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Prof Antony Arkin

Every few years academics feel the urge to analyse Judaism’s role in history. The most notorious was Arnold Toynbee who argued that the Jewish people are a “fossilized” civilization and an extinct society. He went on to describe Zionism as demonic.

Recently Yuval Harari, of the Hebrew University, who is famous for his 2014 bestseller, Sapiens: A brief History of Mankind, wrote in Ha’aretz that “Judaism is Not a Major Player in the History of Humankind”. He argued that while Christianity would not have developed without Judaism to precede it, he attributes all of Christianity’s influence on the world to its own contributions. Harari generally denigrates the Bible and rabbinic Judaism and denies it served in any way as an ethical model for humanity. But as Jeremiah Unterman argues in a Times of Israel blog there are many ways in which Jewish biblical ethics have unique significance.

1. Human equality and the sanctity of life

Genesis proclaims that all humans are created in the image of God. This gives rise to the sanctity of human life (Gen. 9.6) and human stewardship over the earth (Gen. 1.26-28; Psalm 8:5-9).

2.  Shabbat

The weekly day of rest was invented by the Torah. All human work is forbidden, even that of animals. No other society in the ancient world had a similar regulated period. Today, every country in the world has a weekend thanks to Judaism’s influence on human civilization.

3.  Enabling the Poor to Survive

Though Hammurabi’s code includes the instruction of the gods “to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak” there is not a single law on behalf of the weak or poor. The Torah is the first to legislate on behalf of the poor, including laws not to harm the poor, not to subvert the justice due to the poor, to provide loans, to pay the poor promptly, to provide free food, to enable the poor to enjoy holidays, to return pledged clothes and the redemption of their property. Eventually the laws would evolve into the Jewish requirements of tzedakah and influence both Christianity and Islam.

4.  The Stranger

No other ancient Near East society had a law on behalf of the stranger, the resident alien who lived in one’s society. Even that so-called bastion of democracy 5th century BCE Athens had only laws making them second-class residents. Yet the Torah has some 50 verses on behalf of the stranger, including all the laws applicable to the poor. In fact had humanity followed the dictates of the Torah, xenophobia would have been eliminated (Lev.19.34).

5.  Monotheism

It is the Jewish Bible that provides the unique concept of ethical monotheism, one supernatural, ethical Deity. It was also the only one to posit the revelation of a Deity to an entire people, who receives its law from God. It is the first time God makes a covenant with a people. The people’s laws are regarded as the stipulations of God, and Jewish destiny is now dependent upon its obedience to these laws.

6.  Prophetic Morality

That is why the prophets Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah and Jeremiah claim the primacy of morality over ritual. For if people pray and offer sacrifices, but are immoral then God will not accept their ritual. Any religious claim that God cares mainly about ethical behaviour then comes directly from Israel’s prophets.

7.  Redemption

The prophetic promises of the future restoration of the people to their land, along with world peace (Isaiah 2; Micah 4), is also a Jewish biblical concept. Hope is a Jewish gift as is the idea of working for a better world for all humanity.

Toynbee was taken to task in the famous debate with ambassador Yaacov Herzog at McGill University and eventually acknowledged that the Jews have played an enormous part in history. An easy counter to Harari is the fact the Jews make up 0.2 percent of the world’s population, and yet 20% of Nobel prize winners are Jewish has everything to do with Jewish civilization.


I S R A E L A T 6 8

Prof Antony Arkin

Each year, before we celebrate the independence of Israel, we commemorate Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance for Israel’s fallen. Some 23 447 soldiers have died in Israel’s wars and more than 2500 civilians have been murdered in terror attacks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Yom Ha’atzmaut put this in context: “The primary condition for independence is the will to protect, but the painful price is our fallen children and brothers to whom we are infinitely indebted. We know that there is no existence without protective strength, there is no independence without strength”.

For many nations a 68th birthday may not generate much excitement. For Israel it is another story. Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only UN member state whose right to exist is regularly challenged. It is the only nation in the world, which has a permanent, separate agenda item at the UN Human Rights Council. No other country faces systematic attempts to launch boycotts and sanctions against it. No other country has its right to self-defense challenged.

What Israel has achieved in the past 68 years is breathtaking. The rebirth of a state with a rock-solid democratic foundation, an independent judiciary and free press, the ingathering of millions of refugees and immigrants from every corner of the world, the creation of a world-class economy, and the building of a first-rate army.

Its commitment to a two-state accord with the Palestinians remains unshakeable, even as many Israelis cannot help but wonder if the Palestinians share Israel’s aim of Jewish and Palestinian states living side by side in peace. In global surveys Israel comes out among the “happiest” countries in the world.

A number of statistics indicate the meteoric growth experienced by Israeli society in the 68 years since the re-establishment of the state. Though Israel faces social, cultural, religious and military challenges, Ben Sales has argued in the JTA, it has burgeoned economically, technologically and militarily.

Israel’s population has grown tenfold since 1948. It was founded with a population of 806 000. Today there are 8.5 million Israelis, about 75% of them Jews. Aliyah continues to swell the numbers. 30 000 immigrants arrived in Israel in 2015, including almost 8000 from France, 7000 from Ukraine and about 3800 from the United States and Canada.

