THE BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY OF HATE

This article appears in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2022/07/07/the-billion-dollar-industry-of-hate/

Human Rights organisations are no longer just focuses on social justice issues but very heavily funded, many times to push particular agendas.

The human rights industry is worth billions of dollars. This is serious wonga! According to recent statistics reported by the Business Research Company, the global human rights organizations market size was expected to grow from $16.60 billion in 2021 to $17.47 billion in 2022 at a compound annual growth rate. That is a lot of lucre.

One could see why people are drawn to working for human rights organisations – after all who wouldn’t want to work for what they perceive is a noble and just cause? The two most notable organisations are Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. There are notable parallels between these organisations. Both of these once venerated NGO’s were founded by Jews. Both enjoy extremely high profiles and trust. Both are seen as the litmus test for evaluating human rights transgressions. Both have a clear obsession with the State of Israel. Both have seen their original founders publicly distance themselves from the organisations for fear they were headed down a dangerous, agenda driven road.

When an organization, no matter how noble their mandate is, starts to veer off course and head down a very dubious path it often raises question “who is funding them?”

For the purposes of this article, we will take a look at Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch (HRW) describe itself as “an independent, nongovernmental organization, supported by contributions from private individuals and foundations worldwide. Human Rights Watch does not solicit or accept donations by governments, directly or indirectly.  This includes governments, government foundations, and government officials.  Indirect donations include those that are, or appear to be, made on behalf of a government or government official through an immediate family member, another intermediary, or a foundation.” In other words, this is who funds us; but don’t expect us to tell you exactly who they are. This is a procedure followed by Amnesty International as well and is no indication of untoward practice but when these organisations take a stroll down dangerous lanes, it does beg the question – who is doling out the dough?

Robert L. Bernstein, the founder of Human Rights Watch eventually turned against the organization that he started with noble intentions.

In an op-ed in The New York Times in October 2009, he wrote:

As the founder of Human Rights Watch, its active chairman for 20 years and now founding chairman emeritus, I must do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group’s critics. Human Rights Watch had as its original mission to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and supportdissenters. But recently it has been issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.”

This has become more and more apparent as HRW turn its focus away from the many human rights atrocities and points a damning finger at Israel. HRW’s former Director Ken Roth who retires next month, has devoted the majority of his online social media presence to singling out Israel – but what else can you expect from someone who once tweeted about “being invited for  coffee with Hezbollah” or that Hamas’ use of tunnels to potentially kidnap Israeli soldiers, did not necessarily contravene international law.

Human Rights Watch has lost critical perspective on a conflict in which Israel has been repeatedly attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations that go after Israeli citizens and use their own people as human shields. These groups are supported by the government of Iran, which has openly declared its intention not just to destroy Israel but to murder Jews everywhere. This incitement to genocide is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

But Roth has not stopped there. It has become a daily activity amongst Israel advocates and our allies to call Roth out on his obsessive tweeting about Israel while staying silent on gross human rights violations across the world. He could tweet about the Palestinian Authority crackdown on journalists and critics or the million + Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps in China, or the Biafran people in Nigeria, or the genocide of Christians in that country. There are sadly, countless other conflicts or oppressed people that could do with a smidgeon of Ken’s attention.

Instead he turns his attention to Israel, accusations of Apartheid, excoriating Israel’s leadership – all with a generous serving of Ben & Jerry’s boycott endorsements.

It is no coincidence that Roth is focusing so much attention on the overpriced ice-cream manufacturers boycott, after all it was his colleague, Omar Shakir, who advised the Ben & Jerry’s board.

Remember when ice-cream didn’t have an opinion?

Omar Shakir, the Director of HRW Israel-Palestine, was booted out of the country in 2019 for BDS activities that contravened Israel’s laws. He has now dedicated his energy and time to publishing reports accusing the Jewish State of war crimes during the May 2021 conflagration and a separate one accusing the country of practices of Apartheid – while scarcely a mention about any transgressions from Hamas or the Palestinian Authority. Shakir even went so far as to totally redefine the term Apartheid to push his agenda – a strategy Amnesty International also followed in their recent report.

Can HRW, an organization that practices such flagrant bias and whose Directors are routinely accused of antisemitism not just by Jews but by notable politicians and other high profile people, still be taken seriously or even considered a human rights organisation?

What is extraordinary are the huge salaries received by Roth and his ilk as evidenced in the most recent report featured below.

The cost of hate creation (Courtesy of UN Watch)

While the organization is careful to disclose its financials, it will not disclose which countries, governments, associates etc. write the big cheques.

When a respected human rights organization falls foul of its mandate to the point where its founders raise the alarm bells, one has to ask who is forking out the finance?

Amnesty International

The other “big hitter” in the human rights world is Amnesty International. Founded in 1961 by Peter Benenson, a British lawyer. It was originally his intention to launch an appeal in Britain with the aim of obtaining an amnesty for prisoners of conscience all over the world. Before his passing in 2005, Benenson denounced Amnesty International for its fixation of the State of Israel.

Amnesty International (AI) has a well-documented history of anti-Israel and antisemitic activity and this has been exposed by organisations such as NGO Monitor. A huge portion of its budget seems to focus on nefarious ways to undermining and delegitimizing Israel – including its recent report accusing the Jewish state of “crimes against humanity and practicing apartheid”. They managed to magically redefine what Apartheid was in order to push its agenda. 

Antisemitism, hatred and incitement conveyed in a seemingly subtle way with intentional misuse of the term Apartheid (AI)

Examples include its 2015 rejection of a “Campaign against anti-Semitism in the UK” – the only proposed resolution at its Annual General Meeting that was not adopted; comments by its current Secretary General that Israel is a “government that is rogue” and the head of its Finland branch that Israel is a “scum state”; and the fact that no other country in a conflict zone is the focus of similar Amnesty-led boycotts. Amnesty International have routinely hired staff who have posted antisemitic content on social media including Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty UK’s “crisis response manager” who tweeted on November 19, 2012, during Operation Pillar of Defense, “Louise Ellman, Robert Halfon & Luciana Berger walk into a bar….each orders a round of B52s (inspired by @KarlreMarks Bar quips) #Gaza.” The three people he characterized as war-mongers are British Members of Parliament, all of whom are Jewish.

