s attitude toward Christians who are also supporters of Israel? Will they too be attacked or are they too large a group to be bullied as was the case with South Africa’s Chief Justice, who also called for peace in Jerusalem? Are they also to be sacrificed on the high altar of the Palestinian cause? The Muslim Judicial Council’s strategy of public rejection has a concurrent obligation – a reasonable explanation not simple slogans of “noble Palestinian causes”. 

Talk policy, don’t mouth slogans! 




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 City of Jaffa is in The State of Israel!

Open letter by Stephen Schulman

During Ramadan, South Africa’s online newspaper, The Daily Maverick published a food article by Cape Town writer Ayesha Mukadam entitled, “Celebrating Ramadan by Sending ‘boeka’ Plates around the World.”

image004 - 2020-06-01T133051.949
Careless With Cuisine. Founder of ‘Boeka Without Borders’, writer Ayesha Mukadam chooses to deny Israel’s existence in her food article.

A Cape Muslim Afrikaans word for breaking one’s fast at sunset during Ramadan, “Boeka”, explains Mukadam, “is synonymously celebrated in the Cape with the sharing and exchange of boeka plates with neighbours, family and friends.”  

Not possible during Covid-19, the writer laments “It is the first Ramadan that I can recall, where no boeka plates are being exchanged. I missed this Cape tradition that is inherent to my culture and upbringing.” 

To compensate, Mukadam created an Instagram platform and invited people during the month of Ramadan while under lockdown, to share their “virtual boeka from across streets, neighbourhoods, countries and oceans.”

Amongst those sharing is Basel Agbaria from Jaffa, Israel, who Mukadam describes is from Palestine.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-05-21-celebrating-ramadan-by-sending-boeka-plates-around-the-world/

image006 (87)
Sea’ing Is Believing. Famous for its association with the biblical stories of Jonah and the whale and King Solomon, Israel’s ancient port city of Jaffa with neighbouring Tel Aviv in the background (left).

A Lay of the Land contributor, Stephen Schulman replies in an open letter to The Daily Maverick and its writer:

Dear Ayesha Mukadam,

I read your article about your site in The Daily Maverick, the online publication bringing news and views from South Africa, on “boeka” a Cape Muslim Afrikaans word for iftar – breaking one’s fast at sunset during Ramadan. In it, you declared your purported aim of using food in the Muslim month of Ramadan as a means of connecting and bringing people of all faiths together – a most laudable initiative in these turbulent and troubled times.

Mention of the Cape brought back many memories. Growing up in the 50’s on the Lower Main Road in the suburb of Claremont, Cape Town where my parents once had a shop. We lived in amity and mutual respect with our many Muslim customers and neighbours. Whilst we did not partake of “Iftar”, we were well aware of the Muslim faith, its beliefs, practices and customs. Cape Town had its own particular cuisine and I can still taste those marvelous samoosas that have no equal anywhere in the world!

image001 - 2020-06-01T132549.379
Taste Of Tradition. Celebrating Ramadam by ‘sending’ beoka plates around the world.

Tolerance of all faiths was the accepted and unspoken norm – an absolute sine qua non. In my student days, I worked part time at a Claremont dry cleaner with its large Muslim staff many of whom I remember well. There was friendship, harmony and cooperation for we could not see it otherwise!

I note that in your article, you referred to the city of Jaffa as being in Palestine. Your correspondent Basel Agbaria resides in Israel (NOT Palestine) in Jaffa, an historic town close to Tel Aviv that is located next to the sea and has a mixed population of Muslims, Christians and Jews who peacefully co-exist and where iftar is practiced openly and freely.

