The Greatest Briton (2)

This article is featured in Lay of the Land:

A tribute to ‘The Queen’ of our times

Grief is the price we pay for love”. These were the words spoken by Her Majesty, The Queen on September 11th, 2001. The Queen passed away peacefully at the age of 96, at her beloved Balmoral residence in the Scottish highlands last week. The world’s collective grief is the price we are paying for the love she never commanded but most certainly inspired. 

The Queen seemed immortal. A constant, reassuring presence whose historical 70 year reign spanned some of the most iconic moments of the last century, her loss is being keenly felt by millions around the world. To put it into perspective, David Ben Gurion was Israel’s Prime Minister when Her Majesty ascended the throne.

Pure Majesty: The young Queen pictured here at her Coronation, 2 June 1953.

The late Queen who celebrated her platinum jubilee just several months ago, was universally loved and respected – not just because she could jump out of a helicopter with James Bond, or take tea with Paddington Bear; but because her life was dedicated to duty and service and was a constant reassuring presence in our lives when the world became ever more turbulent. At the height of the pandemic when the Monarch invoked the blitz spirit of her youth; and the words of Vera Lynne to tell us “we will meet again”, we believed her. Because we did. We did meet again. There she was, that steady, guiding hand that not just her people, realms and Commonwealth adored, but the world. Her trusty hairstyle never changed, neither did her beaming smile or twinkling eyes and for many, that continuity provided strength and succor. World leaders, often filled with their own sense of self-importance, jostled each other out of the way and their knees shook when meeting a tiny, old lady whose wisdom they sought and whose leadership they greatly admired – but could never emulate.

A heartbroken Paddington Bear: “Thank you Ma’am, for everything”.

The Queen was also a wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother and over the last two years, we have all wanted to hug her as she cut a solitary, dignified figure at her “strength and stay”, Prince Philips funeral at the height of the pandemic, smiled at her delight as she chatted to her exuberant great grandson, Prince Louis, during her jubilee celebrations and felt sorrow at the sight of daughter, Princess Anne, dipped in a deep curtsy out of respect to her mother’s coffin.

The unprecedented number of people who have lined the streets of Scotland, from Balmoral to Edinburgh; and are prepared to line up for an estimated 30 hours in London as the Monarch lies in state or the mountains of floral tributes at royal residences are just a small glimpse of the out pouring of love and grief. When the Queen made the journey home to Buckingham Palace, London’s streets were crowded with tens of thousands of people, waiting for that opportunity to just say, “Thank you”. Her funeral is estimated to be the most viewed event in history.

 Her beloved Balmoral: The Queen in her Order of the Thistle robes at Balmoral.

Israel’s President Herzog, who will represent the Jewish State at her funeral released this statement:

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was known far and wide simply as The Queen. Her passing is the end of an era. Together with the Israeli people, I grieve her loss and extend my deepest sympathies to the British people and all nations of the Commonwealth, who have lost their matriarch.

“Queen Elizabeth was a historic figure: she lived history, she made history, and with her passing she leaves a magnificent, inspirational legacy.

As the eleventh President of the State of Israel during Her Majesty’s long reign, and on behalf of the whole State and people of Israel, I express my condolences to the Royal Family, to the King and the Queen Consort, to the people of the United Kingdom, and to all nations of the Commonwealth.

“Throughout her long and momentous reign, the world changed dramatically, while the Queen remained an icon of stable, responsible leadership, and a beacon of morality, humanity and patriotism. In her life and in her service to her people, the Queen embodied a spirit of integrity, duty and ancient tradition.

“My late mother and father had several audiences with the Queen over the years. Her fond welcome and warm hospitality left a profound impression down the generations.”

Queen of the World

Over the last week, the world has witnessed the centuries old traditions that give the 1000 year old monarchy its magic. For the people of the United Kingdom, their monarch is the connection to their history, the living, breathing embodiment of their constitution and even though there may be many reading this who do not understand it, we should respect it.

During her annual Christmas speech in 1957, The Queen said:

“I cannot lead you into battle. I do not give you laws or administer justice. But I can do something else. I can give you my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.”