The organisation refused requests to investigate rising antisemitism in the United Kingdom and have routinely embarked on campaigns to promote boycotts, divestment and sanctions on the Jewish state.

Pay to create hate. Amnesty International salary scale

Their above mentioned report released in February this was the bitter cherry on the cake  and has been dismissed by countries including France, the USA, the UK, the Netherlands and many more as it is seen as a clear breach of the widely recognised International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. The code adopted by the UK government and other authorities’ worldwide states that it is antisemitic to deny Jews their right to self-determination “by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour”. There is genuine concern that this report could add fuel to the already flaming fires of antisemitism.

But Amnesty International have also come under fire. Legal figures and MPs in the UK have called for the UK Charity Commission to consider Amnesty’s status because publishing such a report from its UK office could be a contravention of the clearly stated criteria of the Charity Commission.

Just last month, an independent inquiry into AI’s secretariat found that the human rights organisation has a culture of white privilege with incidents of overt racism. Ouch! (Click and read the full report here).

Some of the accusations include:

Senior staff using the N-word and P-word, with colleagues labelled over-sensitive if they complained.

Systemic bias including the capability of black staff being questioned consistently and without justification, and minority ethnic staff feeling disempowered and sidelined on projects. Micro-aggressive behaviour such as the touching of black colleagues’ hair.

A lack of awareness or sensitivity to religious practices resulting in problematic comments and behaviour, including mocking Ramadan.

Aggressive and dismissive behaviour, particularly over email and often directed towards staff in offices in the global south.

Kieran Aldred, who worked for AIUK as an advocacy officer for three years until 2018 said:

 ““Working for AIUK destroyed my self-confidence, my belief in my capabilities. I didn’t think I was skilled enough to do my job, that any organisation would ever hire me, let alone promote me, and I suffered from ongoing depression and anxiety.”

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s Chief Executive, said:

“It is critical in the change that we need to make at Amnesty UK that we acknowledge that his report makes abundantly clear the scale of the transformation we must make to change lots about Amnesty UK as a place to work.”

This is the same organization that spends a fair chunk of cash writing reports, trotting out “experts” like notorious anti-Israel activist, Miko Peled, running seminars and putting up posters and billboards accusing Israel of Apartheid.

These two organisations are not the only heavily funded, agenda rife NGO’s. There are many others. This is not to say all human rights organisations have flung out their mandates in favour of disproportionate focus on the Jewish state.

As Russia’s assault on Ukraine rages on and with it a trail of human rights abuse and China continues to imprison Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps, Christians murdered in Nigeria, Iran hangs dissidents and members of the LGBTQI+ community and many other crimes against humanity continue, perhaps the megabucks poured into the human rights industry is best spent focusing on their plight and not on rallying up hate against the Jewish state.

THE LITTLE COUNTRY THAT DID

This article is featured in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2022/06/23/the-country-that-did/

Voting with the “big Boys” at the UN puts Eswatini firmly on the map

The very mention of the United Nations is guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of most people – especially mention of the Human Rights Council. In this chamber of the absurd, some of the world’s worst human rights violators, including Venezuela, Iran, and North Korea have all held court and sat on the presiding council and some of the most ridiculous resolutions have been passed against Israel. The Jewish state has; and continues to be the focus of an obscene amount of attention – at great expense to other conflicts and human rights abuses around the world.

Last week, in this circus of the ridiculous, the UNHRC’s “Commission of Inquiry” – an investigation that was set up following last year’s 11 day flare up between Israel and Hamas, the internationally recognized terror entity that controls the Gaza strip, presented their findings. Naturally the verdict was that Israel was and is responsible for the ongoing conflict with her neighbours.

The Commission of Inquiry managed to gives as little reference to the incitement of hate and acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas and other Iranian sponsored terror entities in the Gaza strip as possible.

Problematic Pillay. Heading the transparently flawed “Commission of Inquiry” into last year’s 11-day flare up between Israel and Hamas is  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, a strong supporter of BDS that calls for the end of the State of Israel.

The Commission of Inquiry was headed by Navi Pillay, a known anti-Israel agitator who has in the past endorsed the BDS movement which calls for the end of the State of Israel, applauded Iran for signing the 2001 anti-Israel UN declaration and has been proven to have personal ties with members of the PFLP, which is on the international terror list. It is no wonder Israel refused to cooperate with such an inquiry.

Why bother going through the façade? The Commission of Inquiry was endorsed by North Korea though – and the Palestinian representative who called for the USA to be kicked off the UNHRC. It would be comical if it wasn’t so serious because some people still believe in the veracity of such an organization.

Obsessive Anti-Israel Bias. Israel envoy to the United Nations Gilad Erdan rips up a Human Rights Council report at the podium, October 29, 2021 criticizing it for its disproportionate condemnation of Israel saying it belongs in “the dustbin of antisemitism”. (Screen grab)

But something extraordinary happened. The United States led 22 countries, followed the next day by Australia, in a statement condemning the UNHRC for amongst other things, their “disproportionate focus on Israel” and this commission which is counterproductive to the cause of peace.

The diverse group of countries led by the USA and spanning the continents included Israel, Austria, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Hungary, Eswatini, Brazil, Cameroon, Micronesia, Canada, United Kingdom, Togo, Colombia, Guatemala, Croatia, Liberia, Marshall Island, Nauru, North Macedonia and Palau denounced the Commission of Inquiry.

They were joined the next day by Australia who slammed the UNHRC’s “disproportionate focus on Israel and the Commission of Inquiry that does not serve the cause of peace”. There was an encouraging presence of African countries who also grow weary of having to take sides when they could benefit from what Israel has to offer and play a concrete role as African Union members towards brokering a resolution to the conflict – a role which sadly South Africa who also harbours an unproductive obsession with the Jewish state, has forfeited.

What was particularly heartening to see was the amount of African states breaking with stalemates of the past to come out and take a stand for Israel.  Israel, recognizing the similarities between our history and challenges to those of African countries has focused attention on growing bilateral ties on the continent. This is evident in the recent granting of observer status at the African Union (AU) and the steady growth of bilateral ties.

There is huge significance to the African states voting in Israel’s favour at the UN. It means the decades long African bloc stalemate has now been broken.

One country in particular stands out. Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) often garners very few headlines but last week the tiny, Southern African state, by voting in favour of Israel along with the leading democracies of the world made a bold statement – we are here, and we came to play. Make no mistake, each country’s vote, no matter the size or perceived level of importance, carries the same weight.

