I Placed a Tile on the Wall of Peace

This article is featured in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2021/05/19/i-placed-a-tile-on-the-wall-of-peace/

I once placed a tile on the wall of peace. It was on the wall that divided Gaza from Israel and very close to the Kibbutz of Netiv Ha’asara. I left in there in the hope that it would leave just a little bit of a dream of peace on the barrier between Gaza and Israel.

Writing on the Wall. The wording on the tile the writer affixes to the mosaic, includes – peace, happiness, unity, tolerance, hope, love, freedom, kindness and laughter.

Earlier in the day I had heard from the brave residents of the kibbutz situated just metres away about their experiences of living a life under constant fire and threats of infiltration from terror tunnels being built underneath their homes.  Many people don’t realise that there is a metro, a network of terror tunnels that are designed with the intentions of smuggling weapons but also as a springboard to launch attacks on Israeli civilians by reaching into the sovereign territory and kidnapping or murdering civilians and soldiers.

 I had been inside a terror tunnel that the IDF had secured. It was a shocking reminder of a pervasive threat, its intentions deadly. I have been to the south of Israel many times. I have seen the bomb shelters that dot the landscape, heard the stories of the incredible, courageous citizens and seen the fear in our children’s eyes. I know there is fear in the eyes of the children of Gaza too. I know that Hamas and their ilk keep both of our populations under hostage of terror.

Spreading Hope. The writer adds her tile to the ‘Path to Peace’ mossaic

For the past week, Israel has been engaged in a defensive operation called “Operation Guardians of the Wall” to protect citizens against over 3000 rockets and mortars fired on the country and rout out Hamas’s terror infrastructure and top brass.

Countries have been supporting Israel recognizing the threat that Hamas poses, however many have urged the use of proportionality in our response all the while failing to explain how they see that happening. Israel endures a conflict with its neighbours in Gaza who are hell bent on our destruction, having this intention ingrained in their charter. No other country has endured a perpetual conflict where the enemy entity hides within its civilian population and commits a double war crime by firing from within their own into ours, aiming for maximum casualties. On the one side, the intent is to murder as many Israelis and on the other, it is to inflict harm on their own so that they can rack up those devastating optics in the media. So far several hundred rockets fired have landed in the strip and 40 civilians have been killed as a result, including at least 5 children.

But it is a strategy that is working.

Model Behaviour? Daughters of Palestinian real-estate developer Mohamed Hadid  and Dutch model Yolanda, supermodels Bella and Gigi Hadid are among celebrities who have been posting about the Israel-Palestine conflict.

We cannot underscore the role of media, and how it has been weaponized against Israel. At a time where ratings rather than lives matter, facts have become a casualty. Journalists and networks no longer care about context, nuance and the reality on the ground but rather views, engagement and ratings. Celebrities and social media influences have globbed on to this as well and in their haste to drive up their likes and shares and boast social justice credentials. To this end, they are playing a large part in sharing mistruths and propaganda. It also feeds into the never ending drip feeding of woke perpetual victimhood culture. They have little knowledge but massive reach – and that is dangerous. The supermodel Hadid sisters have a combined reach of over 100 million and other celebrities as well. This is many, many more times the total number of Jews in the world. Now, most would scoff at the idea of learning about the Middle East conflict from swimsuit models and comedians but here we are. It is dangerous and contributing to a climate of hate for Jews around the world.

While they have been astoundingly silent of issues like the Syrian civil war where 4000 Palestinians were slaughtered or have failed to drum up a march for the Uighur Muslims in concentration camps, Israel and global Jewry is fair game. https://www.youtube.com/embed/Occbrw0Xikk?enablejsapi=1&autoplay=0&cc_load_policy=0&cc_lang_pref=&iv_load_policy=1&loop=0&modestbranding=1&rel=1&fs=1&playsinline=0&autohide=2&theme=dark&color=red&controls=1&

What has become disproportionate as the result of poor reporting and ignorant but eager social media posting is the hatred spilling over into the streets of cities around the world. It is entirely possible and probable to draw a line connecting what is reported in the media and a rise in anti-Semitic sentiment that is starting to become inherently violent.  In the past week, Jewish communities around the world have faced a tsunami of hatred from London, where Jewish women were even threatened with rape, to Toronto where a Rabbi was beaten to New York, Brussels, Cape Town, Montreal, Sydney and everywhere in between.  Many are wondering if they will ever be safe again and if it is not time to make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel).

Social media has become a free for all and many like me who have been doing double duty as frontline activists in the war against misinformation have face a blitzkrieg of hate invective. I use the term blitzkrieg intentionally because I have lost count of how many death wishes I have received, including pictures of Hitler telling me that this is the “cure for me” and disappointments that a rocket – one of over 3000  – has not killed me yet!

Pursuing Peace. Visitors standing before the “Path to Peace”, a joint mosaic creation, by thousands of people, towards hope, love, and happiness among all people. The creation is placed upon the border wall that divides Gaza and Israel.
 
 

But I will tell you what I know for sure at the risk of sounding glib. At Pesach time we read the ancient words that in every generation there are those who rise up to act against us. We have survived millennia of persecution and hatred and whatever it was that sustained our ancestors, is what we have inside us now and no matter how dark it seems we will prevail.

Israel’s army and our Iron Dome will continue to defend the country physically. The battle in the media and in the court of public opinion will continue and it is up to each of us to form that shield against misinformation and lies, a human Iron Dome if you will. Israel will continue to pursue and dream of peace while defending ourselves with all our might. And so it will continue.

 I placed that tile with a sense of hope. Because hope allows us to dream big. To believe in better days to come. I once placed a tile on the wall of peace, hoping it would be part of building a solid foundation, no matter how dark and hate filled the climate of the world is right now against Israel. It represented my hopes and dreams, for our people and theirs. Will my dreams be realized? I can only hope. https://www.youtube.com/embed/RjwdLaefniw?enablejsapi=1&autoplay=0&cc_load_policy=0&cc_lang_pref=&iv_load_policy=1&loop=0&modestbranding=1&rel=1&fs=1&playsinline=0&autohide=2&theme=dark&color=red&controls=1&

Media Watchdog

This article appears in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2021/05/11/medea-watchdog/

As tensions rise and Israel is currently engaged in conflagration with terror entities in the Gaza strip, the media plays a vital role in ensuring that coverage is factual. But are they presenting the full picture and truth behind some of the headlines or are they engaged in a battle for clicks and views?

Rolene Marks writes this open letter to the Daily Mail and other media outlets.

To the Editor

It is 07h41 here in Israel and I am writing this while sitting in my bomb shelter. I am no different to the hundreds of thousands doing the same thing. In the last 13 hours, over 200 rockets have been fired from Gaza from terror entities in the Gaza strip, placing millions of Israelis, Jewish, Christian and Muslim in immediate danger. This also invites a response from Israel that places civilians in Gaza in danger and so the cycle continues.

Rockets are launched by Palestinian terrorists into Israel in Gaza, May 10, 2021.