And devoted she was – working right up until two days before her death when she accepted the resignation of Boris Johnson and swore in her 15th Prime Minister, Liz Truss. In the now famous “when Liz met Liz” photograph, we could see how frail the 96- year-old monarch was but could not imagine that just two days later, she would pass away.

The Last Photo: The Queen pictured two days before her passing. (Photo: Jane Barlow)

The Queen dedicated her entire life to her duty and her people.

Her promise made in 1947 as a 21 one year old Princess, in Cape Town, South Africa was a promise kept until she drew her last breath.

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.”

While the Imperial family evolved into a Commonwealth of Nations as the British Empire devolved, that commitment as her grandson, the Prince of Wales said in his emotional tribute, was absolute.

The Queen’s motto of “never complain, never explain” was welcome relief from the performative emoting from many celebrities who push “their truth” as opposed to THE truth. Perhaps that is the enduring appeal of royalty. Royalty is not celebrity. The values that The Queen held dear of duty, service, modesty and selflessness may be just what this world needs to tilt it back on its axis.

As the world prepares to bid farewell to the greatest of the greatest generation, there are calls in the media to assign her the moniker, ‘Elizabeth the Great’.

 It is most fitting for she was, indeed, the Greatest Briton.

You Tube commentator, HG Tudor narrates this beautiful tribute to Queen Elizabeth, the Great.

The Greatest Briton (1)

This article appears in the South African Jewish Report:

“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

Though the Imperial family evolved into a Commonwealth of Nations as the British Empire devolved, the 21-year-old princess, who became Britain’s longest reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth, truly dedicated her life to her people. That commitment, as her grandson, the Prince of Wales, said in his emotional tribute, was absolute.

The late Queen, who celebrated her platinum jubilee just several months ago, was universally loved and respected, not just because she could jump out a helicopter with James Bond or take tea with Paddington Bear. She was dedicated to service and duty, and was a constant reassuring presence in our lives when the world became ever more turbulent.

At the height of the pandemic, when the monarch invoked the blitz spirit of her youth and the words of Vera Lynn to say, “We will meet again,” we believed her. Because we did meet again. There she was, that steady, guiding hand that not just her people, realms, and Commonwealth looked to, but the world.

Her trusty hairstyle never changed, neither did her beaming smile or twinkling eyes, and for many, that continuity provided strength and succour.

World leaders, often filled with their own sense of self-importance, jostled each other out of the way and their knees shook when meeting a tiny, old lady whose wisdom they sought and whose leadership they greatly admired, but could never emulate.

The Queen wasn’t just sovereign to the United Kingdom, realms and territories, or head of the Commonwealth, which she held so dear, but Queen, essentially, of the world. Such was the love and admiration she inspired.

What was Her Majesty’s relationship to Jews and Israel?

Many have criticised the Queen for never visiting Israel. What they 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 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, neither has ever been to Israel on an official visit,” said Roberts, addressing attendees at a gala dinner in London.

The Queen received many Israeli dignitaries including former President Shimon Peres, who was awarded an honorary 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 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 about Israel. I was 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).”

Israel’s current president, Isaac Herzog, who will represent Israel at her state funeral, stated when news of her death broke, “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was known far and wide simply as ‘The Queen’. Her passing is the end of an era. Together with the Israeli people, I grieve her loss and extend my deepest sympathies to the British people and all nations of the Commonwealth, who have lost their matriarch. Queen Elizabeth was a historic figure: she lived history, she made history, and with her passing, she leaves a magnificent, inspirational legacy.

“My late mother and father had several audiences with the Queen over the years. Her fond welcome and warm hospitality left a profound impression down the generations.”

The Queen had strong ties with the Jewish community (even hiring a Jewish mohel to perform a royal circumcision), and 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.”

Often referred to as the “mensch who will be king”, then Prince Charles has had an enduring and close relationship with British Jewry. He’s 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 then Prince commissioned portraits to be painted of several Holocaust survivors accompanied by a documentary on the BBC. He gave a very moving speech on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz hosted by Yad Vashem, and met survivors privately, away from the prying eyes of the media. He also gave a notable private donation to The Peres Centre for Peace. His wife, then the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla, visited Auschwitz, representing the Queen to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

As he bears the enormous responsibility of monarch, I cannot help think that it’s the wise counsel of his great friend, the late Rabbi Sacks, that he will sorely miss.

