Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter- 04 May 2023

Unveiling the contours and contrasts of an ever-changing Middle East landscape Reliable reportage and insightful commentary on the Middle East by seasoned journalists from the region and beyond


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What’s happening in Israel today? See from every Monday – Thursday LOTL’s The Israel Brief broadcasts and on our Facebook page and YouTube by seasoned TV & radio broadcaster, Rolene Marks familiar to Chai FM listeners in South Africaand millions of American listeners to the News/Talk/Sports radio station WINA, broadcasting out of Virginia, USA.

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Nearly the whole country – but who in Israel is listening?

From ‘Left’ to ‘Right’. Voices on the streets against (l) and for government proposed judicial overhaul (r).

There is a dramatic change in the political landscape. It is no longer only the opponents of the government’s policies protesting. Government supporters have joined the fray in protest and as such, a conversation – albeit raucous – has begun. The future character of the Jewish state is on the line.


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The Eyes of the world on the coronation of King Charles and Queen Camilla

By Rolene Marks

Crowing Moment. A new era for UK and Commonwealth as Charles and Camilla ascend to the throne.

While Israel’s President and First Lady Isaac Herzog and Michal will join with the 2000 honoured guests in Westminster Abbey for the coronation of King Charles III and his wife Camilla, the writer will join with the rest of the world, glued to their television sets enjoying a 1000-year tradition of royal splendor and pageantry.


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By his grotesque caricatures of Jews, UK cartoonist signs off as an antisemite

By Adam Levick

Rowson on a Roll. Once again Guardian cartoonist indulges in stereotypical antisemitic imagery.

The Guardian was again caught off guard as it published another antisemitic cartoon by its award-winning cartoonist, Martin Rowson. The offensive caricature incorporated a high-profile Jew in British society with an enlarged nose, carrying a Goldman Sachs office chest stuffed with gold and an octopus representing the antisemitic canard of Jewish control.


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With first foreign correspondent since Cold War to be detained for alleged spying being a Jew, is it coincidence or out the Russian playbook?

By Jonathan Feldstein

‘Cover’ Up. While the Beatles album presented one story, for Abe’s family it was a different ‘tune’.

Distraught at reading about Evan Gershkovich the US Jewish Wall Street Journal correspondent detained in Russia, brought back memories for the writer who in July 1985 visited then detainee Abe Stolar in Moscow. What do both US detainees have in common? Their Judaism!


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LOTL Cofounders David E. Kaplan (Editor), Rolene Marks and Yair Chelouche

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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).


Will our kids really be taught the Polish government line that no Poles helped murder their Jewish neighbors?

By Dr Efraim Zuroff

(First appeared in Times of Israel)

After reading the draft agreement between Israel and Poland on the resumption of educational trips to Poland for Israeli high school students, I understand why there was little publicity in the Israeli media on its specific details. In fact, if Israel was willing to sign such a terrible agreement, one which did not solve the two important reasons that the trips were stopped (besides Corona), one has to wonder why it took so long to “surrender” to the Poles.

Nazism Derailed. Israeli students symbolically block the track into Auschwitz Concentration Camp with the flags of the Jewish state. (Photo: Giora Smolansky)

Originally, the two major points of contention between Israel and Poland about the trips were regarding security and educational content. From the very beginning of the trips, and in fact, for decades, Israeli students were accompanied by Israeli security personnel, and everything went smoothly in that respect.

Once the right-wing Polish political party “Law and Justice” came to power, they began insisting on Polish security guards for Israeli students, a demand that normally Israel would have rejected.

A second highly problematic demand further complicated the situation. The Poles demanded that a meeting of Israeli and Polish teenagers be included in the itinerary of every delegation. This was driven by the Poles’ feeling that the Israeli teachers, survivors, and guides were often promulgating a very negative narrative about the role of the Polish neighbors during the Shoah. 

Polish Propaganda. Museum of Cursed Soldiers in Warsaw which includes honoring Poles who murdered Jews in the Holocaust, is one of the suggested sites the Prime Minister of Poland – seen here laying a wreath at the museum – wants Israeli students on group trips to visit.

Why the Polish officials thought that the Israeli students’ Polish contemporaries could convince them otherwise, makes little sense, but that was one of the demands, both of which the Israeli government rejected.

So why did the current Israeli government sign an agreement which included both demands? Very simple, because the government that initially rightly rejected them was headed by Yair Lapid, and the current government that signed such a shameful document is headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, who has time and again, apparently for political reasons, refused to combat, or even criticize, dangerous Holocaust distortion by post-Communist countries. And indeed, Lapid lashed out at the agreement saying he was “ashamed of the Israeli government for giving up on its morals and principles.”

What is clear to anyone who reads the text of the agreement, is that it is based on two totally false assumptions. The first is that of symmetrical historical narratives, as if Jews and Poles had wonderful relations ever since the former arrived in Poland, and that during World War II, both peoples were equally persecuted by the despicable Nazis. This assumption ignores centuries of Polish antisemitism, especially during the thirties, which paved the way for collaboration with the Nazis in the destruction of Polish Jewry. 

In that respect, a central tenet of the lies regarding the latter period is that numerous Poles supposedly did everything possible to save their Jewish neighbors and that none, G-d forbid, helped murder Jews or turn them over to the Germans to be executed. According to recent research, however, by scholars of the Holocaust in Poland, such as Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking, the number of Jews killed by Poles and/or who were turned over by Poles to be murdered is at least 200,000. The second false assumption is that many young Poles visit Israel, which has never been the case, so insisting on meetings of young Israelis with their visiting Polish contemporaries is meaningless – it was only apparently included to be able to claim that the demands from each side were symmetrical.

Polish Pressure. Research by Holocaust scholars Barbara Engelking (l) and Jan Grabowski (r) reveal that the number of Jews killed by Poles and/or who were turned over by Poles to be murdered is at least 200,000. Both scholars have been harassed by the Polish authorities who believe that discussions of Polish wrongdoing is unfair to Poles. (Photo Yad Vashem via AP / courtesy)

And if genuine symmetry is the issue, all one has to do is compare the lists of the places recommended for visits by the students. The Polish list consists of 29 museums dealing with Polish history, and only three in any way related to the history of Polish Jewry. Even worse, is the fact that some of the places listed commemorate Poles who murdered Jews during the Shoah, such as the Museum of Cursed Soldiers in Warsaw, and the Museum of Remembrance of the Inhabitants of the Land of Oswiecim, which according to former Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydio is a “counterbalance to the Auschwitz Museum.” 

