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.



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:


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.