Times Are A’changing

In Europe, now South Africa – Jews are feeling uneasy

By David E. Kaplan

The recent spat between the South African Jewish Board of Deputies’ vice president, Zev Krengel and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Lindiwe Sisulu, illustrates not only the widening chasm  between South Africa’s ruling party and its Jewish community but something far more alarming.

It exposes an increasing unease Jews are feeling with their position in South Africa today.

The “issue” is not over anything pertaining to Jewish wellbeing in their country – the primary concern of Krengel’s organisation the SAJBOD – but over South Africa’s relationship with the Jewish State – Israel.

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Satisfying Selfie. SAJBD National Director Wendy Kahn, SAJBOD’s vice president Zev Krengel and SA President Cyril Ramaphosa are all smiles following post-election celebrations held at the IEC (Independent Electoral Commission’s) Results Gala.

Once a  ‘sign’ of inclusivity, the much touted “Rainbow Nation” image of the Mandela era has lost its sparkle. That inclusivity  comes today  for South Africa’s Jews  with a price tag:

Stop Supporting Israel.”

Can this really be expected as an option for a People who have repeated for over 3500 years from the Psalm of King David:

 “If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem! let my right hand forget its skill!”

Zionism –  the nationalist movement of the Jewish people that supports the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland in the territory defined as the historic Land of Israel – is in the DNA of South African Jewry. Well over a half century before the Holocaust in Europe, Zionism arrived in South Africa  “in the knapsacks of the Litvak Jews.”

Many of the young new arrivals from the late nineteenth century  had been members of Hovevei Zion societies in Eastern Europe – the forerunners and foundation-builders of modern Zionism. These societies aimed to promote Jewish immigration to their ancestral homeland in Ottoman ruled Palestine, and advance Jewish settlement there, particularly in agriculture.

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Fundraising For Palestine. A 1922 pledge of 175 by a Cape Town Jew. South African Jewry’s contribution in absolute figures was second only to Jewry in the USA in the first two decades of Keren Hayesod (Foundation Fund) that was established in 1922. By 1939, with a Jewish population of 90,700 South Africa’s per capita record was extraordinary when compared to a Jewish population of nearly 5,000,000 in the United States.

It was therefore no surprise the South African Zionist Federation was established as early as 1898 – over a decade before there was even a Union of South Africa –  followed by the Board of Deputies in 1903. Nine years later the ANC was founded in 1912, with the aim of fighting for the rights of black South Africans.

Now the organisations tasked with fighting for the rights of Jews and Blacks are facing off over an issue a continent away!

What has startled the Jewish community even more, was the rebuke Krengel and the SAJBOD received as if they had no right to criticize the ANC member.

The criticism in question was Krengel referring  to Minister Lindiwe Sisulu as “the single biggest enemy” in government to South African Jewry. This was in response for her crusade for South Africa to sever diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.

Krengel had every right to articulate his concerns particularly following the Minister’s ignorance, bias and antisemitism all evident in her accusing “the Israeli government of funding WITS” (University of the Witwatersrand) and adding to her accusation “This was a fact that must be taken into account when implementing the proposed downgrade of the South African embassy in Israel.”

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Down With Israel. Diplomatic downgrade crusader, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu. Picture: GCIS.

If the British Labour Party, once the political home for much of Britain’s Jewish community is being investigated for institutional antisemitism – why should senior members of the ANC be free of similar rebuke?

The Jewish leadership would have been remiss in not taking the minister to task.

As national vice chairman of the South Africa Zionist Federation Ben Levitas in Politicalweb expressed:

the SAJBOD did what they were elected to do by opposing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s decision to act on the ANC’s 54th National Conference resolution “to immediately and unconditionally downgrade the South African Embassy in Israel”. The Boards mandate is to guard and protect the interests of the Jewish community and the downgrade of relations with Israel most certainly impacts on the well-being of the community.”

While the cracks have been paved over following the recent national election, some members within the community are seeing through the façade of rainbow-nation-like unity and camaraderie. A May 23 letter by Brian Josselowitz to the editor the SA Jewish Report is revealing:

You can schmooze with the political elite, and even take selfies with ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa, but he serves at the pleasure of the national executive committee, and he will not vote against ANC policy, especially on the question of Israel.

The SA Jewish Report (SAJR) gave him its unqualified backing when he won the ANC presidency at the party’s last elective conference, and if he has, as the SAJR would have us believe, an open mind about the conflict, why didn’t he take cabinet colleagues Naledi Pandor and Sisulu to task, in public, for their anti-Semitic remarks? Why has he allowed Sisulu to say that all relations with Israel are being severed, and the embassy will be downgraded to a visa office, without repudiating her in public?”

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Soothing In Synagogue. President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing the Jewish New Year’s prayer session at the Gardens Synagogue in Cape Town, September 12, 2018. Picture: GCIS

A Deep Sense Of Foreboding

What is happening to freedom of speech in South Africa  when the Board’s director, Wendy Kahn, feels the need to defend  her organisation’s right to criticise government.

 “…I think the Jewish community, as with all citizens of South Africa have got a right to criticise and condemn statements and actions of government.”

All this follows:

  • in 2018 the ANC put out the red carpet in Parliament for the terror organisation Hamas that had only weeks before   fired close to 500 rockets from Gaza into southern Israel with the intention of endangering the lives of Israelis. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was co-signed by the ANC and Hamas that supported – inter alia – “the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel” and ensured that “ANC leaders and government officials do not visit Israel
  • The ongoing crusade of South Africa’s premier university – the University of Cape Town (UCT) – to boycott academic institutions in Israel
  • The passing of a motion brought to the Johannesburg council by the ANC, Al-Jamaah and EFF to rename one of the city’s prominent roads, Sandton Drive, after Leila Khaled. While glorified as the “poster girl of the Palestinian struggle”, this is the same Leila Khaled who, holding two hand-grenades in her hands in 1970, terrified a planeload of passengers on an EL AL Flight from Amsterdam to New York City and who the previous year, in 1969, had hijacked a TWA Flight from Rome to Tel Aviv diverting it to Damascus International Airport, where together with her partner, blew up the nose section of the Boeing 707. These are South Africa’s role models today – dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel. Khaled was not hijacking civilian aircraft in support for a Two-State Solution:

        In 1970, there were only 1,514 Jews living in the West Bank!

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Explosive Personality. TWA Flight 840 being blown up on August 29th 1969 by Leila Khaled and her fellow hijackers. Source: adst.org

Is it any wonder that Jews in South Africa are questioning the direction of their country, the policies of its political leaders and the nagging thorn pricking daily, whether it is a suitable place for their children and grandchildren?

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Sign Of The Times. PFPL plane hijacker Leila Khaled (centre) warmly received in South Africa in 2015, might soon have a street in Johannesburg named after her. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA)

An old acquaintance in Cape Town who recently put his property on the market remarked:

 “It’s now just a house; it’s no more a home!”

 

 

* Feature Picture:  Cyril Ramaphosa chating to Lindiwe Sisulu on the last day of the ANC National Conference on December 20, 2012 in Mangaung, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Foto24 / Felix Dlangamandla)

The Israel Brief- 27-30 May 2019

 

The Israel Brief – 27 May 2019 – Fires! Game of Thrones Israel style? Rivlin defiant in Berlin in his kippa.

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 28 May 2019 – Is Israel heading to the polls again? Abbas says Bahrain confab can go to hell and portraits of Holocaust survivors defaced in Vienna.

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 29 May 2019 -Knesset goings on. Australia and TLV stock exchange exciting announcement. German kippa controversy.

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 30 May 2019 – Back to elections! Hizbollah tunnel revealed. Trilateral committee for Middle East?

Art On The Move

The man and his art constantly ‘on the move’

An interview with Israel’s celebrated sculptor and experimental artist –  Yaacov Agam –  widely considered the father of Kinetic Art.

His message:  “Words divide us; sight unites us”

By David. E. Kaplan

The finest description I ever heard of Tel Aviv is “A city that wakes up each morning wondering what it’s going to be.”  Like its city – change, vibrancy, uncertainty and promise – are all characteristics that Yaacov Agam’s ‘Fire and Water Fountain” in Tel Aviv’s recently rejuvenated Dizengoff Square celebrates.