As the world prepares to bid farewell to the greatest of the greatest generation, there are calls in the media to assign her the moniker, Elizabeth the Great. It’s most fitting, for she was, indeed, the greatest Briton.


This article appears in Lay of the Land:

Musings and thoughts from the 125th anniversary of the World Zionist Organisation and Congress recently held in Basel, Switzerland

It doesn’t matter where I am in the world or what I am doing, if I hear the opening strains of Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem, my heart swells and my eyes tear up. The feeling of pervasive pride is visceral. It is not just that I am a proud Israel, it is the knowledge that the words have sustained Jews in our darkest times – and also our greatest triumphs. Whether it be the scenes of Jews singing in Bergen-Belsen after liberation or Linoy Ashram standing proudly on the podium as she receives Olympic gold, I get the feels.

So you can imagine what I felt last week in Basel, Switzerland as I joined my WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organisation) delegation and over a thousand others as we stood in the Stadtcasino, 125 years after the first Zionist Congress and sang the anthem of the country that had been but a dream a century and a quarter before.

Members of WIZO delegation

Over a hundred years ago, when a young journalist called Theodore Herzl, recognising the growing threat of antisemitism and motivated by the sham trial of French Jew, Alfred Dreyfus, wrote an article and then two books called The Jewish State and Altneuland, where he presented his vision of what that would be. Herzl recognised that this state could only manifest in the ancestral and historical homeland of the Jewish people – Eretz Yisrael, then called Palestine. The Romans, seeking to wipe out any reference to Jewish history and culture had named it thus. 

“The Jews who will it shall achieve their State. We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and in our own homes peacefully die. The world will be liberated by our freedom, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness. And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind,” Herzl said.

Herzl also famously said, “If you will it, it is no dream”. And so they gathered in Basel, laying the foundations of willing a Jewish state. From these seeds would spring forth the World Zionist Organisation, the Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Agency for Israel. Just a couple of years later, the Women’s International Zionist Organisation would be founded. All of these organisations, would help prepare the land and the ingathering of the exiles for what would be the fulfillment of the Zionist dream – a Jewish state.

“Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word- which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly- it would be this: “At Basel, I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. If not in five years, certainly in fifty, everyone will know it,” mused Theodor Herzl.

Dr. Theodor Herzl.

Herzl, like Moses millennia before him, would lead his people to the Promised Land – but never enter it himself. Herzl died on the 3 July 1904, in Edlach, a village inside Reichenau an der Rax, Lower Austria, having been diagnosed with a heart issue earlier in the year, of cardiac sclerosis. A day before his death, he told the Reverend William H. Hechler: “Greet Palestine for me. I gave my heart’s blood for my people.” He certainly did.

Herzl’s vision would come to life with the birth of the modern state of Israel in our ancient, ancestral homeland. The Jewish people had come home.

In Basel some 125 years later we would gather to celebrate this vision and pay homage to the man who inspired hope in so many. And gather we did from the four corners of the world, 1 400 Zionists, representing different communities and ages and holding many different opinions. We were all there – the organisations, the social media personalities, familiar faces, those whose opinions veered to the right, those firmly in the centre and those to the left. In the city that birthed the modern Zionist movement, we debated, argued, agreed and discussed.

A stand out moment for me was the honouring of Druze Sheikh, Mowafaq Tarif and the presence of Emirati Sheikh Ahmed Ubeid Al Mansur.

 WIZO delegates with Sheikh al Mansur

Yaakov Hagoel, the chairperson of the World Zionist Organization, said of Al Mansur, “Herzl never dreamed that the day would come that a brave Arab leader would participate in a Zionist Conference together with thousands of Jews from all over the world whose goal is to strengthen and develop the independent and sovereign state of Israel.”