A higher percentage of Israelis than Americans own cellphones. Since 1948, Israel’s economy has grown even faster than its population. Its GDP in its founding year was $ 6.6 billion in today’s dollars. Now Israel produces about 44 times as much, nearly $ 300 billion a year. As a result its GDP per capita is 6.7 times what it was in 1948, some $ 35 000, adjusted for inflation. Now 96% of Israelis own cellphones, more than the 90% in the US. Almost nine in ten Israelis have an air conditioner.

Israel’s Airforce grew from nothing to the region’s most powerful. When Israel’s provisional government declared independence, the new state had a total of zero combat aircraft. The first shipment of 25 planes came a few weeks later from Czechoslovakia. The Israeli Airforce has since established itself as the best in the Middle East.

The number of women in the Knesses has tripled. Women fought alongside men in Israel’s pre-state battles and War of Independence. But when the first Knesset convened in 1949, just 11 of the body’s 120 members were women, less than 10%. One was Golda Meir, later to be Israel’s first female prime minister. Today, the Knesset includes a record 32 women, more than a quarter of the lawmakers, compared to 19 % in the US Congress.

As we celebrate Israel’s 68th birthday we can all be proud of an Israel that pulsates daily with the love of life, of freedom and of the land.

Happy 68th Birthday Israel !



Prof Antony Arkin

There have been countless horrific acts of injustice perpetuated throughout history. Though Jews are no strangers to suffering, many others have also been victims of unspeakable cruelty. But the judgment of Winston Churchill is almost certainly the definitive description of the uniqueness of the Holocaust: “The Final solution is probably the greatest, most horrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the world”.

The philosopher Emil Fackenheim summarized what puts the Holocaust in a class by itself as an example of evil in his book  ‘To Mend the World’. It was the only time in recorded history that a state tried to destroy an entire people regardless of an individual’s age, sex, location, profession or belief. And it is the only instance in which the perpetrators conducted this genocide for no ostensible material, territorial or political gain.

Thus Jews were singled out for the “crime” of existing. Jewish birth was sufficient cause for death. Assimilation was impossible. Conversion offered no protection. The biological connection to Jewish grandparents was guilt enough.

So the extermination of the Jews was not a means to an end, it was an end in itself. It was carried out for ideological reasons. The mass murder of the Jewish people ran parallel to the German war against the Allies. Enormous resources were diverted from the Nazi war machine to facilitate the extermination of the Jews.

The atrocities of the Holocaust were not primarily carried out by monsters, but for the most part, average citizens. They were in Fackenheim’s words “ordinary jobholders”. Throughout Europe Jews were rounded up and swept into concentration camps with the connivance of the local authorities. In many cases they were betrayed by their neighbours and friends. Those running the camps worked all day in the most inhumane conditions imaginable, and returned each evening to the comfort of their families. At the end of the war, many people who participated in conducting the horrors of the Holocaust simply returned to their normal lives.

The growing persecution of the Jews between 1933 and 1945 unfolded without organised official opposition by the governments of the world. A great deal of terrifying information was widely available, but no measures were taken to limit the damage. The impediment to the Jews finding their way to safety lay in the refusal by these nations to receive the Jewish refugees from Europe.

One of the inexplicable aspects of the Holocaust is that it took place in the twentieth century and was the work of the so-called “cultured” highly educated Germans with the connivance of the “civilized” world. The other examples of mass murder in the last century have included the Turkish annihilation of the Armenians, Stalin’s atrocities in the Soviet Union, Mao Zedong’s “great leap forward” in China, Pol Pot’s atrocities in Cambodia and the Rwanda genocide, but none of them have all the characteristics of the Holocaust.

Jews do no need to compete in a morbid contest for victimhood. Throughout Jewish history memory is the key to survive. We are a people of memory. In the Ten Commandments we are commanded, “to remember the Sabbath day”. In the Bible we are told to remember the exodus from Egypt. We have a special obligation today to add yet another commandment to “remember”. Remember the Holocaust, so that its millions of victims at least have the gift of living in our memories. In the words of Elie Wiesel “To forget would be to kill the victims a second time. We could not prevent their first death, we must not allow them to be killed again”.



Obsessive hostility towards Israel has spiked into hatred not merely to the Jewish State but against the local Jewish community and anti-Semitism worldwide. Led by the Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte, the ANC has made it clear it supports the aims of the hate-fest of Israel Apartheid Week. Its National Executive committee members crisscrossed the country to speak at anti-Israel events. Jan Cronje in the Weekend Argus reminded his readers of her previous racist remarks. In 2014, she was criticized by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein after she said that Israel had “turned the occupied territories of Palestine into permanent death camps”. Goldstein labelled her statement a “hate-filled out burst”. 

But the international media too has ramped up these blatantly racist, anti-Semitic attacks. Five months since the start of the “Lone-Wolves Intifada” began in Israel, the near daily stabbings, car-ramming’s and stonings have resulted in Palestinian terrorists killing over thirty Israelis and injuring hundreds of others. But as Eylon Aslan-Levy wrote in the Telegraph on too many occasions, headlines totally ignore the acts of terrorism themselves. Instead they lead with the deaths of the terrorists neutralised in the course of committing these crimes. Palestinian terrorists are routinely presented as innocents rather than murderers.