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Colourful Character to Colourful Art. Yaacov Agam in front of his ‘Fire & Water Fountain’ in Dizengoff Square, Tel Aviv.

After decades of public outcry, the iconic site frequently referred to as the “Times Square of Tel Aviv” – finally returned in 2018 to its original glory. Originally constructed in 1986, the kinetic fountain celebrates life, as well as unity-in-diversity, an important feature of Tel Aviv’s ethos, considered one of the most free and tolerant cities in the world.

To learn more of this evolving urban landscape and the man and his art, Lay Of The Land sat down for an exclusive interview with the 90-year-old artist at the new Yaacov Agam Museum of Art in the city of his birth – Rishon LeZion. In the words of the artist, “it is the only museum in the world that is dedicated to art in motion.”

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“We Have A Lift Off”. From above, the Yaacov Agam Museum of Art appears in the process of about to take off. The art has literally “taken off” with the public who are flocking to view in record numbers.

Apart from motion within the artist’s work, there is plenty of motion in the artist himself.  Picking up on my South African accent, the artist revealed, “I went on a travelling exhibition to South Africa in 1977 when Anton Rupert,” the South African billionaire businessman, philanthropist and art collector, “bought a number of my works. As an innovative entrepreneur he was fascinated by the ever-changing nature of my art – that perspective varies from the position you look at it.

Before meeting the artist, I ‘met’ his wife Clilla – without even realising it.

From the moment you step onto the grounds of the 3,200-square-meter Yaacov Agam Museum of Art (YAMA), one is engulfed into the rainbow world of the artist – surrounded by a sculpture garden of twenty multicolored pillars all dedicated to Agam’s late wife, Clilla.  She remains so much part of his life, his world and his art.

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Delightfully Dazzling. Interior to the 3,200-square-meter Yaacov Agam Museum of Art in Rishon LeZion dedicated to the colorful works of the world-renowned kinetic artist. Photo by Sophie Weinstein/OhSoArty.com

Looking every inch an artist with long gray hair under a well-worn hat and a full beard, we sat down for over two hours of animated conversation. Abounding in energy – “I’m off to Paris in a few days’ time” – I came quickly to understand how this diminutive man was a giant in the art world, transforming city landscapes and influencing people’s perspectives.

It was apparent from the answer to my first question that the interview would be as challenging as understanding the man’s art.

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City Of Lights. Further ‘lighting’ up Paris, is Agam’s underwater colourful “Fontaine Monumentale” in the La Defense district, Puteaux, Hauts de Seine.

Where do you live?

“I live on my shoulders. As you can see, I am here now in Israel. Next week I will be in France. I live wherever I am at the moment.”

The answer incapsulated the character of the man, his art and the museum, which had greeted me with twenty multicolored pillars at the entrance, and nine more inside, all changing as you walk by. The artist explains:

Usually, when you see a painting in a museum, you stand in front, you look at it, and then you move on. With my work, you will never see everything. I want people who come to the museum to be able to see the paintings from every angle, so it’s also changing the way you look at art.”

The foremost pioneer of optical-Kinetic art, Agam encourages spectator participation. When I revealed that I received a stiff rebuke when I got too close to a painting in a renowned museum in New York, he replied “that will never happen with here – I want people to physically connect with my art.”

It is little wonder why children love Agam’s art and why the artist honours children by appealing directly to them.

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The Art Of Politics. Israeli artist Yaacov Agam sandwiched between French President Emmanuel Macron (left) and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the Élysée Palace 2019.

Kinetics for Kids

The “Agam Method” for which the artist was awarded in 1996 the Jan Amos Comenius Medal for the non-verbal visual education of young children by UNESCO, teaches children to identify, analyze, and create with the visual building blocks that make up our world. Together, these building blocks – such as shapes, patterns, directions, and symmetry – form a universal “visual language.” The Agam Method has a long history of classroom implementation, research, and refinement dating back to the 1980s. Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel led experimental studies to determine its impact on young children’s learning. Data from 1990 through to 2007 indicate that children who engaged with the method, improved significantly in early geometry and visual-spatial skills, including shape identification and deconstruction, visual acuity, and mental rotation of objects. Children also demonstrated significantly higher problem-solving and school readiness skills, particularly in the areas of writing and math.

Do you have any grandchildren?” Agam asks.

Two,” I reply.

On happily hearing that are both aged in months rather than in years, he asks, “If I gave them a pencil, what do think they will do with it.”

All my answers wrong, Agam demonstrates grabbing a pencil and thrusting up and down making points on the table.

Points is the most primary act of creation and is born out in the first drawings found in prehistoric caves.”

What about the line?” I ask.

Now you are talking evolution – that came much later; could be 1000 years later or even 10,000 years. We do not know. The line is the most significant advancement in the history of evolution.”

Following my rudimentary lesson in the history of art, we jump many millennia forward to Dizengoff Square 2018.

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Enriching Encounter. An animated 90-year-old Agam (centre) welcomes and addresses in the Museum’s auditorium in May 2019, a group of former South Africans living in Israel. (Courtesy TELFED)

 

Carousal of Color

So what is Agam’s response to the major transformation of Dizengoff Square which in the 1930s was the fashionable hub of the city but as the years passed, became seedy? Many blamed it on the square’s elevation above the street below and so what gave the Hebrew slang verb “l’hizdangef” (“to Dizengoff”), coined to describe strolling down the Tel Aviv’s iconic north-south artery, by the 1980s exposed not only a disconnect from vehicular traffic, but a disconnect from people.

Reinstalled back to street level, with traffic proceeding around rather than beneath, Tel Aviv center is again living up to its image of change.

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Carousal of Colour. The famed Artist Yaacov Agam ‘Fire & Water Fountain’ in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Square. Photo by Linneah Anders

What did you aim to express with your fountain at the very epicenter of Tel Aviv?

“Firstly, the buildings surrounding the square are German – designed by architects fleeing the Nazis in the 1930s – and I wanted to brand the square distinctly Israeli with vibrant colours expressing life to contrast with the stark utilitarianism of the Bauhaus architecture. This I achieve with over 1000 colors visible through the water!”

Noting my disbelief,  he said: “Come with me now; I’ll show you!”

Like his art, there was something ‘kinetic’ about this 90-year-old!

The fountain combines fire and water – two contrasting elements. Is this not unusual?

“More than unusual; its unique No other artist in the world has combined water and fire together.  It was once said in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) during a tough debate:

If Agam can make fire and water, what’s the problem?”

Agam explains how the fountain comprises several big jagged wheels – coloured geometric shapes, which are perceived as different images from different angles. A technological mechanism automatically activates at different times of the day and night that turns the wheels on their hinges, shooting fire and water upwards accompanied to music.

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Shifting Imagery. Moving from side to side, both image and colour transform profoundly.

The artist’s vision is for people across the globe to be able to activate the fountain through an app. “I don’t want it simply like before; we have to move forward with technology – combining science and art making it globally accessible.”

Why is global interest so important to you?

“Because the fountain’s message is universal. I believe it provides Dizengoff with gravitas; the miracle of fire and water with over 1000 colours, ‘reflects’ diversity. The fountain sends a message to the people of the world that although we are different, we are one.”

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Riveting Revelations. Artist Yaacov Agam (right) and the writer, David Kaplan at the Agam Museum in Rishon Lezion.

Over the Rainbow

What influence did your father – a rabbi – have on your perspective on life and your art?

“My father was an orthodox rabbi and a Kabbalist; I am a visual rabbi and every work of mine is a visual prayer.

Is this why symbols of the bible like the rainbow are integral in your art?

“After the flood, God promised Noah never to destroy the earth again, and placed the rainbow in the sky as a symbol of that covenant. It is a visual prayer of peace, reminding that everyone is a party to the covenant to protect our environment.”

Showing me a painting of a rainbow, Agam continued:

“The rainbow is one of the loveliest sights in God’s creation as the colours stand out individually and yet merge with the colour next to it reflecting unity in diversity.”

You seem to suggest that the visual trumps words in our understanding of reality?