This gathering in Basel was not just a prime opportunity to pay tribute to Herzl or to discuss the challenges facing the Jewish world like rising antisemitism, the Iranian threat or how we will contribute to the fight against climate change; but also allowed us a moment to stop and take stock and marvel at the miracle that is the embodiment of our dream – the state of Israel.

In the presence of our President, Isaac Herzog, whose own family story is a reflection of Jewish history and First lady, Michal, we took a moment to look back – and forward to the future – of what Israel has achieved in a matter of a few decades. When Herzl envisioned a state that would see “the world be liberated by our freedom, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness and whatever we attempt there for our own benefit would redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind”, I don’t think even his wildest imagination could see what we have achieved.

In that hallowed halls, in the presence of the President and in the company of those who from generation to generation take up that promise to keep building, singing Hatikvah has never sounded so sweet.

 In the footsteps of Herzl on the balcony of Les Trois Rois Hotel

Standing on the balcony of “Les Trois Rois”, where the iconic visionary once stood I contemplated what he must be thinking as he watched on from high in the heavens.

How proud he must be. His will is no longer a dream. It is a reality. And it is ours.

Herzl and I reflect

Israel targeted Iranian nuke programme, says former Mossad chief

This article appears in the South African Jewish Report:

The Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency created along with the modern state of Israel, has an enduring mystique.

When we think of the Mossad, images are conjured up of daring operations like the kidnapping of Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann or Wrath of G-d (in retaliation for the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the 50th anniversary of which was commemorated this week).

People around the world are intrigued by Israel’s external covert force and its ability to reach far beyond Israel’s borders as it endeavours to protect the Jewish state against any threats.

The Mossad’s ability to neutralise threats in far-flung places was confirmed last week by Yossi Cohen, the organisation’s former director, who addressed participants at the gathering in Basel, Switzerland, celebrating 125 years of Zionism.

It was only fitting that when discussing the challenges facing Israel and the Jewish people, the number-one global threat, the possibility of a nuclear Iran, was high on the agenda.

Speaking to a packed audience in English, Cohen dedicated the bulk of his address to Mossad’s covert operations.

“During my term as Mossad director, countless operations were conducted against Iran’s nuclear programme,” he said. “Without going into too many details, I can tell you the Mossad had many successes. We operated around the world and on Iranian soil itself, in the very heartland of the ayatollahs.”

Many are familiar with what was probably the most daring – and dangerous – operation, infiltrating Iranian territory and bringing the country’s nuclear files back to Israel. Cohen said this was proof that Iran, which steadfastly claimed that its nuclear programme was for energy purposes only, had lied.

He also addressed the ongoing nuclear talks, saying that Israel “will continue to do whatever needs to be done” to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear arms if a deal is signed. “We can never allow a regime that calls for our destruction to get its finger on the nuclear trigger,” Cohen said.

Israeli officials including Defence Minister Benny Gantz, current Mossad Chief David Barnea, Prime Minister Yair Lapid and others in the security establishment have all embarked on a campaign to drive home this very point.

Cohen also alluded to Iran’s proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, which are situated on Israel’s borders in the south and north respectively.

“Iran seeks to encircle Israel, from Gaza in the south to Lebanon and Syria in the north. It funds, trains, and arms terrorist groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, enabling them to shoot thousands of rockets at Israel’s civilian population,” he said. “This fanatical regime must never obtain the ability to accelerate its weapon of mass destruction that would be used against the Jewish state.”

In the past week, Syria is reported to have told Iran not to launch attacks on Israel from Syrian territory as it doesn’t want to be embroiled in a war between the two countries. Israel regularly strikes Iranian targets which use Syria as a base to launch attacks on the Jewish state.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. Cohen touched on the vital role Mossad has played not only in operations to protect the state, but those that benefit the region as a whole. He spoke about the role it played in helping to secure the Abraham Accords, the agreements that have brought normalisation between Israel and Morocco, Sudan, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates.

“The work of Mossad isn’t just intelligence gathering but also the promotion of peace. We saw these results in the signing of the Abraham Accords. I pray that more nations from our region will join the peace trend,” Cohen said.