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Nasreen Khan shares this boeka meal from Seychelles with her siblings and parents in Ladysmith. (Photo: Nasreen Khan / @msnasreen)

You have intentionally omitted the word Israel and supplanted it with Palestine. There is indeed a Palestinian Authority on the West Bank but it spews out antisemitic hatred and bankrolls terrorists. Bethlehem that once had a thriving Christian majority and mayor, after relinquishment of Israeli control to the Palestinians, has seen its residents emigrate in droves, leaving a rapidly shrinking Christian minority – presently only one eighth of the population. Hamas in the Gaza Strip, with its avowedly Jewish genocidal aims also persecutes Christians, many of whom fear for their lives.

No ‘boeka’ there, I’m afraid!

How unfortunate and tragic that in the Middle East, tolerance has been long swiftly defenestrated and replaced with hatred and persecution. Those days in Walmer Estate, so fondly recalled by Nadia Kamies where all faiths lived side-by-side and come Ramadan, Muslims would share Boeka with their Christian neighbours, here, in the countries bordering Israel (NOT Palestine), are sadly extinct. In Syria, in the ongoing civil war, more than half a million of its citizens – have been slaughtered by their co-religionists. In Iraq, the Sunnis and Shiites share a mutual hatred while the Christians are caught in the middle. Jewish communities in the Middle East that existed long before the advent of Islam, are long gone.  Most of these inhabitants were disenfranchised, expelled or having fled for their lives.

I live in Israel (NOT Palestine), a country of 9,000,000 citizens, a state that is a member of the United Nations and whose blue and white flag, amongst all the other nations, proudly flutters at their New York headquarters, a state whose name appears on any reputable atlas, a sovereign state recognized by the community of enlightened nations. It is also the sole democracy in the Middle East, where Jews, Muslims and other faiths live and work side by side. Israel is an oasis where the freedom of worship is guaranteed by law. A national radio broadcasts for its Muslim listeners, official times of beginning and ending the daily Ramadan fast.

Your blatant disrespect for my country and denial of Israel’s existence and its centrality to our faith is an insult to the Jewish people and their religion and makes a mockery of your so-called respect for all faiths.

How sad that your professed aim of bringing people together is marred by bigotry and bias and how hollow your words of creating “community and solidarity… among people of different religions and nationalities” sound.

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Stuart Coffey shares this Thai pineapple fried rice with a friend in San Diego, US. (Photo: Stuart Coffey / @stucoffey)

I suggest that next time you cook up your site that “is centered around the universal value of sharing food to connect and unite”, that you dispense with the ingredients of hatred and denial and liberally spice it with tolerance and a genuine acceptance of the rights of others and other nations to exist. If so done, dear Ayesha, it would be truly palatable for us all.

With best wishes,

Stephen Schulman,

Israel

 

 

About the writer:

image001 (4).pngStephen Schulman is a graduate of the Jewish socialist Youth Movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. He was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.

 

 

 

*Title Picture: The Jaffa clock tower dominates Clock Square, a landmark at the entrance to the Jaffa section of Tel Aviv. Photo by JekLi/Shutterstock.com

Afternoon Prayers

By Gina Jacobson

Whenever I read an article or see a BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) headline crying that Israel is an apartheid state, I think about a moment I had a while back, while I was traveling home from work on the bus.

The drive is quite scenic and meanders through forests and fields and I often sit by the window just taking in the unique beauty around me.

Well, this day, we came to a stop about halfway home and I noticed a truck pulled over on the side of the road. While there was nothing particularly unusual about that, something else caught my attention. It was then I saw a man get out of the truck. He had something rolled up under his arm and as he looked around, I realised what it was.

The driver of the truck was Muslim, and it was time for late afternoon prayers.

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Prayer Time. Muslim man gets out of his lorry and prayers peacefully in a street in a suburb in Jerusalem.

He found a spot just behind his truck on the shoulder of the road and laid his prayer rug down. He then proceeded to kneel and go about his afternoon prayers. Nobody disturbed him; nobody told him that he couldn’t.

Think about that for a moment. A Muslim man, in Jewish state, taking time out of his workday to pray. No one stopped him. No one harassed him. No one even batted an eye.

Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. The only place where people of all faiths are free to practice their religion without condemnation or harassment. Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist – all are welcome and receive equal rights that are protected.