“If the message of the rainbow was only in words, only those who understood the language would understand – some would understand, others would not. Words divide us, sight unites us. Children are born into a world of seeing before speaking. When they start to talk, that introduces separation and disunity. Seeing is so important that when God wanted us to understand him, he provided visions and so when the Torah was given on Mount Sinai, it is written that the People of Israel “SEE” not only hear the word of God.”

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Agam’s Wife. From the moment visitors step onto the grounds of the Agam Museum in Rishon Lezion they are engulfed into the rainbow world of the artist as they are ‘greeted’ by ‘The Pillars of Clilla,’ named after his late wife. These columns transport visitors into the mind of Agam and lead you into the museum’s central space, which boasts his ‘panorAgam’ work, originally displayed on the bow at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City in 1981.

Is it the same with the vision of the rainbow – the need to SEE rather than read of God’s communication with man?

“Yes; following the flood, it is written in Genesis that whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, “I will SEE it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” The problem today is that people do not know how to see; they rely too much on language to understand – and the soul of reality alludes them.”

Through The  Prism Of Prison

While Agam trained at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem before moving to Zurich, Switzerland in 1949 where he continued his education at the Kunstgewerbe Schule, he cites the unexpected and unplanned as no less instructive in his education as an artist.

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The Artist And His Art. The artist explaining a work at the museum in Rishon Lezion, the city he was born in 1928.

Who would have thought that such education included prison?

“Yes, I was imprisoned by the British in Latrun, and who would join me there in 1946 was Moshe Sharett who would later become Israel’s second Prime Minister. He taught me Hebrew and grammar and he told me over and over that while there is a past and a future, there is no present in Jewish thinking. The present is fleeting; gone forever in a flash. Through our discussions, I formulated a perspective of time that is at the core of my art that is mobile, in a state of constant change; nothing is static. I met all the great artists at the time – Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Jean Arp – but they were stuck in the past, and the past does not exist, I prefer to be in the state of becoming, like the true meaning of Shabbat (Sabbath) – resting to prepare for the coming week.”

I interrupt and suggest that Marcel Duchamp’s famous Nude Descending a Staircase (no 2) painted in 1912, is not static, that it captures the movement of a figure in descent.

So why, one hundred years later, is she still descending the stairs?”

I had no answer!

“Like Abraham leaving his father to create a nation,” Agam too feels he has “created something new; a new way of thinking different to the other artists,” a far cry from the early 1950s then with his young wife in Paris “we literally starved and had to go to the Salvation Army for food.” In 1953, he had his first one-man show and sold his first panting to the famous surrealist artist Max Ernst.

When Robert Lebel (1901–1986), the famous French art critic and writer, “saw my work, he said, “We have a new prophet.”

He was not wrong.

Victor Vasarely, the Hungarian-French artist, widely accepted as a “grandfather” and leader of the op art movement, “told me you have no right make static work. Young artists, particularly from South America were attracted to my style and started to imitate me.”

In time, Agam’s art would attract the attention of President Pompidou of France. “When he was the Prime Minister, he went to see my show. I later received a call from the Secretary General of Artistic Creation who asked me, “What did you do to our PM. He went back and forward in front of your painting; he could not understand it but was fascinated.”

Later, when he became President, “he wanted a sculpture in his office and asked for a presentation of modern sculptures without the names of the artists.

“I will decide,” he said.

He chose mine because he could move it.” This led to a commission by the President of a moving salon environment at the Élysée Palace in 1972, where the environment shifted according to the viewer’s position. Enjoying tea with President Pompidou, “He revealed to me that he guided Queen Elizabeth through the salon and that she said she loved it.”

Asked to make a work commemorating the peacemaking efforts of the president of Egypt, Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Agam created in 1978 a mesmerising Star of Peace. A kinetic sculpture, it appears from one direction to be the five-pointed star of Islam, from another, the six-pointed Star of David, and from a third – a new star formed from their fusion.

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Holocaust Memorial – New Orleans A slow walk-around of Yaacov Agam’s Holocaust Memorial in New Orleans, Louisiana, captures in an artistic visual prayer the memory of the Six Million Jews of Europe and those millions of other victims murdered by the Nazis from 1933-1945.The sculpture is composed of nine panels, each with different designs. As you view the sculpture from different angles, the designs on the panels meld to form distinct images. Ten images come into view as you walk around the panels.

Other public projects include a 1987 memorial at the Western Wall for the victims of the Holocaust, and the world’s largest menorah: a 32-foot, 4000-pound structure at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in Manhattan and based on the original menorah in Jerusalem’s Holly Temple, “not the fake version you see on the Arch of Titus in Rome.”

Concluding the interview, I ask:

Is there any one of your work you prize most?

“It’s impossible. My art is about movement and you can’t have all movement in one work of art. It’s like prayers in Judaism; there is no one prayer but many.”

Fair eneough; is there at least one artist that influenced you the most?

“Yes, the Almighty!”

 

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A Light Unto The People. An illuminated Agam Museum in Rishon Lezion at night.

To learn more about the Agam Museum of Art visit:

https://en.yama.co.il/

 

 

* Title Picture credit: Reuven Castro

 

Cleansing Experience

Two Young Israeli engineers introduce clean water to Ugandan community

By David E. Kaplan

 

Israelis have their eyes on Africa, not to exploit but to enrich.

Such was the motivation for two 26-year-old water engineering graduates Selda Edris and Mayes Morad, both from the Galilee who as students were shocked on discovering the level of poverty in rural Uganda.

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Dirty Water. A major cause of children’s illness and death in Uganda.

“We were amazed by the living condition of the children,” said Morad. “We were exposed to horrible poverty and were shaken to see children shivering when it got cold, barefoot or with torn shoes.”

It was one thing to be “shocked”, but both asked the question:

Can we do something about it? Can we make a difference?”

Following their graduation it was not the exotic beaches of the far east that attracted these idealistic engineers. Armed with their education, they wanted to volunteer and knew exactly where. The calling was clear;  they wanted to help provide a specific Ugandan community with clean drinking water.

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“Clean Water”. Young Israel engineering graduates Selda Edris (left) and Mayes Morad providing water solutions in Uganda (Photo: Gali Margalit)

So, soon after graduating, Edris, from the Circassian village of Rehaniya, and Mayes from the Druze village of Beit Jann on Mount Meron in northern Israel, joined the HELPAPP organization and set off for a community in Uganda that pulled at their heartstrings. “There were 900 school children from the region that drank water  from a nearby swamp that filled up in winter,” said Edris.

Although the three schools in the community boiled the swamp water before drinking, “this was  hardly a safe solution” to the young Israelis.

Finding “a solution” proved challenging to the enterprising and innovative young engineers. However, Edris and Morad were finally able to install sinks and taps in the schools and connect them to a proper purification facility. When complete, 900 children had running clean water.

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Normal Life. Extracting dirty water from swamp in rural Uganda.

The reality of what they achieved struck home.

When I saw how happy they were when they just turned on the tap and water came out, I thought to myself,” says Morad, “what in the world would make me, or my nieces and nephews who are the same age as these schools kids, feel so happy?”

The joy in the children’s eyes when they opened a tap to wash their hands and water came out stayed with her. “It’s difficult to imagine that there are children in this world who don’t have the most basic commodity – drinking water – only because they weren’t fortunate enough to be born in the right place.”

For Edris and Morad “Clean water is a basic right for every person in this world – regardless of where you were born.”

After providing a solution to supplying the schools with running water, the two Israelis initiated a Facebook fundraising campaign to buy shoes for many the children who ran around barefoot on the hard-arid African terrain.

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“I feel beautiful for the first time”. Every day Helen had to choose how to use the little water she had. Now that she has a steady source, she says she feels beautiful for the first time.

We Shall Return

“We’ve helped hundreds of children, but we know there are so many others in other parts of Uganda, who don’t consider drinking water a given,” says Edris. “We want to come back to Uganda and initiate a larger scale operation.”

Ask a young teenager in Israel, the USA or Europe what they most want? The answers would not be even close to the answer a 13-year-old girl gave Edris. “All she wanted was clean water, clothes and an electrical light at home to light up the house when it gets dark. What we take for granted isn’t taken for granted in so many places around the world, and that’s sad. She broke my heart.”