The audience responded to Cohen’s address with a standing ovation.

Israel is the fruition on the Zionist dream, whose seeds were planted at the first gathering in Basel 125 years ago, and whose future is ensured by organisations like the Mossad whose covert and overt operations guarantee that its borders and civilians are kept safe, all while diligently pursuing peace.


This article appears in Lay of the Land:

The United Nations seems to be unable to loosen its grip on anti-Israel obsession

The mere mention of two words is guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of Jews around the world. United Nations.

The United Nations was founded in1945 after the Second World War by 51 countries committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights.

In recent years, the once venerated institution has become a mockery of its original mandate. The United Nations, created to honour and protect the sanctity of human rights has become a political football, kicked around by various blocs seeking to promote their political agendas.

In the theatre of the absurd, some of the world’s worst protagonists and human rights offenders, chair commissions and committees on women’s rights, human rights and more. China, who has imprisoned over a million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps and Cuba, currently sit on the UN Human Rights Council, where Afghanistan will be admitted to various bodies and an obscene amount of resolutions are passed against Israel – at the expense of real human rights violators like Iran, Venezuela or Syria.

One could say that the United Nation has become rife with institutionalized antisemitism.

Year after year, successive Israeli envoys to the UN, supported by allies such as Australia, the USA, the United Kingdom and others have voiced their concern and discontent at the disproportionate to the point of obsessive focus that the UN and its various agencies, namely the Security Council, UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), UNRWA, UNESCO and others have had with the Jewish state.

Concerns have ranged from UNESCO’s denial of Jewish connections to holy sites like the Temple Mount through to UNRWA’s perpetual incitement in textbooks in Palestinian schools through to the UNHRC’s forming of a “Commission of Inquiry” to investigate the May 2021 conflagration between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza strip. Have we seen the formation of similar commissions to investigate conflicts in other parts of the world? Don’t hold your breath!

It is this Commission of Inquiry (CoI) that has become cause for great concern over recent weeks.

Sitting on the three person panel are investigators Miloon Kothari, Cristopher Sidoti and Navi Pillay. Pillay had come up for particular scrutiny because she has a history of anti-Israel activity including signing petitions supported by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) accusing Israel of being an Apartheid state, supporting terrorist Leila Khaled infamous for hijacking an aircraft, and more recently, supporting her co-panelists obscene antisemitic comments.

Prejudiced Panel. All three panelists, Navanethem Pillay (center right), chair of the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, Miloon Kothari (right), and Chris Sidoti  (centre left) are not only openly anti-Israel but have consistently expressed antisemitic sentiments.  (UN Photo/Jean Marc Ferré)

Christopher Sidoti has accused Jews of “flinging the accusation of antisemitism like rice at a wedding”. Hmmmm.

But it is Kothari who has come in for the most global opprobrium. Speaking on a podcast recently that was hosted by Mondoweiss (a vehemently anti-Israel platform), Kothari made inflammatory, antisemitic comments that included “the Jewish lobby” controls social media and that “a lot of money is being thrown in to try to discredit us.” He also questioned “why Israel is even a member of the United Nations”.

Unashamedly Antisemitic. UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Israel member, Miloon Kothari, sparked outrage after he was quoted alluding to a “Jewish lobby” as well as questioning whether Israel deserved its UN membership. (UN Photo/Jean Marc Ferré)

Pillay defended her co-panelist saying his comments were “taken out of context”. There was absolutely no mistaking the context.

The backlash was immediate. Israel’s Prime Minister, Yair Lapid wrote to the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, calling on the comments to be condemned and the CoI to be dissolved.

It was clear that these three panelist cannot fulfill the requirements of neutrality that is needed to conduct such investigations.

Closed Mind, Open Hostility. How does South African Navi Pillay who is on record calling Israel an “apartheid state,” has campaigned to boycott and sanction Israel, and signs statements lobbying governments to punish the Jewish statequalify to chair the U​.​N.’s Israel Inquiry?