Polish Sidetracking. While young students in the annual ‘March of the Living” participate in the yearly Holocaust remembrance march between the former death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau in Poland, the present Polish government prefers to sidetrack the focus to include other sites that glorify Polish conduct during WWII, whitewashing the collaboration that took place in the murder of Jews.(photo Czarek Sokolowski / AP)

But what is really shocking is the list prepared by the Israeli team, for reciprocal visits from Poland to Israel – more a pretense as few believe it will ever happen – which is almost completely made up of tourist sites, with only one (!) Holocaust museum (Yad Vashem) listed, despite the fact that we have numerous museums and institutions dedicated to the Shoah, such as Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum, Massuah Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, the Yad Mordechai Museum, Shem Olam Faith & the Holocaust Institute for Education, the Kiddush Hashem Archive, and numerous memorial sites dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust. Even more shocking is the omission of Anu (Beit Hatfutsot), if we are truly interested in teaching young Poles about the Jewish people.

Unearthing the Truth. Archaeologist Yoram Haimi talking to young people from Israel’s Dror School on his findings at the former German Nazi death camp of Sobibor, in eastern Poland in 2012. (photo credit: AP/Czarek Sokolowski)

Having participated as a scholar in residence in several educational tours to Poland, I am an enthusiastic supporter of such trips. I also believe, based on ten years of reserve duty, 30 days a year, for the IDF’s Speakers’ Bureau, that the trips to Poland have made a highly significant contribution to the participants’ knowledge of Holocaust history, and a strong feeling of identification of Israeli youth with the victims of the Shoah, two highly important aspects of contemporary Jewish identity. One can only hope that the positive aspects of the trips will not be lost because of this foolish, one-sided agreement.

About the author:

Dr. Efraim Zuroff is the chief Nazi hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the director of the Center’s Israel Office and Eastern European Affairs.

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).

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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).

Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter- 16 November 2022

Unveiling the contours and contrasts of an ever-changing Middle East landscape Reliable reportage and insightful commentary on the Middle East by seasoned journalists from the region and beyond


Like this content? Please share and tweet it to your friends and followers.

To subscribe via email please send a mail noting your request to: 

Please visit/ join/follow our social media platforms:

 Facebook page:

Twitter: Lay Of The Land – @layoftheland5

Also available on YouTube @The Israel Brief  – Simply click on the red subscribe button to receive alerts when a new report is posted.

What’s happening in Israel today? See from every Monday – Thursday LOTL’s The Israel Brief broadcasts and on our Facebook page and YouTube by seasoned TV & radio broadcaster, Rolene Marks familiar to Chai FM listeners in South Africa and millions of American listeners to the News/Talk/Sports radio station  WINA, broadcasting out of Virginia, USA.

The Israel Brief

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Recollections and reflections of more than a life cut short

By David E. Kaplan

Time Out. More than a ‘smoke-break’ but a break with war – Hussein and Rabin signing the1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel.

Enriching encounters while visiting northern Israel with a delegation of JNF South Africa on ‘Yitzhak Rabin Day’, revived memories and revealed insights of the man whose presence has not receded despite the body’s long departure.


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Antisemitism needs to be defined in order to effectively combat this irrational hatred

By Rolene Marks

Flaming Hatred. Anti-Israel animus transitions into antisemitism drawing analogies to the Nazis, declaring Israel racist and illegitimate.

Once labeled “Occupier Barbie”, the writer was recently ‘promoted’ by South African-based spewer of Jew hatred – the Media Review Network (MRN) – as “Chief Hasbara Agent”. Standing up for Israel today attracts constant personal abuse and insults, something this writer is accustomed to as she unpacks the present tsunami of hatred unleashed on Jews around the world.


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For simply standing and fighting for the truth

A lecture by Grant Gochin

Sign of the Times! Memorial plaque to Jonas Noreika in Vilnius for his fight against the Soviets. Forgotten is his killing of Jews.

The reason why so many of our family members fought so staunchly against Apartheid,” is because they understood from being “victims of Apartheid in Lithuania.” In his shockingly revealing address to South Africa’s Cape Town Jewish community in October, a researcher who lost close family in the Holocaust, peels off the layers of deceit to reveal Lithuanian complicity of a grand scale in the Shoah and its attempts thereafter at cover-up.


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LOTL Co-founders David E. Kaplan (Editor), Rolene Marks and Yair Chelouche

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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).


Testimonies of terror  in Lithuania during the Holocaust

By Grant Gochin

(*Appeared first in The Times of Israel)

There were very few survivors from Lithuania.

In the villages, there were almost none. We know what happened in some locations because we have testimonies from some survivors.

Yakov Zak testified about the Lithuanian Holocaust:

The rabbi of Kelmė, Kalmen Benushevits, who had escaped to Vaiguva at the outbreak of the war, had been brought together with the Jews from Vaiguva. He had been forced to kneel next to the pit the entire day. He had quietly whispered a prayer, watching while the Jews were shot. After all the Jews were shot, he was shot as well.”


 “The mystic religious melodies of the yeshiva students, their rabbis and leaders were eternally silenced. The town was ruined down to the foundations; the Jewish community of Kelmė was ruined forever. Peasants also related that while the yeshiva students were being taken to be shot, they did not weep. Like stone statues, they moved slowly, with their eyes raised to the sky, murmuring prayers.”

A past Lithuanians wish to Forget. Lithuanian militiamen in Kovno round up Jewish women. Kovno, Lithuania, June-July 1941

What is little known and seldom discussed is the particular cruelty and contempt that Lithuanians displayed towards observant Jews during the Holocaust. Frequently, Jews were tied by their beards to horses and dragged to their deaths as a form of public entertainment. They were beheaded, and publicly tortured. Everywhere, Torah scrolls and religious books and objects were destroyed and burnt.

My own cousin, Sheyne Beder of Birzai Lithuania, testified: “One day, shortly after Dr. Levin was shot, the Lithuanian murderers carried out the popular rabbi of Birzai, Rabbi Bernshteyn. He was taken to the Shirvenas Lake. There the rabbi was forced to duck underwater several times. Then the murders explained to the rabbi that he, Bernshteyn, was guilty of all the sins that Jews had committed against the world, and that he was responsible for the sins of all the Jews of Birzai. They set his beard on fire, burned his body with irons and finally shot him”.

