Why we do what we do

This article is featured on The Israel Forever Foundation website:

Why we do what we do

A few days  ago, Israel buried three members of the Saloman family, brutally slaughtered this past Friday night as they welcomed in the Sabbath. Responding to a knock on the door, the unsuspecting family let in 19 year old Omar al-Abed from the nearby village of Kobar.  To say that our collective hearts are broken is an understatement.

Fueled on a steady diet of incitement and hatred, al-Abed entered the house and butchered the family, leaving a bloodbath in his wake.

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Salomon family victims

One would think that news like this would grab international headlines but sadly not a peep, or a bleep. The few news channels that did cover the attacked neglected to mention that it was motivated by terror, rather using descriptions like “home invasion”.

A week before, two of Israel’s finest, Command Sergeant Major Hayil Satawi and Command Sergeant Major Kamil Shanaan were killed by terrorists while on duty on the Temple Mount. They were not Jewish, but Druze, sharing an ancient covenant with their Jewish brethren in the land of Israel.

The terrorist who targeted them did not care whether they were Jewish or not just that they wore the noble uniform of our security forces.

Terror does not discriminate. It simply kills.

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Command Sergeant Major Hayil Satawi and Command Sergeant Major Kamil Shanaan

A losing battle?

More often than not I am asked whether or not we are fighting a losing battle, after all we are competing with major budgets and sheer numbers from the other side who seem to be more able to create a narrative for a gullible public than we are. In the court of public opinion, Israel is seen as the Goliath to the Palestinian David and there are no prizes for guessing who gets the sympathy vote.

The mainstream news media seem to ignore the Israeli narrative or pander to major advertisers.

I can understand their frustration – one only has to open a newspaper or surf social media to see the type of comments or sheer volume but we have the same weapons that they do and my answer to anyone who feels overwhelmed is simple. Just show up.

We all have the power to do it. We are all equipped with the same “weapons of mass education”. So let us use them effectively.

The Big Facebook Experiment

Show up on social media to share articles, memes, YouTube clips and the like. Share articles and emails. Most important learn the facts and make sure that you are armed with the truth to disarm the haters. It is important to know that every time you show up and speak the truth, you give a voice to the millions upon whose shoulders we stand. You give a voice to those throughout our history who were silenced. You give a voice to those in communities around the world who are frightened.  You give a voice to those of us who refuse to be silent. And you give a voice to those murdered because others choose to use theirs to incite with hatred.

Speak for Chaya, Elad and Yosef. Speak for Gilad, Eyal and Naphtali, Speak for Hadas and Hadar. Speak for all of them. Speak for all of us. This is why we do what we do.

Talking Tachlis: WIZO at the UN – an interview with Prof. Rivka Lazovsky

There is nothing like a mention of the United Nations to raise our blood pressure. This once noble institution has become a hotbed of anti-Israel activity but did you know that WIZO has a presence at the UN on UNICEF and ECOSOC? WIZO lobbies for the rights of women and children and Irecently sat down with Prof. Rivka Lazovsky to find out more. View our discussion here:

WIZO at the UN

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WIZO Wonder Women at the UN: Anne Argi, Prof. Rivka Lazovsky, Mireille Manocherian and Dr Hava Bugajer.

Summer of Love

This article currently appears on Israelink:

Summer of Love

“Take me down to the Paradise city, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty, take me home” – sings Guns ‘n Roses front man, Axel Rose, who will be performing in Tel Aviv this summer. Well, the song could literally be about Israel because Tel Aviv is the paradise city where the grass is green (thanks to Israeli agricultural ingenuity) and the girls are pretty and to many a visiting rock star, it feels like home.

Just ask another great rocker- Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, who was so taken with Israel, he told star struck fans at Ha Yarkon Park that he was making Aliyah. Jewish Agency Chairman, Natan Sharansky, wasted no time in telling the rocker to walk this way to where he could fill out the appropriate forms.