It also broke Israel’s Foreign Minister Golda Meir in the 1950s. When the future Prime Minister was appointed Israel’s second Foreign Minister in 1956, Golda announced that a cornerstone of her foreign policy was to reach out to the African states emerging from colonial rule. The rationale for this was lost to many at the ministry. After all, the new countries were often poorer than Israel and facing greater security, environmental and other problems; what could they possibly help Israel with?

She explained:

Independence had come to us, as it came  to Africa, not served up on a silver platter, but after years of struggle. Like them, we had shaken off foreign rule; like them, we had to learn for ourselves how to reclaim the land, how to increase the yields of our crops, how to irrigate, how to raise poultry, how to live together and how to defend ourselves…. The main reason for our ‘African Adventure’ was that we had something we wanted to pass on to nations that were even younger and less experienced than ourselves.”

That “African adventure” continues today inspiring young and talented Israelis like Selda Edris and Mayes Morad who could not stand idly by in the face of suffering.

 

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A refugee camp in Uganda, 2018 (Photo: AP)

 

The Arab Voice

A selection of opinions and analysis from the Arab media

This week, Lay Of The Land notes how Arab journalists are increasingly  revealing that Iran appears to be imploding from within and is on a direct trajectory to becoming “a failed state”. Whether the mullahs see the writing on the wall or not – Iran’s collapse – perceived by Arab writers in the region –  is not a question of “if” but “when”.

 

Four Decades of Iranian Terrorism

05/21/2019

By Mohammed al-Baladi 

Al-Madina, Saudi Arabia, May 18

Four decades have passed since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Forty years in which many waters passed under the bridge of the Arab Gulf, leading to widespread changes in our region. Despite these changes, however, one thing has remained unchanged: the expansionist ideology of the Iranian regime.

Since February 1, 1979, the people of Iran have been robbed of their freedom. Their money has been nationalized and appropriated for wasteful propaganda campaigns, under the Wilayat al-Faqih, throughout the entire world. Thankfully, this indoctrination campaign, despite all the resources being poured into it, will not succeed because it contradicts the most basic principles of Islam: peace and good brotherhood. A long-term strategic goal of the Iranian regime is to become the dominant force and the most influential country in the Middle East, from Iraq to Morocco. The mullahs have not relinquished this aspiration. Despite being boycotted by nearly every country in the world, the belligerent Iranian regime is still promoting itself as the official guardian of Shi’ism. It states that it is the ultimate protector of the interests of the most vulnerable Shi’ites around the world. To play this card effectively, the mullahs frequently use terms and slogans of emotional resonance, such as “Islamic unity” and “Islamic solidarity.” Worst of all, the Iranian regime tries to deceive Arab Shi’ites by portraying the supreme leader as their ultimate religious leader, who must be followed and obeyed even at the expense of betraying one’s own country. This is the most effective means by which the Iranian regime has succeeded in sparking sectarian strife between different groups in the same country. This creates a state of fear and confusion that helps give rise to extremist ideology. This is the strategy on which the Iranian philosophy is based. Iran supports, without limits, well-known terrorist groups such as Hizbullah, the Quds Force, the Houthi militias and Al-Qaida, all of which fuel conflict and spew hatred in countries like Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Afghanistan, Somalia, Eritrea and Nigeria. In all of these places, Iran’s influence is a source of concern and tension for the government and a major impediment to development. In the four decades that have passed since the rise of the mullah regime, and despite facing harsh sanctions, Iran has continuously harmed its neighbors. In doing so, the regime has proved that terrorism and aggression are an integral part of its ideology. To defeat this ideology, we therefore have to fight the Iranian regime.

– Mohammed al-Baladi (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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Brave protesters overcoming fears and standing up to regime’s security forces.

HE MULLAHS’ REGIME IS BOUND TO FALL

By Muhammad al-Sheikh

Al-Jazeera, Saudi Arabia , May 17, 2019

The survival of the mullah regime in Tehran will be impossible in the long run, so long as its formal objective remains to use all of its resources to fulfill the will of its founder, Khomeini, and reinstate the ancient Persian Empire.

I am not trying to suggest that the era of empires is completely over. This is a reality that one can hardly argue with, especially given the rise of the caliphate established by Islamic State.

I do, however, believe that [former] US president Barack Obama, for a mysterious reason that goes beyond me, saved the mullah regime from total collapse when he signed the catastrophic nuclear deal with Tehran. In doing so, Obama lifted the siege on Iran and provided its regime, which was very close to falling, with a $100 billion lifeline.

Whatever ideology is guiding the mullahs, their regime simply cannot keep up with the contemporary world. It stands against everything humanity stands up for today.

Even domestically, the people of Iran have realized that they have been led astray by their leaders for several decades. Internal grudges and anger are growing with each passing day.

This enormous Iranian public will eventually reach a boiling point that the regime will be unable to control. No matter how oppressive, cruel or coercive the mullah regime will be, it will eventually be forced to capitulate and collapse.

Needless to say, modern countries derive their political and military power from their economic power. The stronger their economies are, the more they can grow and develop, the more legitimate they are on the international stage, and the more they can withstand crises.

A look at the Soviet Union, which neglected its economic might and relied on socialism for its survival, will suffice to understand how failed economies can lead to political disintegration and collapse.

This is certainly the case in Iran as well. The mullahs can spend money spreading their ideology, ignore economic growth and impose their doctrine on others, without any hesitation to crush dissidents. Ultimately, however, their regime will be a failure.

Therefore, whether the mullahs admit this or not, Iran is on a direct trajectory to becoming a failed state. This tendency will only increase with time. Then, as many experiments in history have already taught us, the mullahs’ regime will collapse. It is simply a matter of time.

– Muhammad al-Sheikh

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Iran protests broaden as U.S. sanctions takes toll on the economy. The unrest signaled widespread unease after the U.S. decision to withdraw from Tehran’s nuclear deal and restore sanctions on the country.

The Inevitability of a Clash with Iran

By Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, May 18

All possibilities with Tehran are currently on the table. It is possible that we will witness a massive military campaign against Iran, a limited and targeted attack, or no strike whatsoever. However, regardless of how the current stand-off between Washington and Tehran devolves, there is no doubt that the mullah regime will eventually fall. Just like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi disappeared from the world arena, the Iranian leadership, consisting of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, will eventually be crushed. There is no way to circumvent this reality. Every extremist regime we’ve witnessed in history ended up collapsing after it exercised enormous aggression. The ability of such regimes to survive and maintain their stability rests on their willingness to deploy force and violence on others. Once they engage in this kind of behavior, it only gets worse. Rarely, if ever, can the wheel be turned backwards. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that the mullah regime in Tehran will act any differently. Just like the Hitler regime fought until its bitter end of self-destruction, so, too, the Iranian regime will fight to its death. For too many years, the countries of the Middle East have swallowed the bitter Iranian pill for fear of facing war with Tehran. But now this scenario seems inevitable. If we look at the mullahs’ previous modus operandi, we can see that whenever they faced external pressure, they only toughened their positions. Some have suggested that this is due to the ill-advised American policy devised by President Donald Trump or National Security Adviser John Bolton. Others point fingers at Israel as the culprit. But the reality is very different: The Iranian regime, ever since the days of former US president Jimmy Carter, has sought to deploy violence in order to promote its political goals. This has been the case regardless of which president was sitting in the Oval Office. Instead of inventing conspiracy theories, we would be better off looking reality in the eye and understanding that the Iranian threat against stability in the Middle East is likely the most serious threat to our region today. The mullah regime in Iran has proven its evilness time and again. Its actions in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen are a clear case in point. Those who defend Iran live in deep denial. It’s time to muster the courage and stand up to the regime in Tehran. Otherwise, we will pay a heavy price for our complacency down the road.

Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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Massive protests in January 2019 across Iran with significant participation of women.

The Israel Brief- 20-22 May 2019

* Watch this weeks’ special addition of two interviews with our co-founder Rolene Marks on “The Shtick” TV/Melbourne (see below).

 

The Israel Brief – 20 May 2019 – Eurovision controversy. Anti-Semitism in politics in Poland and Trump peace plan.