For Lithuanians, the blood sport of torturing Jewish clergy was particularly entertaining. After starving and torturing the Jews, Lithuanians would take pleasure in murdering children in front of their parents and raping daughters in front of their fathers. By humiliating and destroying clergy in front of their congregations, spirituality and entire belief systems were upended, leaving only the human shell of the Jews left to murder.

Dvoyre Lazarsky of Ariogala Lithuania and Frida Praz of Vaiguva Lithuania, testified:

The rabbi of Raseiniai, Rabbi Katz, was not in the camp. He sat in his home and studied day and night. With a broken heart, he observed the annihilation of his congregation. But he could not help them. The heavens, to which he shouted and pleaded for mercy from the depths of his heart, remained mute. Lithuanian partisans once came to the old man’s house. They found him sitting and studying. They ordered him to get dressed and go along with them. He categorically refused to go along and announced that he knew where they were taking him, and that he was ready to be shot in his home. The murderers spared him two times, and went away. The third time, two partisans came and forced the rabbi to leave his house. Dvoyre personally saw the rabbi being taken away in the direction of Jurbarkas, to Zhuvelishkiai. The rabbi went slowly, marking his steps, his head bowed down low to the ground. The murderers took the rabbi to Zhuvelishkiai, and there they shot him.”

Escorted to their Death. Thousands of Jews were transferred to locations outside Kovna by Lithuanian militiamen as seen here 25 June 1941 leading Jews to the Seventh Fort, Kovno. Jews brought here were brutally abused and then shot by Lithuanians and Germans.

The government of Lithuania states “No partisan ever murdered a Jew”. The Lithuanian government has an entire government agency dedicated to Holocaust fraud. They constantly report how many Lithuanians were benevolent to Jews. A testimony from Elke Flaks, born in the town of Krazhiai is an example of Lithuanian benevolence:

When they arrived at the pit, Rabbi Kremerman held his youngest child in his arm. In his other hand he held a book, and he recited something for the children. The murderer permitted the rabbi and the children to say their confession before death, and ordered them to undress.”

Lithuania had the highest murder rate of Jews in all of Europe. It was safer to be a Jew in Nazi Germany, than it was to be a Jew in Lithuania. The participation of local Lithuanians in the Holocaust was massive, in some places, estimates indicate that 50% of the population participated. Not a single Holocaust perpetrator has ever been punished by the Government of Lithuania. Deliberately.

Khonon Reif, born in the town of Tirkshliai testified:

The last Jew brought to the marketplace was the town rabbi, Kalmen Magid. The bandits made the men line up in rows. The director of the Lithuanian gymnasium, Miltsius, placed the rabbi in front of all the Jews, cut off his beard with a pair of scissors and cut a crucifix into the hair on his head. Rabbi Kalmen Magid stood with his head bowed, weeping. All the Jews wept with him. The Lithuanian population of the town and from the surrounding countryside had assembled to watch this show, and they enjoyed it thoroughly. When they were finished with the rabbi, the murderers pulled out the town doctor, Khayim Lipman. He was from Kaunas. His parents and brother were sent to Russia as bourgeois in the spring of 1941. The Lithuanian murderer ordered the doctor to point out the Communists among the Jews. Dr. Lipman responded that there were no Communists among the Jews of Vekshniai. The Lithuanian murderers began to entertain the Lithuanian public. They forced the Jews to dance around the rabbi and clap their hands, and to fall down and get back up. If any Jew collapsed, the Lithuanians doused him with cold water and forced him to get back up and dance again.”

Reif  further testified:

Finally the Lithuanian murderers forced the rabbi to get onto a horse, and then they forced the assistant rabbi, Rabbi Bloch, to pour a bucket of water on Rabbi Magid’s head. On a nearby hill next to the study house, stood the entire Lithuanian intelligentsia of the town, dressed in their holiday clothes, along with simple peasants. All of them watched as their Jewish neighbors were tormented, and they enthusiastically clapped as if they were watching a circus.

The German ordered all the Jews to line up, and each one had to pass by him. The German asked the happy Lithuanian “intellectuals” as each Jew passed him by: “Communist?”

The Lithuanians answered each time, “Yes, Communist!” At this, the German would strike the Jew with his whip. The Lithuanians would begin to applaud. The show at the marketplace and then at the synagogue yard lasted for more than three hours.”

Killing in Kovno. Crowd views the aftermath of a massacre at Lietukis Garage, where pro-German Lithuanian nationalists killed more than 50 Jewish men. The victims were beaten, hosed, and then murdered with iron bars. Kovno, Lithuania, June 27, 1941.

Khane Pelts testified:

In one group were the town rabbi, Rabbi Yitshok Bloch, his brother Reb Zalmen Bloch, Rabbi Azriel Rabinovitz, Rabbi Pinchas Elfand and several other pious Jews with long beards. Together with them were many students of the yeshiva. It was told that at the grave, Rabbi Zalmen Bloch gave a speech to the Jews, telling them that they should die proudly for the glory of God’s name, repenting for the sins which the Jewish people had committed over the course of many years. Yitshok (Iske) Bloch (not a relative), also made a final speech. He was a Revisionist. He said to the murderers: “You are sprinkling the trees with our blood, and the floors will be washed with your blood in revenge.” Iske Bloch was sliced into pieces with knives. The rabbis’ beards were torn out along with pieces of flesh, and then they were shot”.

Malke Gilis testified about the daughter of a Rabbi:

Mrs. Elfant, born in Yelok, daughter of the rabbi in Yelok. As Mery Shlomovitz relates, Mrs. Heni Bloch (nee Blekhman) had begun to give birth at the pit. The Lithuanian murderers threw the unfortunate mother into the pit while she was still alive. The little, half-born child was dragged along after its mother as she was thrown into the pit. The Lithuanian murderers were doubled over with laughter at this tragic scene. Mery saw this incident with her own eyes, while she was standing not far from the pit.”

Yente Alter (nee Gershovitz) testified:

All day long on Thursday, June 26, 1941, the men continued to be tormented in various murderous ways. The town rabbi Shmuel Fundler and Shmuel Gershovitz had half their beards shaved off by the Germans, who chased them around the yard together with the rest of the men. The torture of the men became a daily program for the German murderers and their loyal assistants, the Lithuanian partisans.”