I have read your coverage and would like to draw attention to important facts that need to be made public and have not been included in your coverage. You have not mentioned that 3 children were killed when a rocket misfired. Why were those children close to a rocket launcher? Why is it not mentioned that civilians are used as human shield by terror entities like Hamas and Islamic Jihad who are firing these rockets, threatening to turn cities like Ashkelon “into hell”? Are you aware that 1/3 of rockets fired have landed in the Gaza strip, endangering Palestinian civilians as well? Hamas and other terror entities are committed to inviting as much conflict as possible. Are you aware that residents of a Kibbutz close to the Gaza border yesterday were told to lock themselves in their homes for fear of infiltration? https://mfa.gov.il/MFA/PressRoom/2021/Pages/The-rocket-attacks-on-Jerusalem-and-southern-Israel-10-May-2021.aspx

 With regards to the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah – I am attaching this legal explanation on the situation.  https://en.kohelet.org.il/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/sheikh-jarrah-brief.pdf.

Please note that this could also be sorted out if the Palestinian residents agreed to a rental option – like most residents living in homes owned by others do.

A screenshot of drone footage of a home in Jerusalem damaged by Hamas rocket fire. (Photo: Channel N12 screenshot.)

Are you also aware that protestors in the Al Aqsa Mosque stockpiled rocks and cinder blocks? This is a desecration of a holy site. Rocks were thrown at police and civilians to the cries of “bomb bomb Tel Aviv” and “with our blood and our bodies we will redeem Al Aqsa“.  Yesterday, a Jewish Israeli man was almost lynched but your coverage implied that he randomly rammed his car into some Palestinians. Rocks were thrown at his car, gas/mace sprayed in his eyes and he was almost pulled out of his car. Please correct. Please also mention the 7-month-old baby in Hadassah Hospital who sustained wounds to the forehead from a rock thrown at the car she was in. Thank goodness for a teddy bear tucked into the car seat that absorbed the impact. Yesterday rockets were fired towards Jerusalem, to the cheers of Palestinians as captured on Sky News. What if one of those rockets hit Al Aqsa Mosque as rockets have hit apartments buildings and houses in the last  13 hours? In addition, nearly 50 fires have been set off in southern Israel as a result of arson balloons from the Gaza strip, destroying valuable agricultural farmland.

An apartment building in Ashkelon was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, May 11, 2021.

When covering the conflict between Israel and her neighbours, it is tempting to look at Israel as the Goliath to the Palestinian David. I implore you to take a closer look. This is a conflict where nuance and context is very important and more often than not, is lost in the coverage.

Thank you.

Kind regards

 Rolene Marks

Modiin

Israel.

Anne Frank and the Dangers of Holocaust Appropriation

This article appears on Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2021/05/06/anne-frank-and-the-dangers-of-holocaust-appropriation/

A famous celebrity once remarked that social media is “the toilet of the internet”. Okay, so that person was Lady Gaga but whether or not you are a fan of pop culture or spend some time traversing the nonsense posted on various social media platforms, you have to admit there is great truth in her words.

Some weeks are worse than others and this past week really took the cake. For some reason #AnneFrank was trending and this piqued my curiosity. I almost wish it hadn’t because what I found was nothing short of nauseating.

Anne Frank, age twelve, at her school desk. Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 1941. (Anne Frank Stichting)

During this past year as the world has endured a pandemic that has caused immense pain and loss, the disturbing trend of Holocaust appropriation, which is the re-purposing of imagery, narratives experiences from the Shoah to push another agenda or explain other historical crimes and occurrences has found oxygen.

We are familiar with the images of anti-vaxxers or those fed up with lockdowns marching in cities across the world, wearing the yellow stars that Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust, saying that their “human rights” are being eroded. Spoiler alert: sitting on your couch watching copious amounts of Netflix while shopping on Amazon or having the right to choose whether or not you wanted to have a potentially life-saving vaccine is not nearly the same experience as being rounded up, forced into a ghetto, beaten, tortured, starved, worked to death, marched to death, gassed and burned because you are Jewish. THAT is what the yellow star signified.

One of the enduring symbols of the Holocaust is Anne Frank. The story of the Jewish teenager has been immortalized in her diary and has been used as an educational tool and translated into many languages for millions around the world.  Anne Frank has both captivated and broken hearts the world over, and through her words and experiences, we have come to better understand what life under Nazi occupation was like for her and her family, as they went into hiding with several others, in a tiny space, hidden for years by righteous gentiles who risked their lives knowing what the penalty for those they hid, as well as themselves.

History Abused. Dreams of a young girl surviving through the Holocaust are ‘re-purposed’ for the agendas of political activists today. (Photograph from UPI / Corbis-Bettmann)

It was certain death!

The millions of us who have read her story have shared in her daily frustrations, the precocious personality of a typical teenager experiencing the changes and her heartbreaks as well as the very real fear and hurt of being targeted for death for the crime of being a Jew. Anne Frank put a name and a face to the 1 500 000 children murdered in the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people. For many people, Anne Frank put a human face to a catastrophe many viewed in the abstract.

Anne and her sister Margot were sent to Bergen Belsen after their secret annex was discovered. They died of typhus and their bodies thrown into a mass grave. Their father Otto Frank, survived them.

So why was she trending on Twitter?

I have seen many appalling things posted to Twitter but a post from Black Hammer (see below) takes the cake. To date, me and many others have reported it. I am still waiting for it to be removed from Twitter for violating community standards.

Black Hammer describe themselves on Twitter as follows “We are an anticolonial organization dedicated to getting our land back! Join us in making a city with no rent, kkkops, rona or colonizers at http://blackhammer.”

Their litany of tweets features appalling spelling and grammar that is almost as offensive as their ribald antisemitism and flagrant racism; but we cannot dismiss the fact that they opened up a discussion and debate. In the context of having important discussions about race and intolerance, this would have been important but we CANNOT fight racism by promoting antisemitism. The above stated tweet (where do I even begin with all the things that are offensive!) just trotted out every vile, racist tropes that is guaranteed to inflame the masses. And inflame them they did.  J-Twitter (that’s Jewish Twitter) responded in numbers expressing outrage and trying as much as possible to debunk the accusations and were joined by others saying it was offensive BUT is also gave a tailwind to the haters and the conversation spiraled downwards to the point where Anne herself was accused of being a “colonizer” and proceeds from the sale of her book going towards “the funding of the genocide of the Palestinian people.”  There was so much discussion that it resulted in the topic being one of the top trending hashtags for the week – for the wrong reasons.

The gross exploitation and appropriation of the image of Anne Frank to promote a political agenda.

In the oppression Olympics there are no winners. There is a very real danger in ignoring, debasing or appropriating the narrative of another to push an agenda which in this case, feeds into people’s distaste for colonization. For Black Hammer, the facts don’t seem to matter – the only thing that matters is demonizing the one so that they can promote the agenda of the other, often with dangerous and deadly consequences.

The dangers are not restricted to social media and the opinions of the haters. As time marches on, we lose more and more of the witnesses to the Holocaust and so we have to be their voice. At a time when the global conscience on racism is acutely aware of its effects, so we have to ensure that all conversations about hatred include the oldest – antisemitism. Holocaust appropriation cannot be allowed to get a free pass. It is an imperative that we fight it wherever it appears. Failure to do so means that not only is our narrative taken from us but that victims of hatred are once again silenced.

Anne Frank once said, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart”. If only the hope expressed through this remarkable young woman – whose story resonates through the generations in the hope that it would educate people and remind them that we were not just numbers but had names, lives and experiences – would be realized. We have to do better by Anne.

We have to be the voice of people who are really good at heart. 

The Man for all Seasons

This article currently appears in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2021/04/12/the-man-for-all-seasons/

HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh leaves behind a tremendous legacy including support of Jewish and Pro-Israel causes.