 

 

The Israel Brief – 21 May 2019 – Ceasefire? Palestinians to boycott Bahrain conference. Knesset to award equal status on benefits to same sex partners.

 

 

The Israel Brief – 22 May 2019 – Palestinians accuse Israel of blackmail of Germany. UAE and Saudi to attend Bahrain economic summit. US accuse Syria of chemical gas attack.

 

THE SHTICK TV

The only Jewish Television from Australia, featuring community events, information and entertainment for the Jewish and broader communities.

 

Rolene Marks’ Israel Advocacy on The SHTICK S57-05 Seg.1

Rolene Marks works for WIZO International’s Israel Advocacy Media Team.

 

 

Rolene Marks’ WIZO Impact on The SHTICK S57-05 Seg.2

Rolene Marks focuses on Projects and Programs such as “Lay of the Land” (LotL) and others, in Israel, where she now lives, after originating from South Africa.

 

 

Out Of This World

The week that was Eurovision in Israel

By David E. Kaplan

Shifting from the salon sofa and watching the buildup to the 2019 Eurovision Song Competition on TV to actually immersing oneself in the swelling  crowds at the Eurovillage in  Tel Aviv’s beach front was an eye-popping opener or as one says in Hebrew:

Ein milim” – “no words”.

For a press that usually obsesses with covering Israel in a negative light, what a refreshing change:

Britain’s The Independent ran with a headline reading:

This year’s Eurovision was one of the best in recent memory,” praising the broadcasts “general splendor” and calling it “an incredible show.”

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Stunning & Spectacular. An extravaganza of sound, sights and light at the Eurovision final in Tel Aviv.

CNN called the grand final “a showpiece that would have disappointed few Eurovision fans.

The New York Times, which only recently published a vile antisemitic cartoon anchored on Israeli politics, said the show had “enough glitz, plumes of fire and special effects to invigorate even the blandest Europop.”

Even the BBC was captivated by the special atmosphere. Its newsreader Graham Norton during his live commentary  said of the 2019 rendition of Israel’s 40th anniversary of “Hallelujah”  by Gali Atari accompanied by previous top Eurovision contestants – Conchita Wurst, Måns Zelmerlöw, Eleni Foureira and Verka Serduchka:

What a real treat for Eurovision fans… a really special moment. A gorgeous moment.”

The BBC was spot on – it was a “gorgeous moment”. However, the entire week was a compilation of “gorgeous moments.”

Off course, there were still those who could not resist ‘aiming’ their pens in describing Eurovision in Israel as  “Tel Aviv caught between partying and politics” but so be it:

The event lived up to its expectations; the theme of Israel’s Eurovision was “Dare To Dream”,  a theme espoused by Israel’s founding father Theodore Hertzel, who defied the naysayers over 120 years earlier with “If you will it, it is no dream.”

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Alive & Electrifying. The writer was amongst the 100,000 plus in this aerial view of the Eurovision Village in Tel Aviv during the second semifinals of the Eurovision song contest on May 16, 2019 with Jaffa in the background. (Courtesy Tel Aviv Municipality)

The results were there for all to celebrate as the eyes of the world – some 200 million viewers – were on Israel and seeing:

How you can build a country in 71 years and that despite the immense challenges, despite being surrounded by enemies desiring our extinction, despite a biased  global media in perpetual assault mode against the Jewish state, saw the curtain rise on a modern, fun-loving, exciting, enterprising, entrepreneurial and hi-tech behemoth that can also show the world:

How to party

And party Israel did.

Tel Aviv lived up to its reputation of the “City That never Sleeps” or as I like to describe it, “as the city that wakes up every morning  and decides what’s its going to be”.

Yes, the people of the “Start-Up Nation” know how to “work hard” but they also know how to “play hard” and  the multitude of visitors from abroad were swept away by the euphoric atmosphere.

Three Swiss visitors I spoke to, agreed, “The atmosphere here is special; you will never see anything like this in SwitzerlandEurovision or no Eurovision

A twentysomething from Germany remarked, “It’s funny; I’ve been here a week and even with the time change, Europe is fast asleep when you guys are still partying.”

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Sea’ing Is Believing. Adjacent to the sea, ecstatic fans in the fans zone by the beach in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 18, 2019.REUTERS/ Corinna Kern

Euphoria in Eurovillage

The lingua franca of the people standing around me  near the main stage at the Eurovillage was a cross of European languages and many of them were holding aloft their country’s flags.  Facing me were the flags of Romania, Italy, Sweden and Denmark. Looking back, all I could see was a sea of people, gyrating to the music of an Abba Revival band from Sweden. The four singers down to their dress looked like Abba and if you closed your eyes, you could be back in the seventies – they sounded exactly like Abba.

Most the people around me were probably not even born when Abba won with Waterloo in 1974, but tonight was Tel Aviv’s “Waterloo” as it won in victoriously emblazoning to the world, if you want to know us, come and see Israel for yourself.

Clearly, the thousands of overseas visitors were happy they did.

Party Poopers

BDS failed abysmally in sabotaging the event. Despite their appeals for countries to boycott – notably by their flagbearer, Roger Waters – not one European country pulled out. Noted for flying a balloon of a giant pig with a Star of David at his concerts and then denying “I’m NOT an anti-Semite”, Ranting Roger made a last ditch-11th hour incoherent rant on social media following an appeal “from my friend Omar Barghouti”  for contestants to boycott Tel Aviv. A co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, Barghouti does not believe in a two-state solution as he believes that the “creation of a Jewish state was a crime” and calls to restore the name of “Palestine” for the entire area from the river Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea.

Waters’ appeal met on deaf ears.

Where once people listed to his music, today, few were interested in hearing what he had to say.

Even the pro-Palestinian Icelandic ‘Hatari’ participated albeit displaying Palestinian flags. They received no thanks for doing so!

The Iceland band’s gesture cut no ice with BDS who wrote on its Twitter account:

Palestinian civil society overwhelmingly rejects fig-leaf gestures of solidarity from international artists crossing our peaceful picket line.”

At a press conference, Hatari offered a purely positive message saying, “We need to unite and remember to love – hate  on the rise in Europe.”

Yes, that hate is manifesting itself in the worst outbreak of antisemitism in Europe since WWII.

And happy to join that hate fest  are Fatah and the  Palestinian Authority (PA).

During the week leading up to the final of the Eurovision, Fatah and the PA campaigned vigorously and visually for countries to boycott  Tel Aviv as reflected in its cartoons published daily linking Israeli music to violence – including the visual depiction of the common PA libel that “Israel intentionally kills civilians”.

Fatah posted the cartoon below on Facebook, showing an Israeli soldier shooting at Palestinians in Gaza. Musical notes are flowing from the “Eurovision” but turn into an ammunition belt for the soldier’s machine gun.

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In a second cartoon posted by Fatah, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is dressed up as Israeli singer Netta Barzilai who won last year’s Eurovision and brought the competition to Israel. Netanyahu is holding a missile in each hand:

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Missiles? What the PA and Fatah neglects to advise its gullible readership is that it was the Palestinians in Gaza that only two weeks earlier had launched nearly 700 missiles at southern Israel, killing four  Israeli civilians, injuring many and causing severe structural damage to property, including moving motor vehicles.

Never Stop Dreaming

Israel’s message to the world was so poignantly encapsulated by the Shalva Band. Shalva (The Israel Association for Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities) is a registered non-profit organization that supports and empowers individuals with disabilities and their families in Israel. The eight-piece band, which includes Israelis with blindness, Down syndrome and other physical and developmental disabilities, called on spectators “to never stop dreaming.” The band performed a rendition of A Million Dreams from the film The Greatest Showman.

The band made it to the finals  of The Rising Star, the local Israeli contest that determines who represents the country at the Eurovision. Predicted to win by judges and audience members, they dropped out because performing at Eurovision would have necessitated violating the Sabbath in order to participate in the Saturday night final broadcast.

At a press conference they revealed that they were living out their dream.