Continuing she testified that:

there were lootings virtually every day. Any Lithuanian who wanted to, looted openly and freely. While Jews worked, partisans would torment, bully and mock their religion. They had a weakness for teasing, mocking and tormenting religious Jews. Once at work in the courtyard and park of the Polish Count Oginsky, Rabbi Shmuel Fundler was forced to get into harness instead of a horse. The rabbi could not withstand this, and suffered a heart attack. He lay dead on the spot. This was July 2 or 3 1941.”

Complicit in Mass Murder. Lithuanian collaborators guard Jews before their execution at Ponary, outside Vilna. June–July, 1941.

No government has ever created and implemented such a sophisticated Holocaust revision program, as Lithuania. It is the only government in the world ever to go to court in order to defend the good reputation of someone who was a mass murderer of Jews.

Lithuania had a miniscule Jewish survival rate of 3.6% – the lowest in the world. Only 0.04% of Lithuanians have been proven to have rescued Jews. Due to the intense pleasure Lithuanians derived from murdering Jewish clergy, almost none survived.

Every aspect of Jewish life became a target for dehumanization by creative Lithuanian perpetrators, and their Nazi enablers. Mass rape of young Jewish virgins was common. Rape is an act of violence and humiliation. In one well known case, it was combined with the destruction of personal identity and religion. Every component of their victims identity was stripped from them prior to their murder. JewishGen describes the events as follows:

People still talk about one particular grave in which 74 high school girls were shot. This is what happened: The Nazis and their local collaborators selected these girls from the school, used them for their own pleasure and then brought them to the mass grave sites to be killed. But then, for a brief moment, a miracle happened. A priest arrived and told the girls that he would convert them to Christianity, and thereby save them from being shot. Was this a sincere gesture on the part of the priest to save the girls? Or was it merely the commander’s cruel deception of the priest and the girls? These are still unanswered questions. It soon became clear to the girls that no such miracle had occurred when they saw the murderers making the preparations to execute them. And when the girls began to resist, they began shooting. One of the girls was able to grab hold of a half drunken murderer and began choking him. She was immediately fended off by another one of them who split her head open with his rifle. In this way everyone was killed on the spot and tossed into a mass grave. They say that this particular girl who put up a fight was tall and strong. Her name was Rochale Tsin. This is how all the girls were killed. Today they lie in the first grave by the entrance at the Koshan Memorial.

Jews were also incarcerated in their beautiful shuls, starved there for weeks, then often set on fire. Lithuanians did this to dehumanize us and to inspire doubt in our God, and destroy our souls, before murdering our bodies. It was a Chilllul Hashem of the worst kind; a desecration of God’s name and presence that ended 600 years of flourishing Jewish life.

Continuing Lithuanian Holocaust revisionism and their heroization of the murderers, is dehumanization of Jews. It is Holocaust triumphalism. Does this not compel us to demand justice?

On September 14, 2022, Cantor Dudu Fisher (of Lithuanian descent) will join with Cantor Daniel Singer (also of Lithuanian descent) to present the documentary, ‘Baltic Truth’. The documentary will address the massive fraudulent cover up of Lithuanian Holocaust crimes by the current government of Lithuania. Fisher and Singer are among two of the greatest Litvak cantors in history. They will implore the heavens, as did Rabbi Katz for mercy, from the depths of their souls. They will commemorate and memorialize our Jewish brothers and sisters, who were murdered with such delight and enthusiasm by their Lithuanian neighbors.

Burning Reminder. While Lithuania tries to erase its ugly history of Nazi collaboration, it’s hard to shake off the past when staring at photos like this of Nazi officers and Lithuanian locals looking on as a synagogue burns, Lithuania, June 1941. (Photo courtesy German Federal Archives)

Following in the spirit of the testimony of Khonon Reiff that “….Rabbi Kalmen Magid ordered everyone to recite the Jewish confessional prayer, and did the same himself,” cantors Fisher and Singer will too recite the Confessional Prayer ordered by Rabbi Magid, since we are all that remain to give voice to our brethren.


Please note that should you be in New York on 9/14/22, and wish to participate, tickets are available at:

We want you to know that Lithuanian Diplomats have been invited to attend.

We respectfully ask you to consider signing this petition presented by one of the documentary sponsors, The Israeli American Civic Action Network:

About the author:

Grant Arthur Gochin currently serves as the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Togo. He is the Emeritus Special Envoy for Diaspora Affairs for the African Union, which represents the fifty-five African nations, and Emeritus Vice Dean of the Los Angeles Consular Corps, the second largest Consular Corps in the world. Gochin is actively involved in Jewish affairs, focusing on historical justice. He has spent the past twenty five years documenting and restoring signs of Jewish life in Lithuania. He has served as the Chair of the Maceva Project in Lithuania, which mapped / inventoried / documented / restored over fifty abandoned and neglected Jewish cemeteries. Gochin is the author of “Malice, Murder and Manipulation”, published in 2013. His book documents his family history of oppression in Lithuania. He is presently working on a project to expose the current Holocaust revisionism within the Lithuanian government. Professionally, Gochin is a Certified Financial Planner and practices as a Wealth Advisor in California, where he lives with his family. Personal site:

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).

When Truth is a Casualty of War

Why has truth become the first casualty in the media’s coverage of Israel?

By Rolene Marks

There is something about covering Israel that causes the global media and even some of the most reputable journalists to take leave of their senses. This phenomenon doesn’t happen with coverage of any other conflict or country but is reserved exclusively for Israel, the nation state of the Jewish people.

There have been numerous examples of this but perhaps the most topical of all is the recent shooting of Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Al Akleh, who was killed in a heavy exchange of gunfire while covering an Israeli counterterror operation in the volatile town of Jenin in the West Bank.

The loss of life is incredibly sad and regrettable and our thoughts go to her family and loved ones. It is imperative that in a democracy like Israel, we have a free press and no matter what our opinions about Al Jazeera are, we have to maintain their right to report. For the many war correspondents that cover conflicts around the world and take an enormous risk doing so, it is important that they are able to work as safely as possible.

But Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in the crossfire.

Caught in Crossfire. Covering a conflict situation in Jenin for the Arabic-language channel Al Jazeera, Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by a single bullet, the source of which remains undetermined.

The response from the global media was outrage, anger and the usual, expected, reflexive blaming of Israel for firing the fatal bullet.

The next casualty was the truth about what actually happened.

Nobody waited for proof of whodunit but they immediately jumped to conclusion faster and higher than an Olympic athlete competing for a medal. Israel, having learnt the brutal lesson taught by the Mohammed Al Dura case where the IDF immediately accepted responsibility for the killing of the little boy but on closer investigation it was found he was killed in the crossfire by a Palestinian bullet, called for a joint investigation. The Palestinians refused.