He was the dashing naval World War II veteran and hero who was the very symbol of dedication and duty. The quintessential alpha male, he was to Her Majesty, The Queen, the love of her life for over 70 years, her unconditional support, her “strength and stay” and theirs was a love affair for the ages.

Theirs was love for the ages. Prince Philip and Her Majesty the Queen

At the great age of 99, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh passed away peacefully at his home, Windsor Castle.

When someone passes away, it is often only after their death when we find out the magnitude of the work that they have done or causes they supported. Prince Philip was no exception. Tributes have poured in from all corners of the globe and knowledge of his tremendous dedication and patronages to over 800 charities and endeavours, including various branches of the British armed forces; it appears that each community has been impacted by his work. Minutes after the news of his passing broke, tributes from Jewish leaders across the United Kingdom and Commonwealth were sent, expressing  gratitude for an extraordinary life, well lived.

HRH Prince Philip with Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l, former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, in an interview with the BBC shared the following anecdote. He recalled being invited to visit the Royal family at Windsor Castle, where Prince Philip “particularly wanted me to see one particular gift that Her Majesty the Queen had received in the 1960s. And in the Royal Library, he showed me a Torah scroll that she had received as a gift. And he wanted me to explain it to him.”

“It was one of the Czech scrolls, and I was able to first of all describe what a Torah scroll is; and that in addition, this particular scroll had been rescued from the former Czechoslovakia,” he said. “It had been intended to be part of what the Nazis wanted to be a museum to the people that used to exist. And therefore, in Czechoslovakia, none of the Torah scrolls were destroyed. A whole lot of these scrolls were brought to London and one was presented to the queen.”

Israeli leadership was no different and statements from President Rivlin, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry, Lior Haiat and Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely paid tribute to Prince Philip, highlighting his exceptional dedication to duty and extending their condolences not just to the Royal Family whose loss is irreplaceable, but to all citizens of the UK and Commonwealth. It was noted that he would be missed amongst Israel’s people as well because we share a very special connection to the man affectionately known as The Iron Duke.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, third from left, poses with the Duke of Edinburgh, left, Queen Elizabeth II, right, Israeli President Ezer Weizman and his wife Reuma at a State Banquet in their honor at Buckingham Palace, London, in this February 25, 1997 file photo. (AP Photo/John Stillwell/pool)

Israelis have had a complicated relationship with the British Royal Family. Many have wondered over the years why there had been no official visits from Her Majesty, The Queen. Was it an unofficial boycott because of uprisings against the British Mandate before 1947? Was it to not anger Arab Royal Families? Or was it simply because the Foreign Office had not requested it?

Prince Philip and his sister, Princess Sophie, laying a wreath at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial on October 31, 1994. (Photo by Beni Berk from the Dan Hadani Archive, Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel)

This was until 1994, when HRH Prince Philip became the first Royal to visit – albeit in a personal capacity. The reason for his visit was very special. His mother, The Princess Alice was being honoured by Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial and museum for being a Righteous Amongst the Nations. Princess Alice had been assisting the Swedish and Swiss Red Cross to help care for refugees, heard of the Cohen family who she knew personally and would soon be deported by the Nazi’s and opened the doors of the palace on the outskirts of Athens to them. The Cohens remained in the palace for 13 months, with the Princess regularly visiting and talking at length with Rachel the mother and assigned the family two Greeks who helped the family keep in contact with the outside world. Helping a Jewish family came with great risks, especially for Princess Alice. Three of her four daughters had married German princes, who were serving as SS officers. Suspicions of her loyalty were rife, and Philip, her only son had much earlier enlisted to the British Royal navy at aged 18 where he served throughout the war with distinction.

Prince Philip watering a maple tree planted in memory of his mother at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, October 31, 1994. (Photo by Beni Berk from the Dan Hadani Archive, Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel.)

“I suspect that it never occurred to her that her action was in any way special. She was a person with deep religious faith and she would have considered it to be a totally human action to fellow human beings in distress,” said Prince Philip when commenting about his mother’s heroic actions. https://www.youtube.com/embed/iCRLhihkh9s?enablejsapi=1&autoplay=0&cc_load_policy=0&cc_lang_pref=&iv_load_policy=1&loop=0&modestbranding=1&rel=1&fs=1&playsinline=0&autohide=2&theme=dark&color=red&controls=1&

During his trip to Israel, Prince Philip also met with members of the Jewish Legion who served in His Majesty’s Army. In 2018 Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, made the first official visit to Israel and was received with great enthusiasm and admiration and Prince Charles has visited several times, one of them being for the funeral of slain Prime Minister, Yitzchak Rabin.

Jewish and Israeli causes were of great interest to the Prince. He often addressed Zionist organisations like the Jewish National Fund and critics of this were firmly ignored by him. The Prince did what he felt was right and did not suffer fools. He is famous for some of his salty gaffes which only endeared him more to people, especially at a time when woke culture seems to be taking over the world.

Prince Philip jokes with British WWII veterans Nathan Kohaen (right) and Arthur Stark, who immigrated to Israel, during a ceremony at the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Ramle, Israel, on Oct. 30, 1994, where he came to lay a wreath (AP Photo)

He was a great promoter of interfaith dialogue and was extremely dedicated to this work but for me, it is his Duke of Edinburgh Awards aimed at encouraging youth to excel, adopted here in Israel by WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organisation) that is particularly sentimental.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme was set up in the UK in 1956 and operates in 140 countries around the globe. In 1982, Israel adopted the scheme, known locally as ‘Ot Hanoar – The Israel Youth Award Scheme. “It’s what I like to describe as a do-it-yourself growing-up kit,” HRH Prince Philip once said of the scheme, “it has helped countless young people on their sometimes difficult path to adulthood.”

The project involves four main principles set out for youth from the ages of 14-25, which enhances their abilities and potential, increases their awareness of the importance of public and communal affairs. The four main principles are: developing a hobby, physical exercise, volunteerism within the community, and challenging expeditions.

The scheme has changed the lives of so many young Israelis in WIZO Youth Villages and schools who have benefitted greatly from the vision of the late Duke of Edinburgh to become the very best version of themselves – going out in the world as ambassadors for WIZO and Israel. The hundreds of stories from graduates from this scheme are testimony to the living legacy of the man who dedicated his life to Queen, country and duty.

Celebrating 73 years of marriage. The last picture of the Duke of Edinburgh with Her Majesty The Queen, look at an anniversary card made by the children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Prince Philip was the man for all seasons. Steadfast and strong, modest and universally admired, his passing will leave a void in the world. It is humbling to see the tributes flowing in and the people of Britain, despite restrictions due to the pandemic, expressing their love and admiration across the generations. We extend our condolences to Her Majesty, The Queen, the Royal family and the people of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth.

Goodnight sweet Prince, may flights of angels wing thee to thy rest.

The Arab World Fighting Antisemitism

This article is featured in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2021/03/31/the-arab-world-fighting-antisemitism/

How Arab countries have become the new leaders in the fight against growing antisemitism.

There is a pervasive sense of optimism winding its way through the Middle East since the signing of the Abraham Accords. Hardly a day goes by without a major announcement of new Memorandums of Understanding signaling co-operation in some or other field; friendships between Bahrainis, Moroccans, Emiratis and Israelis are blossoming on social media and Israel even managed to pull off a sporting miracle – beating the Emirati team 33-0 in a friendly rugby match. https://www.youtube.com/embed/S-A8C_FEbTo?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent

It is proof of what happens when peace takes flight!

Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion once said that in order to live in Israel, one had to be a realist and believe in miracles. And where better than in a land where decades of strife and disorder and now being turned into normalization, recognition and mutual co-operation?

Perhaps the greatest miracle of all is the one that is poised to undo generations of suspicion, incitement and even hatred. The Arab world is fast becoming a great example of how to lead in the fights against antisemitism.

For decades and at least since the beginning of the 20th century, antisemitism has spread throughout the Arab world as a result of a number of reasons. The fall of the Ottoman Empire, the spread of Western Imperialism, the relations between Nazi leaders and the Arab world are some reasons why anti-Jewish propaganda found eager recipients in many parts and bred resentment against Jews and Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people.

Jews had experienced a relatively protected existence against persecution in Arab countries. Long seen as “People of the Book”, Jews were granted dhimmi status. This meant that they were not treated equally and were subject to specific laws, restrictions and taxes (called jizya) but protected against being killed. We could scoff indignantly (and should!) at this but in other countries where Jews were a minority, they endured far worse.

From Khartoum With Hate. A summit of the heads of Arab League countries, held in Khartoum, Sudan following the Arab defeat in the Six Day War in June 1967, the leaders in a press release expressed: “no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel.”

In the 20th century as Pan-Arabism and Islamism spread, an estimated 850 000 Jews were expelled from Arab lands following the establishment of the modern State of Israel.  The communities that thrived in Libya and Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Morocco and so many others, dwindled down to few or ceased to exist.

Decades later, anti-Jewish sentiment would spread through these countries and also manifest itself as hatred against Israel, the Jewish state. Who can forget the infamous 3 No’s of Khartoum? No recognition, no negotiation, no peace.

But something remarkable has happened with the signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel, the USA, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates as well as Morocco and the Sudan.

The signing of these Accords is more than just recognition or normalization. While hardly a day goes by without news of yet another investment or area of cooperation, perhaps one of the most important clauses is tolerance and promotion of education against antisemitism. Tolerance education has been policy in Bahrain and the UAE since before the Accords were officially signed and it is so evident in the exchanges between Emiratis, Bahrainis and Israelis online. But this connection is deeper than 120 characters on Twitter. It is also evident in the interfaith events that have almost become the order of the day. A sukkah (temporary decorative shelter) nonchalantly perched outside the Burj Khalifa in Dubai during the Jewish festival of Sukkot spoke volumes, just as the minyan (quorum of 10 men required for prayers) at the synagogue in Manama, Bahrain. These are just glimpses into the relationships that are being built on a daily basis.

Constructive Engagement. Amongst Dubai’s towering skyscrapers, a tine structure surprisingly rose in  October 2020 – a Sukkah at the base of the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa. The sukkah – a temporary shelter where Jews gather to celebrate the weeklong harvest festival of Sukkot  – was set up following the US-brokered deal to normalize relations between the UAE and Israel.(AP)
 

But there is something more “tachlis” that is happening on the ground. Arab countries that have normalized ties with Israel are starting to institute policies that take major steps that help fix decades of mistrust, incitement and hatred.

The signing of the Abraham Accords itself stands as historical. The recognition of Israel in the Arab world says this Jewish state exists, it is a part of our region, we will no longer ignore or deny its sovereignty and we will build strong and lasting ties. This is profoundly significant at a time when daily attacks on Israeli sovereignty come from quarters in the far right and far left and when peace in the Middle East was thought to be contingent on an agreement between Israel and her Palestinian neighbours. Former US Secretary of State, John Kerry must feel a fool because this was a theory he espoused many times. The three No’s have become the three yesses. Yes to recognition, yes to negotiation and yes to peace.

Bahrain Bounces Back . At the end of a synagogue service occurring on the sidelines of the US administration’s economic peace workshop held in Bahraini capital Manama in 2019 the men, clad in prayer shawls, broke out in song, walking around the bimah and singing “Am Yisrael Chai” – the people of Israel live.

Bahrain signed another important agreement. The Gulf state signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the US department of State where they adopted the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of antisemitism, becoming the first Arab country to do so. Under the agreement, both sides vowed to promote and share the best procedures for tackling antisemitism and anti-Zionism, including efforts to delegitimize Israel. This is a far cry from many countries around the world, including in Europe where antisemitism is rising to astronomical levels.

Another Arab world first is the decision by Morocco to include Jewish history and culture as part of the school curriculum. Islam is the official state religion and according to Education Minister Said Amzazi and the heads of two Moroccan associations who signed a partnership agreement this will pave the way “for the promotion of values of tolerance, diversity and coexistence in schools and universities.”

Morocco’s King Mohammed V1, is also “Commander of the Faithful,” has pushed for a tolerant Islam that ensures freedom of worship for Jews and foreign Christians.

These Arab countries are paving the way through practical, important and sincere examples of how to lead in the fight against antisemitism.  They are not relying on platitudes but are putting words into actions, something that many other countries should be cognizant of.

Winds of Change. With Morocco to become first Arab nation to teach Jewish history, culture in schools, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI visits the Bayt Dakira Museum in Essaouira.  King Mohammed VI’s declaration that he will normalize ties with Israel has had “the impact of a tsunami,” says head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Morocco. (Photo: AFP via the Moroccan Royal Palace)

It is hoped that more Arab countries will join the ever growing circle of peace. This will go a long way to winning increasing battles in the fight against antisemitism, however it may manifest itself. The proof is in the interaction that is growing not just between governments but ordinary citizens who value tolerance and co-existence.  This is an example that the rest of the world could and should be following.

This celebrates three new yeses. Yes to tolerance. Yes to education. Yes to peaceful co-existence.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/J4reD6_qQtk?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent

Israel Sends Vaccines to Palestinians

This article is featured in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2021/03/15/israel-sends-vaccines-to-palestinians/

Israel is currently the world leader in rolling out the vaccine and it is predicted that nearly all adults will be vaccinated by next month. Along with this great achievement, has come a certain level of criticism focusing on whether or not Israel is responsible for vaccinating the neighbouring Palestinian populations in Gaza and the West Bank. It is extremely important to understand what the situation on the ground is before making accusations like the one in the article “Israel violates international law by blocking vaccines to Gaza”.

Since the start of the global pandemic, Israel has been cooperating with  our Palestinians neighbours, ensuring that they receive much needed testing kits, PPE, training and other medical necessities through the relevant authorities, NGO’s and COGAT, the IDF unit responsible. This effort was lauded by UN Special Envoy to the region, Nikolay Mladenov.

People waiting in line to get vaccinated against the coronavirus in Jerusalem. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

In an official statement dated November 26, 2020, issued to the residents of the Gaza Strip by Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, IDF Maj. Gen. Abu Rukun stated:

   “We find it important to emphasize clearly that neither I, nor the organization that I head, nor any other representative of Israel, has obstructed any request or requirement for the entry of medical aid of any kind. We welcome all assistance from all the various sources. In light of the situation, COGAT is allowing assistance from the international community to the health system of the Gaza Strip.