“When we first started playing together people wouldn’t listen to us, they would just leave the room,” said Band director Shai Ben-Shushan. “We worked hard, and we became better and better, and we believed in ourselves. After a lot of hard work, we got to Hakochav Haba (The Rising Star) – and in the beginning we didn’t believe that we were good enough to make it to the end.”

The Israeli public thought they did.

“We’ve made a huge change in Israeli society,” he said. “Today, when we walk in the street, the Israeli people want to embrace us – not because we’re a gimmick, but because we’re good at what we do.”

If only the PAHamas and BDS  would understand this message

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“I’m Not Your Toy”. Championing diversity, Eurovision 2018 winner Netta Barzilai performs at the Eurovision semifinal in Tel Aviv.

Wonder Woman On Wonder City

A quick lesson in “three minutes” about life in Tel Aviv was revealed in the back of a taxi by Gal Gadot, Israel’s famed star from Wonder Woman with taxi driver, famed Israeli comedian Yuval Semo.

“Three minutes,” says the Hollywood superstar it took for  Netta Barzilai in 2018 to bring the Eurovision to Israel with her winning entry “Toy”; “three minutes,’ she joked, “is the average an Israeli waits before getting personal – a little too personal,” and “Three minutes to understand the essence of Tel Aviv – Inspiration, innovation, big ideas and open arms. Come as you are, bring who you like, love what you do, day or night, daring and caring, outgoing and including everyone under one hot sun.”

At the end of the week – All Said And Sung – the real winner of Eurovision 2019 was – ISRAEL!

As Israel’s message in its 1979 Eurovision win: “Hallelujah

 

Corbyn’s Anti-Israel Obsession In Numbers

*This article currently appears in Jewish News/Britain

With the Human Rights Commission set to launch a probe into Labour antisemitism, we take a forensic look at the party leader’s relentless 30-year animosity towards Israel

By JODIE COHEN

On the UK Parliament website users can look up every Early Day Motion (EDM) tabled by MPs since the 1989/90 Parliament.

EDMs are motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons for which no day has been fixed. They are often used to put on record the views of individual MPs and can attract a great deal of public interest and media coverage.

Jodie Cohen3
courtesy Jewish News

MPs can sponsor their own EDM or sign other people’s. This investigation looks only at the EDMs Jeremy Corbyn has sponsored, as they are a clearer indication of his most strongly held views.

Since Parliament.uk’s records began, Corbyn has sponsored 834 EDMs covering 200 subjects, including 67 countries.

Yet one subject and one country stands out…

Israel, Israel, Israel…

Of the 834 EDMs sponsored by Jeremy Corbyn, 64 motions are critical of Israel or demonstrate one-sided support for the Palestinians.

He appears to have sponsored such an EDM virtually every year over a 22-year period, no matter what party leads the Israeli government.

The Labour leader’s EDMs on Israel appear to have started in 1993 – the year Israel signed the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians. They continued until he became Leader  of  the Opposition in September 2015. His record shows he has been more critical of Israel than any other country or single issue.

Corbyn’s Overall EDMs

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True Colours. Three major Jewish newspapers The Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News and the Jewish Telegraph say Corbyn government would pose an ‘existential threat to Jewish life’

To put the 64 EDMs on Israel and the Palestinians into perspective, Corbyn has tabled 55 EDMs calling for nuclear non-proliferation, one of the subjects for which he is best known. Some 18 of these specifically refer to Trident, Britain’s nuclear programme.

He has referenced his constituency of Islington 43 times during the same period – that’s almost 49% more EDMs on Israel than on his own constituency.  He is more interested in criticising the Middle East’s only democracy than representing the people he was elected to speak for.

The Labour leader has tabled 23 EDMs related to trade unions, labour relations and workers’ rights. He sponsored 18 regarding the transport sector and workers within that sector.  He proposed a further 17 on education, covering teachers’ pay, education funding and schools and colleges in his constituency. Corbyn’s EDMs on Israel are more than his EDMs on these three subjects – all of which he is passionate about – combined.

Appetite For Foreign Policy

MPs are allowed, of course, to take an interest in non-constituency and non-UK matters, and Jeremy Corbyn is clearly interested in foreign affairs. For example, he has tabled 26 EDMs on Morocco (often citing support for Western Saharan independence).

He has sponsored 25 motions on Chile (criticising Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and supporting human rights and democracy). And he has proposed 23 EDMs related to the troubles in Ireland in the second half of the 20th century.

However, his EDMs on Israel and the Palestinians clearly surpass the number of EDMs he has tabled on Morocco and Chile put together, and are not far behind his EDMs on Morocco, Chile and Ireland combined.

Take a deeper dive…

There have been times when Corbyn is so concerned about a subject that he tables more than one EDM in a row on the same topic. What’s his record? You’ve guessed it…In 2004, he tabled four EDMs consecutively on Israel and the Palestinians.

Some might argue that the other 649 MPs in the House of Commons might be just as concerned about Israel. So, I examined all EDMs on Israel since Parliament.uk’s records began. There are 442 EDMs on Israel in total, including motions that are both positive and negative. The Labour leader has sponsored almost 1/7 of these, only one of which could be deemed to be positive (it praises an Israeli peace coalition ‘Gush Shalom’).

He sponsored only two EDMs referencing Syria, both in 2013. One welcomed the UK ruling out military action, and one called for the Middle East to be a weapons of mass destruction free zone. There have been zero on Yazidi persecution, and zero referring at all to Islamic State by any of its names.

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Face The Facts. Corbyn has answered but people are afraid to accept the truth.

What about the troubles in Venezuela in recent years? He has sponsored no EDMs on the country since 2013, when he offered condolences to its people after the passing of President Hugo Chavez.

And what about those bastions of human rights, Russia and China?  He has sponsored two (on Chechnya) and five (on Taiwan, Tibet and human rights) respectively. On Iran, two EDMs express concern at the prospect of war.

The others either express support for the rights of Iranian workers or for the Kurdish people in Iran. None condemn Iran’s repeated calls to wipe Israel off the map.

Any condemnation of Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Hezbollah?  NONE.

So, it looks as though Corbyn is more concerned with Israel – which has been seeking peace with the Palestinians for decades – than with questionable regimes and key conflicts, in which well over one million people have perished.

One might assume that the reason Corbyn hasn’t tabled any EDMs on some of the above subjects recently is because he hasn’t tabled any EDMs since becoming leader – as is the custom for ministers upon their appointment.

However, a search of EDMs since September 2015 shows he has sponsored 54 motions during this time.

It’s also interesting to consider why Corbyn hasn’t posted any EDMs on Israel since becoming leader. One could presume it’s because, shortly afterwards, Labour became embroiled in questions over its attitude towards antisemitism and Zionism

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Hardly ‘A Labour Of Love’. Antisemitism on the rise, including Britain’s Labour Party, Jewish community groups and their supporters stage a protest in Parliament Square, London, England on July 19, 2018. ( Getty )

A clasis case was of Jeremy Corbyn claiming “British ‘Zionists’ don’t understand English irony despite having lived in Britain all their lives”.

The remarks were made in 2013, when Corbyn was giving a speech alongside prominent British extremists at a London  conference publicised by Hamas’ military wing.

What Would A Corbyn Premiership Mean For Israel?

Analysing his EDMs provides insights on what we might expect to see with regards to Israel, should Corbyn become prime minister.

In 2002, he was the primary sponsor of an EDM calling to end arms exports to Israel. That became Labour policy at last year’s party conference (remember the sea of Palestinian flags?)

In 2011, his EDM on the status of Jerusalem called on Israel to respect freedom of worship for all faiths in the city, which many would argue shows a lack of understanding of facts on the ground.

Corbyn denies supporting a blanket boycott of Israel, saying he believes in boycotting settlement produce only. However, our investigation has revealed that in 2002, he sponsored an EDM entitled ‘National Petition for Palestine’.

The motion says the British government should call on Israel to withdraw its army from the Occupied Territories, dismantle the settlements there, and accept that the Palestinians have an equal right to Jerusalem, whether it be the capital of their separate state (East Jerusalem) or that of a single democratic secular state.

It states Britain should make a public commitment to supporting UN resolution 194 calling on Israel to “grant the refugees, the Palestinians displaced by them, the right to return to Israel or a right to compensation if they choose not to return”.