Steven Tyler sings “Crying” in Tel Aviv

What is the appeal of Israel to so many rock stars? This coming summer is really proving to be the summer of love (and depleted bank accounts) as we debate who to see. Guns n Roses or Britney, bitch? Rod Stewart or Radiohead? Bryan Adams or Foreigner? Decisions, decisions, oy vey! Hardly a week goes by without an announcement of another major act visiting our shores.

Comfortably dumb

BDS poster boy, Roger Waters, must be about to have an apoplexy. The comfortably dumb Pink Floyd star’s favourite past time is sending letters to visiting bands encouraging them to join the boycott of Israel. He has succeeded with a few but the majority are fed up with Water’s acting like just another p**** in the wall! Clearly he needs an education and Radiohead front man, Thom Yorke, was more than happy to school Waters saying in a statement, “It’s deeply disrespectful to assume that we’re either being misinformed or that we’re so retarded we can’t make these decisions ourselves,” Yorke said. “I thought it was patronizing in the extreme… it’s really upsetting that artists I respect think we are not capable of making a moral decision ourselves after all these years.”

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Bow chica wow wow! More and more big name bands are deciding to see Israel for themselves and formulate their own opinions. They realise that music can help by not just building bridges between Israelis and Palestinians but also heals wounds. The legendary Carlos Santana, played to a capacity crowd in Tel Aviv and so did the soulful Alicia Keyes before him but what makes them extra special is that they both made the effort to use their epic star power and encourage music programmes for both Palestinian and Israeli children. Music has the power to build the connections that politics cannot.

All we are saying is give peace a chance

What BDS also neglect to tell you is their methods of discouraging artists from performing in Israel are not restricted to letters from the dodgy Roger but they also use tactic of intimidation and threats of violence. Legendary Beatle, Paul McCartney and numerous others including Mali’s Salif Keita have spoken about how they or their band members have been threatened by BDS activists. One can only look to social media to see how they are subjected to a barrage of abuse and outright lies.

In an interview with JCPA researcher, Adam Shay, McCartney was quoted as saying, “I got explicit death threats, but I have no intention of surrendering. I refuse to cancel my performances in Israel.”

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Even electro virtuoso, Moby, said that said that the intensity of the attacks against him before he came to Israel made him suspicious that this “wasn’t an objective movement that was concerned with people’s welfare, but with something dark and dubious.”

The jig is up and the BDSholes have been exposed yet again for the hatemongers that they are and their abject fear that people may visit Israel, in this case world famous celebrities with a massive fan base, and see something that they like or even…shock….horror……the truth!

One thing is for sure, Israelis are going to keep on rocking and enjoy our summer of love.

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From Wonder Woman to wondering women

Read all about Wonder Woman on Israelink right here:

Wonder Woman and wondering women

Wonder Woman is exactly that. She stands for justice and truth, compassion and kindness. Wonder Woman is so fabulous, even her accessories are indestructible and face it, who doesn’t love fashion that has truth wielding super powers?

It seems quite fitting that the bodacious Gal Gadot, one of the best Israeli exports since Waze and Mobileye, fills this iconic role. Beautiful, with Amazonian proportions and a deep love of her home country, Israel, Gadot is the perfect choice. While there are some who have sour grapes (yes you, BDS!) it hasn’t stopped her meteoric rise to the top and record-breaking box office takings. Talk about girl power in a rocking outfit!

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Our gal, Gal in action

Wonder Woman has super human strength, longevity and mind blowing reflexes – well, what do you expect from someone who served in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces)!  She is a celebration of feminism and femininity and we Israelis are kvelling, we are so proud of our gal, Gal.

A neighbourhood of no’s

Women’s rights in the rest of the Middle East are not as wonder-ful. Often relegated to second class status, our sisters in our very volatile neighbourhood do not enjoy as many rights as their Israeli sisters do. Israel’s detractors (yes, you again BDS!) would have you believe that women in minority communities in Israel are oppressed and subject to racially discriminating laws. This is so untrue, in fact, the Israeli Justice Ministry just swore in its first Qadi, a female sharia judge.