IDF Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun chief Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)

So far, many dozens of ventilator machines have arrived, as well as many PCR machines, which have increased the pace of testing from 200 to 2,500 tests a day.    Dozens of oxygen generators have arrived, and hundreds of inhalers for hospital use and home use. Hundreds of hospital beds have been added, and with our coordination, approximately 600 tons of essential medications and medical equipment have been allowed entry, including tens of thousands of coronavirus testing kits.

    All that assistance can help the health system to provide care and save lives. COVID-19 pandemic is a global challenge, and it behooves all parties to strive for a solution to that challenge.”

The Gaza Strip is governed by Hamas who is recognized internationally as a terrorist organization.

Distributing Covid aid and vaccines has not been without its challenges. Two plane loads of Covid aid from the United Arab Emirates was summarily rejected by the Palestinian Authority “because it was coordinated with Israel and landed at Ben Gurion airport”. This aid was subsequently distributed with the help of the World Health Organisation and UN. The rationale for refusal according to a Palestinian government source was that “Palestinians refuse to be a bridge [for Arab countries] seeking to have normalised ties with Israel.”

In May 2020, Palestinian Authority rejected UAE aid sent via Israeli airport giving its reason  that it would be seen as a ‘cover for normalisation’ of ties with Israel”.
 

The Israeli government moved decisively and quickly to procure vaccinations as soon as they were able, in order to inoculate our citizens. The roll out has been an exceptional achievement, applauded by many around the world. At the end of December 2020, a Palestinian Health Ministry official stated “we do not need or require help from Israel to procure vaccines. We have our own health ministry and are not an extension of the defense ministry (of Israel).” Israel is on record as stating that while vaccinating our citizens remains the priority, we will help the Palestinians as needed.

Is Israel legally responsible for vaccinating Palestinians?

Israelis and the Palestinian Authority are both signatories to the 1995 Oslo Peace Accords, which awards Palestinians autonomy with their healthcare, including responsibility for vaccines. For Israel to take responsibility for vaccinating the Palestinian population, it would be a violation of this autonomy.

In article 17 of the Third (Civilian) annex to the Oslo 2 accord, the Palestinian side assumed full powers and responsibilities in the field of health care. They undertook in paragraph 2 of article 17:

 “…to continue to apply the present standards of vaccination of Palestinians and shall improve them according to internationally accepted standards in the field, taking into account WHO recommendations.”

In paragraphs 6 and 7, they agreed that:

   “Israel and the Palestinian side shall exchange information regarding epidemics and contagious diseases, shall cooperate in combating them and shall develop methods for exchange of medical files and documents.”

Similarly:

    “The health systems of Israel and of the Palestinian side will maintain good working relations in all matters, including mutual assistance in providing first aid in cases of emergency, medical instruction, professional training and exchange of information.”

This is a clear case of Israel is damned if it does – and damned if it doesn’t. The Palestinian Authority  have received Russian Sputnik vaccines as part of the international  Covax scheme. Israel began vaccinating over 120,000 Palestinian workers who enter the country daily with legal permits as well as sent vaccines to the Palestinian Authority to vaccinate healthcare workers. By admission from PA officials, some of these vaccines did not go to healthcare workers as intended but rather to the Palestinian soccer team and government officials. Perhaps corruption and cronyism is more to blame than the convenient finger pointing at Israel.

A Palestinian health worker is vaccinated against COVID-19 after the delivery of doses from Israel in West Bank city of Bethlehem. (REUTERS – MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA)

Israel has sent vaccines into the Gaza strip and while there is a  legal maritime blockade in place that is recognized by the United Nations, it has not prohibited Israel in ensuring aid and vaccines continues to enter the strip. Israel, the West bank and the Gaza strip share the same epidemiological footprint and so Israel has ensured that vaccines continue to be distributed to our neighbours. Epidemiological and moral responsibility require both Israel and the Palestinians to act responsibly and to cooperate with a view to reducing the risk of COVID-19 spreading between their respective territories and as such regardless of not being legally bound, Israel continues to send vaccines. Accusations of such as the one made in the above mentioned article are extremely unproductive, unhelpful and devoid of fact. In the interest of a global triumph over a pandemic that has already destroyed so much, please do not let it further erode the integrity of responsible reporting.

A health worker prepares to vaccinate former Palestinian health minister Jawad Tibi against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine in Gaza City February 22, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

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layoftheland376996452BDS, Health & Leisure, Israel-Arab Relations, Science & Technology March 15, 2021 5 Minutes

By Rolene Marks

Israel is currently the world leader in rolling out the vaccine and it is predicted that nearly all adults will be vaccinated by next month. Along with this great achievement, has come a certain level of criticism focusing on whether or not Israel is responsible for vaccinating the neighbouring Palestinian populations in Gaza and the West Bank. It is extremely important to understand what the situation on the ground is before making accusations like the one in the article “Israel violates international law by blocking vaccines to Gaza”.

Since the start of the global pandemic, Israel has been cooperating with  our Palestinians neighbours, ensuring that they receive much needed testing kits, PPE, training and other medical necessities through the relevant authorities, NGO’s and COGAT, the IDF unit responsible. This effort was lauded by UN Special Envoy to the region, Nikolay Mladenov.

People waiting in line to get vaccinated against the coronavirus in Jerusalem. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

In an official statement dated November 26, 2020, issued to the residents of the Gaza Strip by Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, IDF Maj. Gen. Abu Rukun stated:

   “We find it important to emphasize clearly that neither I, nor the organization that I head, nor any other representative of Israel, has obstructed any request or requirement for the entry of medical aid of any kind. We welcome all assistance from all the various sources. In light of the situation, COGAT is allowing assistance from the international community to the health system of the Gaza Strip.

IDF Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun chief Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)

So far, many dozens of ventilator machines have arrived, as well as many PCR machines, which have increased the pace of testing from 200 to 2,500 tests a day.    Dozens of oxygen generators have arrived, and hundreds of inhalers for hospital use and home use. Hundreds of hospital beds have been added, and with our coordination, approximately 600 tons of essential medications and medical equipment have been allowed entry, including tens of thousands of coronavirus testing kits.

    All that assistance can help the health system to provide care and save lives. COVID-19 pandemic is a global challenge, and it behooves all parties to strive for a solution to that challenge.”

The Gaza Strip is governed by Hamas who is recognized internationally as a terrorist organization.

Distributing Covid aid and vaccines has not been without its challenges. Two plane loads of Covid aid from the United Arab Emirates was summarily rejected by the Palestinian Authority “because it was coordinated with Israel and landed at Ben Gurion airport”. This aid was subsequently distributed with the help of the World Health Organisation and UN. The rationale for refusal according to a Palestinian government source was that “Palestinians refuse to be a bridge [for Arab countries] seeking to have normalised ties with Israel.”

In May 2020, Palestinian Authority rejected UAE aid sent via Israeli airport giving its reason  that it would be seen as a ‘cover for normalisation’ of ties with Israel”.
 

The Israeli government moved decisively and quickly to procure vaccinations as soon as they were able, in order to inoculate our citizens. The roll out has been an exceptional achievement, applauded by many around the world. At the end of December 2020, a Palestinian Health Ministry official stated “we do not need or require help from Israel to procure vaccines. We have our own health ministry and are not an extension of the defense ministry (of Israel).” Israel is on record as stating that while vaccinating our citizens remains the priority, we will help the Palestinians as needed.

Is Israel legally responsible for vaccinating Palestinians?