A New Dawn. The landlocked kingdom of Eswatini, formerly Swaziland in Southern Africa voted in favour of Israel along with the leading democracies of the world in condemning the UNHRC for amongst other things, their “disproportionate focus on Israel”.

The message Eswatini sent was clear. We stand with Israel. We recognize the benefits that having ties to a country like Israel, that leads in so many areas can have for our country. We won’t be bullied by neighbouring South Africa to vote against Israel. South Africa’s major foreign policy focus for 2022 is getting Israel’s observer status at the AU revoked – a disappointing choice for a country plagued by so many challenges that the Jewish state can help with.

Eswatini, by breaking with tradition sent a strong, resounding message. Size doesn’t matter – rather it is the imperative of taking moral and principled stands at an institution that is fast losing its cachet. Eswatini has shown the country can stand alongside the world’s leading democracies – and hold its own. Eswatini has shown that when it comes to what is best for its citizens – will not be coerced. Eswatini has shown leadership by example.

The Southern African state has not only firmly established itself on the world stage but it has proven it is the little country that could – and did.

A MAZEL TOV FIT FOR A QUEEN

This article features in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2022/06/09/a-mazel-tov-fit-for-a-queen/

Celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth 2 as the monarch celebrates 70 years of an extraordinary reign.

“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

Princess Elizabeth, South Africa, 1947

We don’t know her thoughts or opinions – a rare feat in in today’s world where everyone is obsessed with sharing everything on social media. She has never given an interview – also a rare feat when most in the public eye are clambering over each other for a few minutes with a camera. We only found out this past weekend what the most famous and respected woman keeps in her chic Launer handbag (besides her lipstick!) and this revelation came courtesy of a beloved fictional bear. When Paddington Bear and her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II took tea last weekend in a clip for the Platinum Jubilee, we discovered that Her Maj keeps a marmalade sandwich safely tucked in there.

While we may now know this delightful titbit, what many don’t know about is the long and sometimes complicated history that the Royal family have with Jews and Israel.

Many have criticized the Queen for never visiting Israel. What many don’t realise is that foreign trips are made at the request of the British Foreign Office wanting to deploy the soft diplomacy and convening power that royalty has. The Queen cannot send anyone to The Tower (although I think she may have been tempted a few times with her family over the last two years!) but the monarch and her family wield an ambassadorial and convening power that is second to none.

The respected historian, Andrew Roberts, once said that the British government had a de facto ban in place on state visits by Queen Elizabeth II to Israel. “The true reason of course, is that the FO [Foreign Office] has a ban on official royal visits to Israel, which is even more powerful for its being unwritten and unacknowledged. As an act of delegitimization of Israel, this effective boycott is quite as serious as other similar acts, such as the academic boycott, and is the direct fault of the FO Arabists. It is, therefore, no coincidence that although the Queen has made over 250 official overseas visits to 129 different countries during her reign, neither has ever been to Israel on an official visit,” said Roberts, addressing attendees at a gala dinner in London.

The Queen at her coronation.

The Queen has received Israeli dignatories including former President Shimon Peres who was awarded an honourary knighthood in 2008. Peres was knighted with the Grand Cross of the order of St Michael and St George.

For 30 minutes, Peres spoke to the Queen about Israel’s history and current situation and gave the Queen two gifts: a letter written by her father, George VI, upon the official recognition by Britain of the state of Israel, and two silver candlesticks in the shape of pomegranates.

The former President described their meeting as:

 “friendly and informal; the Queen asked me a lot of questions on Israel. I was very moved to be the representative who received this honour for the state of Israel. The whole ceremony was not for me as an individual but a mark of respect for the country. I felt I was a shaliach mitzvah (emissary dispatched to do a mitzvah).”

Mr. Peres spoke to the Queen about the suffering of the town of Sderot and said that “the British learnt from the bible and we learnt from the British democracy.”

Arise, Sir Peres. The Queen knights Shimon Peres

Even though the Queen has never visited Israel, she has had strong ties with the Jewish community (even hiring a Jewish mohel to perform a royal circumcision) and has met with Holocaust survivors on many occasions.

One such meeting was at an event marking 60 years of liberation of Bergen Belsen. The late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z”l who was present, later recounted: “When the time came for her to leave, she stayed. And stayed. One of her attendants said that he had never known her to linger so long after her scheduled departure. She gave each survivor – it was a large group – her focused, unhurried attention. She stood with each until they had finished telling their personal story.”

Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, spoke of meeting the Queen and Prince Philip in his memoirs and how they took a keen interest in his work and Jewish traditions.

Over the years, members of the Jewish community have been honoured at investitures for their work and contribution in a variety of fields including Holocaust and Jewish education. WIZO’s founding mother, Rebecca Sieff, was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) as has former WIZO UK President, Lorraine Warren and other WIZO Presidents from the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries.

The late Prince Philip was well known for his politically-incorrect gaffes which some attribute to an attempt to make people laugh and put them at ease. While the foreign office forbid royal visits to Israel, the Duke of Edinburgh visited in a private capacity several times for a very honourable reason. His mother, Princess Alice, who is buried in Jerusalem, has been honoured by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Amongst the Nations for saving the lives of a Jewish family during the Holocaust.

In recent years, two future kings, Prince Charles and Prince William have visited the Jewish state.

Prince Charles represented Her Majesty at the funeral of slain Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzchak Rabin and has supported Jewish causes and visited Israel in recent years.

Prince Charles, once ridiculed for his propensity to prefer conversing with plants than politicians and intellectuals, has said that he prefers to regard himself as the defender of faiths rather than of the faith, that being the Church of England which the monarch heads. To this end, he works hard to promote coexistence between the faiths. The Prince of Wales counted Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks as a close friend and lamented his passing. He has also written personal messages in several books including Lily Eberts, “Lily’s Promise”.

The Prince of Wales talks to Holocaust survivor, Lily Ebert.