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Common Sight. Muslims praying in street in the Old City, Jerusalem.

These are rights that are enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence and the country features high on the Freedom House index on democratic values and freedoms.

Apartheid was a system of laws of racial discrimination that governed every aspect of a person’s life and was unique to South Africa.

What is “Apartheid” about a country where you are not only free to practice your own religion; but you also have equal opportunity for citizenship, employment, schooling, voting rights, representation in government and serve in the army ?

And if you’re still not convinced, why not pop on over to the Old City of Jerusalem, see the Jews praying at the Kotel (Wailing Wall) , watch the Muslims retire for prayer five times a day as they are summoned by the muezzin and listen to the church bells ring out across the hills and valleys. This is something that is so unique to Jerusalem – and Israel.

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Muslims pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque or what Jews refer to as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Catch a train and see a microcosm of Israel’s citizens or visit any university campus. You get the picture…

The accusation from Israel’s detractors that the Jewish State is an Apartheid practitioner is nothing but a cheap ploy to try and get the global community to isolate her.

I have one thing to say to Israel’s detractors who are accusing the Jewish state of having Apartheid policies. Once you have done all of this and seen for yourself, the reality on the ground, then you can confidently tell me this is an “Apartheid” state. I’ll wait….

 

 

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Gina Jacobson is a mom, a wife, a dreamer. She loves coffee and when she’s not reading, she’s writing.

Where Is BDS When Christians And Yazidis Are Murdered?

It takes its cue from an indifferent world – A shameful Silence

 

By David E. Kaplan

 

Last year, writes Raymond Ibrahim, “Christians were persecuted more than ever before in the modern era — and 2019 is expected to be worse.”

Raised in the USA to Egyptian parents, Ibrahim today is a widely published author and Middle East and Islam specialist.

He was the first to expose in 2012, an Arabic-language Saudi fatwa that called for the destruction of any Christian church found on the Arabian Peninsula. Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, declared that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.”

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“Destroy All Churches In Gulf,” Says Saudi Grand Mufti. Speaking to a delegation in Kuwait, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, stressed that since the tiny Gulf state was a part of the Arabian Peninsula, it was necessary to destroy all of the churches in the country.

Raymond Ibrahim is sounding ALARM BELLS about the plight of Christians in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Too few hear them ringing!

Writing this March in the Gatestone Institute, Ibrahim reveals that in 2018, 4,136 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons, according to Open Doors USA in its recently published World Watch List 2019 (WWL) of the top 50 nations where Christians are persecuted.

This translates on average, to 11 Christians killed every day for their faith.

Why the deafening silence?

Additionally, in 2018, “2,625 Christians were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned”, and “1,266 churches or Christian buildings were attacked.”

In 2018, 215 million Christians faced persecution and the prognosis according to Open Doors, is that this year – 2019 –   over 245 million will suffer – a 14% increase, that represents 30 million more people abused for their faith.

This means that “One in nine Christians experience high levels of persecution worldwide.”

Worse for Woman

Another frightening trend is the “shocking persecution against women.”

“In many places,” reveals the report, “they experience a ‘double persecution’ — one for being a Christian and one for being a woman! Even in the most restricted circumstances, gender-specific persecution is a key means of destroying the minority Christian community.”

Last year’s WWL provided more specific numbers:

At least six women every day are raped, sexually harassed or forced into marriage to a Muslim man under the threat of death for their Christian faith…”

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Worst Offenders

Among the worst persecutors are those that rule according to Sharia.

In Afghanistan (ranked #2), “Christianity is not permitted to exist” because it “is an Islamic state by constitution, which means government officials, ethnic group leaders, religious officials and citizens are hostile toward adherents of any other religion.”

Similarly, in Somalia, (ranked #3),

Al-Shabaab’s primary aim is to rid Somalia of all Christianity. In 2014 when their leader Ahmed Godane died, they appointed a new leader.