Israelis and the Palestinian Authority are both signatories to the 1995 Oslo Peace Accords, which awards Palestinians autonomy with their healthcare, including responsibility for vaccines. For Israel to take responsibility for vaccinating the Palestinian population, it would be a violation of this autonomy.

In article 17 of the Third (Civilian) annex to the Oslo 2 accord, the Palestinian side assumed full powers and responsibilities in the field of health care. They undertook in paragraph 2 of article 17:

 “…to continue to apply the present standards of vaccination of Palestinians and shall improve them according to internationally accepted standards in the field, taking into account WHO recommendations.”

In paragraphs 6 and 7, they agreed that:

   “Israel and the Palestinian side shall exchange information regarding epidemics and contagious diseases, shall cooperate in combating them and shall develop methods for exchange of medical files and documents.”

Similarly:

    “The health systems of Israel and of the Palestinian side will maintain good working relations in all matters, including mutual assistance in providing first aid in cases of emergency, medical instruction, professional training and exchange of information.”

This is a clear case of Israel is damned if it does – and damned if it doesn’t. The Palestinian Authority  have received Russian Sputnik vaccines as part of the international  Covax scheme. Israel began vaccinating over 120,000 Palestinian workers who enter the country daily with legal permits as well as sent vaccines to the Palestinian Authority to vaccinate healthcare workers. By admission from PA officials, some of these vaccines did not go to healthcare workers as intended but rather to the Palestinian soccer team and government officials. Perhaps corruption and cronyism is more to blame than the convenient finger pointing at Israel.

A Palestinian health worker is vaccinated against COVID-19 after the delivery of doses from Israel in West Bank city of Bethlehem. (REUTERS – MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA)

Israel has sent vaccines into the Gaza strip and while there is a  legal maritime blockade in place that is recognized by the United Nations, it has not prohibited Israel in ensuring aid and vaccines continues to enter the strip. Israel, the West bank and the Gaza strip share the same epidemiological footprint and so Israel has ensured that vaccines continue to be distributed to our neighbours. Epidemiological and moral responsibility require both Israel and the Palestinians to act responsibly and to cooperate with a view to reducing the risk of COVID-19 spreading between their respective territories and as such regardless of not being legally bound, Israel continues to send vaccines. Accusations of such as the one made in the above mentioned article are extremely unproductive, unhelpful and devoid of fact. In the interest of a global triumph over a pandemic that has already destroyed so much, please do not let it further erode the integrity of responsible reporting.

A health worker prepares to vaccinate former Palestinian health minister Jawad Tibi against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine in Gaza City February 22, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

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

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Middle Eastern Winds Blow into Africa

This article is featured in Lay of the Landhttps://layoftheland.online/2021/03/02/middle-eastern-winds-blow-into-africa/

A response to a recent opinion piece by Soraya Dadoo on IOL titled: ’Time to call out AU members on Palestine’.

The winds of change are blowing through the Middle East and the trajectory is heading down into the African continent. More and more, African leaders are establishing bilateral ties with the State of Israel, realizing that cooperation is beneficial for the people of their countries. They are realizing that this can be achieved without having to be partisan; and make a choice between supporting either Israel or the Palestinians. Leaders of African states who sincerely would like a peaceful solution to the conflict and perhaps contribute to negotiations, are making overtures to the Jewish state, by normalizing ties like Sudan and Morocco or moving their embassies to the capital, Jerusalem, like Malawi and Equatorial Guinea. Trade and cooperation between the continent and Israel is growing and during this difficult global pandemic, Israel has confirmed it will give vaccines to African countries that include Ethiopia, Chad, Kenya, Uganda, Guinea  and more, in addition to those they are , but not legally obliged, to give to Palestinians.

A map of Africa shown to US-Jewish leaders by PM Netanyahu at a conference in Jerusalem, February 18, 2019. Since then Morocco and Sudan have joined those countries that have relationships with Israel. Mali and Niger are in the process. (TOI staff)

It seems almost natural that African countries would seek to build bridges with Israel. Many of these countries have a historical and political trajectory that mirrors that of the Jewish State and Israel is perfectly poised to help on many levels. Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism wrote about what he saw as two peoples whose mutual histories of slavery and colonisation mirrored each other.

“There is still one other question arising out of the disaster of nations which remains unsolved to this day, and whose profound tragedy, only a Jew can comprehend. This is the African question. Just call to mind all those terrible episodes of the slave trade, of human beings who, merely because they were black, were stolen like cattle, taken prisoner, captured and sold. Their children grew up in strange lands, the objects of contempt and hostility because their complexions were different. I am not ashamed to say, though I may expose myself to ridicule for saying so, that once I have witnessed the redemption of the Jews, my people, I wish also to assist in the redemption of the Africans.”

Today his wishes are coming true as many African countries call on Israel for help with security, economic, medical, agricultural and social challenges. Prime Minister Netanyahu has visited the continent more than previous Israeli leaders, at the invitation of African leaders and speaks of warm relations between countries. https://www.youtube.com/embed/6q6Vdjejeak?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent

Sadly, there are still those, such as some African Union states, who remain fixated on division, having an almost pathological hatred of Israel that any positive steps that could help create frameworks for positive ties are anathema.  They would rather focus on a few resolutions adopted by the African Union that are not unanimous and have no bearing on the reality on the ground than engage in discourse and discussions about how to assist both Israelis and Palestinians in brokering peace. https://www.youtube.com/embed/92tAFS792Us?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent

One such example is a recent resolution adopted by the AU which refers to the Hamas-initiated “March of Return” which took place on a weekly basis for over a year, following the moving of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The resolution manages to ignore the incendiary rhetoric of Hamas and focuses on the “killing of 62 protesters”. This refers to the infamous March of Return campaign initiated by Hamas who using their civilians as cannon fodder, launched weekly protests on Israel’s border with Gaza, with the aim of averting attention from an internal crisis but also the more nefarious infiltration into Israeli communities with the intention of either kidnapping or killing civilians. Of the 62 “protesters” that were killed, the vast majority were Hamas and other terror group operatives. https://www.youtube.com/embed/_j2MHs6m4X4?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent

These weekly protests stopped, having failed to achieve their intended goals – and also because the world has grown increasingly weary of this approach by those who choose to gamble with the lives of their civilians and pursue violence at every opportunity.

For the African Union as an institution or South Africa, one of their most vociferous member states, to play a meaningful in helping to broker or negotiate peace between Israel and the Palestinians, perhaps more cooperation and listening is needed and less recrimination, politics of blame and feckless accusations by those who push a blatant agenda.

And Then They Came for Us

This is currently featured in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2021/02/23/and-then-they-came-for-us/

Big Tech censorship is hurting the freedom of speech.

One of the great barometers of any democracy is the right to free speech. The freedom of speech is ingrained and protected by law or constitutions in any self-respecting democracy. Many of us are familiar with the tenet made famous by Voltaire, “I disapprove with what you say but I will defend to death your right to say it”. The ability to engage in polite albeit robust discourse, where we may disagree with each other is one of life’s great intellectual pursuits.

Today, many of these opportunities to engage in discourse have moved on to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and the like. Social media provides an excellent opportunity for us not just to engage; but to educate as well and that is something that Lay of the Land is committed to. We are not only focused on bringing you excellent, original content and news headlines from Israel but we want to introduce the world to those stories. We, like many, rely on these platforms to help our writers and content receive the exposure they deserve.