Global condemnation followed with over 20 countries condemning the comments as antisemitic and UN officials including the President of UNHRC, High Representative of the UN Alliance of Civilizations, Miguel Moratinos, former Special Rapporteur, Ahmed Shaheed, Secretary General Guterres and the Special Envoys for Antisemitism from the USA and Canada.

Kothari (most likely as a result of international disgust and not a sudden surge of good consciousness) wrote this non-apology of an apology:

Last Friday, the IDF launched Operation Breaking Dawn, preemptively striking, with pinpoint precision, Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza strip. Following the arrest of PIJ leader, Bassam al Saadi during counter-terror operations in Jenin in the West Bank, military and security officials had received intelligence that the terror group was planning on launching attacks on Israeli civilians. The IDF moved quickly – shutting down access roads to the Gaza border, locking down communities and shutting off train services between the city of Ashkelon and Sderot – the most bunkered town in the world.

Israelis waited for the storm that would inevitably follow the tense calm.

The storm started with barrage after barrage of rockets fired at Israel’s southern communities. Over 1,500,000 of us who live within an 80 kilometre radius were advised by the IDF Home Front Command about the dangers of incoming rockets. City after city opened their public shelters and families prepared their personal shelters for any inevitability.

Antisemitism UNaddressed. Reporting his findings on the growth of antisemitism to the UN General Assembly, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ahmed Shaheed cautioned that it is “toxic to democracy” and poses “a threat to all societies if left unaddressed”. (UN Photo/Manuel Elías)

Israel was under fire from a terror entity that has effectively been proscribed as such by the EU, USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and others.

Most countries (with the vocal exceptions of Russia, Iran and South Africa) supported Israel’s right to defend her citizens but somehow the UN Security Council managed to convene quicker than one could say “out-of-office, on vacation”.

Guterres called for restraint on both sides.

Siding with the terrorists, UN Special Rapporteur for the Palestinians, Francesca Albanese tweeted “Palestinians’ right to resist is inherent to their right to exist as a people,” she tweeted. “An unlawful act of resistance does not make the resistance unlawful. An unlawful act of an unlawful occupation makes the occupation more unlawful (and the list on the desk of the [International Criminal Court] Prosecutor longer).”

This has largely been seen as not only whitewashing terror but actually supporting deadly rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. Albanese conveniently forgot that at least a third of Palestinian civilian casualties, namely 16 out of 27, were as a result of PIJ rockets that misfired or landed short.

UN bodies have stated over the last couple of weeks that they are dedicated to fighting antisemitism wherever it occurs and that there is NO place for it in the work of the institution. Perhaps they better start cleaning house – the sooner, the better.


The Story of Ethiopian Jewry

This story features in Lay of the Land:

The dream of Jerusalem sustained them through the centuries. The hope of one day returning home to Jerusalem has been the song in the heart of Ethiopian Jews and home they came.

The story of Israel’s Ethiopian community is extraordinary. It is a story of hardship, tragedy and loss – but it is also a story of incredible hope, survival and fortitude.

Jewish Journey. Berchko Adela as a young girl in Ethiopia, before Operation Moses is today 68, a married mother of five and lives in Ashdod, Israel. (Doron Bacher/via JTA)

Ethiopia’s Jewish community (Beta Israel – House of Israel) had existed in that country for centuries. The origins of Jews in Ethiopia are unclear; though most believe that they are the descendants of King Solomon and Queen Sheba. There are many theories though, some believing they are the lost tribe of Dan, while others believe they are the descendants of Christians who converted to Judaism. The Jews of Ethiopia maintained their independence for over 1000 years in spite of continuous massacres, religious persecution, enslavement, and forced conversions.

In 1616, using modern Portuguese weapons, the Amhara finally conquered the Jews, enslaving, converting or killing many of them. They were referred to as “Falashas” – a derogatory name meaning “stranger” or “exile” – Ethiopian Jews could no longer own land or be educated.

But the dreams of Zion sustained them.