Despite Pope Francis’ statement that Africa is a continent of hope and his call to engage in dialogue against the attacks that have recently occurred, there is not enough being done currently to protect Somali’s Christians. When they are not allowed to express their beliefs to the government without being killed or to celebrate holidays and customs publicly that are Christian, they are being stripped from their basic human rights from society.

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Take Note BDS SA. Nigeria accounted for more than half the worldwide killings of Christians in 2015. (Photograph: AFP/Getty Images)

Being forced to hide their beliefs from the country and having to live in fear is not an acceptable way to live. Pope Francis is correct in saying that meaningful dialogue is important to solving this problem, but in the meantime, these Christians are being killed regularly, and a change needs to be come soon.

In Iran (ranked #9), “society is governed by Islamic law, which means the rights and professional possibilities for Christians are heavily restricted.” While worship is permitted under the Islamic Republic’s constitution, conversion to Christianity can be a crime meriting a sentence of more than 10 years imprisonment.

“There are many reports,” said Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, “that this has contributed to the government’s ever-increasing dependence on hardline Islamic ayatollahs, who naturally see Christianity as a threat to their power. For this reason, it’s not surprising that we’re seeing an increase in Christian persecution.”

It has become increasingly common for authorities to arrest worshippers, raid house churches, and confiscate Bibles.

Under Pakistan‘s notorious blasphemy laws, Christians live in daily fear they will be accused of blasphemy — which can carry a penalty of death.

Only recently, Pakistan’s supreme court struck down the death sentence for blasphemy handed down to a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, in a long-delayed, landmark decision that freed her after nine years on death row and ignited countrywide protests from Islamist groups.

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What’s Changed Since The Roman Circuses? Protestors in Pakistan screaming support for death penalty for Christian woman.

Christian farm labourer Bibi, a 47-year-old mother of five, was sentenced to hang for blasphemy in 2010. She had angered fellow Muslim farm workers by taking a sip of water from a cup she had fetched for them on a hot day. When they demanded she convert to Islam, she refused, prompting a mob to later allege that she had insulted the prophet Mohammed.

In Libya (#4), Yemen (#8), Syria (#11), and Iraq (#13) war has given rise to Islamic militancy and general lawlessness, both of which prey on Christian minorities.

While in Egypt, President el-Sisi has publicly expressed his commitment to protecting Christians, his government’s actions and extremist groups’ continued Christian persecution attacks on individuals and churches, have left Christians feeling insecure and extremely cautious.

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Is The World Illeterate. ISIS Killing Christians in Egypt Read more at https://www.themonastery.org/blog/2017/03/our-favorite-prey-isis-killing-christians-in-egypt/#xz2dsE8wa4LMr6oS.99

Some recent examples:

In December 2017, a gunman opened fire in Cairo at a church and a nearby shop owned by Christians. Eleven people died as a result of the attack.

In July 2018, a mob attacked Christians in a village in Minya, when Muslim residents were angered by a Facebook post they believed to be blasphemous.

Many Christian girls and women have become the victims of sexual harassment, abduction and rape. In just one month (April 2018), at least seven cases of abduction were documented.

In early November 2018, Islamic State militants attacked a bus carrying Coptic Christians from a monastery in Minya, killing eight and injuring more than 13 people.

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Beach Barbarism. In 2015, 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians – constructive workers that had been kidnapped – were beheaded by ISIS on the beaches of Sirte, in Libya,

According to Open Doors, 128 Christians were killed in Egypt for their faith and more than 200 were driven out of their homes in 2017. It attributed the rise in persecution to “the overspill of Islamic terrorists driven out of Iraq and Syria”.

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Beware Of Reporting The Truth. In 2015, ISIS burned twenty media activists to death in Iraq’s northwestern city of Mosul. The victims were executed on charges of leaking security information to “hostile parties”. “The horrific execution was conducted in front of dozens of people in al-Houd, including some family members of the victims.