Prince Charles is patron of World Jewish Relief as well as the Holocaust Memorial Trust, a patronage that once belonged to the Queen but as the monarch hands over more of her patronages to members of her family, the heir to the throne has received this one. He is also patron of the Jewish Museum, JLGB for Jewish youth across Great Britain and numerous others. To coincide with International Holocaust Memorial Day, the Prince commissioned portraits to be painted of several Holocaust survivors accompanied by a documentary on the BBC. The Prince gave a very moving speech the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz hosted by Yad Vashem and met privately with survivors, away from the prying eyes of the media. He gave a notable private donation to The Peres Centre for Peace. His wife, the Duchess of Cornwall visited Auschwitz, representing the Queen to mark the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz.

The Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla) lights a candle of remembrance at Auschwitz.

Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall is also known to enjoy a hora or two. During her visit to Jewish Care’s Brenner Centre in East London to celebrate the organisation’s 80th anniversary, the Duchess danced with delighted residents.

It was a lovely, wonderful experience, I think I’m dreaming,” said Abraham David, who danced with the duchess. “She put her hand out to mine and wanted to dance — I couldn’t believe it. I won’t sleep tonight I’m so excited.”

Having a Swinging Time. The Duchess of Cambridge dances to Hava Nagila at a Jewish Community Center in East London in 2019.

Prince William was the next king in waiting to visit Israel albeit without his lovely wife Catherine (Kate Middleton) who had recently given birth to their third child, disappointing many Israeli fashionstas (okay, me) wanting to catch a glimpse of what she would be wearing but mother duty comes first and we understand. The Prince struck all the right notes visiting the Kotel, Yad Vashem, the grave of his late great-grandmother, met young innovators, took a stroll with Eurovision sensation Neta, and even played volleyball on the beach and football with young Israelis and Arabs – all without breaking a princely sweat.

Prince William plays volleyball in Tel Aviv

The prince also proved that he could navigate some tough political terrain, shuttling between Israeli and Palestinians leaders, without going “there”. Royals are above politics.

Prince William at the Kotel (Western Wall)

On a state visit to Poland, Prince William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge visited Stutthof Concentration Camp. It would be a life-changing experience for the Duchess. The Royal couple met Holocaust survivors, Manfred Goldberg and Ziggy Shipper who both came to England after the war as Windermere children.

The Duchess of Cambridge photographs Holocaust survivors.

Since this seminal meeting, the Duchess has dedicated herself to Holocaust education and has taken photographs of survivors for the Imperial War Museum’s exhibition, included them in her book “Hold Still”, engaged with survivors and young educators via Zoom, met with Windermere child survivors, attended Holocaust Memorial Day events and more.

Judge and TV personality, Rob Rinder, who accompanied the Duchess when she met with Windermere survivors tweeted in response to a royal fan “She was – truly – amazing .. Anybody with doubts about the future & purpose of our Monarchy should spend an hour with her. Quite extraordinary.”

Hosting a garden party at Buckingham Palace on behalf of the Queen recently, fascinator firmly fixed, umbrella in hand, the Duchess made a beeline for her good friend Manfred, who along with his wife was a guest. “Manfred,” Catherine said, “It’s so lovely to see you again. How are you?” The two shook hands, whilst Manfred replied: “It’s my pleasure and privilege to see you again.”

The Duchess of Cambridge is delighted to see Manfred Goldberg at Buckingham Palace.

When I saw your name on the guest list I thought ‘yes!’ I am so happy to see you! Are you keeping well?” asked the Duchess. The pictures of the delighted trio were beamed around the world to the happy reaction of many young people who knew exactly who Manfred was and his story of survival. This is the power of royalty. Through their work, generations are learning the stories of the Holocaust because the platform to tell them does not come bigger than the royal family. The Cambridges have spoken publicly about how they are talking to their children about the Holocaust so that it is never forgotten.

The Duchess of Cambridge marks Holocaust Memorial Day

While the history of the royal family, Jews and Israel may have had its awkward moments in  history, it looks like the future seems extremely positive.

The young princess who made that sacred, lifelong vow in South Africa on her 21st birthday has more than delivered and the joyous celebration this past weekend as she marked her Platinum Jubilee is proof of the love and respect she commands through duty and service to her people, Commonwealth and realms.

 The Queen and her heirs at the Platinum Jubilee

We lift a glass of the best kosher champagne and toast to Her Majesty, the Queen on the remarkable achievement of 70 years on the throne. Mazel Tov, Ma’am, the future you have ensured, is in good hands.

MAZEL TOV !!!

THE CURIOUS CASE OF CNN

This article is published in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2022/05/31/the-curious-case-of-cnn/

CNN report accuses Israel of deliberately killing journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh – but who are the experts whose commentary they are peddling?

Mark Twain once said that a lie can go halfway around the world before the truth can put its boots on. When it comes to the mainstream media’s reporting of the now decades long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, this description fits as snug as a pair of bespoke boots.

There are many who feel that perhaps we are overreacting or fracking for offense in every broadcast and headline; but the way that the narrative around this conflict is framed has a direct impact not just on how people view Israel; but if the Jewish state is continuously painted in a negative, brutal light, it impacts on Jewish communities around the world who bear the brunt of people’s ill-informed anger. I believe in this direct correlation so strongly that I am basing my doctoral dissertation on it.

The latest iteration is news network, CNN. Several days ago, the channel broadcasted an insert that featured “experts’ who stated that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) deliberately targeted and killed Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh. The facts did not matter, only their opinions.

As soon as this regrettable incident took place, the IDF requested a joint investigation with the Palestinians who summarily refused, a stance they still hold. They have also refused to cooperate with possible US investigators. IDF officials have said that it is possible the fatal bullet could have been fired from one of the soldiers but it is difficult to tell without a ballistics report after examination of the bullet. The Palestinians are still refusing to hand over the bullet and the coroner who conducted the autopsy on Abu Akleh, a Palestinian himself, said that his findings were inconclusive. This is why a joint investigation is needed.

Reprehensible Reporting. Some of CNN’s  reportage on the death of Shireen Abu Akleh  was nothing less than an anti-Israel ‘hit job’ taking the Palestinian narrative of a complicated conflict and falsely presenting it as “evidence” of Israel’s culpability.(Photo: Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Would Israel deliberately target a journalist? The other question we need to ask is what possibly does Israel, who enjoys a free and open press, unlike the Palestinians, have to gain by murdering a journalist bearing first hand witness to this conflict. Israel has an open, democratic press and is committed to ensuring that journalists can work freely and unimpeded. War correspondents who cover conflict zones understand the risks.

CNN however, had different ideas.