Promised Land. New immigrants from Ethiopia shortly after disembarking from the plane as part of Operation Solomon, 25 May 1991. (Photo: Gadi Cavallo/ Dan Hadani Archive,)

In 1974, civil unrest broke out and a pro-communist military junta, known as the “Derg” (“committee”), seized power after ousting the emperor Haile Selassie I. The Derg installed a government which was socialist in name but military in rule. Lieutenant Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam assumed power as the head of state and Derg chairman. Mengistu’s years in office were marked by a totalitarian-style government and Ethiopia became extremely militarized with heavy financing from the former Soviet Union and the former Eastern Bloc countries as well as Cuba. Ethiopia was effectively a communist state in the 1970’s and 80’s. With this, Ethiopia took on the communist mantles of being both anti-religion and anti-Israel.  

The Jews of Ethiopia bore the brunt of this.

Ethiopia in the 1980’s endured a series of famines and hundreds of thousands lost their lives. The images of starving children with distended bellies are seared into our global consciousness.

Out of Africa. A still from the documentary ‘With No Land.’ (Courtesy of the Other Israel Film Festival)

The situation for Beta Israel became untenable and many started to leave Ethiopia. Ethiopian Jews started the long, arduous journey on foot through neighbouring Sudan to reach the Promised Land. The journey was fraught with danger and many died along the way.

In late 1984, over six weeks, about seven thousand Beta Israel were covertly flown from Sudan to Israel in Operation Moses. Due to pressure from Arab states, Sudan ceased allowing the emigration in January 1985, leaving many Ethiopian Jews stranded.

Months later, the United States evacuated five hundred Jews from Sudan to Israel in Operation Joshua. However, after this operation, Israeli leaders struggled to convince Mengistu to allow the remaining Beta Israel to leave. Finally, in 1990, Israel and Ethiopia reached an agreement that allowed Jewish emigration.

Home Free. Ethiopian Jews arrive in Israel waving Israeli flags in this still from the documentary ‘With No Land.’ (Courtesy of the Other Israel Film Festival)

The situation became increasingly more desperate and in 1991, rebel forces seized control of Addis Ababa, the capital, threatening the country with political collapse. Israeli officials embarked on an emergency mission to evacuate as many Jews as possible, dispatching thirty-four planes. Many of these planes had their seats removed to increase their passenger capacity; one set the record for passengers carried aboard a Boeing 747 at 1,087 people. Over thirty-six hours, starting on May 24, 1991, more than fourteen thousand Beta Israel were flown to Israel in the remarkable Operation Solomon. Several babies were born aboard the flights, and numerous doctors were mobilised to assist the sick and the new born babies and moms upon arrival in Israel.

Israel’s rescue was the only time in history that a Westernised country brought out Africans to liberate rather than to enslave.

Desert to Knesset. Tamano-Shata came to Israel as part of Operation Moses, the first wave of mass immigration from Ethiopia and is today Israel’s Minster of Aliyah and Integration.

Today there are an estimate 170 000 + Jews of Ethiopian origin in Israel and many have gone on to achieve extraordinary things in a variety of areas including the Rabbinate, politics, military, fashion, journalism, the arts and many more.

Despite economic and social challenges, including incidents of racism, the community has largely integrated into Israeli society. Efforts continue to bring the remaining Ethiopians with Jewish origins, whose total number is disputed, to Israel.

Welcome to Israel. Then Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog before becoming Israel’s President (2nd right) and Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (centre) greet Ethiopian immigrants arriving at Ben Gurion Airport on March 11, 2021. (The Jewish Agency

Israel’s vibrant Ethiopian community, who have fulfilled the dream of returning home to Jerusalem, Zion form a strong part of the fabric of society that makes Israel so very special.


This article appears in Lay of the Land:

Debate rages on social media platform discussing if Anne Frank had “White privilege”

I cannot believe that I have to write this article in 2022 when we assume that with the body of knowledge and evidence that exists about the Holocaust. But here we are. Along with many outraged activists on JTwitter (Jewish Twitter), I added my voice to a chorus that had to take to the internet platform to say “No, Anne Frank is NOT an example of white privilege”.

Yup. You read that right.

What started off this tsunami of ire was the tweet below:

Nothing says “white privilege” like a whole group of people, i.e. Jews, singled out for extermination because not only were we seen as an inferior race by the Nazis; but we were not even seen as human.