To date, the Palestinians have refused to hand over the fatal bullet and Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, under international pressure to cooperate with an investigation, has said “international organisations” may take part but not Israel. He omits to say which organisations or how much participation they may have. The Palestinian medical examiner who carried out the autopsy on Al Akleh said that it was impossible to draw conclusive results.

But this did not mollify the global media who still maintain Israel is responsible. Not only has the global media bared its teeth for Israel but they also forgot to mention a very import thing – the context in which this exchange of fire took place. Since the beginning of March, Israel has endured a wave of terror that has seen 19 people killed. Several of these attacks have been planned and carried out by Palestinians from the town of Jenin in the West Bank. Jenin is a hotbed of incitement and terror activity and even the PA have lost control. The only way to root out terror, is for IDF security forces to engage in counterterror operations. This was the reason there was an exchange of fire. Al Akleh’s death could have been accidental and a horrible mistake.

This did not matter to the media and as a result, the public are only receiving half a story.

Al Akleh is not the only journalist to die in conflict but she is the only one whose name we know and inspires hashtags. She is the only journalist whose death managed to convene a meeting of the UN Security Council where a unanimous vote on a resolution called for “an immediate, thorough, transparent, and impartial investigation into her killing.”

According to diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity, the negotiations on the text were particularly arduous.

The United Nations did not convene an emergency session for Jewish Wall Street journalist, Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped by terrorists in Pakistan and brutally beheaded after uttering his famous last words, “I am a Jew”.

UN’perturbed. The Jewish reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Daniel Pearl, who was beheaded by Muslim extremists in 2002 in Pakistan never received the same instant  concern  and calling for action from the United Nations  as it  has shown for the probable accidental killing of the Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh. The indifference to the Jewish reporter’s murder was further exposed last year in 2021 with the deafening silence of the world when  the Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered the release of the British national who was convicted of kidnapping and murdering  Daniel Pearl.

The International Federation of Journalists recently published statistics where they claimed between 1990 and 2020, 2,658 journalists were killed in war zones. In recent years, Syria has become the deadliest conflict zone but can anyone name a journalist killed in Syria? Twelve Al Jazeera journalists have been killed during this time and seven were killed in Syria, two in Iraq, one in Yemen, one in Libya, and the last one being Al Akleh.

There have been 340 killed in Iraq and hundreds in other parts of the world.

Taking Aim – at Israel! Despite showing any similar attention to the many journalists killed while covering conflicts around the world – notably over 23 already in the Ukraine –  United Nations Security Council (UNSC), with Israel as the unproven accused, unanimously denounced the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh calling for “an immediate” investigation” into her death. Additionally, the UN Human Rights noted that it might constitute a war crime.

At least 23 journalists have been killed in Ukraine since the brutal invasion by Russian military forces. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least seven of those deaths took place while on assignment.

Media’s Lens – a Selective Focus. While the tragic death of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu-Akleh has received non-stop news coverage and UN debate, scant such attention for the over 23 journalists from around the world killed during Russia’s seven-week war in Ukraine.

Covering conflict as a war correspondent is perilous work. We owe a debt of gratitude to the brave journalists, camera crews, producers and everyone risking their lives so that we can know the truth and facts about what is happening in conflict zones around the world. We owe it to them to pursue the truth when it comes to the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

 If not, the truth becomes another casualty of war.

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).


By Adv. Craig Snoyman

The case of CITIZENS FOR INTEGRITY (CFI)  vs THE GOVERNMENT OF SOUTH AFRICA is due to be heard in the urgent court in the Pretoria High Court on 7th December. The case has done the rounds on social media, but the mass media seem to have shown little interest in in it. Of note is that that CFI  have taken the government to task, alleging that it has treated Miss South Africa unconstitutionally and acted irrationally. Even more notable is that  the deponent, (the person signing the founding affidavit in the application) on behalf of CFI is the Deputy Chair of the ANC Women’s League, Sibongele Cele.

While not wishing to pre-empt the decision of the court in anyway, there was an interesting point that was raised in the papers,  which I have not seen dealt with by any of the writers and experts. These pundits have flooded the South African media about the Government’s  withdrawal of support for the Miss South Africa pageant and Miss South Africa with many tons of litres of ink (and billions of mega-pixels). The issue of the South African government’s actual  boycotting action of the pageant  – because it is being held in Israel – has been an ignored subsidiary issue. Admittedly, this issue will likely have no bearing on the outcome of the above case, but it certainly is an issue worth raising.

Beauty and the Beast. The stunning Miss South Africa whose future her misguided government wants to ruin because she is set to compete in Israel.

On 14 Nov 2021, the South African Minister for Sports, Art and Culture, Nathi Mthwethwa, made the following announcement:

“The South African government withdraws its support and that of South Africa for the Miss South Africa pageant following the latter’s intransigence and disregard of advice against partaking in the Miss Universe pageant scheduled to be held in Israel during the month of December 2021.”

He then proceeded to state further that:

“Following unsuccessful consultations initiated by the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture, it has proven difficult to persuade the Miss SA pageant organisers to reconsider their decision to partake in the Miss Universe event scheduled to be held in Israel during the month of December 2021. What during initial consultations appeared like engaging, constructive and progressive discussions, was later met with an unpleasant demeanour that is intransigent and lacking appreciation of the potential negative impact of such a decision on the reputation and future of a young black woman.”

Blockhead. South African Minister for Sports, Art and Culture, Nathi Mthwethwa who unsuccessfully tried to block Miss South Africa from competing in Israel in the Miss Universe competition.

The effect of the withdrawal of support for the Miss South Africa pageant, resulted in the effective withdrawal of government for the pageant organisers and also for Miss South Africa herself. She is only Miss South Africa as a result of the pageant. This caused a media feeding frenzy, with two sides of the South African public polarising as to whether Miss South Africa should follow the government’s instruction to boycott or whether she should go. Whether the government has the right to withdraw “its support and that of South Africa”  is a question that will be answered by the court.

Polls in South Africa tended to support her attendance.

At this stage it is important to digress and deal with the concept of boycotts and America’s attitude to them, specifically concerning Israel and how it might affect South Africa. There are various forms of boycotts. I have used the example of Israel as the perceived wrongdoer.

A primary boycott would be a direct refusal  to deal with or purchase Israeli goods or services, to sell their services or goods to Israel, or to deal in any manner with companies, nationals, or residents of Israel. A complete boycott of all things Israel.