I remember the day this event took place very clearly. News alerts coming in spoke of “a heavy exchange of fire between Palestinians and Israeli Security Forces engaged in counterterror operations in Jenin”. Jenin in the West bank, is a hotbed of incitement and terror activity. Terrorists who have killed Israelis in the recent wave of terror have come from Jenin. The news then broke that a journalist had been fatally shot.

City of Terror. Jenin, where Abu Akleh was struck by a fatal bullet has been for decades a hotbed of violent terrorist activity as reflected in this photo of terrorists displaying in public their weapons in April 2002. (AFP)

No sooner had this happened, then footage started to circulate.

The footage clearly shows Palestinians wearing bullet-proof vests and firing automatic weapons, including one gunman who leans around a corner and indiscriminately shoots, at which point bystanders can be heard saying, “they’ve hit one, they’ve hit a soldier, he’s laying on the ground.” The IDF confirmed that no Israeli soldiers were hit or injured in the melee.

Judge for yourself:

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CNN trotted out their “expert” eye witness who claimed that there “had been no conflict, we were standing around, joking with journalists”.

The next “expert” up to bat was “explosive weapons expert” and “security consultant and British army veteran”, Chris Cobb-Smith. Cobb-Smith based his findings on images provided by CNN that showed strike or bullet strafe marks on the nearby trees. Cobb-Smith is reportedly able to ascertain that Abu Akleh was not killed by a “random shot” but was “targeted.”

Now if I was asking Cobb-Smith questions, and I am not a lawyer, I would ask him:

 a) was he or has he been in a position to examine the fatal bullet because  it is  still in Palestinian custody and has yet to be handed over for ballistics testing as per the IDF request

b) could bullet strafings or marks on the trees not be assigned to either side given that he hasn’t examined the fatal bullet or any of those fired and the Palestinian coroner who conducted the autopsy, has said it is impossible to draw conclusive findings who was responsible.

Chris Cobb-Smith’s credentials are dubious to say the least. Some of his highly questionable activities include:

Contributing to an Amnesty International report alleging that the IDF had used white phosphorous during Operation Cast Led in 2009. Amnesty International make no secret of their view of Israel and the IDF.

Up to his old Tricks. The security consultant“expert” Chris Cobb-Smith who provided CNN with his findings alleging Abu Akleh was “targeted” by Israeli forces  was the same expert who misled in a report to Amnesty International  falsely alleging that the IDF had used white phosphorous during Operation Cast Led in 2009. Amnesty International makes no secret of their distaste of Israel and the IDF.

He met with the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) in 2009, in June 2015, and in 2018 and participated in a workshop held by PCHR at the Institute for International Criminal Investigations on “the procedures of criminal investigation into international crimes”. The PCHR is linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) which has been designated a  terrorist organization by the US, EU, Canada, and Israel.

I would also ask Cobb-Smith how he could give expert opinion when he has already been on record supporting an agenda against the IDF for Amnesty International who have a clear agenda against the State of Israel.

Smell a rat?

https://www.youtube.com/embed/DnXLYeCrqiM?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparentLTG Aviv Kohavi Adresses Shireen Abu Akleh Investigation

CNN also featured “former parliamentarian and member of the Palestinian Fatah Party in Jenin,” Jamal Huwail, who also backed claims that Israel deliberately targeted Abu Akleh and other journalists.

Missing from his “expert testimony” was the fact that he lauded the terrorist who murdered four people in a car ramming and knife attack in Beersheba on March 22 as a “lone lion” who had “sounded the alarm of this criminal Zionist occupation.” The terrorist was an ISIS sympathizer.

Targeting Truth. How far has journalism sunk when CNN features unrefuted “experts’ who state that the IDF deliberately targeted and killed Al Jazeera journalist Abu Akleh?

The Palestinian Authority have said they conducted their own investigation and concluded the IDF deliberately targeted Abu Akleh. These findings were released two days after the CNN expose. Anyone else “shook”, as the kids say?

Israel is a democracy and holds the importance of a free press as sacrosanct.  News networks around the world need to be held accountable for their role in spreading disinformation that has dangerous and sometimes deadly consequences. This is possible and we can all play a role in it. It is time for the truth to strap on its best pair of boots and go walking. And this needs to happen sooner rather than later.

When Truth is a Casualty of War

This article is published in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2022/05/19/when-truth-is-a-casualty-of-war/

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

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

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

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

But Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in the crossfire.

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

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

The next casualty was the truth about what actually happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 If not, the truth becomes another casualty of war.

The UNHRC’s obsession with Israel fuels conflict

This article currently appears in iol.co.za https://www.iol.co.za/opinion/letters/the-unhrcs-obsession-with-israel-fuels-conflict-81c441c9-6ac8-4d1d-acf5-4399c15b2e2e

OPINION – There is an inordinate amount of conflict and upheaval in the world. Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine razes cities to the ground and leaves a devastating trail of human rights violations, Christian communities in Nigeria are persecuted, Uighur Muslims in China are rounded up into concentration camps and have been ethnically cleansed and so many, others.

The United Nations Human Rights Council whose mandate it is to “protect human rights for all’ yet currently has Venezuela, Sudan, Libya and Mauritania amongst its council members and who have their own dubious human rights records, approved a “Commission of Inquiry” to investigate Israel and the Palestinian territories after last year’s 11 day flare up between Israel and Hamas, the internationally recognized terror entity that controls the Gaza strip.

The Commission of Inquiry was headed by Navi Pillay, a known anti-Israel agitator who has in the past endorsed the BDS movement which calls for the end of the State of Israel, applauded Iran for signing the 2001 anti-Israel UN declaration and has been proven to have personal ties with members of the PFLP, which is on the international terror list. It is no wonder Israel refused to cooperate with such an inquiry.

Add to that the preposterous op-ed written by Humairaa Mayet, titled “‘Israel has no intention of ending its occupation of Palestine’.

Mayet has forgotten a few facts including the origins of last year’s Operation Guardians of the Wall which saw Hamas fire the first shot by firing rockets towards Jerusalem. This was followed by over 4 300 rockets and projectiles, fired from civilian enclaves in Gaza towards sovereign Israeli territory – which also includes citizens. Israel has the right, as does every country, to defend her citizens. A vast percentage of those rockets fired fell short in the Gaza strip, killing and injuring many civilians.

