An ‘illuminating’ perspective of the Shoah from the ‘darkness’ of a collapsed mine
By David. E. Kaplan
Pedestrians stand solemnly in silence, while buses stop on busy streets and cars pull over with drivers standing at the side with their heads bowed. This collective conduct of the citizens of Israel is set off by a two-minute siren wailing across the country marking Holocaust Remembrance Day or known colloquially as Yom HaShoah (יום השואה). It is observed as Israel’s day of commemoration for the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.
This year – 2020 – will be different as Corona transforms everything usual into the unusual.
The siren will still wail for two minutes but the streets will be mostly and ominously quite as most the citizens of the country will be home under some form of lockdown.
In cities and towns, people will stand on the balconies or poke their heads out of apartment windows for the two minutes as the siren wails and look down at the empty streets below.
The image of “looking down” made me think 10 years back to another perspective of the Holocaust, that of the inverse of “looking up”!
I always wondered what someone who had no knowledge of the Holocaust would feel following a visit to Yad Vashem – Israel’s official memorial in Jerusalem to the victims of the Holocaust. It was a thought that had intrigued me for many years, and an opportunity to answer this thought arose in 2011, when 24 of the 33 Chilean miners who had been rescued after spending 69 days trapped in a collapsed Chilean mine the year before arrived in Israel. Hosted by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism for a 8-day visit, including their families, I had been invited as editor of the Hilton Israel Magazine to spend the day with the miners as they toured Jerusalem, one of the sights being Yad Vashem.
One forgets, but as the Coronavirus dominates the news today, in 2010, what dominated the news – for at least 69 days – was the plight of the 33 miners trapped 700 metres below ground in the collapsed copper–goldSan José Mine located near Copiapó, in the Atacama Region, Chile.
Mesmerized in front of TVs, a global audience was drawn to this heart-rending and nail-biting unfolding drama who rooted for the rescue of these miners buried beneath in what was referred to at the time in the media as the “Deep Down Dark”. People of the world identified with the families of the miners as we all became “one family” hoping and praying for the success of the incredible rescue operation.
Thankfully this story of the 33 miners sealed inside the mountain by a “megablock” of collapsed stone, some 770,000 tons of it -“twice the weight of the Empire State building” – had a happy ending.
Over 1 billion viewers around the world watched the rescue unfold live on TV on Oct. 13, 2010 as all 33 of the miners were raised to the surface of the earth. Staring at that flat, smooth wall, Luis Urzua, the crew’s supervisor, thought at the time:
“It was like the stone they put over Jesus’s tomb.”
Continuing in the biblical parlance of Urzua, it was as if the miners had been unbelievably – “resurrected”.
In Israel’s invitation to the miners, which was extended to members of their families, the Israeli tourism minister, Stas Mesezhnikov, wrote:
“Your bravery and strength of spirit, your great faith that helped you survive so long in the bowels of the earth, was an inspiration to us all.”
FromSan José to Shoah
With my Spanish interpreter tagging besides me, I caught up with the miners as they exited the Hall of Names – a repository for the names of millions of Shoah victims. Close to four million eight hundred thousand of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices are commemorated here.
The miners came out looking emotionally drained.
They stood in groups, clustered together on the platform overlooking the forests and the city of Jerusalem – the capital of the state of the Jewish People.
I began to interview them – all revealing their unfamiliarity before their visit to Israel of both Jews and the Holocaust.
Some men are blessed with “nine lives” I thought interviewing 33- year-old Victor Zamora, a mechanic who only went into the mine on the day of the collapse to fix a vehicle. This same man had also been a victim and survived the Chilean earthquake seven months earlier. The 14th miner to be rescued he said, “Before coming to Israel, I knew nothing about the Jewish Holocaust. I’m still feeling claustrophobia, it’s a feeling that stays with you; hard to shake off but,” and then stopping to shake his head, he continued, “whatever I experienced, it hardly compares with what I’ve just seen here now [at Yad Vashem].”
Standing next to Zamora, was his former shift manager, the 54-year-old Luis Urzua, who had been the last miner to be rescued. His level-headedness was critical for the survival of his men and his gentle humour was all too evident when later describing the 69-day ordeal as:
“It’s been a bit of a long shift.”
And to my question of “How important was your faith in God?” he replied:
“We were 33 miners; God was miner number 34.”
However, it was this leader of the miners that revealed to me a perception of the Holocaust that resonated more than much of the academic writings I had come across.
“Having been so close to death with your fellow miners, how did you feel after having walked through Yad Vashem revealing how the Jews in Europe too faced death?”
This brave and resolute man answered wiping away tears:
“There is one big difference. While we may have shared with the Jews in the concentration camps that feeling of always being close to death, we at least enjoyed one luxury – HOPE. We knew there were people rooting for us, praying for us all over the world and working non-stop to save us. Now, having spent the last two hours walking through Yad Vashem, I know the Jews in the Holocaust had no hope. No-one was coming to rescue them. There lies the big difference – we at least had HOPE!”
Four letters but it incapsulates the DNA of the State of Israel. Jews today in the direst of circumstance can HOPE. From rescuing 49,000 Jews of Yemen in Operation Magic Carpet (1949-1950), Jewish passengers of a hijacked plane in Entebbe, Uganda in 1976, to rescuing thousands the Jews of Ethiopia in operations Moses and Solomon and now in 2020, to sending planes all over the world to bring back “HOME”, Israelis stranded because of the Coronavirus.
Today, Jews can not only HOPE, they can depend on the Jewish state to come to their rescue!
Not all heroes wear capes. During this time of crisis, most wear masks of a different kind – medical grade and protective gear to prevent a tiny but potentially lethal microbe from spreading. This particular hero, wears a smart navy blazer with his medals from his service during World War II polished and displayed proudly across his chest. His weapon is a walker to help him walk. And his superpower? This hero’s particular superpower is inspiring many from all around the world to support him on his noble mission – raising money for Britain’s NHS (National Health Services).
Meet Captain Tom Moore, a 99 year old World War II veteran who is walking to raise funds for the NHS. This extraordinary man, who turns 100 on April 30th, pledged to do 100 laps of his 25 metre long garden before his birthday at month’s end, which he has since completed. His goal? Raise one thousand pounds for the NHS.
His family thought this may be a goal too high and took to social media to support him but Captain Tom as he has been dubbed, with his captivating charm and noble intentions has raised a staggering £12 million at the time of writing this article – and the money continues to come in! Celebrities, businesspeople, ex-pat Brits and citizens all over the UK are contributing. At four million it was estimated that funds could contribute to 800 ventilators, 850 nurses and 10,000 beds – imagine what 12 million (and growing!) can do!