In the last few months, an ominous trend has surfaced. “Big Tech” companies (this includes the giants like Facebook, Twitter and others) have started to restrict the online exposure of any pages, groups and individuals who may post “political” content. Of course another reason could be to try and hold off for more advertising, although the former is more likely the reason that people are being censored. Big Tech company owners certainly do not need to be making more money!

As the US election race between Trump and Biden heated up, so did the engagement on social media platforms. This was one of the most polarizing elections in many, many years. Debate on social media veered quickly from differences in opinion to all out abuse from both sides.

Social media giants Facebook, Twitter and others (also referred to as “Big Tech”) took the decision to censor or de-platform many who they believed flouted the laws on common decency. Many of these people were far rightists and it took moments for them to find alternative platforms like Parler to congregate. They were quickly de-platformed by platform hosts like Apple, Amazon and others.

Freedom of speech is sacrosanct in a democracy and one hopes that people are able to make up their minds about issues, no matter how loathsome they might find the other side.

There is a fundamental difference between hate speech and free speech. Any speech that endorses violence or hatred against opposing viewpoints or minority communities needs to be dealt with in the strongest terms and within the law.

In the age of extremely short and competitive news cycles, the importance of balanced reporting has never been more critical. Social media has become another arm for news networks and journalists to share information and a good barometer of measuring where public opinion is holding. Sometimes the barometer shows high temperatures!

The problem is that Big Tech companies are not too crazy about networks or journalists that do not meet their increasingly more “woke” agendas. They have embarked on a policy of restricting groups, individuals or business that they think may be overtly political and have descriptions that raise an alert in their algorithms. Oh how I miss the days we dealt with people rationally and did not have to fight an algorithm!

One prime example of this is Facebook. In the last few weeks, the social media giant has clamped down on groups, pages and businesses. This has become personal.

Many of us, including Lay of the Land rely on social media platforms to grow exposure – and also to educate. Our exposure and reach has been significantly impacted and restricted – as have many fundraising organisations who have felt the pinch because certain wording in their description may not fit in with Facebook’s monitoring algorithms.

Silhouettes are seen in front of the logo of US social media Facebook in Brussels, February 14, 2020. (Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

The words Zionism may not be immune.

In a leaked email dated 10 November 2020 and written by a Facebook employee; hinted that they may review their policy on allowing the term “Zionist.” Pro-Palestinian groups argue that such a move would endanger free speech on Israel issues.

In the email dated Nov. 10, the unidentified employee wrote to an unidentified source: “We are looking at the question of how we should interpret attacks on ‘Zionists’ to determine whether the term is used as a proxy for attacking Jewish or Israeli people. The term brings with it much history and various meanings, and we are looking to increase our understanding of how it is used by people on our platform”. Only this policy significantly impacts the ability to explain and educate about Zionism as well. It is ironic that the social media platform that is now acting as the thought police; also received a “D” rating for banning Holocaust denial.

Facing Off. In response to the Australian government introducing a law that will make tech giants pay for news content, Facebook responded by banning all Australian news content from its platform taken the ‘battle’ to a whole new level.
 

And then there is Australia. Last week Australians searching Facebook for their news updates were instead shown notifications saying ‘no posts’ were available. Attempting to share news links brought up a message saying, ‘this post can’t be shared’.

This was Facebook’s petulant response to a policy initiated by the Australian government to charge the social media giant for news content on their site, an agreement that has been reached with Google.

But the shock move also stopped some government messages from being shared, including from emergency services providing essential information on the Covid-19 pandemic, fires, and help for victims of domestic violence. It also impacted on various charities; foodbanks and at least one missing person’s page were also caught up in the ban.

Other countries weighed in, showing their support for Australia. US President Biden has also commented on the “arrogance” of Big Tech. The United Kingdom and European Union states are also debating instituting the same legislation in their countries. Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, accused Facebook of committing an “act of war on a sovereign state”.

Facebook v Australia. This isn’t cricket. Front pages of Australian newspapers featuring stories about Facebook in Sydney, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. In a surprise retaliatory, Facebook blocked Australians from sharing news stories, escalating a fight with the government over whether powerful tech companies should have to pay news organizations for content. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

It is extremely dangerous when Big Tech becomes powerful enough to wage an information war on sovereign states. We as news consumers and free thinking human beings deserve the right and access to information which gives us the ability to make informed decisions.  Big Tech companies, worth billions, certainly can afford to pay the tariffs!

Perhaps Facebook could spend their energy in monitoring hate speech more effectively than dictating what information people should be allowed to access.

This time it has become personal. Draconian, unchecked censorship by Big Tech who are flexing their muscles; is hurting businesses and steadily eroding free speech.

First they came for the politicians, then they came for those that they disagree with, then they came for the sovereign states. And then they came for us.

The question is when will this end?

Casualties of Conflict

This article is currently featured in Lay of the Land:

The frightening phenomenon of Palestinian Child Soldiers

he United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)  https://www.youtube.com/embed/wNbWoIO5Vv4?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent Video clip revealing kids receiving military training at a Hamas summer camp.

Children are usually the first casualties of conflict. The world is currently commemorating Child Soldiers Week – however it is more a “blink and you miss it” occasion as this frightening phenomenon doesn’t seem to feature high on the list of global priorities and has a fancy coloured ribbon or trendy hashtag attached.  In the Middle East, this is not restricted to victims of conflict but also another phenomenon which is more often than not ignored. Palestinian children, often robbed of their rights to live normal childhoods and dreams and aspirations of future careers, are forced to become child soldiers by terror groups like Hamas, Palestinian Jihad, Fatah and others who force them into the frontlines. This is a flagrant abuse of their personal and human rights, not to mention their safety. https://www.youtube.com/embed/aC9skvsAHYY?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent Taught in TerrorA horrifying spotlight on Palestinian Child Soldier Week 2020.

As  defined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states, a “child soldier” is:

 “…any person below 18 years of age who is or who has been recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity, including but not limited to children, boys and girls, used as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers, spies or for sexual purposes”.

The definition is not limited to a child who is taking or has taken a direct part in hostilities.

Palestinian baby in the colours of Hamas perched for the cameras on top of tires about to be burnt in a protest at the Gaza border with Israel.

Palestinian children in particular, are extremely vulnerable to being exploited.  Palestinian children grow up on a steady diet of incitement and hatred; indoctrinated into their impressionable young minds from an early age. The Palestinian children learn from an early age, the phrase ” اذبح اليهود”  (“Slaughter the Jews”) in Arabic.  This refers specifically to “Jews” which includes Israelis.  That wording is very deliberate – and also refers to Jews outside of Israel.

The chilling images of cartoonish Mickey Mouse type characters like Farfur the mouse or Nahul the bee on children’s television shows have shown us that abuse of this kind starts young. This indoctrination carries on into the formative school years.

God Willing. Assud, the ‘holy war’ rabbit promoting death to Jews under the protection of Allah.

Summer holidays bring with them, an opportunity to go to camp. This is not an opportunity for Palestinian children to learn arts and crafts and sing songs around the campfire. Instead, approximately 10 000 children will be schooled as auxiliaries and militia members and attend grueling basic training boot camps. There, children will learn to march, engage in combat maneuvers, weapon operation, and terrorist tactics, with the intention of carrying out attacks by who they are trained to see as the “enemy”. Their enemy is Israel, Jews and those who identify as Zionists. Their aim is to “wipe out the Zionist entity”. Children are then recruited to the frontline, alongside terror group leaders.