Home to the largest Christian community in the Middle East, Christians in Egypt are facing unprecedented levels of persecution, with attacks on churches and the kidnapping of girls by Islamist extremists, intent on forcing them to marry Muslims.

“Michael Jones” – not his real name – a Cairo-based businessman and evangelical Christian, told The Guardian there was a gulf between statements from the national leadership regarding the Christian community and actions at a local level.

“You hear President el-Sisi speaking about Christians with a lot of respect and sympathy. Just a few days ago, he made a beautiful, emotional speech when inaugurating our new cathedral. It looked like an amazing affirmation that the state is supporting the church and the Christian community, and doing everything it can to guarantee our welfare,” said ‘Jones’.

“Then you have the local authorities in villages and towns – police, judges, business owners – and it’s evident that many of them are infected with a rejection of Christianity. You see this in daily practices.”

BDS – are you hearing the cries and calls for salvation or are you callously ignoring?

The Yazidis – “We harmed nobody”

This ancient faith that has survived for centuries by living apart in a tight-knit community is facing extinction. There are less than a million Yazidis worldwide, and most are in the Iraqi heartland.

Facing extinction – they see their fate inextricably linked to the wider world.

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Horrors The World Ignores. Yazidis fleeing their towns for Mount Sinjar as Islamic State forces advanced on them. “They raped me every day, twice or more,” recounts Bafrin from the village of Kocho. “I was just a child; I can never forget it.” Over 400 men, the entire male population of Kocho, were rounded up, shot or beheaded. Old women were killed and dumped in mass graves, younger ones sold in markets as sex slaves, boys turned into child soldiers. (Photograph: Rodi Said/Reuters)

The Yazidi narrative reveals surviving 74 genocides throughout their tormented history, but the worst, Yazidis today will say, is ISIS “that is trying to eradicate our faith and culture.” Acknowledged by the United Nations as genocide, the ISIS campaign may have dealt “the most brutal blow.”

On 3 August 2014, ISIS attacked the Yazidi community in Sinjar, northern Iraq. Thousands were imprisoned or killed, and close to 100,000 people fled to Mount Sinjar. The UN referred to the attack as “a genocide”.

Women have paid the highest price when ISIS attacked. Close to 7,000 women have been sold as sex slaves. They have been brutalised by ISIS fighters, many of them repeatedly victims of sexual assaults. They were forced to convert to Islam, and many were forcibly married off to ISIS fighters. Women who tried to escape were often punished with gang rape.

Thousands of women and children, down to the age of nine, were repeatedly sold in slave markets in Syrian cities where ISIS had a strong presence. Boys from the age of seven years and upwards were separated from their mothers and put in camps where they were brainwashed and trained to become child soldiers.

In an appeal to the world, a priest, Sheikh Ismael Bahri, catches sight of a rare group of foreign journalists and wails:

All humane countries of the world must see our situation. We’ve not harmed anyone. All we want is help and protection.”

While the Yazidis’ plight has moved some countries such as Australia, Canada and Germany that offered refuge to a limited number of victims, notably the women brutally enslaved by ISIS, most the world remains silent.

“We feel threatened here, we don’t have a future here,” cried out Tuli Bahri Evo, whose family crossed the border from Syria where the Yazidis’ presence is also dwindling.

Alarmed by a potential exodus which could endanger the very survival of this tiny community, Yazidi leaders are begging the world to help them stay in Iraq.

“We need our own Yazidi force so we can protect ourselves,” the Yazidis’ religious leader, Baba Sheikh says. “The world is only talking about Yazidis but doing nothing.”

Wake up world – the Yazidis are an “Endangered Species”!

 

Asia Bibi: protests erupt in Pakistan after blasphemy conviction overturned – video

 

Feature picture: Yazidi Kurdish women chant slogans during a protest against the Islamic State group’s invasion of Sinjar city, in Dohuk, Iraq, August 3, 2015. (AP/Seivan M. Salem)