(*By the time that this article is published, the amount has already exceeded that sum by far and is still rising!)
Who is this ordinary man turned extraordinary superhero?
Tom Moore was born in Keighley, West Yorkshire. He was conscripted into the British Army when he was 20, along with – as he likes to put it – his role model, the Queen.
“She and I were in her father’s army together – she was a subaltern,” he says. Her majesty served as a mechanic during the war. Captain Tom loves the Queen. ‘She is fantastic and so strong and sensible, and her heart is in the right place,” he says. “I don’t think anybody anywhere has had a Queen like we’ve got. We’re very lucky.”
Moore joined the 145th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps, was selected for officer training in 1940 and rose to the rank of Captain. He was posted to India where he fought in the Arakan Campaign of 1942-3, when the Allies pushed back against the Japanese in Burma. His late sister, Freda, was also conscripted and joined the ATS in Lincolnshire, plotting the German planes as they came over.
Today, Captain Moore is serving Queen and country in a different way.
A few years ago, Moore endured a battle with skin cancer. He also fell in his kitchen and broke his hip and gashed his head.
“I tangled up my own feet and fell over and hit my head on the dishwasher,” he says.
“It still has a little dent!” But thanks to the NHS, he soon bounced back into his smart navy blazer and slacks and he will always be grateful.
“They’re wonderful. Amazing. They’ve seen me through and cared for Pamela, my wife when she was ill. I just wanted to thank them.” Well he’s done that, many times over. Captain Moore’s heartwarming mission is not just dominating headlines in his native UK but also around the world. Even The Times of Israel has been following his extraordinary fundraising journey. With all the Corona virus coverage, perhaps Moore is the perfect dose of good will.
Journalist Piers Morgan, who has interviewed Captain Moore, has called for him to be Knighted for his service to Queen and country and many agree. While there may not be a medal adequate enough to express gratitude, this gentleman deserves the highest honour in the land – a Knighthood.
Asked about how he feels about a possible Knighthood, he responded:
“It would be marvelous to have such an honour but I don’t expect anything like that. I think it would be absolutely enormous if I was knighted, to be Sir Thomas Moore, I have never heard of anything like that before. I think the Queen is marvelous and doing such a terrific job because all the time she’s been Queen, she has been the leader of the country – and I have the highest regard for her. I hope she continues as Queen for a very long time.”
When asked about his 100th birthday on April 30, Captain Moore said: “Well originally we were going to have a big party here with all my friends and relations and we were all imagining what it would be like.”
Captain Moore, you deserve a party – with everything your brave heart desires, you have earned it!
On April 5 2000, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth hearkened back to a bygone era when she delivered a magnificent speech in what many are calling the greatest of her 68-year reign. In this speech, she spoke about separation from family during the war years and quoted another icon of her generation, Dame Vera Lynn when she gave the rallying cry “We’ll Meet Again”. It reminded many of us of the spirit of that generation, the greatest generation. Today, it is a war veteran, resplendent in his medals , who shows us it is possible to keep calm and get going.
Captain Tom Moore, Sir, we salute you! You are the epitome of the Greatest Generation.
BDS South Africa’s wraps Palestinian headscarf over African continent in new logo
By David.E. Kaplan
In the midst of the global Coronavirus crisis, BDS South Africa in its online newsletter dated March 20, announced that following consultations with several of its partners “in South Africa and on the African continent,” that the organisation will henceforth function under the name:
“Africa for Palestine (AFP)”
While Africa is focused on protecting its populations from a killer virus, BDS South Africa is promoting and facilitating another kind of killer virus – antisemitism, but now not only in South Africa but across the African continent.
Such is the ambition of BDS South Africa – excuse, Africa for Palestine!!!
With the African continent joining the world in trying to protect and save lives, BDS SA is moving in the opposite diabolical direction. What’s more, it brazenly does not disguise its nefarious intent as emblazoned in its new LOGO, with the entire continent of Africa ENVELOPED by a Palestinian keffiyeh.
In a continent committed to a better future of science, technology and innovation, branding with yesteryear’s terrorism is not the way to go.
Does BDS South Africa really believe that Africa is gullible to this attempted “Hostile Takeover” as they graphically articulate in its new spine-chilling logo?
The people of Africa will see through this façade of deception!
Coronavirus does not distinguish between nations and religions, between Jews and Arabs and yet BDS South Africa is diabolically and deceptively exploiting the virus to fan antisemitism and defame the Jewish state with fabrications.
So while since March 19, 2020:
– the Israeli government has sent hundreds of coronavirus testing kits to the Palestinian Authority and Gaza as well as 2,000 protective suits and twenty tons of disinfectants and 100 liters of sanitizing gel
– Israeli doctors and specialists have been dispatched to the West Bank city of Jericho to train Palestinian medical teams to save lives in combating the coronavirus pandemic
– Palestinian Authority officials Ahmed Deek and Hussein al Sheikh – responsible for cooperation between the PA and Israel – praised Israel’s assistance, particularly the Israeli government’s honoring of the PA’s request to provide accommodations in Israel for 45,000 Palestinian worker-commuters from the West Bank to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection
– The UN Security Council issuing a formal statement welcoming Israeli Palestinian cooperation against Corona stating that it “provided a blueprint for renewed peace talks” none of these Israeli measures had any impact on BDS South Africa’s leadership who proceeded to serve its regular platter of conspiratorial accusations against Israel, as part of its 2020 annual “Israel Apartheid Week”.
On March 19, when Israel announced it was considering a complete lockdown over coronavirus, BDS South Africa’s founder Mohammed Desai, charged Israel with refusing to issue vital life-saving instructions in Arabic to Arabic speaking citizens and residents of the Jewish state. However, Desai’s accusation was immediately revealed as false on South African national television by the TV debate’s other guest, Israeli Arab, Yoseph Haddad, who called Desai a “liar”.
“As an Arab Israeli, I got the instructions in Arabic; SO STOP LYING.”
He then proceeded to ask the founder of BDS South Africa, who advocates boycotts of Israel whether he would himself boycott Israel in the following scenario:
“Israel today is working on a vaccine for Coronavirus. Should it discover a vaccine, would you use it?”
Mumbling and digressing in trying to dodge the question, Haddad persisted for an answer:
“Would you use it – Yes or No. The question is simple”
The BDS South Africa head refused to answer and then concluded with this disgusting yet revealing comment:
“Israel’s expertise should not be used as an exercise of blackmail.”