Finally, it states that Britain should impose trade sanctions on Israel, including an arms embargo, until the above demands are met. A core demand of today’s Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel is the Palestinian refugees’ ‘right of return’ to Israel. In the words of former US President Barack Obama, this “would extinguish Israel as a Jewish state”.

Corbyn’s supporters take pride in the fact that he is a man of principle. He sticks to his guns and is proud of his unwavering positions on policy. This is part of his appeal. So, it could be argued that his EDM calling for a full boycott of Israel is an indication of the direction a Corbyn-led government would take.

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Faces Of Despair. Revealing in their demeanor, members of the Board of Deputies Jonathan Arkush, Jonathan Goldstein following disappointing meeting with Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The Bookies’ Favourite

Recent polls have indicated that a Prime Minister Corbyn is becoming increasingly likely.

Despite the local government elections held last week delivering a rebuke to both the main political parties, a YouGov poll for The Times on 23/24 April suggested a Labour lead over the Conservatives of 3%, with Labour achieving 30% of the vote. In fact, thirteen polls all taken in April 2019 suggest a Labour win at the next General Election.

With Theresa May under fire for her handling of Brexit, European elections will give us the next indication of which way voters are headed.

Whether or not Jeremy Corbyn becomes the next prime minister of the United Kingdom, one thing is clear. Corbyn’s record of sponsoring EDMs over the past two decades and more indicates that for him, as recently suggested by former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, it really is “all about Israel”.

A dictionary definition of ‘obsession’ is ‘an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind.’ This analysis suggests that Corbyn is obsessed with Israel on an absolute basis as well as on a comparative basis – comparative over time, with other MPs, and with other issues. It’s a negative obsession, with only one EDM out of 64 highlighting positive dialogue.

 The Key Question: Why?

So, why has the Labour leader been so utterly obsessed with Israel when other arguably far more pressing issues and topics get a free pass? That’s a question only he can answer. Until he does, people will remain deeply troubled about his true motivation.

 

About the writer:

Jodie Cohen4.jpgJodie Cohen is a public affairs consultant who has advised numerous multinational companies, as well as Jewish and Israel related organisations over the past 20 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Feature picture: Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn at a pro-Palestinian rally in London, 2014. | Photo: Palestinian Solidarity Campaign

Anti-Semitism – Why?

When Jews are persecuted the silent majority remain silent

 

By Philip Weyers a great-grandson of Field Marshall Jan Smuts, a twice Prime Minister of South Africa and supporter of the 1917 Balfour Declaration.

The fine article by Peter Bailey in Lay Of The Land recently, “Why is there Anti-Semitism”, and the Yom HaShoah Commemoration yesterday of the six million Jews who were murdered at the hands of the Nazi’s between 1933 and 1945 has again brought to the forefront of my mind the phenomena that confronts me daily in the media and which I find inexplicable and appalling – Anti-Semitism.

I have only ever received kindness from Jewish people; family, friends and strangers, and for my own edification I felt the need to put to paper my thoughts or possible rationales as to why the world is so; why do so many dislike or even hate Jews, people they’ve never met and who have only ever served humanity, based purely on their religious and spiritual beliefs.

My upbringing was Christian, my Mother a devout Presbyterian and my Father a rather less devout Presbyterian, but a practising Christian, nonetheless.

My Mother would often refer to Jews as “God’s chosen people”, and this she said without malice or envy, purely as a matter of fact. Mom had many Jewish friends and she certainly did not differentiate between them and her Christian friends, all were her friends and there was no distinction.

My Father too had many Jewish friends, from his days at the Bar, on the Bench and socially. He, not being as devout a Christian as my Mother, did not refer to them any differently, they were his friends, period.

Ancestrally, my great-grandfather was a prominent South African who was influential in the discussions and drafting of the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and fought with vigour to ensure the tenets of the Balfour Declaration were ratified into International Law at the San Remo Conference in 1920. He was also one of the few voices that reminded England that they had obligations to meet when they were doing all they could to prevent Jewish emigration to Palestine and the establishment of a Jewish State. He was a personal friend of Dr Chaim Weitzmann and an avowed Christian Zionist, as am I. His belief was that Palestine, or the Holy Land as he referred to it, was the Biblical home of the Jews and that historical precedent existed justifying his belief. Doubtless, his beliefs and convictions carried down three generations to influence me from a relatively young age.

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Christian Zionists. The writer beside the statue of his great-grandfather, Jan Christiaan Smuts.

Perspective

Persecution of the Jews is not a new development, 3300 years ago, the Jews were enslaved by the Egyptians and were led out of Egypt to the Promised Land – Israel as we know it today, by Moses. This predates the time of Muhammad and establishment of Islam (632CE) by more than 2500 years, so no arguments from the fundamentalists on that point. Since that time, persecution and enslavement or a combination of the two has been a constant throughout the millennia.

The Holocaust carried out between 1933 and 1945 was not the first such systematic action and killing of Jews. In contemporary history, the Holocaust was preceded by the Pogroms carried out in present day Ukraine and Poland, Romania and Iraq from the late 1800’s through to the late 1940’s. Historical estimations dating back to 135 BCE indicate that nearly 3 million Jews were killed for being Jewish in countries as diverse as Spain, Portugal, Italy, Sweden and even England. These Pogrom related 3 million deaths are in addition to the 6 million who died at the hands of the Nazis in the Holocaust, realising a total of 9 million murdered, astonishing and appalling.

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Plotting To Rid World Of Jews. Adolf Hitler talking with Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini.

 

Why?

Jews are a passive, peaceful people.

Jews have in my experience and in all recorded history been a passive, non-aggressive people in stark contrast to most other of the world’s peoples. In all the records of conflicts, the Jews have never been the aggressors. This holds true today, where Israel is not and never has been the aggressor and has on all occasions only defended itself or its security. It is a tendency of humanity to cast blame and attach liability to parties or peoples who are not able or inclined to defend themselves, easy targets, and so it is with the Jews who have been blamed for every worldly misfortune, often historically due to the preaching of the Clergy and in the present day, due to radical Islamists. The liberal press we have today which has such influence on what is deemed ‘Politically Correct’ and which is so eagerly digested by the world’s misguided liberals has much to answer for. Responsibility for the random massacres that continue to this day is most often to be laid still at the feet of the liberal, bigoted press, devious politicians and the vitriol and actions of fundamentalist Islamic Imams.

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Black Plague, Black Time for Jews. In Europe during the Middle Ages, Christians blamed Jews for the Black Plague resulting in their arrest, confiscation of their property, and being burned at the stake.

When Jews are persecuted the silent majority remain silent and are delict in not voicing any form of defence for the Jews, save for a few lone voices who generally are insufficient in number to have any impact. This situation is exacerbated by politicians and commentators who seek paths of least resistance and the desire for popular acceptance. The need to conform and not be at odds with the majority is a human tendency and sadly this characteristic has resulted in all too many people failing dismally in their human obligations.

Inquisition. Captives to the auto de fe for sentencing. Colored engraving.
Expunging Spain Of Jews. An auto-da-fé in 15th century Spain for condemned heretics, mostly Jews, during the Spanish Inquisition. PSUMPIX / CORBIS / GETTY IMAGES

Political Correctness

The new and to my mind destructive, naive and mindless concept of “Political Correctness” serves also as a reason for what Jews endure daily worldwide. A recent example of this is the massacre of the Muslims in Christchurch which quite rightly drew international condemnation. At much the same time a synagogue killing of Jews was carried out in the USA and over 200 Christians massacred in Nigeria, both events drawing very little from the Press and even less from politicians and the people. Such is “Political Correctness” at its worst; far more palatable and acceptable that Jews and Christians are killed than Muslims.

It is also so that the press report in such a manner as to conform with what is currently acceptable, regardless of whether their articles will stand up to scrutiny, and no one will scrutinise in any event. The current Gaza situation bears this out; when Hamas terrorists launched 450 rockets against Israel, the newspaper headline reads that an IDF attack on Gaza killed a mother and child. The Israeli civilian losses, which there were, are not of sufficient importance to warrant any indignation. It transpired also that the mother and child were killed by Hamas, not the IDF, and not that the press retracted their false accusations.

