A Modern Day Scramble for Africa?

The African continent is becoming the latest battlefield in the existential war between Iran and Israel. It would appear that both countries are engaged in a modern day scramble for a piece of Africa. This has nothing to do with the colonial aspirations of times past but rather it is a battle for the hearts and minds of the people and in the case of Iran, gaining a foothold on the African continent. The methodologies adopted by the two countries are somewhat different.

After the Yom Kippur War in 1973, relations between Israel and most African countries soured, and it was only in the 1980′s and 1990′s that Israel returned to Africa. There are strategic interests – countries situated in the horn of Africa have geographical significance not just for airspace but for their close proximity to Arab countries. Israel understands that Africa is a new frontier ripe for cooperation and has embarked on targeted diplomatic missions and has made great strides through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ MASHAV programme which has brought much needed agricultural and medical assistance to impoverished communities and countries across the continent. Examples of this include water purification projects, assisting in circumcision rituals in countries such as Swaziland which has significantly reduced HIV infection rates, as well as numerous agricultural projects. It was part of Zionism’s founding father, Theodore Herzl’s dream to help the oppressed in Africa.

Read the complete blog as it appears in The Algemeiner:

http://www.algemeiner.com/2013/01/22/a-modern-day-scramble-for-africa/

Apartheid Week – A Global Hate Fest

Far be it for me to “rant” more than twice a week, so as to not clog up already bulging mail boxes but this is a topic that not only deserves a rant but the proverbial horse needs to be flogged again and again until the truth rears its head.  February 20th marks the starts of Apartheid Week, a delirious festival of anti-Israel hatred dressed up as a human right’s concern that plays out on a very troubling stage, University campuses around the world. From Canada to South Africa,  the wolves in sheep’s clothing will rant (okay, so I don’t have the monopoly on that!) and point fingers, ignoring real human rights travesties such as mass murder in Syria or Iranian nuclear programmes  and their dubious intent to focus on the favoured target, Israel. According to  the Apartheid Week official website, Apartheid Week will be marked as follows:

Europe: February 20 – March 10

Palestine: March 12-19
United States: February 26 – March 3
Canada: March 5-9
Arab World: March 5-11
South Africa: March 5-11

 

On many occasions I have lamented the tragic hijacking of the word “Apartheid” which in essence meant the legislated and enforced laws of racial segregation that classed the black citizens of South Africa as disenfranchised and second class.  Instead, this definition has become a sexy way to package, market and sell anti-Israel hatred. The word Apartheid is provocative, emotive and evocative and inspires a variety of strong emotions. In their haste to demonize Israel, detractors have forgotten to define what Apartheid was! The black people of South Africa suffered tremendously under the Apartheid regime and by comparing Israel, an imperfect but thriving democracy, to the former South Africa makes light of their suffering. It is an odious comparison to say the least.

 

This campaign of hatred is nothing more than a scurrilous attempt to delegitimize the State of Israel. One must note that even in the darkest days of Apartheid, NOBODY questioned South Africa’s right to exist as a country, no matter how much the world objected to its racist policies. Calling into question Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State or the rights of Jews to organize themselves along political lines and call it Zionism IS racism. By painting Israel as a pariah state that has little right to exist and ignoring true racist states says more about those pointing fingers than our plucky little country. I grew up in South Africa and bore witness to the horrors of Apartheid and I live in Israel and while it is not perfect and yes, racism exists, comparing the two countries makes my flame red hair stand on end and inspires me to jump on my well used and battered soapbox.  South Africa is perhaps one of the most important centres for this campaign of delegitimisation because it is the country that not only holds the benchmark for defeating Apartheid but exports anti-Apartheid activists to the above mentioned centres to promote their Boycott Divestment and Sanction (BDS) campaign against Israel and spew forth their vitriol. Naturally disguised as concern for human rights abuse while ignoring those perpetrated by some of the most appalling leaders including those of Hamas, Iran and Syria, to name but a few.

 

Those advocating BDS assume that by “punishing” Israel with cultural, economic, sporting and other sanctions it will bring us to our knees, and we will abandon the idea of a Two State Solution. They assume that by isolating Israel  it will result in Palestinians and Israelis living  happily ever after in a giant rainbow nation like South Africa and everything will be sunshine, lollipops and roses. Except for one small detail. Palestinians want to live with Palestinians and we would like to retain our identity as a Jewish State that treats its minority communities with respect and equality.  Oh yes, and we would like to do this in peace please.