He knew he had been exposed as the fraud he is, as is the organisation he founded and heads, and now seeks to re-brand or disguise!
There is also no “disguising” the true Mohammed Desai when one takes a closer at the print on the white T-shirt he wore for this debate on national TV’s prime time:
Beneath the large colorful Google logo, appears the Search Box with Israel typed in and then the question:
“Did you mean Palestine?”
Clearly, the founder of BDS South Africa shares the same sentiments as the cofounder of the global BDS movement Omar Barghouti when he said:
“The two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is finally dead. But someone has to issue an official death certificate before the rotting corpse is given a proper burial… Good riddance!”
For BDS South Africa’s founder – there is no partnership, no coexistence,no Jewish State; there is no Israel!
All this finally begs the question:
Why has BDS South Africa changed its name to the preposterous and presumptuous – ‘Africa for Palestine’?
The answer lies not in any success but due to its failure.
BDS South Africa is rebranding because its hateful and hurtful message no longer resonates with most the of people of South Africa.
Rather than a “rose”, the newly morphed BDS South Africa is but:
“A Reptile By Another Name”
At 2:40 minutes into this short video clip, Israeli-Arab Yosef Haddad asks the head of BDS South Africa, Mohamed Desai whether he would use an Israeli-made coronavirus antidote.
I was asked recently if it would be possible to appear on an international news channel and be a “neutral” commentator on the announcement by the United Nations Human Rights Council of a blacklist of 112 companies doing business “related to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” which for the UN includes the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. This is an issue that defies neutrality for so many reasons. As Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin said, it recalled one of the darkest periods of our history, a time just before the outbreak of World War II, when Jews were forced to wear yellow stars, denoting us as different – and Jewish owned business boycotted, looted or destroyed.
It defies all rationale when countries like Sudan, Venezuela, Algeria, Bahrain, Bolivia, Chad, Cuba, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Libya and others form part of the bloc that sponsored the March 2016 resolution that led to the publishing of the blacklist. After all, these are not countries that enjoy good records on human rights.
There must be many victims of conflict wondering why their cries fall on deaf ears. The United Nations prove time and again that when it comes to Israel, they have a focus that has become an obsession. Resolution after resolution time and again, single Israel out for opprobrium but gross human rights violations like those in Iran, Venezuela, Syria and many other places barely elicit a response.
The publishing of this blacklist also plays right into the hands of the BDS (Boycott Divestment and sanctions) movement whose desired end goal is for Israel to not exist, a desire expressed clearly on their website and in their rhetoric. BDS is anti-normalisation – they are against any discourse and interaction between Israelis and Palestinians. For many who believe that peace will be built from the interaction between ordinary people and the provision of jobs and opportunities, a campaign like this deals a decisive blow to any efforts towards sustainable peace.
According to NGO Monitor, an organisation that monitors the often murky activities of non-governmental organisations, many of whom are associated with the BDS movement, not only was this list made in conjunction with pro-BDS and PFLP-linked NGOs, but these companies have done nothing wrong and many are involved in providing goods and services to Palestinians pursuant to the Oslo Accords.
These companies help create employment and opportunity for many Palestinians, who stand to lose the most. The decision to create a blacklist of companies not only threatens Palestinian employment opportunities but blocks access to the much needed humanitarian aid and infrastructure that these companies provide. The blacklist also hearkens back to times when Jews were singled out and put on exclusionary lists and today, the growing practice of labelling products manufactured in the West Bank is tantamount to wearing a modern day yellow star. Why is Israel singled out for this treatment but other countries with conflict situations are not?
A few weeks ago, I attended a conference where the CEO of SodaStream, Daniel Birenbaum, was a featured speaker. SodaStream is a well-known Israeli brand, sold to PepsiCo for a whopping $3.2billion, faces threats by BDS because their factory was situated in the West Bank. Birenbaum addressed the discriminatory practice of labelling goods produced in the West Bank by saying “if they want labels, we will give them labels” and promptly displayed the label found on all on SodaStream products.
Perhaps it would behoove the UN to learn from examples of co-existence and not pander to campaigns that are anti-Semitic and fall into the trap of questioning Israel’s legitimacy as a sovereign state. Blacklists, boycotts and labelling campaigns are harmful to sincere peace building efforts.
The timing of this could not be more bizarre. The release of the blacklist comes against the background of the release of the Trump Peace Plan. Although the Palestinians have roundly refused to even look at the plan, it has been endorsed by countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and other Arab countries.
The Arab world is slowly opening up to the realization that recognition of Israel and the potential mutual business potential only bode well for the people of the region – and helps stave off the massive threat posed by Iran, a country not exactly lauded for its record on human rights.
This move by the United Nations Human Rights Council is a dark day for the institution, for Israel and the Palestinians and gives a tailwind to anti-Semites. It is a failure of the power of an agency charged with the mandate of protecting global human rights.
For the United Nations that is fast losing credibility and the regard the institution once held, the publishing of this blacklist, coupled with the obsessive focus on Israel at the expense of other conflicts and human rights issues around the world prove that or this once venerable body, antisemitism is just business as usual.
There has been every opportunity for Gaza to become its own version of the “Start-Up Nation” like Israel, with blooming agriculture and beautiful beaches.
When Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005, the farmers of the Gush Katif area (approximately 20 communities with almost 10,000 residents) were responsible for 15 percent of Israel’s agricultural exports. With love, they literally made the sand dunes bloom. The opportunity existed to expand upon this richness when Israel left the Gaza Strip. Instead, the Strip has become an area of misery, despair and hatred.
Hamas, which has been recognized as a terrorist organization by the US, Canada and the EU, has run the Gaza strip for more than a decade, beginning shortly after the disengagement. They have misused donations meant for human aid to enrich their leaders, built terror tunnels to infiltrate Israel, used schools and hospitals as cover to shoot missiles, and have sent explosive balloons across the border to Israel to harm children. Hamas denies their people basic human rights including freedom of speech. Children are taught in schools to hate and to kill.
On an almost weekly basis, Hamas has sent rioters including children to the border with Israel, hoping for them to be shot and provide negative media coverage against Israel. The cycle of violence and hatred has basically gone unchecked by the public. Gaza has almost two million residents who live under this tyrannical existence. And, Israel on the other side is affected constantly from these attacks.
Where is the outrage against Hamas and the other terrorist organizations operating in the region in addition to the funders of this terrorism for over a decade? We continue to hope for real change and a positive outcome for so many.