The Commission of Inquiry managed to gives as little reference to the incitement of hate and acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas and other Iranian sponsored terror entities in the Gaza strip as possible.

Mayet, cites the international communities response to the inquiry but forgets that now 23 countries, spearheaded by the United States and includes countries as diverse as Israel, Austria, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Hungary, Eswatini, Brazil, Cameroon, Micronesia, Canada, United Kingdom, Togo, Colombia, Guatemala, Croatia, Liberia, Marshall Island, Nauru, North Macedonia and Palau denounced the Commission of Inquiry.

They were joined the next day by Australia who slammed the UNHRC’s “disproportionate focus on Israel and the Commission of Inquiry that does not serve the cause of peace”. There was an encouraging presence of African countries who also grow weary of having to take side when they could benefit from what Israel has to offer and play a concrete role as African Union members towards brokering a resolution to the conflict – a role which sadly South Africa who also harbours an unproductive obsession with the Jewish state, has forfeited.

The Commission of Inquiry was endorsed by North Korea though – and the Palestinian representative who called for the USA to be kicked off the UNHRC. It would be comical if it wasn’t so serious because some people still believe in the veracity of such an organization.

Mayet cites the Amnesty International report, another document that has been routinely dismissed by democracies concerned not only with its biased and unsubstantiated content; but that it could further fuel rising antisemitism.

French President, Emmanuel Macron, stated it was preposterous to call Israel, a country with Arab lawmakers and ministers serving in its parliament (something that would not have occurred in South Africa) an apartheid state. This past week, a UK based independent inquiry found Amnesty International UK, where the report originated from as guilty of “institutionalized racism and colonialist”. Hardly a ringing endorsement for this once venerated organization.

Human Rights Watch has been similarly discredited by its late founder, Robert Bernstein, who in an impassioned op-ed in the New York Times in 2009 raised the alarm that the organization was not upholding its mandate but rather headed into dangerous waters:

“As the founder of Human Rights Watch, its active chairman for 20 years and now founding chairman emeritus, I must do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group’s critics. Human Rights Watch had as its original mission to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters. But recently it has been issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state,” wrote Bernstein.

Omar Shakir, the former director of HRW Israel-Palestine, was booted out of the country in 2019 for BDS activities that contravened Israel’s laws. He has now dedicated his energy and time to publishing reports accusing the Jewish State of war crimes during the May conflagration and a separate one accusing the country of practices of Apartheid – while scarcely a mention about any transgressions from Hamas or the Palestinian Authority. Shakir even went so far as to totally redefine the term Apartheid to push his agenda.

Other accusations made by Mayet in the above mentioned op-ed are too ludicrous to even countenance.

In the interest of fairness and peace, it is not just Israel that should be found guilty of perpetuating an “occupation” or failing to ensure that there is a solution to the decade’s long and very complicated conflict; but also the Palestinians, the UNHRC, its commission and people like Mayet who perpetuate divisions and dangerous agenda with their farcical accusations.

Rolene Marks is the South African Zionist Federation Spokesperson

Israel – Kaleidoscope of Cultures

This article appears in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2022/05/03/israel-kaleidoscope-of-cultures/

Ahead of Israel’s Independence Day, we look at the country’s incredible diversity

Israel is a land of many paradoxes. In this glorious juxtaposition of the ancient and modern, you can walk in the footsteps of the prophets but also be amazed by some of the world’s leading cutting edge technology, you can hear the church bells toll at the same time you hear the muezzin call the faithful to the mosque to pray; all while hearing the steady prayers in Hebrew at the Western wall. Israel’s cities have their unique personalities that serve to reinforce the country’s history, position in the region and story.

As Israel celebrates 74 years of Independence, we cannot help but marvel at all the achievements, extraordinary history and enduring legacy.

But it is Israel’s people who are the country’s true treasure. Israel is a kaleidoscope of cultures and much like a kaleidoscope, if you seek to look at a different, vibrant picture, all you have to do is adjust your focus.

Flight to Freedom. Over a million citizens of the former Soviet Union (FSU) immigrated to Israel since the collapse of the Iron Curtain in 1989 and now make up 15% of the Israeli population, transforming Israeli society.  

While Jews have had a presence in the land of Israel for millennia, we have been joined over the centuries by other nations, some have stayed but most have left and following the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948, the country has served as home not just for the many Jews who have been here through the generations; but to those who responded to the invitation from Prime Minister Ben Gurion, to participate in the ingathering of the exiles.

From all four corners of the world they have come. Diaspora communities from every conceivable country, some voluntarily – but many because the threat of persecution meant they needed to leave – and leave quickly.

Israel’s modern history is a tale of daring and chutzpah, in the attempt to rescue Jewish communities under threat. No sooner than the State of Israel had been declared, then 850 000 Jews from Arab countries were forced to flee. Many made Israel their home and today the majority of Israel’s population trace their roots back to Morocco, Iraq, Yemen and other Arab countries. One of the great advantages of the recently signed Abraham Accords is that many Israelis of Morocco descent now have the opportunity to revisit and trace their roots.

True Magic. In 1949,Israeli transport planes flew “home” 250,000 Jews from Yemen in Operation Magic Carpet. The operation was secret and was released to the media only several months after its completion.

Following the devastation of the Holocaust which saw the genocide of two thirds of Europe’s Jews, many of the survivors who had lost their families and loved ones and saw no future for themselves on a continent that felt hostile, made their way to what was then British Mandate Palestine, joining the ranks of those pioneers that would help defend and build the fledgling country in the years after Israel was declared a state. Slowly, the exiled were returning home.

Hearty Hug: A cross-cultural embrace of a rabbi and Palestinian greeting each other as they meet at the Gush Etzion junction to hold prayers together in the summer of 2014. (photo: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

In the decades to come, Israel would send rescue missions to Yemen and Ethiopia to bring distressed communities home.  The result today is an Israel that has absorbed Jews from all corners of the world – from India and South Africa, Australia and America, Ethiopia and Russia – 82 countries, with many different languages and cultures all calling Israel home. Israel is once again helping the distressed come home. Over the last two months, thousands of Ukrainian Jews, including many Holocaust survivors, have found sanctuary away from a brutal war that is ravaging Ukraine in Israel.