 

By advocating a One State Solution, BDS advocates not only patronize Palestinian national aspirations but Jewish as well. They are well aware that demographically Israel would not survive as the only Jewish state in the world.

 

Even notorious anti-Israel protagonist, Norman Finkelstein, has come out and publicly called the BDS movement a “Cult”. While I don’t think he will be pledging allegiance to the Israeli flag or singing Hatikvah anytime soon, it certainly quite a coup to have someone like Finkelstein speak out against BDS and expose it for what it really is. This has ruffled some feathers in the anti-Israel camp!

 

It has become trendy to join the anti-Israel frenzy on campus.  It saddens me that in order to become pro-Palestinian the trend is to become as anti-Israel as one can possibly be. Academic institutions are supposed to be hotbeds of free thinking so I am going to send this message to students: start a new trend – buck the system by becoming pro peace and  being informed of the realities in this part of the Middle East. Rebel by choosing not to harass Israeli speakers, diplomats and IDF who visit your campus. Come on students, this is YOUR time to challenge authority….

 

Perhaps it would behoove the organizers of Apartheid week to dedicate this time more productively. If you want to have a week that commemorates Apartheid, think of those in South Africa who were victims or use the time more positively to think of peaceful solutions to the conflict. Remember, some of the most famous cults no longer exist….

Crying for the beloved Country

You have the right to know! Many will wonder why on earth is someone who chose to leave South Africa and start a new life in Israel is doing jumping on her soap box and giving her opinion about  the protection of State Information Bill that will be passed in South Africa on November 22nd.  (although it still needs to go to provincial level, then back to the president before being gazetted)

 The sign of a healthy democracy is a free and open press. The role of the media is to shine a light on the dark corners of government corruption and expose any form of bad governance. The rule is simple. The government is answerable to the citizens of the country it governs. Hey, they put you there – and they can remove you! In a democracy, the citizens have a right to know if their rulers are dodgy and/or if they are doing things with valuable tax money that raises an eyebrow. South Africans fought long and hard for true democratic rule and can boast one of the most progressive Constitutions in the world. The passing of a law that disallows the criticism of the government and its institutions and muzzles the press not only makes a mockery of the tenets to which many hold dear but is tragic for a country that can boast the Freedom Charter as a yardstick for measuring human rights. Yesterday the ruling ANC cocked a giant snoot at the South African Constitution, her citizens – and the fight of many to end Apartheid. There is no great difference between the censoring of the press in the Apartheid era and now!

 

I feel compelled to add my voice to the growing outcry against this bill. November 22nd 2011 will go down in South African history as one of its darkest days. Even though I live in Israel I showed my solidarity – as did many of my South African, American, Israeli and other colleagues – for “Black Tuesday” by wearing something black. The concept of a free press is something to hold sacred. A free press tells us that we live in countries that allow us the freedom of expression. As someone who makes a living as a wordsmith, the idea of being silenced would be like losing one of my senses. Although many would agree that the idea of Rolene Marks finally shutting up may be a good thing! Two weeks ago I was the subject of a hate blog – it seems someone took exception to my contrary opinion to theirs. I say bring it on!!! I will protect YOUR right to disagree with me.

 

I have spent most of my life doing some kind of advocacy work for Israel. More often than not I have heard many people grumbling about the Israeli press. It is too left, too right, criticises the government too much, does not criticise enough. Today I am grateful for our media. I am often asked why the world media is so hostile against Israel. Although it is painful to see my country unfairly singled out for opprobrium, I am glad that we allow it – and that we can hold our own against the accusations that come. Criticising the government is the national sport of Israel and the old adage “two Jews, four opinions” is very true. Long may we enjoy this right!

 

South Africa, your people fought bravely to end Apartheid and institute freedom for all. Continue the fight to include the media in the category “ALL”! In the immortal words of a protestor in Cape Town yesterday (and my apologies to non-South Africans who may not get the joke)….JOU MA SE SECRECY BILL!