Summer Camp. An inside look at a summer camp in Gaza where the kids are dressed in military fatigues with plastic firearms.

Children from as young as 9 and up to the age of 17 have been pushed into combat, to fight and die alongside the adults. This is not restricted just to engaging in combat – children, as well as the elderly and women are used as human shields and it is not uncommon to hear Hamas and their ilk boasting about the use of their civilians as cannon fodder. While in some cases the youngest of these casualties has been covered up with older, fake ages on casualty lists, Hamas and PIJ have been proud of the teenagers that have been “martyred” in battle. To be “martyred” often means being awarded rock star status with their images on posters around the neighbourhood and streets and other buildings named in their honour.  

Stolen Childhood. A tweeted photo of children playing with toy guns who, it claimed, were attending a Hamas-run pre-school. 

Exploiting their innocence, terror groups have recruited children to become suicide bombers, stabbers or rock throwers. These children often do not fully understand the consequences of this; and believe that they are fulfilling a noble cause.

​Children used as “suicide stabbers” are a tactic often employed by Fatah. Encouraged by an economy of hate; where terrorists and their families are paid monthly stipends and a steady diet of incitement, there has been a significant increase in children being recruited for this. This has been referred to as “pay for slay” and for the Palestinians to show that they are sincere about peace, this practice needs to end. 

Hamas launches a festival in Nablus with symbolic rockets aimed at Israel. (Photo: Atef Safadi)

In order to stab and viciously murder men, women and children at the age of 17, one has to have been brainwashed for years prior to that.

Terror leaders often encourage children to engage in violent riots.  They are taught by radical organizations to throw stones at passing cars and people. This is not an innocuous act; several Israelis have been killed or severely maimed by this kind of action. The “romantic” image of the rock wielding Palestinian against the perceived Israeli Goliath also has very real consequences. Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of stone-throwing incidents occur every year at the behest of Palestinian organizations. Children are systematically used as riot fodder. Seen as great occasions of resistance, schools are closed and children are bused to the front lines to be used as a modern day shield-wall.  This was a regular occurrence during the “March of Return” where thousands of Palestinians would riot at the border fence between Israel and Gaza. The disabled were also bused to the frontline and on several occasions, rioters set donkeys alight. Quite often, children are bribed to rush security fences and try to sabotage them. What did this achieve? Absolutely nothing.

Stolen Childhood. A tweeted photo of children playing with toy guns who, it claimed, were attending a Hamas-run pre-school. 

The parents are fully aware and know that their teenage children are in a danger zone and may be severely harmed; but still encourage them; knowing that they may not return home safely.

Children are also used as terror labourers. Terror organisations like Hamas within the Gaza strip have built an underground network of tunnels for the purposes of smuggling weapons and launching attacks on Israeli civilians. These tunnels are usually built with a child labour force, operating in lethal sweatshop conditions. By 2012, over 9 children had been buried alive and killed while digging tunnels and there has been no indication that this practice has stopped.

“Our Children Love Martyrdom”. This Hamas photo glorifies ‘Child Soldier Deaths’ as the highest calling.

Using children as combatants in conflict is one of the grossest forms of child abuse and there needs to be more of an international outcry – and action to put an immediate stop to this practice. Children deserve to enjoy their childhood and their youth without become human weapons of terror. Any sincere path to peace depends on this.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/YIBNRVgq59Y?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent Hamas indoctrination of Kids: Bombs more precious than children

Vaccination Controversy

This is featured on Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2021/01/20/vaccination-controversy/

Answering Palestinian Accusations of Racism

Israel is leading the world in the country’s efforts to vaccinate its population. This has not been without criticism from many in the media who believe Israel should assume responsibility for vaccinating the neighbouring Palestinians. The Palestinian Foreign Minister accused Israel of racism for not vaccinating his citizens. TheDaily Mail online, which enjoys one of the largest readerships in the world, published an article featuring the FM’s false narrative.

Founded in 1896, the Daily Mail is the United Kingdom’s highest-circulated daily newspaper. 
 

Lay of the Land Co-Founder, Rolene Marks replies in an open letter:

To the Editor

Your article about Palestinians accusing Israel of being racist with regards to the vaccination roll out refers.

Israel is currently the world leader and has to date vaccinated 27% of our population. Along with this great achievement, has come a certain level of criticism focusing on whether or not Israel is responsible for vaccinating the neighbouring Palestinians. It is extremely important to understand the situation on the ground.

Since the start of the global pandemic, Israel has been cooperating with the Palestinians, ensuring that they receive much needed testing kits, PPE, training and other medical necessities through the relevant authorities, NGO’s and COGAT, the IDF unit responsible. This effort was lauded by UN Special Envoy to the region, Nikolay Mladenov. This has not been without its challenges. Two plane loads of Covid aid from the United Arab Emirates was summarily rejected by the Palestinian Authority “because it was coordinated with Israel and landed at Ben Gurion airport”. This aid was subsequently distributed with the help of the World Health Organisation and UN.

The Israeli government moved decisively and quickly to procure vaccinations as soon as they were able, in order to inoculate our citizens. The roll out has been an exceptional achievement, applauded by many around the world. At the end of December 2020, a Palestinian Health Ministry official stated “we do not need or require help from Israel to procure vaccines. We have our own health ministry and are not an extension of the defense ministry (of Israel).” Israel is on record as stating that while vaccinating our citizens remains the priority, we will help the Palestinians as needed.

Israelis and Palestinians are both signatories to the 1995 Oslo Peace Accords, which awards Palestinians autonomy with their healthcare, including responsibility for vaccines. For Israel to take responsibility for vaccinating the Palestinian population, it would be a violation of this autonomy. This is a clear case of Israel is damned if it does – and damned if it doesn’t. The Palestinians will be receiving Russian Sputnik vaccines in the coming days with the help of the WHO. There should be enough budget in the coffers of the Palestinian Authority for more, seeing that millions of dollars are spent annually ensuring that the salaries and stipends for convicted terrorists and their families are paid.

UAE Covid aid for Palestine lands at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport but is refused  on the grounds according to a Palestinian government source that “Palestinians refuse to be a bridge [for Arab countries] seeking to have normalised ties with Israel.”
 

In the Gaza strip, the situation is more complicated. Gaza is governed by Hamas, who are recognised internationally as terrorist organisation; and an enemy entity of Israel. Aid and training including doctors, specifically not Jewish, has still been sent into the Gaza strip in coordination with the above mentioned NGO’s and COGAT. Hamas, in protest of what they see as insufficient aid, forbade their citizens to seek medical help at a field hospital run by a Christian non-profit last week. This did not make any headlines. Neither did the two rockets, fired from the northern part of the strip towards the Israeli port city of Ashdod. A flagrant waste of good budget that could be used for much needed vaccines. Thank goodness these rockets landed in the sea and not in an apartment or kindergarten as they have in the past.

Accusations of racism, which coincidentally are made AFTER mainstream media criticises Israel are extremely unproductive, unhelpful and devoid of fact. In the interest of a global triumph over a pandemic that has already destroyed so much, please do not let it further erode the integrity of responsible reporting.

Kind regards

Rolene Marks


The article:

Israel is accused of ‘racism’ by Palestinian PM after excluding 4million people in the West Bank and Gaza from its Covid-19 vaccine program