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Adv. Hana Khatib sworn in as first Qadi by President Rivlin 

For most women who live in the region, the Middle East is just a neighbourhood of no’s. No rights to vote, own property or business, no rights to as lucrative an education as their male counterparts, no rights to the freedom of expression or sexual orientation. In Saudi Arabia, where women’s rights are at an all-time low, women are not even allowed to drive or go anywhere without a chaperone. In many countries women have to cover their faces as well as their bodies and the effective message is that they have been silenced. In some instances women are subject to the most inhumane torture, female genital mutilation, for fear that she may enjoy sexual pleasure.

Where women have been raped or fallen in love with someone who is not their chose match, they are often blamed and face honour killings, a hideous phenomenon which has left many dead or severely disfigured as a result of these heinous acts of retribution that seldom, if ever goes punished.

While women around the world celebrated International Woman’s Day on the 8th of March, Palestinian women in Hamas governed Gaza were prohibited from enjoying similar festivities.  Hamas did this without a giving a reason and the territory continues to become more and more “conservative” and have imposed a strict dress code on women and banned them from smoking in cafes.

Unorthodox treatment

It is not just Muslim women who suffer from inequality. Christian women have been raped and sold into slavery or killed as the Islamic State continues its march of destruction through the neighbourhood.  Very little has entered the global consciousness about the situation facing Middle Eastern Christian women. There have been no marches, no protests and no vigils.

In some ultra-Orthodox sects in the Jewish community, women are also discriminated against. The horrendous trend of spitting on little girls who are not dressed “modest enough” or the relegation of women to sitting at the back of the bus has raised the ire of many women in Israel. While we enjoy considerably more rights than our sisters in the rest of our Middle Eastern neighbourhood, like many western women we continue to fight for the improvement of the status of women in areas like salary suffrage and employment equity.

The difference is that we can – we have a voice and nobody is scuppering to silence us.

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Blazing a trail

In fact, Israel can boast about remarkable strides in women’s equality. We can lay claim to one of the first female Prime Ministers in Golda Meir, Nobel Prize winners in science and other fields, Arab women who serve in the diplomatic corps, who are beauty queens and even win cooking competitions like Masterchef. In Israel, women can be pilots, pioneers, entrepreneurs and home executives, ballerinas and superheroes. They can be anything they want to be. We can blaze a trail for our sisters across the region. Nobody is stopping us.

It is only fitting that we add Gal Gadot, to the pantheon of Israeli Wonder Women.

Sara Zoabi shares her love for Israel

The pursuit of justice and equal rights for women in the Middle East requires super human effort and dedication. It requires giving the voiceless a voice, uplifting the downtrodden and advocating for the powerless. Women in the Middle East have been wondering for a long time – who speaks on their behalf?

Perhaps Wonder Woman, with her dedication to the pursuit of justice and her exceptional longevity is the super hero women in the region have been waiting for. Some might say it is a Herculean task. I say it is a job perfect for Wonder Woman.

Boycotts, shmoycotts – who are the real losers?

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Boycotts shmoycotts on Israelink

The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and sanctions) movement sure is noisy. While lacking cerebral substance, they understand the veracity of symbolism and language that is provocative, emotive and emotional. They understand that gratuitous use of the word Apartheid is guaranteed to get an emotional reaction from people.

I use the word gratuitous intentionally because BDS have no respect or understanding of the crime that was Apartheid and the trauma of its victims. To them it is simply evocative, sexy packaging that can be used to market their agenda and make it appealing to the masses who are concerned about human rights.

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If you wrap up hatred and sell it in an emotional package, then surely you must be on the side of good, right?

Wrong. There is a more nefarious agenda at play here and it is time to expose it.