Out of Africa. New Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia exit an airplane during a welcoming ceremony after arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, Israel, Aug. 28, 2013. (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Image)

Jews are not Israel’s only citizens. At least 20% of the Israeli population are Israeli Arabs. Israeli Arabs are fully franchised members of Israeli society and have contributed enormously to the country. While there are still many areas that need improvement, Israeli Arabs are represented in the Knesset, holding ministerial positions, lead civil society, serve in the military and are amongst the IDF’s most decorated officers, serve in the judicial system as judges, head multi-billion dollar corporations and more.  Arab Israelis follow either the Muslim or Christian religions. Arab Israelis are exempt from compulsory military service but recent statistics released by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) see a steady yearly increase in the amount of volunteers from the community signing up to perform national service.

Seeking Sanctuary. Fleeing the war in Ukraine, passengers disembark from an airplane carrying Jewish immigrants upon arrival in Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport on March 6, 2022. – (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

“A covenant of blood”. The relationship between Israel’s Jewish and Druze population is so sacred that it is referred to as bond forged by blood. Israel’s Druze population makes up about 2% of the population and are fiercely loyal to the country. There are other significant Druze communities in Lebanon and Syria and Israel’s community live mostly in the Golan region in the north. Not much is known about the Druze religion but recent Pew research revealed that nearly all Druze (99%) believe in God, including 84% who say they are absolutely certain in their belief. But there are no set holy days, regular liturgy or obligations for pilgrimage, as Druze are meant to be connected with God at all times. Druze are active in public life and subject to the military draft. In fact, for more than four decades, the Israeli military had a primarily Druze infantry unit called the “Herev”, (sword battalion).

Coulourful Culture. Druze soldiers in the Israeli Army behind the Druze flag which combines 5 colors representing the 5 prophets of the Druze secret religion.

Israel is the one country in the Middle East where the Christian community is growing. Christians face persecution in many parts of the Middle East and constitute at least 2% of Israel’s population and this number is expected to grow. Christians make up 7% of Israel’s Arab population, and 76.7% of Christians in Israel are Arab. The largest Arab Christian population centers in Israel are Nazareth (21,400), Haifa (16,500) and Jerusalem (12,900). Arab Christian women have some of the highest education rates in the country.

Israel is often maligned in the media and definitely misunderstood but on closer inspection, this tiny, vibrant country is not only fascinating because of all its many paradoxes packed into a small patch of land but because of its people, the greatest national treasure.

This Yom Ha’atzmaut we drink L’Chaim to this plucky, innovative, passionate and diverse country and her people. The future looks bright for Israel – no matter what view you choose to see this vibrant Middle Eastern jewel from.

Teach Your Children Well

This article appears in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2022/04/27/teach-your-children-well/

This year, it seems more important than ever to pass the torch of education and remembrance to the next generations

The responsibility to bear witness, remember and educate is so important for the next generations to continue”.

We say this this every year as we approach Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel. Unlike the UN-designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day which takes place on the 27th of January to coincide with the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp and commemorates all victims of the Holocaust, Yom Hashoah focuses specifically on the Jewish victims and coincides with the Hebrew anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

This year, these words seem to have greater urgency.

Illuminating the Dark. Holocaust survivors light six torches representing the six million victims of the Nazi genocide during the opening ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, as Israel marks the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day. Seen here lighting one of the torches at the ceremony in 2018, is survivor Miriam Lapid.(Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The importance of Holocaust education is not a mere understatement, it is critical. As time marches on, we lose our remaining eyewitnesses and survivors of mankind’s most horrific genocide. As time marches on, so it becomes ever more urgent for us to bear witness to the first-hand accounts of the horrors of the Holocaust.

This year, the commitment has to be on us to ensure that we pass the baton on to the next generations, so that they can bear witness, using the mediums they know best, in the language that is the most appealing to their peers.

A 2020 survey carried out in the United States by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany found that among adults under 40, roughly 1 in 10 respondents did not recall ever having heard the word “Holocaust” before. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed did not know 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Over half of those thought the toll was under 2 million. These are staggering statistics and have exposed a glaring lack of Holocaust education in the USA.

Over 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos were established across Europe during World War II, but nearly half of the respondents could not name a single one.

The most important lesson is that we can’t lose any more time,” said Greg Schneider, Executive Vice President of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany. “If we let these trends continue for another generation, the crucial lessons from this terrible part of history could be lost.”

Europe is no different.

A European based survey, shortly before the one in the US, found that antisemitic stereotypes are widespread; with more than a quarter of Europeans saying Jews have “too much influence in business and finance”. According to the CNN/ComRes survey into European attitudes towards Jews, 34 percent of those surveyed said they knew just a little or had never heard of the Holocaust, while 20 percent of French people between the ages of 18 and 34 said they had never heard of the Holocaust. You would think that on the continent that remains a graveyard for once thriving Jewish communities and where there are reminders in every major city, they would be a little more educated and aware; but alas, they are not.

A third of Europeans surveyed said Jewish people use the Holocaust to advance their own positions or goals.

Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the UK based Holocaust Educational Trust, told CNNthe poll confirmed “a worrying increase in the number of people who believe traditional antisemitic tropes or hold antisemitic views, as well as a disappointing lack of knowledge about the Holocaust.”

These are not the only surveys and studies producing worrying results. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, named after the famed Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter, have raised the alarm over the increase in the amount of Holocaust denial, distortion and revisionism on social media. It is no great secret that social media platforms, especially Twitter, are a cesspit of hate. While Facebook has managed to clamp down on Holocaust denial, Twitter remains a veritable free- for-all. I have lost track of all of the times I have complained to Twitter about vile antisemitic content only to receive the message that the post in question does not violate their ”standards”.

Fading Faces. Images like these Hungarian Jews on the selection ramp at Auschwitz determining  those deemed “fit for work” or sent to the gas chambers are amongst millennials of ever-decreasing interest. (Photo: Yad Vashem, from the Auschwitz Album)

The role of social media platforms is critical. It is here where the younger generations interact and sadly, form their opinions on global events. On the one hand, these platforms create the opportunity for people to express themselves – and on the other, allows for predatory antisemites, Holocaust deniers and distorters to find a captive audience and create communities.

We do not need surveys to tell us how critical Holocaust education is. We are seeing a rise in antisemitism that is rivalling that of pre-World War II. Subsequent genocides and human rights violations have shown us that the lessons of history have not been learnt. Holocaust education is vital not just to help combat antisemitism; but to reinforce the lessons of history. NEVER AGAIN has to mean something, right?