We can only advocate and bring light to the truth of the horrors of Hamas. And, we can work to make a difference in Israel. We can find ways to help those in harm’s way and say thank you to those who keep us safe.
This January, I had the opportunity to meet with Mayor Alon Davidi of Sderot who lives with his family and a community of over 28,000 – literally one mile from the border with Gaza. They have been a target of constant barrage of rockets.
I am so honoured to be part of The Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO), who provide rocket proof day care centers and therapy to those affected by PTSD from the constant attacks in Sderot. Not only is Sderot surviving, under the leadership of Mayor Davidi – they are thriving. They continue to build their community despite attacks of Qassam Rockets and mortars from the Gaza Strip.
Last month, I also began fulfilling a promise made during the summer of 2019 to an American Soldier serving in the IDF to provide extra assistance to soldiers who face challenges. Unity Warriors, founded by Ben Goldstein, distributes supplies in addition to those provided by the IDF and extra items that are often too expensive for the soldiers to provide for themselves.
We decided to bring a gift of high-power flashlights to a battalion of soldiers serving at the Gaza border, a small token to help them see more clearly when they patrol the area at night.
The highlight of my trip was bringing these much needed suppliers of light and thanking these soldiers who fulfill their duty in keeping Israel safe. Day by day they ensure that those of us who live in Israel and in the diaspora will always have a safe haven.
These soldiers face a reality every day at the border that is hard to understand. They do this with grace, dignity and honour amid explosive balloons, missiles, terrorist attacks and civilians looking to flee the misery of Hamas, living in sparse conditions.
I came to thank the soldiers, but they came to thank me. They thanked me for visiting and listening to their stories about their life at the border and their hopes for the future. They inspired me so and gave me a gift of badges of the Israeli flag. Together we got to share our pride of Israel.
It was beyond meaningful to walk the border at Gaza and deliver my own prayer for peace for the future. On the site, I visited “Path to Peace,” a mosaic wall created by thousands who share the same vision. While we stand strong against hatred, we work towards and pray for peace and love.
As we literally brought light to the soldiers, we pray for the light of justice to make a difference in Gaza.
Want to donate to Unity Warriors? Check out the link below:
Israel is a tiny sliver of land in the Middle East, barely the size of the Kruger National Park in South Africa or New Jersey in the USA yet seems to enjoy a disproportionate amount of coverage in the media – often focused on the conflict with the country’s Palestinian neighbours.
A disproportionate amount of airtime and column inches are dedicated to coverage (and I use that term loosely because often fact and context are the first victim of headlines) and more often than not Israel is portrayed as the aggressive Goliath to the more passive Palestinian David. In the court of public opinion it could appear that Israel is nothing but a country perpetually mired in conflict.
There is so much more to Israel; a country which may be bantam in size but punches like a heavy weight.
Israel is a leader in so many fields. Let’s look at some of this tiny country’s greatest achievements:
A helping hand – Humanitarian assistance:
Wherever disaster strikes, be it natural or man-made, Israeli is one of the first to respond – even to countries with who there are no formal bilateral ties.
Even though hostile relations exist between Syria and Israel, and between Israel and the Gaza strip, Israeli humanitarian aid continues to be dispensed. The IDF ( Israel Defense Force), at great risk to the soldiers, embarked on Operation Good neighbour during the height of the Syrian civil war and brought thousands of wounded Syrian adults and children into Israeli hospitals for medical treatment.
Every day, under the supervision of the IDF body called COGAT (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories) thousands of tons of aid are sent into the Gaza strip from Israel.
Recently, Israel sent assisstance to the hurricane struck Bahamas by sending portable water purifiers along with the other aid including Post Trauma counselling.
Israeli aid NGO, IsraAid, is ever ready to be deployed, along with the IDF to parts of the world where humanitarian assistance is most urgent.
Today, while Turkish forces engage in conflict with the Kurds, Israel has not only dispatched humanitarian aid to displaced Kurdish refugees but has also provided medical care for Kurd refugee children in our hospitals.
Army of the people
Israel’s army is so much more than a sophisticated defense machine. It is a citizen army, and is as widely inclusive as possible. While conscription is compulsory for Israel’s Jewish citizens who are able to serve, many Arab, Druze and Bedouin citizens in fact volunteer for service. In the last few years, these numbers have increased. The army tries to be sensitive to the cultural boundaries of these communities.
But minority communities are not the only sectors of society that the IDF include.
The IDF has introduced a programme called Special in Uniform in conjunction with JNF-USA and Lend-a-Hand to a Special Child, which helps to integrate people with mental and physical disabilities into the army to enable them to make meaningful contributions to the country. Special in Uniform includes a three-month course on occupational skills to teach disabled young adults to function independently and contribute to society in a positive way.
Soldiers who have participated in these programmes have gone on to have bright and better futures. We salute them!
Where the prophets walked
Home to the three Abrahamic religions, Israel is the place where Judaism, Christianity and Islam meet.
Where else but in Jerusalem can you hear the Imam calling the Muslim faithful to prayer while church bells peal and the melodic Hebrew incantations at the Kotel (Wailing Wall) sound out?
Even though Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, freedom of religion is enshrined in the Israeli Declaration of Independence. While it is sometimes a complex issue, the right to worship as you choose is protected. Israel is also home to the Bahá’í World Centre – the name given to the spiritual and administrative centre of the Bahá’í Faith. The World Centre consists of the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh near Acre, Israel, the Shrine of the Báb and its gardens on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel, and various other buildings in the area including the Arc buildings.
Whether it is intoning ancient prayers or meditating in downward dog, all faiths are welcome. Perhaps this is why Israel is the Holy Land?
Living in a neighbourhood where there is perpetual threat can turn one into the master of necessity. As a result, Israelis have had to be fairly innovative. As Israel’s first Prime Minister, David ben Gurion once said, “In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.”
Israeli innovators do not only believe in miracles – they create them! Israeli innovation has become so attractive that it is attracting billions of dollars of investment and acquisition. From life-saving diagnostic tools, to the Re-Walk exoskeleton that helps paraplegics walk again, to hi-tech inventions like firewalls and communications technology and many, many more including WAZE, low drip irrigation, Mobileye, Israeli know how is changing and improving the world on a daily basis.
Make it Rain – Environmental leaders
Climate change is having very serious repercussions on global weather patterns. Many countries that in the past enjoyed high levels of rainfall are now severely drought-stricken. Today, water has become the most sought after commodity and wars have been started over access to sources.
Israel, being a desert country knows only too well the challenges that come with having no water.