A wolfish agenda in sheep’s clothing

Why is BDS so hell bent on this accusation? The motivation is simple. They want to paint Israel with the same colours as that of Apartheid South Africa and their rationale is that dish out the same treatment, then you can change the political status quo. Sounds simple doesn’t it. Except that in this case, changing the status quo in Israeli politics is not the end game result that detractors hope to achieve. In this case, questioning Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state is up for debate. Anti-Israelists will passionately argue that this treatment worked for South Africa but fail to realise that the South African paradigm is not one solution fits all.

The question we have to ask ourselves is who really stands to lose in a boycott of Israel.

BDS would have you believe that boycotts and sanctions contributed to the downfall of Apartheid in South Africa and that the same kind of well strategized campaign can do the same to change Israeli policies. There are very clear differences – in Apartheid South Africa, the minority white population had dominion over the majority black population and eventually, it was the citizens of the country who spoke out overwhelmingly in a referendum that the time had long passed to do away with this heinous regime.

Israelis and Palestinians are far more complicated. We desire a divorce from each other – hopefully as amicable as possible because we each have our own desires of national aspiration. It is extremely presumptuous for South Africans to impose their solution on to one of the most difficult political conflicts in history.

Did boycotts and sanctions contribute to the fall of Apartheid?

The idea of boycotts and sanctions was debated in the 1960’s but only really gained traction in the 1980’s. In November 1962, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 1761, a non-binding resolution establishing the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid and called for imposing economic and other sanctions on South Africa. All Western nations were unhappy with the call for sanctions and as a result boycotted the committee.

Fast forward to the 1980’s and the height of the regime and it can be said that while sanctions did have an effect on the economy, the credit for ending Apartheid for once and for all has to go to Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk who took great, sometimes unpopular risks, to ensure a better future for South Africans based of the democratic principles of equality and justice for all.

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FW De Klerk and Nelson Mandela

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is far, far more complex.  Nobody questioned South Africa’s right to exist as a nation state and the fact that BDS’s endgame is “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” means that we are dealing with a movement that does not seek democratic principles but rather the destruction of one of the main players – Israel.

Who stands to lose the most?

It is very easy for activists on both sides to play armchair politician but the impact is on the citizens. Palestinians stand to lose a lot more than Israeli’s in a boycott.  While the impact on Israelis is largely psychological and the economy continues to grow, Palestinians are impacted the most by this campaign. You would think that BDS would care that this is affecting the very people they purport to help, but they don’t. They prefer to demolish bridges rather than build them.

Human rights activist explains how the BDS movement and their boycott campaigns affects ordinary Palestinians in this video clip:

Bassem Eid demolishes BDS

If BDS really cared about the Palestinians, they would advocate that they become a second Singapore or start-up nation like their neighbour and do away with the murderous incitement and genocidal wishes.

Peace will be built from the ground up. It will start with individuals and communities, business people and investors. Boycotts only create barriers to this and discourage positive discours.

While the situation in the Middle East is not an easy one to fix, and Lord knows many have tried, perhaps the best way forward is to proceed with cautious hope and not to cry boycott at the drop of a hat.

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Palestinian and Israeli workers at the SodaStream Factory

Mandela, Barghouti and the theft of a narrative

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Barghouti is NO Mandela

One of the questions I am often asked in lectures or interviews is where is the Palestinian and Israeli De Klerk and Mandela when it comes to ending the nearly 70 year conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Where is the Middle Eastern equivalent of brave leaders willing to make uncomfortable sacrifices, to the detriment of support from their constituencies in order to forge peace?

More often than not, this opens up debate about what could be done and what kinds of concessions need to be made in order to achieve peace. While the South African experience is not a “one size fits all” solution, it is clear that in order to achieve peace, both sides will have to commit to negotiations and make painful sacrifices.