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Burning Hate. Hamas supporters burn an Israeli flag during a demonstration in Gaza.

 Envy and Jealousy

The emotions of envy and jealousy can be immensely destructive and have resulted in countless negative and damaging consequences, sometimes on a vast scale. It is both a common perception and in my mind a reality that the Jews are a people whose small numbers bely completely their massive contributions to humanity at large. However, far from acknowledging their contributions to humanity, too many in the world react with aggression resulting from what must include malicious jealousy.

The success of Jewish enterprises and corporations across the globe are legendary to those who care to know. The dominant Hollywood movie industry was started and continues to be directed by Jews, the Rothschild family whose name has always been synonymous with success and wealth; Jewish. And the list goes on and on. Doubtless these internationally known corporations and enterprises are the cause of envy and resultant resentment to many.

Medical, science and technological advances made by Jews and Israelis also provide a long list of innovations that benefit mankind. More than one revolutionary cancer treatment is currently undergoing clinical trials. Twelve Israeli’s have won the Nobel Prize in the last 50 years, per capita the most on the planet, During the 20th Century, Jews won 138 or 21% of all Nobel Prizes, quite an accomplishment for a people that accounts for only 0,20% of the world’s population.

Rather than acknowledge these achievements which in most cases are to the benefit of mankind, a substantial proportion of the world’s population respond by being resentful. It should be borne in mind that much of the malice derives from feelings of inferiority which – real or imagined – are enormously powerful motivators and result often in acts of aggression.

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Supporters of Israel. Winston Churchill and Jan Christiaan Smuts in 1942. Before emerging friends and allies, Smuts, as State Attorney during the Anglo Boer War, interrogated Winston Churchill who had been captured. At one of their meetings during World War II, Smuts revealed to Churchill that at first he opposed his release but later reconsidered, but by that time, the prisoner released had himself i.e. escaped!

My perception, borne out by personal experience, is that Jews are also intellectual people, given so often to deep and analytical thinking which would go some way to explaining the success of Jews worldwide and Israelis probably in particular. This trait would explain much, including possibly the Anti-Semitic sentiments so many seem to harbour.

The State of Israel

Israel is the target of so many weapons from those wielded by seemingly most of the world’s media to the extensive arsenals of all of Israel’s neighbours and most in the Middle East region.

I understand and subscribe to the precedent created by Biblical history; that Israel was the home of the Jews thousands of years before Christianity began and longer still before Islam came into being. One of Israel’s names in those historical times was Judea, the connection therefore to me being obvious, even though it would seem to escape completely those today who choose not to acknowledge this.

Israel as we know it had its beginnings with the Zionist movement initiated by Theodore Herzl with the publication of his work “Der Judenstaat” in early 1896. Subsequently and after the death of Herzl, the movement for a home for the Jews was taken up by the brilliant physicist Dr Chaim Weizmann and largely through his efforts the British Government issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917 which was a declaration of intent to provide the Jews with a home, determined after much investigation, deliberation and negotiation to be Palestine.

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Solid Support. Kibbutz Ramat Yohanan in northern Israel is named after the Jan Smuts who was a prominent supporter of Zionism and played a significant role in the wording of the Balfour Declaration of 1917. In 1941, Yitzchak Rabin joined the Palmach section of the Haganah during his stay at kibbutz Ramat Yohanan.

With the cessation of WWI hostilities, and by virtue of the Smuts Resolution at the Sen Remo Conference in 1920, Britain was granted a Class A Mandate over Palestine which enabled the settlement of Jews in Israel in accordance with the intent contained in the Balfour Declaration. Due to attempts to appease the surrounding Arabs, Britain tried on many occasions to thwart by any means possible the emigration of Jews to Palestine. Despite this, and showing tremendous fortitude, the emigration continued and on 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel, Eretz Israel.

Immediately following the declaration, the Arab states surrounding Israel on three sides went to war with the sole objective of destroying Israel – the War of Independence. This was followed in 1956 by an Israeli invasion of Sinai to effect the lifting of Egypt’s closure to Israel of the Straits of Tiran, essential to Israel’s oil imports. A lull in hostilities followed despite continuing tensionsת and when Egypt started massing troops along the Israeli border in June 1967, the Six Day War started when Israel undertook pre-emptive air strikes. The Yom Kippur War followed in 1973 when the surrounding Arab neighbours made another attempt to destroy Israel. Many isolated conflicts have followed since. All, without exception, the direct result of neighbouring Arab aggression or to safeguard Israel’s national security. There has never been a conflict due to Israeli territorial ambitions or ideological differences.

Despite Israel having come into being through legitimate internationally validated legal process, the Arab neighbours continue to perpetrate hostile acts against it.

The “Spoils of War” has resulted in territories changing hands for as long as history has been recorded, and were it a principle by which victors gained possession of conquered territory only for the duration of the conflict before returning it, the world would be very different to the one we know. The most obvious reversal would be the return of the United States of America to England which quite obviously is pure folly of thought. Despite the smaller scale, the same principle applies to Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. For Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad to continue to agitate for return of territorial losses in conflicts the victors, Israel, did not initiate, is devoid of any precedent. This does not, however, influence the distorted logic of the terror organisations who continue to do all possible to harm Israel and Israelis. These terror organisations are so blinded by anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish fervour that this is unlikely to change anytime soon, if ever. Anti-Semitism runs rife and at a deeper level here than likely anywhere else on earth, certainly since the end of World War II. The international press and of late misguided liberal U S Democrats have been vocal in their Anti-Semitic condemnation of Israel, even when Israel acts against terror attacks perpetrated against her.

Mahmoud Abbas: "We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem..."
Facing Reality. The PLO charter calls for the destruction of Israel as does Hamas; Nasser of Egypt called for the total annihilation of the Jewish State as did Syria, Iraq, Jordan and other Arab countries. While Israel looks towards peace, the leadership in Hamas as well as in the Palestinian Authority are constantly encouraging and honouring violence against Jews.

Family/Elder and Peer Pressure

Two of the most powerful conduits for sentiment, opinions and actions is that of hereditary influence and peer pressure. In the absence of free-thinkers, parental and ancestral opinions and prejudices along with peer pressure often determine attitudes and actions. This is more likely to occur in less sophisticated societies where exposure to alternative opinions and international realities is not a given. Doubtless much of the Middle East falls within this general category and as such, many of the various populations provide fertile grounds for indoctrinations and recruitment of adherents. Often the worst perpetrators know no better and have their Anti-Semitic hatred developed over generations and deeply entrenched, beyond I believe the possibility of any redemption or conversion. It is this inhuman mentality, developed over generations, that makes it possible to celebrate the deaths of Israeli citizens resulting from terrorist actions. Most of humanity would not, I contend, find themselves able to celebrate such tragedies.

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Massacre at Clifford’s Tower. On 16 March 1190 one of the worst cases of Anti-Semitic violence in Britain took place in York. It was not until 1978 that a plaque commemorating the massacre was installed at the foot of the tower.

This document is not intended as an exhaustive nor extensively detailed history, certainly not an answer, but rather as a basic exercise to put my considered thoughts down on paper in an attempt to rationalise for myself that which cannot be rationalised; the Anti-Semitic phenomenon which for me is beyond any comprehension and which is the cause, today, and for millennia past, of the death of millions of Jews and ongoing daily terrorist attacks against Jews the world over.

 

About the author

PHILIP WEYERS1.jpgPhilip Weyers was born in Doornkloof in 1958, eight years after the passing of his great-grandfather, Field Marshal Jan Christiaan Smuts who served as prime minister of the Union of South Africa from 1919 until 1924 and from 1939 until 1948.

Weyers has served as Managing and Executive Director of the General Smuts Foundation as well as National President of the South African Air Force Association and Vice Chairman of the Council of Military Veterans Organisation of South Africa.

Invitations to speaking tours outside South Africa have included in 2016 to the UK for the 75th Battle of Britain reunion and in 2017 to Israel on the occasion of the Balfour Declaration Centenary.

Weyers’ interests include history, current affairs, ornithology, golf, gym, jogging and being a passionate friend and defender of Israel.