Israeli start-up, WaterGen has developed a machine that can literally create water out of thin air! It has been so successful that it has been deployed to desperate communities around the world and even played a role in humanitarian efforts. In 2018, WaterGen machines were sent to northern California to provide clean drinking water for US police and firefighters battling major fires.
Water is not the only area in which Israel is helping to preserve the environment. The country is a leader in breeding programmes for endangered species such as rhinoceros, re-forestation, recycling of plastics, pursuit of natural gas, high percentage of vegans and so much more.
Golda would kvell – Women’s rights leaders
Famous for her razor sharp wit, Israel’s first female Prime Minister, the formidable Golda Meir would be quite proud of Israel’s current record on the status of women – and that we continue to work for this to be improved.
In a neighbourhood where women’s rights are often eroded, Israel stands out. Apart from being one of the first countries in the world to have a female head of state, women in Israel are not only active in society but are leaders in their fields that include politics, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, minority communities, social welfare, education, the military, arts and culture, science, medicine and technology and so much more.
We can vote, drive, and own property and business. We can make decisions that govern our bodies and our communities and if we want to, raise a little hell.
The same cannot be said for many of the other women in our neighbourhood. Women in other parts of the Middle East are not as free as their Israeli sisters. In this part of the world, girls are often married off before they reach puberty or are killed because they have ‘dishonoured” their families. In this part of the world, women do not have the right to own property, vote, and receive and education or even drive. Gender Apartheid is rife.
Israeli women lobby and work hard to continue to elevate the status of women not just in our country; but in the region. Golda would kvell – I think she would raise her glass and toast L’Chaim to Israel’s women.
In June the streets of Tel Aviv are decked with rainbow flags in celebration of Pride Week. The city comes out in support of the civil rights of our fellow citizens and many across the country flock to Tel Aviv to march in solidarity.
While Israel may be a trailblazer in terms of tolerance for the LGBTQ community and is certainly the most accepting and progressive in the Middle East, there are still improvements to be made. Same-sex marriage is not performed in the country; however, Israel does accept and recognize common-law partnerships of same-sex couples that live together. There is always progress to be made, but Israel is certainly a leader of gay rights in the region.The IDF is LGBTQ supportive. The city of Tel Aviv is known to be one of the friendliest and most tolerant in the world and Pride marches are also held across the country including in the capital, Jerusalem.
Israel is also a safe haven for many Palestinians escaping persecution for their sexual orientation.
Watch us on TV
I am not talking about the news – that is enough to raise anyone’s blood pressure.
Did you know that some of your favourite TV shows are based on shows created in Israel? The award winning “Homeland” and “In Treatment” are just two of Israel’s stellar small screen offerings and have been followed by international hits like “Fauda”, “Shtisel”, “The Spy” and so many more.
Even our gal, Gal Gadot, has become a box office sensation! We always knew she was Wonder Woman; but now the world does as well.
People of the book
Israel has more books published per capita than any other country. And while we may be the people of the book, we are also the people of the book week. Israelis love reading – whether it is for pleasure or knowledge. Israel can boast one Nobel Laureate for Literature, Shmuel Yosef Agnon and award winning authors Amos Oz and David Grossman are just some of our writers who enjoy international support.
We are also now the people of the Facebook. Social media giant, Facebook has acquired several Israeli start-ups to increase their service and technology offering to users.
To the Moon – and beyond!
Israelis dream big. There is no such saying as the sky is the limit – we believe in pushing beyond that and reaching for the stars. And we did! In April 2019, Israeli NGO, SpaceIL, sent an unmanned spacecraft called the “Bereshit” (Hebrew for Genesis) to the moon. On the 22nd of February, the Bereshit began its long anticipated journey and in April, entered lunar orbit and prepared for landing. If successful, Israel would be the 7th country, joining major powers like Russia, USA, Japan, China, India and the European Space Agency to have a presence on the moon.
The landing did not go as planned and while the Bereshit crashed instead of descending gently, we still made it to the moon and this was a great achievement. Morris Kahn, one of the sponsors behind the project, congratulated the team and spoke of a future second mission. Just days later, SpaceIL announced that they would not be attempting a second time but would rather set their target higher. We don’t know what they are planning; but we will definitely be along for the ride!
Israelis epitomize the tenet; if at first you don’t succeed, try to outdo what you did the first time. The universe, not the sky is our limit!
This is just a mere glimpse into the achievements that Israel has and continues to pursue. When the father of modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl, envisioned a Jewish State that would live up to the tenet of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and would be in a position to help others. Looking at what this 71 year old State has achieved, I think he would be proud!
South Africa has been an active participant in the Israel-Palestine conflict debate where its activists and academics suggest solutions. There are constantly calls led by Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) to boycott or sanction Israel. South Africa’s government took a difficult decision early in 2019 to downgrade its embassy to a liaison department in Israel to appease the Palestinians.
As South Africans, we acknowledge that all is not well in that region, but we want our government to be an active player in trying to break the impasse between the Israelis and Palestinians. South Africa has always respected the sovereignty of other nations and therefore should resist taking sides but set its sights on striving for meaningful peace for both paries.
Too quick to label Israel with apartheid, that South African abomination and the current Israel-Palestine situation differ significantly. They differ in their divergent histories, people, the time period, collective traumas, international and domestic narratives and security. Rather than being patently partisan, South Africa – if it is to contribute – should suggest fair, just and workable solutions to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a prominent anti-Israel activist, was recently in South Africa and was interviewed (see article below or link to the article) in which he made several comments accusing Israel of practicing Apartheid and several other untruths.
Mustafa Barghouti’s understanding about the history of Apartheid is wrong. Apartheid was unique to South Africa. A political and social system introduced by the white Afrikaner Nationalist government, Apartheid enforced racial discrimination – the word apartheid means “separateness” in the Afrikaans language.
And yet, after 25 years of democracy, blacks only own 4% of private land, and only 8 percent of farmland has been transferred to black hands, well short of a target of 30% that was meant to have been reached in 2014.
Barghouti should know that South Africans were given an inferior education system which only fulfilled the economic interests of the “master” (oppressor), and that this education tragedy still haunts us today, 25 years after democracy. Our people were not only dispossessed of their land, but they were also exploited by the multinational conglomerates which are still taking advantage of us today.