South Africa seems to hold a special place of both fascination and significance when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, from both a positive and negative perspective and very often the South African narrative is used by Israel’s detractors to suit their more nefarious agendas. The theft of the South African narratives and many of its symbols and icons is a ploy used by the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement to treat Israel like a pariah and call into question her legitimacy as a sovereign state. The latest is the hijacking of the status of iconic human rights activist and anti- Apartheid leader, Nelson Mandela by arch-terrorist and Palestinian prisoner, Marwan Barghouti.

Nelson Mandela once famously declared that “if you want to make peace with your enemy you have to work. Then your enemy becomes your partner”.

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Marwan Barghouti is hoping to position himself as the “Palestinian Mandela” and a possible successor to President Mahmoud Abbas.

Who exactly is Marwan Barghouti?

Marwan Barghouti is a former leader of Tanzim, the armed wing of Fatah, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, both terror organisations responsible for the murder of many Israeli civilians. Barghouti is serving time for the planning and directing of the murders of 5 Israelis.

Some have opined that in the early days of the struggle, Mandela advocated terrorism but the fundamental difference was that the ANC adopted a policy of sabotage, while Barghouti is on record as saying, “the time when only we sacrifice victims is past. We must take revenge. We must kill Israelis. Yes. We have bullets. We have rifles, and they will be aimed at the occupation.”

Mandela, who is a symbol of reconciliation, would never have countenanced such appalling actions.

Barghouti, who is entitled to a salary and could earn up to 12,000 NIS a month (about R45,000) because murder is not above his pay grade, has initiated a hunger strike.

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Now many would wonder, why would Palestinian prisoners participate in such a strike because they do receive regular visits from family as well as the Red Cross, access to medical care, education, religious rights and meetingswith attorneys as well as a multitude of other comforts. They can even watch TV although I am sure they would not be supporting Israel at the great superbowl of singing contests, Eurovision.

One would think that there is some great inalienable right that they are striking for. A strike that is garnering similar solidarity initiatives, such as the one supported by a whole bunch of South African politicians, celebrities and ne’er do gooders.  No ladies and gentlemen, the prisoners are striking for…..“Access to satellite channels tailored to the needs of prisoners.”*

No wonder Barghouti was so stressed he felt compelled to sneak into the lavatory of his cell for a chocolate and tortilla break on two occasions!

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With all the controversy and hullaballoo surrounding the strikes one would think that the voices of the truly downtrodden in our region would be heard.

If Barghouti was a fraction of the man he seeks to position himself as he would strike. He would starve for the rights of women in the Middle East, and bring attention to the scourge of honour killings, genital mutilation and second class citizen status of our sisters. He would strike for attention to be brought to the persecution of Christians and Gays, the lack of freedom of expression and the right of a free press. He would draw attention to the treatment of political opposition. If Barghouti gave a damn he would follow in the footsteps of Madiba who was a passionate advocate for education and use his voice to end the flagrant child abuse that passes for schooling in the territories.

He would be a wise leader, not a jailhouse fool.

In the quest for the Palestinian Mandela, one thing is for sure, it sure ain’t Marwan Barghouti!

*Reference NGO Monitor

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Talking Tachlis: Yom Hashoa edition: Interview with Rabbi Lau

World WIZO commemorates Yom Hashoa with a special edition of Talking Tachlis. In this episode, we have a conversation with World WIZO Chairperson, Prof. Rivka Lazovsky and our special guest, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi and child survivor of Buchenwald Concentration camp.

This was a profoundly emotional interview for me (we had to stop filming so I could dry my tears and pull myself together)  and such an honour to meet Rabbi Lau, a real treasure.

During this emotional and moving interview, you will the laughter of Israeli children and we could not help but be moved by the triumphant sounds of happy children, free to play and laugh in their schoolyard after hearing about the darkest chapter in our history.

The interview is in Hebrew with English subtitles.

May the memories of all who perished be blessed.

Rabbi Lau interview

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