Bearing Witness

Forgive me for diverting from my usual pieces about Aliyah but I feel it has become incumbent on me as an ex-South African and now citizen of Israel to write the following piece.
 
As many of you know, the State of Israel has been put on trial for the last three days in Cape Town, South Africa by the “judicial” (and I use that term loosely) farce known as the Russell Tribunal for crimes of Apartheid perpetrated against the Palestinian people. Given that the Tribunal has no official judicial status it can only be described as a kangaroo court. The Russell Tribunal forms part of the Betrand Russell Peace Foundation which was originally formed to investigate violations of international law and human rights.
 
For the past three days the sounds of kangaroos hopping their way to the courthouse has drowned out all sounds of reason. And the jury selection for this has been full of kangaroos (apologies for the comparison, cute marsupials from Australia!).From former Special Rapporteur for the UN on Palestine, John Dugard, who is almost as heinous as his successor to Red Ronnie Kasrils himself! And not to forget the Arch Tutu, Zackie Achmat and Winnie Mandela. Winnie “withdrew” from the panel. Perhaps her own scurrilous human rights record should face its own tribunal! Lest I forget star witness, Leila Khaled, she of first female airplane hijacker fame! And these are the people who judge Israel for human rights abuse? Laughable if it weren’t for the fact that the Tribunal is taking place in South Africa, former Apartheid state, the jurists are famed anti-Apartheid activists and the venue for this theatre of the ridiculous is the District Six Museum. Very symbolic. This is enough to have any anti-Israelist turning cartwheels and thinking all their birthdays have arrived at once.
 
So why have I decided to write this piece? As someone who grew up during the emergency state years in South Africa, I bore witness to the crime that was Apartheid. As an Israeli, I live the reality of what Israel is like every single day. Is there racism in this country? Yes, just as there is in any other. No, Israel is not utopia but neither is any other country – including South Africa. We tend to forget what the word Apartheid really means. Apartheid is defined as “the Afrikaans word meaning ‘separation’, Apartheid was the racial, social policy introduced by the National Party government of South Africa in 1948.” Today it is used to describe Israel. It is a very sexy catchword, after all it is emotive, evocative and provocative. Perfect if you want to package and market hatred. The very use of it to describe Israel is not only odious but makes a mockery and cheapens the tremendous suffering endured by South Africa’s black citizens.
 
Growing up in Apartheid South Africa, I bore witness on a daily basis to the inhumane suffering of my fellow citizens. Only they were not regarded as such. Denied the right to vote or have political representation they had no voice in government. Unlike MK Zoabi, an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset and another “star” tribunal witness. South Africans who were not perfect white specimens were denied the right to a decent education, receiving a “bantu education”, which was inferior to that I received. The Apartheid laws in South Africa denied black citizens the freedom of movement. I remember witnessing the humiliation of black men who were out past their curfew as police checked their pass books and in some circumstances whipped them with a sjambok (whip). Just because they could. As a child I once asked my mother why it was that nannies (domestic workers) always sat on the grass in the park. Was it that they did not like the chairs?Imagine my mother’s discomfort explaining to me that nannies were not allowed to sit on benches because they were for “whites only”. An idea that was unimaginable to my naïve childish mind. I also wondered where the black children were because they did not attend my school or my ballet class or swim in the same swimming pool as I did. If my father gave our “nanny” a lift anywhere, she has to sit in the back of the car for fear of breaking any racial laws. We as Jews come from a history where we understand too well the implications of racial laws. I could go on and on about the injustices suffered by black South Africans and it is extremely painful to write this piece as I also acknowledge how I as a white child benefitted.
 
I now focus on Israel. I am proud to be an Israeli citizen, it  is the realisation of a lifelong dream. Yes, this country is defined along ethnic lines – as was legally voted in by the United Nations and is no different from the countries, and there are many, who define themselves according to their Islamic identity. I live the day to day reality and it pains me to hear my country so erroneously compared to South Africa. Visit any Israeli hospital where Arab doctors treat Jewish patients and vice versa. Take the public transport and revel in the fact that there are no seats marked “Jews only”. Attend any of our Universities which are fully integrated. Visit the beach. Enjoy your lunch or coffee in any of our restaurants and coffee shops. Find your way around our country in Hebrew or Arabic (and yes sometimes even English) as they are our official languages. Vote for the Arab parties if you so wish. Have your case heard before Arab Supreme Court judge, Justice Joubron. Serve in our army or foreign service. Rest assured these are not positions reserved for Jews only. I am proud of our imperfect yet pluralistic democracy.
 