In 1960, South African police massacred 69 peaceful protesters in Sharpeville – mostly shot in the back while fleeing – and this system of state barbarity persisted towards the twilight years of Apartheid. A brutal and pivotal milestone occurred on the June 16, 1976, when police massacred over 100 proteststing schoolchildren who were resisting a new law that forced them to learn Afrikaans in schools. While not undermining the plight of the victims of the Israel-Palestine conflict, we cannot afford to erroneously compare the two tragedies.
Who are we helping and who are we hurting?
Can South Africa really afford to boycott Israel? What is the cost of this position? We have an economy which is dramatically declining and that may result in many companies closing down and ultimately people being retrenched. We always hear economists suggesting that we desperately need abundant foreign investment. Why then, should we obstruct Israeli companies from investing here that will benefit South African workers?
Our foreign policy should be determined by the interests of our own citizens. People want be part of the economy and that can be better achieved when foreign companies invest their expertise and capital in South Africa. This will benefit all our people – empowering them whether as employees or partners. South Africa is a peace-oriented nation – and should not take sides in complex foreign disputes that could rebound negatively on the welfare of South Africa’s citizens.
Afterall, look at our behaviour with our northern neighbour – Zimbabwe. There, despite the former president, Robert Mugabe killing the very freedoms he originally fought for, South Africa chose not to interfere. It was silent in the face of patent abuse of its people. While the West (UK and USA) imposed economic sanctions against Zimbabwe, South Africa maintained being its most important trade partner. There was no talk of boycotts and sanctions!
When the opposition in Zimbabwe, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) – recently called on Pretoria to intervene in a political impasse, we were reluctant as our politicians made the case that it not in our nature to do so unless both parties wanted us to perform the role of mediator.
We fail to show such sensitivities when it comes to Israel!
Downgrading relations with Israel as advocated by Mr. Mustafa Barghouti will never resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict which dates back over a century. It is misguided for South Africa to believe it has the insights and expertise to play a role by being exclusively partisan.
This is not diplomacy but arrogance.
South Africa is a still a developing country – not powerful as Africa’s former colonial masters – Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Portugal – and therefore should be cautious as how it chooses to interfere in global conflicts.
However, no harm done in advocating for peace between people – – but we should do so fairly.
Debate Not Downgrade
One positive point that Barghouti made in his article is that there should be national debate. However, “debate” is not South Africa dictating to others because it believes it knows best.
We are not a “colonial master” and should not believe we can dictate to others. Our brief should be to see peace triumph.
It is unwise to obstruct relations with a country like Israel that could contribute so much to our people. Engaging Israel will benefit our economy and introduce technological innovations from hi-tech to water management and agriculture. These are all areas that we could benefit from Israel’s cutting-edge expertise.
We must prioritize our people before anyone or anything else.
There are many countries across the globe that interfere in the affairs of other countries from the USA in Venezuela to Russia’s military occupation of Crimea in the Ukraine.
Does South Africa take a position in these disputes? No.
One of our biggest trade partners is India, predominantly Hindu, that administers – some would argue treats as a colony – Kashmir, and which has a longstanding dispute with Muslim Pakistan. Has South Africa taken a position over this conflict that has persisted since 1948 – the same year Israel became independent?
I am not dismissing Mustafa Barghouti’s struggle but his appeal for South Africa imposing sanctions against Israel. Why? Because it penalises the citizens of the country doing the imposing. Following Mr. Barghouti will be denying South Africa’s population access to opportunities. We are living in a global village; we are more connected than ever, and politics should not divide people but rather unite them.
Kenneth Mokgatlhe holds BA Honours (political science) from the University of Limpopo. He was a spokesperson of the Pan Africanist Congress from 2015 to 2018. Mokgatlhe has written for Political Analysis South Africa, and is a frequent columnist for South African papers, notably – The Star, Sunday Independent, Sowetan and Cape Times.
While for this writer, the Israeli coastline may not conjure the majestic swells found off his native South Africa, an increasing sight in Tel-Aviv’s ever-increasing traffic are surf-boards on the side of a moped as its rider nips through the city traffic to the beach.
By David E. Kaplan
January 2019 kicked off with a swell time off the coast of Netanya in Israel when surfers from 26 countries came to compete in the 2019 Seat Pro Netanya, a QS 3000 event on Kontiki Beach. Following five exciting days of action, Eithan Osborne of California claimed victory in the final bout against Tristan Guilbaud of France.
Should he get the call up to the 2020 Olympics, the Californian from Ventura may well be competing for Israel.
Why the switch, Osborne told the Huntington Beach online magazine, Surfline, “Well, the Olympics was one motivation, but I wouldn’t say it was the primary motivation. I have family who live in Israel and being Jewish, I have a special connection. Under the Law of Return, which gives every Jewish person the right to make what we call ‘Aliyah’, I am moving to Israel and becoming a citizen. I am super happy about making that decision. It connects me to my roots and my heritage even more.”
Besides he says “Surfers in Israel are just the same as anywhere. They’re enthusiastic and so stoked on surfing. It’s crazy, and the surf scene is on the rise for sure. They have festivals, movie showings, and bunch of surfs schools.”
So, while the beaches might not have the high waves of South Africa’s famous Cape St. Francis of Jeffries Bay beaches, when the wind is right and the swell up, the allure of the crested curve off Tel Aviv and Herzliya’s beaches invites surfers of all ages. I am one of them.
How did it all begin?
What’s Up, Doc?
It all started in 1954 when a young Jewish doctor from California named Dorian Paskowitz, nicknamed ‘Doc’ arrived in Israel bringing with him six balsa-wood longboards, all adorned with the Magen David (Star of David). His mission was to introduce surfing to young Israelis. At Frishman Beach in Tel Aviv, he ran into a local lifeguard, Shamai ‘Topsy’ Kanzapolski, who would eventually establish Israel’s first surf club. “Before bumping into my dad, Doc cruised up and down the coast hoping to find someone who would take responsibility for the project,” Nir Almog, Topsy’s eldest son, told me.
“In my dad, he found that person, who, like himself, was passionate about the beach. Abba (dad) was interested at one time in law and even studied it, but for him, the beach and surfing was his life.” It was the same with ‘Doc’, who gave up the practice of medicine to focus on surfing.
Topsy, who passed away some twenty years ago, passed his passion onto his sons. Nir, who has his own business in Jaffa manufacturing surfboards, continues: “At the time Dorian met my dad, lifeguards only caught waves with the ‘Hasake’ – a flat, wide board that had been designed for close-to-shore fishing by Arabs and later adopted as swift lifesaving equipment for lifeguards. Then Dorian came along with these narrow boards and interest perked. He started giving surfing lessons on his boards and soon the locals who hung out by the lifeguard station started to surf.”