We cannot rely solely on educational institutions and the media to educate – we have to take the responsibility on board ourselves as individuals, organisations and communities.

Has the like of this happened in your days or in the days of your fathers? Tell your children about it, and let your children tell theirs, and their children, the next generation!” (1 Joel 2-3).

These words are inscribed at the entrance to Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust Memorial and Museum. As we lose our last eyewitness survivors of the horrors of the Holocaust to the passage of time, so it becomes more of an imperative that our generation must bear witness, remember and teach the ones to come.

Living Testimony. French Holocaust survivor Victor Perahia, interned as a child in the Drancy camp outside Paris and then deported to Bergen-Belsen, speaks to students during a January 2020 workshop dedicated to Holocaust remembrance at Drancy. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

This Yom Hashoah as we remember our 6 million and honour the individuals and the communities targeted for extermination simply because they were Jewish, we need to not only renew our vow of NEVER AGAIN, we need to commit to the 6 million martyred, that we will continue to bear witness, to testify on their behalf and to educate.

Seeing is Believing. A photo taken April 12, 1945, shows just some of the bodies found by U.S. troops when they arrived at Nordhausen concentration camp in Germany. (Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library)

Their voices cry out to us; they implore us, they remind us of the urgency of their plea. It is a plea we will hear. It is a vow we will honour.

May the memories of our 6 million be forever blessed.

Education is the Key. Young people at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem looking above at the dome displaying photos of the victims of the Holocaust and then below at the water, reflecting those NEVER to be forgotten faces.

Mazel Tov, Your Majesty

This article appears in the South African Jewish Report: https://www.sajr.co.za/mazeltov-your-majesty/

This weekend, the answer to a question that has baffled many for 70 years was finally revealed with the help of a very famous bear – what does the Queen carry in her ever present Launer handbag?

Her Majesty taking tea with Paddington Bear, complete with marmalade – or is that Ma’amalade? – sandwiches, as the lovable bear thanked the monarch for her extraordinary 70 years of unparalleled service during this past weekend’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, brought two great British icons together.

Though we may know that Her Maj carries around a marmalade sandwich, probably lipstick, and some device that signals courtiers to remove her from a trio of erstwhile family members, not many know about the relationship between the royal family and Jews.

The Queen has faced intense criticism over the years for never visiting Israel. What many don’t realise is that foreign trips are made at the behest of the British Foreign Office wanting to deploy the soft diplomacy and convening power that royalty has.

Respected historian Andrew Roberts once said that the British government had a de facto ban in place on state visits by Queen Elizabeth II to Israel. “The true reason of course, is that the FO [Foreign Office] has a ban on official royal visits to Israel, which is even more powerful for its being unwritten and unacknowledged. As an act of delegitimisation of Israel, this effective boycott is quite as serious as other similar acts, such as the academic boycott, and is the direct fault of the FO Arabists. It’s therefore no coincidence that although the Queen has made more than 250 official overseas visits to 129 different countries during her reign, she has ever been to Israel on an official visit,” Roberts told attendees at a gala dinner in London.

Another little-known fact is that the Queen hired an Orthodox Jewish mohel to circumcise her son, Prince Charles. The tradition of British monarchs hiring mohels goes back centuries.

Even though the Queen has never visited Israel, she has had strong ties with the Jewish community and has met Holocaust survivors on many occasions.

One such meeting was at an event marking 60 years of liberation of Bergen Belsen. The late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks who was present, later recounted, “When the time came for her to leave, she stayed. And stayed. One of her attendants said that he had never known her to linger so long after her scheduled departure. She gave each survivor – it was a large group – her focused, unhurried attention. She stood with each until they had finished telling their personal story.”

Though the Foreign Office forbade royal visits to Israel, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh visited in a private capacity several times for a very honourable reason. His mother, Princess Alice, who is buried in Jerusalem, has been honoured by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Amongst the Nations for saving the lives of a Jewish family during the Holocaust.

But it’s the two future kings and their wives that have really built strong ties with Israel.

Prince Charles, once ridiculed for his propensity to prefer conversing with plants than politicians and famously intellectual, has said that he prefers to regard himself as the defender of faiths rather than of “the faith”, that being the Church of England, which the monarch heads. To this end, he works hard to promote coexistence. The Prince of Wales counted Lord Sacks as a close friend, and lamented his passing.

Prince Charles is patron of World Jewish Relief as well as the Holocaust Memorial Trust, a patronage that once belonged to the Queen. He’s also patron of the Jewish Museum, JLGB for Jewish youth across Great Britain, and numerous others. To coincide with International Holocaust Memorial Day, the Prince commissioned portraits to be painted of several Holocaust survivors accompanied by a documentary on the BBC. The Prince has made several official visits to Israel, including for the funeral of slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. He gave a notable private donation to The Peres Centre for Peace. His wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, visited Auschwitz, representing the Queen.

Camilla is also known to enjoy a hora or two. During her visit to Jewish Care’s Brenner Centre in East London to celebrate the organisation’s 80th anniversary, the duchess danced with delighted residents.

Prince William was the next king in waiting to visit Israel. The Prince struck all the right notes visiting the Kotel, Yad Vashem, the grave of his late great-grandmother, met young innovators, took a stroll with Eurovision sensation Neta, and even played volleyball on the beach and football with young Israelis and Arabs – all without breaking a princely sweat. The Prince also proved that he could navigate some tough political terrain, shuttling between Israeli and Palestinians leaders without going “there”. Royals are above politics.

On a state visit to Poland, Prince William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, visited Stutthof Concentration Camp. It would be a life changing experience for the duchess.

Since this seminal meeting, the duchess has dedicated herself to Holocaust education and has taken photographs of survivors for the Imperial War Museum’s exhibition, included them in her book Hold Still, engaged with survivors and young educators via Zoom, met with Windermere child survivors, attended Holocaust Memorial Day events, and more.

Though the history of the royal family, Jews, and Israel may have had its awkward moments in recent history, it looks like the future is extremely positive. Just in time to lift a glass of the best kosher champagne and toast to Her Majesty, the Queen, on the remarkable achievement of 70 years on the throne. Mazeltov, Ma’am, ad 120!

**A fascinator may have been worn for the writing of this article!