This is not the first time that the teen who put a name and a face to the one and a half million Jewish children who were murdered during the Holocaust has seen her image, memory and experience appropriated by those seeking to politicise a point.

The millions of people all around the world, in many different languages, who have read her story have shared in her daily frustrations, the precocious personality of a typical teenager experiencing the changes and her heartbreaks as well as the very real fear and hurt of being targeted for death for the crime of being a Jew. Anne Frank put a name and a face to the

1, 500, 000 children murdered in the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people. For many people, Anne Frank put a human face to a catastrophe many viewed in the abstract.

Anne and her sister Margot were sent to Bergen Belsen after the secret annex where her family and several other Jews were carefully hidden from the Nazi death machine, was discovered. They died of typhus and their bodies thrown into a mass grave. Their father Otto Frank, survived them.

Over the last few days, Anne Frank became a victim again. She was “othered” by someone who like many, see everything through a prism of race. The person who tweeted the offensive tweet was not the only one accusing her of amongst many things, “white Privilege”, “Jewish privilege” and “colonization”.   In “woke’ 2022, it is not unusual to see offence frackers accuse those who they don’t agree with or in this case, whose history they know nothing about; use terminology like “colonisation” or “privilege” – something very easy to do when you are living in suburbia with unfettered access to the internet….

Esteemed author and intellectual, David Baddiel who wrote the best-selling book, “Jews don’t Count” opined that there is a type of Schrodinger’s law on whites, particularly in reference to Jews. Schrodinger’s law originally referred to the physicist Erwin Schrodinger who explained how a cat in a box could be in an ambiguous predicament in the world’s most successful thought experiment. Until the box was opened and the cat’s condition weighed, the strange laws of quantum theory indicated that it could be both dead and alive.

Baddiel’s theory when applied to antisemitism is a kind of “Schrodinger’s whites”. Simply put, Jews are both white and not white, and too many are not seen as underprivileged or marginalised. Jews are often thought of as rich capitalists and don’t fit the fashionable parameters that get social justice warriors all heated up. Jews are also “too white” for campaigners and of no interest of social justice activists who see racism as a class construct, one in which you need to be economically or socially disadvantaged. “For progressives, he writes, “no victory is claimed by championing their experience, and this leads to a subtle — and unconscious — exclusion.” The mission of fighting racism has been repurposed to suit the other political causes of campaigners rather than the needs of its victims.” Anyone else have a headache?

To this point, Baddiel brings up the concept of “Schrodinger’s Whites”. Jews are both white and not white. To those trotting out the accusations of privilege, most Jews pass for Caucasian and are “rich”, so therefore they enjoy “white privilege”.  Shades of Whoopi Goldberg arguing that the “Holocaust was not about race, just some white people fighting each other” springs to mind.  In that sentence, Goldberg erased the unique and painful Jewish experience which is why her comments were so obscenely offensive.

Baddiel was asked for his comments about Goldberg and he said:

“One of the principal things going on here is the resistance that antisemitism is racism. What a lot of people think it is religious intolerance.”

He pointed out that, despite him being an atheist, he would have been persecuted due to his Jewish heritage:

“My great-uncle who died in the Warsaw Ghetto was not an observant Jew. The whiteness of Jews is a very complex thing.

Baddiel explains that“Far-right groups… have seen Jews as not part of the white race. But meanwhile, the far-left, the association of Jews… with power and privilege makes them super white.”

Author and comedian David Baddiel and his bestseller, ‘Jews Don’t Count.’ (Courtesy)

Jews are not a homogenous people – we are different races and ethnicities that come from all corners of the globe, are both affluent and not – but the one thing we all have in common irrespective of race, ethnicity and success is that the only “privilege” we all seem to have is enduring millennia of discrimination, persecution, hatred, exclusion and genocide.

This brings me back to Anne Frank.

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

Perhaps we can start by ensuring that she continues to be a voice and a human face for the millions of Jews throughout our history who have suffered the unfathomable. We have a duty to protect Anne and everything she represents.


This article appears in Lay of the Land:

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.


This article is featured in Lay of the Land:

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.