Nir, who was a youngster at the time, recalls the waves were different in the early days. “They were high by today’s standards and used to break right on the beach. The reason for this,” explains Nir “was that the beaches were open shores with no piers and the golden sand that came drifting from the Nile helped shape the sea floor. The waves broke in sections, the first being right on the beach, the second some 500m away. To surf in those days, you were considered crazy.”
A Chip off the old board
“My father decided that I, his first born, should learn to surf,” continues Nir, “and so he put me on the board’s nose with him, while the surf was up. He told me to stand up…I did, and that was the moment I caught the bug.”
Wanting to spend most of his time at the beach, the younger Kanzapolski, who would later change his surname to Almog, began to partner Shaul, the lifeguard who worked with his father at the same beach tower. “Shaul emerged as the best surfer at the time and used to take me out to the second break. The huge waves looked so huge, maybe,” concedes Nir, “because I was so tiny. We used to rip the waves all the way to the beach.”
The techniques in vogue on the longboard were “to Hang 5 or Hang 10, depending on whether you had five or ten toes hanging over the front of the board.”
After a few years “the local gang gained experience but no team yet had been established to represent Israel overseas. Excited for the sport to grow, ‘Doc” Paskowitz returned to Israel bringing more boards that were distributed to local surfers.”
Making boards and history
During the 1960s, says Nir, “A giant storm brought terrible flooding and all the surfboards in Dad’s storehouse on Frishman Beach were badly damaged. In trying to fix one, he cut it down to 1.80m and so the first short board in Israel was born. I was the first to use it.”
With the surfing scene throughout the sixties confined to a small devoted group, “It was not until 1970,” says Nir “that we were joined by surfers from all over the country, many of them with colourful surfboards bought overseas.” The surf scene was about to change, and it was not only the arrival of new, innovated boards that upped the pace of popularity of the sport but also the influence of music from such bands as The Beach Boys who brought out albums under titles like ‘Surfin USA’.
“Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world
Don’t be afraid to try the greatest sport around…..”
began to resonate with the new generation of Israelis in the seventies. The new era was all too evident when local surfers Eilam Bale and Ofer Zaramaty were the first Israelis mentioned in ‘Surfer Magazine’.
In the early 70’s, a young IDF paratrooper and officer called Yair, told Topsy that the army was using a plastic foam called polioritan, produced in Haifa, that was like the material used for making surfboards. Topsy contacted the company and ordered the material “and I went into business with my dad manufacturing boards. It was difficult at first with a lot going to waste. Eventually,” says Nir, “we succeeded in shaping designs that looked like surfboards.”
And so, began a small industry of surfboard production. Most of the boards were used for hire and a new generation of surfers entered the local Israeli surfing scene. Topsy ran the small factory at his new storehouse at the Hilton Beach and between renting ‘Hasakes’, he shaped surfboards for the local youngsters.
Meanwhile, back in the USA, Dorian ‘Doc’ Paskowitz, who had brought the first boards to Israel in 1954, was trailblazing the sport in his home country. The Paskowitz Surf Camp, founded in 1972, became a major feature in southern California. One of the most famous names in surfing history, 86-year-old Paskowitz surfed six to eight-foot waves in Waimea Bay, Hawaii – “albeit on my knees because of an injury – virtually until he died five years ago. Most of ‘Docs’ nine children are steeped in Judaism and spent time in Israel, especially Jonathan, David, Joshua and Abraham, who helped form the Israeli Surfing Association.
“David Paskowitz,” says Offer Zaramati “gave us a few valuable tips. Up until then our style was simple – catching the wave in a straight line – from the peak to the shore, like we did with the ‘Hasake’. David taught us some new tricks which today are the basics of every surfer – “off the lip” and “cutback”.
‘Doc’s son Issy went on to become one of the best longboard surfers in the 1980s, winning his first contest in 1983. Today he runs the Paskowitz Surf Camp as well as Surfers Healing, a non-profit camp that teaches autistic children how to surf. “Israel is such a magic place to me,” expressed Issy in a recent interview. “My father took us there many times and I lived there for a year before I married Danielle,” who is the executive administrator of the Surf Camp. “We have many Israeli surfers that visit us here in San Diego,” says Issy, who also plans to conduct surf camps for autistic children in Israel.
Topsy’s younger son, Orian Kancepolsky runs a surfing camp and surfing center at Atarim Square opposite the Tel Aviv marina. Not surprisingly he calls it ‘Topsea’ – a play on words, named after his father ‘Topsy’.
“My father was such an influence on my life. I started surfing the same time I started walking and while it’s always been my sport, today it’s also my business,” he says.
While the Tel Aviv coast boasts several choice spots, Orian says he surfs mainly at Hilton Beach, “Undoubtedly the best surf in Israel, ask any of the pros.”
Why is that?
“Because it has a natural reef. It’s probably the only beach in Israel where the waves break on the reef and not the sand. This creates a wave that’s hollow, allowing the surfer to ride what we call ‘the tube’.”
Are the waves bigger?
“No, the size is average but it’s the quality of the wave. Also, it caters for all types of surfers. It’s a long wave where the center is excellent for the professionals while either ends, because of the jetties, impedes the pace of the wave and so is ideal for beginners.”
A regular at Hilton Beach is former lifesaver Amir, the son of the late legendary Israeli songwriter and singer Arik Einstein. “I grew up in the area and have been surfing here since the age of twelve”.
In his opinion “it’s the finest surfing beach along the entire coastline of Israel.” He offers the same explanation as Orian that “the reef creates the best swell and hence the best rides.”
“Did your father surf?”
“Nope, but then I don’t sing and play guitar.”
Same Wave’length In Gaza
“At Basle,” Theodore Herzl wrote in 1897, “I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. If not in 5 years, certainly in 50, everyone will know it.” Well, some 50 years later there would not only be a Jewish state, but young Israelis would start surfing off Tel Aviv beach with the Star of David on Dorian ‘Doc’ Paskowitz’s surfboards. Zionism was quite literally riding the crest of a wave.
A little over another half century later, Doc would again find the need to bring surfboards to this neck of the coast. Except this time not for Israelis but for Palestinians!
In August 2007, he delivered twelve surfboards to Gaza after watching a television program in the United States which showed Gazans using broken surf boards because they were unable to buy new ones.
Paskowitz launched the “Surfing for Peace” project together with the “One Voice” organization which aimed to help Israelis and Palestinians promote peace. “Surfers are ambassadors of health and well-being and they are also men of peace,” Paskowitz said.