Irate over Israel. South African government embroiled in controversy and court as it withdrew its support  Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane (above) competing in the Miss Universe competition in Israel.

A secondary boycott is where, to enhance the effects of a primary boycott, a boycotter may refuse to deal with those who support the adversary. Individuals  may refuse to purchase goods manufactured by any company that sells its goods to the target of the boycott,  Israel.

The distinctive feature of a secondary boycott is that the ultimate target of the strike action is one step removed from the direct target. The individual expects that applying pressure to  the individual or company, it will be forced to deal differently with the (perceived) wrongdoer.

A tertiary boycott, (such as the Arab League “blacklist” against Israel)  would ensure that a company that does not trade with Israel may  also not  trade with other companies that have  dealing with the perceiver wrongdoer, i.e. Israel, the boycotted country. So the tertiary boycott  led to the situation which prohibited an Arab League member and its nationals from doing business with any company that in turn dealt with companies that have been blacklisted The financial consequence of being placed on the Arab League blacklist was severe: the offending party was forced to choose between either terminating the offending acts or losing access to Arab League member markets. Notable examples were Pepsi and Toyota.

The US case of NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. established that there are limits on the free-speech rights accompanying commercial boycotts. The obvious inquiry is where is the line between permissible restrictions and impermissible infringements on First Amendment, (Freedom of Speech) rights.  The advocation of a boycott is a First Amendment right and would constitute  free speech. The general principle developed is that when a boycott interferes with commerce or disrupts important policy goals of the government,  especially if the boycott is of a secondary or tertiary nature, that right to boycott is vulnerable to government infringement.

It would seem that the actions of Minister Mthwethwa have exceeded the bounds of First Amendment rights. He had discussions with the organisers of Miss South Africa pageant, at the very least.  After the discussions having been met by an “unpleasant demeanour”  and “intransigent  attitude”, where his opinion was not accepted, he then withdrew support of the government and South Africa of those opposing him. In boycotting terminology, he has refused to deal with Miss South Africa and the pageant who wished to attend the Miss Universe pageant in Israel. His target  was the organisation and people who were one step removed from the direct target, being Israel. By his deeds, he falls within the category of a secondary boycotter.

While South Africa is a country, the situation with the ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s is not very different. In July this year,  American ice cream company  Ben & Jerry’s announced that they planned to boycott West Bank settlements and Jewish neighbours in East Jerusalem by refusing to allow its products to be sold  in those areas. In a statement on its website, they stated

“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)”

It further stated that they were not boycotting Israel, just the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” and would continue with the sales  to Israel within the pre-1967 borders.

Bill against Boycotts. Floridian Rayna Rose Exelbierd from Southeast high school speaks in support of the bi-partisan anti- Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) bill passed by the Florida legislature. (FPG file photo)

The fallout for its parent company, Unilever, was swift. Unilever  stated that  it remained fully committed to its presence in Israel but respected the right of the independent board of Ben &Jerry’s to make such decisions. Prime Minister Bennett of Israel condemned the move. Foreign Minister Lapid stated:

 “Over 30 states in the United States have passed BDS legislation in recent years. I plan on asking each of them to enforce these laws against Ben & Jerry’s. They will not treat the State of Israel like this without a response,”

In fact, 35 states have passed bills and executive orders designed to discourage boycotts of Israel. Most have been passed with broad bipartisan support. While the bills are different in certain respects, they have taken one of two forms:

(a) contract-focused laws requiring government contractors to promise that they are not boycotting Israel; and

(b) investment-focused laws, mandating public investment funds to avoid entities boycotting Israel.

Consequences for the boycotting entity may range from disinvestment from  State employee pension funds  to losing out on contracts at State run organisations.

The first  State to react was Arizona, on August 3, 2021, when its Treasurer’s Office informed Unilever PLC that it was actively boycotting Israel due to the actions of Ben & Jerry’s, a subsidiary of Unilever, by announcing that it will withdraw sales from Israel. These actions were in direct violation of Arizona statutes and accordingly public state entities would not be allowed to invest moneys with an entity that boycotts Israel.

Cold Comfort. Amidst the controversy, an Israeli employee of Ben & Jerry’s Israel affixes a flag at the company’s main factory in Israel, July 22, 2021 (photo: EPA/Abir Sultan)

Since the announcement, at least eight states have taken steps to halt or withdraw investments in Unilever since Ben & Jerry’s announcement. Arizona and New Jersey already divested all of their state funds from Unilever. Texas and Florida have already “begun applying their anti-Israel boycott statutes to begin divestment from Unilever.”

Last month, the New York’s Common Retirement Fund  announced that it will withdraw $111 million in actively managed holdings in Unilever after a 90-day review.

The South African government’s formal explicit statement  withdrawing support for Miss South Africa  and the pageant leave the government with little or no wiggle-room.

“The atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians are well documented and Government, as the legitimate representative of the people of South Africa, cannot in good conscience associate itself with such. ….  Israel was guilty of the apartheid treatment of Palestinians.”

It  announced very clearly that the South African government intends to  cause harm to the State of Israel and violates the BDS legislation of 35 states of the United States of America. As was stated by Governor Cuomo when the BDS legislation was passed in New York:

“It’s very simple. If you boycott against Israel, New York will boycott you. “If you divert revenues from Israel, New York will divert revenues from you. If you sanction Israel, New York will sanction you. Period.”

So, from where I sit, it appears that South Africa has opened itself up to anti-boycott legislation which can be called up by the various States. The action taken by Ben & Jerry’s does not appear to be nearly as heinous as that of South Africa. Perhaps South Africa doesn’t feature in the class of Unilever and that is why sanctions have not been imposed on it. Even the State of Israel has regarded South Africa as sufficiently insignificant so as not to invoke the anti-BDS legislative sanction.

Beauty Beats BDS. Defying her intransient government,  21-year-old Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane, boarded a plane in Johannesburg to compete in the Miss Universe competition in Eilat, Israel, commenting: “Ready as I’ll ever be! I’m so grateful for this opportunity to represent my country on the @missuniverse stage! South Africa! Let’s do this!”.

But I certainly would not want to be a negotiator for South Africa the next time that AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act) and trade barriers between the USA and South Africa come up for discussion.

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).

Beyond Words

By Monessa Shapiro

When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

And so it is with the Israel – Palestine conflict.  Words have taken on new meanings, far distant from their original intent. They have become tools with which to obfuscate the truth.