I am proud to call myself a Zionist Israeli. I challenge the jury of buffoons who dare sit in judgement to truly look at Israel with open eyes. I fear that they do not. The Russell Tribunal would not have been out of place in Salem circa the witch trials because it is exactly what it is.
 
Jurists of the tribunal, under the laws of balanced, democratic jurisprudence, I find you guilty of racism.

When the going gets tough, the tough get…….blogging!

When the going gets tough. The tough get blogging! Despite relative calm in Israel’s south since the end of Operation Cast Lead, last Thursday saw a drastic escalation in tension when terrorists killed 8 Israeli’s and wounded many others.

As an Olah Chadasha (new Immigrant) living in Israel you are always aware that your chosen country exists in a somewhat hostile and volatile neighbourhood. Our neighbours in the south  prefer to welcome us with a barrage of rockets and mortars than say, a homemade pie or cup of tea! Since Thursday, in excess of 100 rockets have been launched towards southern Israel.

Despite a ceasefire agreement, terrorists continue their barrage on Israeli cities and towns. This weekend while many enjoyed rest filled respite from a busy week, citizens in Southern Israel spent theirs in bomb shelters and on alert. How does one describe the anxiety that you feel when the victim whose description you have just heard matches the person you know? And then the bitter sense of relief when you realise it is not your friend but another family/person has lost someone they love? Or that fear you feel when the people you love could be called up to serve in the army at any time? It has been said time and time again that we see our young soldiers as sons and daughters that belong to us all. When you live here that feeling is so pervasive you ache. Our army who is often vilified by the world media are our fathers, sons, daughters, lovers, wives, mothers, husbands. They are the people we love. This is Israel when her citizens are under threat.

I have never been one to rest on my laurels and am quite famous for my well used soapbox and seeing that this blog is dedicated to my rantings, funny or otherwise, I will take advantage of the platform it allows to shoot my mouth off.Now that I have a small cult following of dedicated readers (thanks Guys, your cheques are in the mail!) I invite you all to share your opinions and
vent your frustrations here. One rule though: any interpersonal insults or abuse will be removed.

Of course what compounds our sense of frustration and anger at the situation is not only the fact that once again, we are reminded about the security challenges that we as a nation face but that the world media is silent. Where are the condemnations from the UN? United Nations or Useless Nations? Where are the world leaders when we need them to open their well excercised mouths while our citizens are running for cover? Where are the outcries and chart topping songs of the celebrities and human rights activists when international law is
flagrantly breached and Israeli citizens (and we come in all shapes sizes, religions and cultures) are targets? WHO SPEAKS FOR ISRAEL’S CHILDREN???

I have decided that it has become incumbent on us,the average person that cares, to launch an information offensive. Many point fingers at the Israeli PR machine. I have to disagree.

As someone who is addicted to information and digests a steady diet of news fed to me by info merchants, I cannot fault those in the relevant positions their ability to disseminate the facts as they happen. Yes, I do feel a difference in opinion from some  heading towards me at lightening speed!You are entitled to your opinion but I can confidently say that my email box has seen a steady stream of info coming in from people in the know.

In an age where social media networking tools such as this, afford opportunities for ordinary citizens to become newscasters, I urge you all to get blogging/emailing/tweeting/facebooking/writing to your local papers and become activists. In my many years of advocacy work for Israel and my experience working both sides of the media coin I have discovered that despite the amount of information available to certain editors or producers or people of influence, their mandates will always be decided otherwise. No, CNN and the BBC are not going to magically change editorial policy anytime soon. Sadly.

We can jump up and down and play the blame game or we can take matters into our own hands and become informed and active. Everything we need to know is available at the click of a button and a few second subscriptions to the relevant sites. If you need help or need to be pointed in the right direction, I am more than happy to help. Be smart! Remember that the information you share and how you communicate it represents us all.

At the risk of sounding like a giant cliche, I say, lets take back our power, become informed and take to the…erm…..information super highway now.

Now who is with me?