Palestinian surfer Ahmad Abu Hussaili and others managed to meet Paskowitz, his son David, and other delegation members inside the Erez Crossing terminal building, where they had a chance to thank them for the boards. The Paskowitzes emerged from the meeting at the main civilian crossing point between the two territories bare-chested, after also presenting their T-shirts to the Gazan surfers. One Voice’s Gaza representative, Moffak Alami, said surfing was “a way to build bridges between people who speak the same language.”
After all, however dire the situation, in the words of The Beach Boys,
“Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world”
As an alumnus of the university, I received the latest Alumni News that contained a most informative article on pages 38 & 39 titled:
“The Development of Academic Freedom at UCT. Where does Flemming Rose Fit In?”
The article not only analyses and explains the function of the annual T.B. Davie Memorial Lecture but also goes to great lengths in extolling its centricity in the promotion of the core values that constitute the bedrock of UCT. The lecture “is meant as a platform for critically analyzing academic freedom”.
These cherished values led to the dis-invitation of Flemming Rose, the Danish journalist from giving the 2016 T.B. Davie lecture after his newspaper had published cartoons of the prophet Muhammed eleven years previously. The then V.C., Dr. Price on behalf of the university’s management outlined three main reasons for this decision:
….”the risk that Rose’s lecture would provoke conflict on campus, the security risks of presenting the lecture,” and last but not least the disingenuous argument “that in the 2016 climate,” the lecture “might retard rather than advance academic freedom on campus.”
In the aftermath of this decision, the university, in September of the same year, convened a debate with a representative panel of its professors presenting their views to underline and strengthen UCT’s academic credo.
To quote Prof. Sandra Klopper: “Respect and tolerance for cultural, religious, political and other differences and acknowledgement of the values of diversity in society were part of the UCT statement of values.” She goes on to qualify: “Espousing an idea that is intolerant that causes harm through the advocacy of views that are demonstrably offensive, is in my view, not consistent with the idea of academic freedom.”
Prof. Imraam Coovadia, a member of the university’s panel in justifying the decision, voiced his opinion that ….”this is not a speaker who’s going to enlighten us intellectually” as well as his fear of resultant campus mob violence, assaulting of office bearers and wanton property destruction – well founded in the wake of the wholesale rioting, burning of churches and murdering of innocent Christians by Moslem mobs after the publishing of the cartoons! Assoc. Prof. Adam Haupt, another panel member: “We’re arguing about someone we already know is racist and is a provocateur in the worst possible way…”
Nevertheless, in spite of its trumpeted statement of values, the university decided to invite Dr. Steven Salaita who gave the 2019 T.B. Davie Memorial Lecture on the 7th August.
Dr. Salaita is a 3rd rate academic who on account of his views has been discredited and declared persona non grata by the American academia. His work is dominated by a singular obsession with and virulent hatred of Israel. He has an enmity and hostility towards anyone who disagrees with him and freely and publicly insults and abuses those who dare to think otherwise.
Here are some of his tweets:
“You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing.”
“Let’s cut to the chase: If you’re defending #Israel right now you’re an awful human being.”
“This is not a conflict between Israel and Hamas. It’s a struggle by an indigenous people against colonial power.”
“The logic of ‘antisemitism’ deployed by Zionists, if applied in principle, would make pretty much everybody not a sociopath ‘antisemitic’.
“If it’s ‘antisemitic’ to deplore colonisation, land theft, and child murder, then what choice does any person of conscience have?”
“Zionists: transforming antisemitism from something horrible into something honourable since 1948.”
“I repeat: if you’re defending Israel right now, then ‘hopelessly brainwashed’ is your best prognosis.”
“At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised?”
In addition to his filthy gutter mouth – unbecoming for any self-respecting person, let alone an academic – he resorts to the classic anti-Semitic tropes of demonization that would do Julius Streicher proud! His tweets bear eloquent testimony to his obsession – no need for elucidation!
In keeping with his bias, his doctoral thesis tried to prove the pathetically ridiculous fallacy that Zionism was inspired by and has links to the colonization of North America and therefore is a colonial racist entity committing cultural and racial genocide. His work is riddled with bias and multiple unsubstantiated falsehoods as are the books that he has written.
In all fairness to him, I read the transcript of his address and bravely ploughed through a convoluted, obtuse text riddled with both sniveling self-pity and spewing venom, the majority of which is devoted to axe-grinding, settling scores with his opponents and resorting to the well-worn trope that there was a Zionist (read: Jewish) conspiracy behind his being evicted from American academia.
Then, oozing cheap sentimentality, in an obvious attempt to garner sympathy, there is a long, totally irrelevant and maudlin digression about his son’s baseball game with a reminder of his paternal love and concern. In a first for this long history of lectures, he promotes the brand of sports drink that his son buys. Does Salaita get royalties from the manufacturer?
In my student days, I attended the T.B. Davie Memorial lectures and heard many distinguished speakers on academic freedom, but never have I read such an amalgam of unadulterated drivel, pseudo academic bilge and unabashed anti-Semitism.
Is this the dignified and respected academic that UCT sees fit to invite to deliver a prestigious annual lecture?
Is this the lecturer that the council has deemed fit to follow in the footsteps of such distinguished personages such as Bobby Kennedy and Barack Obama?
Is this person with his foul mouth, his hatred and anti-Semitism, his complete intolerance of any views that do not correspond to his own, with his antiSemitic tropes such as the demonization of Israel’s prime minister, spouting the usual well-worn clichés suitable to address the convocation?
Is this not a person who conforms to being “….someone we already know is racist and is a provocateur in the worst possible way…”
Is this a person who embodies and promotes: “Respect and tolerance for cultural, religious, political and other differences and acknowledgement of the values of diversity in society were part of the UCT statement of values”?
Is this the person with behaviour and views so antithetical to the declared academic ideals of UCT that the university accords honor?
The university, understandably, does not wish to offend the sensibilities and beliefs of its Moslem students. However, when it comes to its Jewish students, all these lofty principles fly out of the window and Israel bashing and anti – Semitic statements become the order of the day. It pains me to say that the actions of this institution carry the rank stench of hypocrisy.
Has my alma mater sunk so low as to dredge the dregs of academia? Or, is it simply because they found someone suitable to echo their own beliefs?
Dear Professor Phakeng, I am appalled and disgusted by the actions of UCT. I am ashamed to say that I am a graduate of this once proud university.
Ramat Hasharon. Israel
About the writer:
Stephen Schulman is a graduate of the South African 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