Hamas fired a cavalcade of well over 4000 rockets into Israel targeting her civilians, aimed at murdering as many Israeli men, women, and children as possible. A rocket every 3-4 minutes, Israelis spent days and nights huddled in bomb shelters, terrified and traumatised. A proportionate response for any country under such threat would be the destruction of the rockets and rocket launching sites, as well as the killing of those firing the rockets.   But in our Humpty Dumpty, Alice in Wonderland world, “proportionate” is the new “disproportionate”.  The media and much of our leadership cry: “disproportionate”.  Not enough Israelis have died, all say. Israel’s actions are considered disproportionate because the number of Palestinians killed exceeds the number of Israelis. The only conflict in the world where proportionality depends on a quid pro quo of deaths.  No acknowledgement that Hamas does not build bomb shelters for its citizens but uses instead all her resources to procure arms and build tunnels in order to destroy Israel. No acknowledgement that Hamas fires rockets from within the civilian population, using women and children as human shields. No acknowledgement that 680 rockets fired by Hamas fell short and landed in Gaza killing in one instance, a Palestinian family of 8, and in another two mis-firings, 3 and 2 Palestinian children respectively.

Falling Short. Rockets fired toward Israel from Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on May 14. Between 20-30% of the rockets launched in Gaza fell short landing in its OWN territory killing Gazan civilians. Over a period of 3 days early in the war, it was established that Hamas misfired 350 rockets that killed Palestinian children, women and men. (see a video by clicking here​). MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/GETTY IMAGE

Jews have been the indigenous inhabitants of the land of Israel for over 3,000 years.  King David built his city in Jerusalem.    When the Roman Emperor Hadrian conquered Israel in the second century CE he renamed it ‘Palaestina’ in order to remove any links with the Jews, whom he exiled. But even during the long 2000-year exile, there remained a Jewish presence in Israel, and during that exile, Jerusalem remained the epicentre of Jewish yearning.  Wherever Jews resided in the world, when in prayer three times a day, always faced towards Jerusalem and at the Passover Seder always recited:

Next year in Jerusalem”.

Following the defeat of the Ottoman Turks in The Great War (1914-1918), Britain took control of Palestine. It was the Jews who, with the establishment of the modern State of Israel in 1948 in terms of UN Resolution 181, which divided British mandatory Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state, decolonised part of the land and returned it to its indigenous people – the Jews.   Only in Humpty Dumpty’s language does an indigenous people colonise a land!

Following Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948, the Arab population numbered 156,000. In 2021 there are 1,890,000 Arabs living as free and equal citizens in the state of Israel.  Yet today, in our inverse world, this exponential growth is characterised as “ethnic cleansing”. Israel’s treatment of her minority Arab population will certainly go down in the annals of history as the most unsuccessful attempt at ethnic cleansing ever.  Or perhaps, in terms of the Israel-Palestine conflict, we must accept that “ethnic cleansing” just cannot have its rightful meaning. Perhaps, just perhaps it is used to merely inflame emotions and intensify hatred.

Disgraced former President Moshe Katzav was tried and found guilty of rape by an Israeli Arab judge.   Mansour Abbas from the Arab party Ra’am has just become part of Israel’s new government.  Moslems, Christians and Jews, blacks and whites live together freely in Israel as equal citizens. They shop together, dine together, go to the same beaches and parks, are cared for by the same doctors in the same hospitals.  There are Arabs in the IDF who serve their country Israel with the same love and pride as their Jewish counterparts.   Yet Israel is termed an “Apartheid state”. Apartheid was institutionalised racism.   Racial laws governed every aspect of the lives of black South Africans – where they lived, married, which park bench they sat on, which school their children attended, which beach they could swim at and so on.  Under Apartheid, only the white minority had the vote. And yet egregiously, Israel is termed an Apartheid state!  

Getting Country Back on Track. Hardly apartheid, when Dr. Mansour Abbas (left), a devout Muslim from a small town in the Galilee could prove the most important man in Israel re-mapping the country’s political landscape (AFP)

The Hamas Charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews. 

The embracing of the words “disproportionate”, “colonisation”, “ethnic cleansing” and “Apartheid” lends legitimacy to Hamas’s nefarious call. If the media, and those who glibly use these terms, understand this, then we must accept that they are knowingly calling for the end of Israel – the one and only Jewish state in the world.

In 1940 it was the Jews who had to be exterminated; in 2021 it is the Jewish state.  Draw your own conclusions.

Dark Side of Words. The latest round of hostilities between Israel and Hamas has exposed the dangerous abuse of words to slander and malign.

About the writer:

Monessa Shapiro is a retired teacher and a member of the Media Team. Monessa also writes and blogs for the Times of 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 Arab Voice – January 2021

Arab writers opine on issues ranging from the divisive damage of the Trump legacy on  sustaining democracy and unity in America to the prospects of Israeli generals salvaging the prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinians and President Macron of France’s frustration with Lebanon’s ruling elite.


Trump’s Last Days in Office

By Abdel Monaam Said

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, December 19

What we’re currently seeing unfold in US politics is far from normal. Typically, a “lame duck” president – a term used to describe an outgoing president after his successor has been elected – simply focuses on the orderly transition of power from one administration to another. But Donald Trump is no ordinary president, and he refuses to abide by any political traditions or norms. Historically, incumbent presidents who lose the election call their competitor on the election night itself to offer their congratulations and accept their defeat. Then there is a ritual of meeting at the White House, with a customary handshake in front of the press pool. Furthermore, the outgoing president typically makes resources available to the elected candidate, in order to ensure that the new administration can begin working come Inauguration Day. However, with Trump, not a single one of these things happened. At the time of writing these lines, the Electoral College already cast its votes and affirmed Joe Biden’s victory.

On the Way Out. An advocate for the strength of America but does Trump leave office with the ‘State of the Union’ more fragile?

However, Trump refuses to accept these results and continues to pursue far-fetched policies, both at home and abroad, that presidents in his situation should avoid. The recent recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara and the normalization deal between Rabat and Tel Aviv is just one example. Trump remains adamant that the elections were rigged, despite the fact that all evidence points to the contrary. He took this issue to Congress and even the Supreme Court but failed to prove his case in these forums. America today is more divided, perhaps, than it has ever been before. The problem is not that 82 million Americans voted for Biden. The problem is that, after learning of Trump’s horrific stance on women, minorities and the world, some 75 million people voted for him. These voters, who constitute a significant portion of American society, are ready to take action to save Trump — including violence. In fact, one cannot rule out the possibility that some states might promote the idea of secession fromthe Union; a testament to how fragmented Trump’s America has become.

Abdel Monaam Said


Israeli Generals and Peacemaking

By Elyas Harfoush 

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, December 20

Israeli generals who have tasted the scourge of war are those who want peace the most.” This is a statement made by Benny Gantz, Israel’s defense minister and alternate prime minister. Unlike the politicians of the Likud bloc led by Benjamin Netanyahu today, who are driven by religious ideology and by insistence on controlling the land and obtaining peace at the same time, Gantz and many other senior officers in Israel acknowledge that comprehensive peace with the Palestinians will come with a price, including a territorial one. When Benny Gantz talks about the role that the Israeli army generals can play in making peace with the Palestinians, one might think of Israel’s former prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, who, during his tenure as minister of defense in the 1980s, said Israel should “break the Palestinians’ bones.” Later, however, he signed the Oslo Accords with Yasser Arafat and called to “stop the bloodshed of Israelis and Palestinians.” This change in Rabin’s positions, from a “bone breaker” to a peace partner, was met with defiance by Israeli religious zealots, who considered Rabin a traitor. Their incitement eventually led to his assassination on Nov. 4, 1995, leading to an abrupt ending of Israel’s peace talks with the Palestinians. Like Rabin, Benny Gantz also seems to have come a long way from his military days. From the chief of staff of the Israeli military who led two wars on the Gaza Strip, Gantz became a “civilian” who admits that full and comprehensive peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved without a settlement with the Palestinians. He went on to say:

The Palestinians deserve an entity in which they can live independently.”

Smiling in the Snow. Israel’s Minister of Defence, Benny Gantz who expressed recently that a “comprehensive peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved without a settlement with the Palestinians” is seen on December 15, 2013  as the then-IDF Chief of Staff (left) enjoying a fun snowball fight with a family of Palestinians along the West Bank’s Route 60. (Judah Ari Gross/Israel Defense Forces)

Even the division of Jerusalem was not off the books for Gantz, who suggested that “the city of Jerusalem is large enough and has plenty of sacred sites for all religions.” This statement, coming from the most senior officer in the Israeli army, is very revealing. It is a stark reminder that Israel’s military superiority alone is not enough to end the conflict and provide long-term stability for the region. Notably, it is not usually the job of the military officers to make peace. In Arab countries, many leaders walked the opposite way, turning from civilians, who have no experience on the battlefield, to “generals” who hung stars and medals on their chests, and led their people and armies into defeats and disasters. In Israel, it is difficult to question the experience of military leaders. Therefore, they are often more willing to speak freely. And more and more of them are realizing that power and force alone cannot bring about peace. Of course, we all know that appeals alone do not make peace, and that moderate worldviews like that of Gantz’s are only good insofar as they resonate with a wide audience. Unfortunately, in Israel, the general public seems to identify with a more extremist worldview that seeks to maximize Israel’s gains without making any concessions. That’s why Gantz’s vision remains a mere slogan and not an implemented reality. Here, we return to the role played by extremist groups in any chance for peace. Those calling for extreme solutions on both sides of the conflict are not satisfied with any concessions. Israeli extremists raise the banner of territorial control and expansion, alongside military supremacy. Palestinian extremists rally around the idea of “resistance” and refusal to recognize Israel. Both of these camps are spoiling whatever chance there is to salvage the situation in the Middle East. And neither one of these groups is actually promoting their respective side’s long-term political interests.

Elyas Harfoush


Will Macron Launch a New Initiative to Incite the Lebanese Against Their Ruling Class?

By Ali Hamadeh

Al-Nahar, Lebanon, December 18

French President Emmanuel Macron was supposed to visit Lebanon next week, as part of a series of visits he has been conducting to Beirut following the port disaster in August. During his last visit, Macron gathered representatives of Lebanon’s political echelon at the French embassy in Beirut and presented to them a political-economic reform initiative, sponsored by France. Those in the room unanimously agreed to accept it, in light of the deteriorating conditions in Lebanon. However, since then, nothing has happened. Despite announcing their approval for Macron’s stimulus plan, these lawmakers and business tycoons did what they do best: allowed the initiative to drown in Lebanon’s political bureaucracy. The cancellation of the current visit, caused by the fact that Macron tested positive for COVID-19, places an even greater question mark over the French initiative.

French Frustration. Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun (right) welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron (left) upon his arrival at the airport in Beirut, Lebanon August 6, 2020.

In his planned visit, Macron was slated to meet French forces operating in southern Lebanon as a part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). He also planned to hold meetings in Beirut with President Michel Aoun, to express his dissatisfaction with the government’s failure to assume any responsibility over the country’s dire situation. It is safe to assume that, during the visit, Macron also planned to address the Lebanese people in an effort to turn them against their irresponsible leadership, which is busy playing petty political games. He also was expected to criticize the country’s ruling class for its failure to accept the financial reforms presented to them. In light of the visit, Prime Minister Saad Hariri submitted a brief to President Aoun, in order to sign the decrees that would allow him to form a government in line with the spirit of the French initiative. But the latter kept Hariri waiting and suspended the formation of a new government. Without a new government, the French initiative cannot move forward and Lebanon will not receive any of the aid it had been promised. In any case, it is possible that Macron will still want to address the people of Lebanon from Paris, despite canceling his visit. In doing so, he will send a message to the Lebanese leadership that Paris will no longer put up with Beirut’s political ineptitude. In fact, there are rumors that Macron might announce an entirely new initiative for Lebanon; one which calls on the Lebanese people to rebel against the ruling class and organize in new political groups ahead of the 2022 elections.

– By Ali Hamadeh

*Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb

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 (O&EO).

The Israel Brief- 09-12 November 2020

The Israel Brief – 09 November 2020 – US Election results and Abbas makes demands. Is Pfizer closer to a vaccine? Remembering Kristallnacht. Tribute to Rabbi Sacks z”l.

The Israel Brief -10 November 2020 – Saeb Erekat dies. Israel Covid update. Normalisation updates.

The Israel Brief -11 November 2020 – Update on the F35 deal. Is Israel opening up more restrictions? Will Israel head to elections again?

The Israel Brief -12 November 2020 – What can we expect from the last 70 days of the Trump administration? Israel working to acquire Pfizer vaccine. Cooperation between Israel and Sudan.

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