On the night of 3 October 2015 in Jerusalem’s Old City, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed four Israelis including a two year old infant, killing two. He then opened fire at police officers and was shot in response. The BBC ran the galling headline “Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two”. The BBC neglected to indicate that it was the same Palestinian and not the disembodied “Jerusalem attack” that had in fact murdered two people. After subsequent complaints the headline was finally changed to the more accurate “Jerusalem: Palestinian kills two Israelis in the Old City”.

This incident sparked a persistent trend in extremely poor newspaper headlines. When Palestinian terrorists stabbed two Israeli women in a mini-market and were shot dead before they could stab more, the Guardian ran “Two Palestinians Shot Dead After Knife Attack in West Bank Shop”. Some of these headlines draw false moral equivalence between terrorist and victim. The Irish Times ran the scandalous “3 Palestinians, 1 Israeli Die in West Bank Incidents”. The three Palestinians had stabbed Israelis and were killed committing terrorist attacks and the “one Israeli” woman had been killed as a murder victim. Last month, two Palestinians opened fire on Israeli soldiers and were killed in return fire. Another lunged at a border police officer with a knife and was killed. The Guardian abased itself with the headline “Three Palestinian Teenagers Shot Dead on West Bank”.

A new low as the CBS headline reading “3 Palestinians killed as daily violence grinds on”. The three Palestinians, armed with knives, explosives and firearms had just killed a 19 year old border police woman and wounded another. They were then shot dead by police before they could perpetrate a bigger attack.

The framing of Palestinian terror attacks as malicious Israeli executions has been so ludicrous as to be blood libelous. We have witnessed both the ANC and the newspapers forcing the story into a pre-conceived narrative of “bad” Israelis versus “good” Palestinians. Hatred towards Israel spills over to hostility towards Jews. Grossly misleading headlines create an unjust, negative image of Israel, demonising the Jewish State and perpetuating anti-Jewish animosity.



Prof Antony Arkin

As the world commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day at the end of last month, Iran announced a contest aimed at creating cartoons that deny the genocidal event occurred. Organised by the Teheran Municipality, the contest is calling for cartoonists world wide to send in works denying and satirizing the Holocaust. The contest’s grand prize has been increased from $ 12000 to  $ 50 000.

Israel’s UN ambassador Danny Danon called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to demand an official condemnation of the competition, claiming “this anti Semitic act represents the pure evil of the Iranian regime.” Danon wrote that “denying the Holocaust is one of the most powerful expressions of anti-semitism, which legitimizes the deaths of millions of Jews”.

Relations between Iran and the Jews are at a historical nadir. Shortly after the signing of the nuclear deal at the end of last year, the Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei published a 416 page book titled ‘Palestine’.  The book has one message: the urge to annihilate the state of Israel and establish the state of Palestine in its stead. Khamenei describes Israel as “a cancerous tumour” whose elimination would mean that “the west’s hegemony and threats will be discredited” in the Middle East. In its place “the hegemony of Iran will be promoted”.

A glance at the turbulent history of Iran’s relationship with the Jews would show that on the one hand it was Iranian rulers Cyrus the Great and Darius who had respectively ordered the building of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem and brought it to completion in 516 BCE. On the other hand, the current Iranian regime has vowed to destroy the so-called “third temple” and annihilate the Zionists, the Jews of Israel.

This is the same Iran, which as early as 1950, recognized the new state of Israel and built strategic relations with it that endured for thirty years. Yet when the Islamic Republic headed by Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979, it turned Israel into Iran’s official nemesis. This paradox is explained by Prof Ofra Bengio of Tel Aviv University. Among all Muslim sects, “the treatment of Jews was the worst under Shia rule, especially in Iran, the only place where Shi’ism has been the religion of the state since the 16th century ...” In Shia Iran the Jews were persecuted and had to wear a special badge on their clothing to distinguish them from Moslems. There were also occasions of massacre of Jews or forcible conversion to Islam. The Jews are considered by the Shia to be ritually impure”. (Tablet Magazine, Sept 24, 2015)

The period between 1953 and 1978 may be considered then as the golden era of Iranian-Israeli relations. The Shia clergy’s clout was diminished by the Shah and relations with the Jewish state flourished. It should be observed that whenever the Shi’ite clergy has the upper hand, the situation of the Jews or relations between the two states has taken a negative turn. As long as the clergy rule Iran, the prospects for it accepting the legitimacy of Israel are dim.

While the world remembers the atrocities of the Holocaust which are still fresh in our collective memory, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein wrote to Ban Ki-Moon that “words cannot  describe the revulsion and protestation of the state of Israel and many across the world at the recurring proof that Iran continues in its policy of Holocaust denial”.



Prof Antony Arkin

As the delegates assemble in Jerusalem for the World Zionist Organization Congress, they, together with all Israel and the Jewish world, are increasingly concerned over what Amos Harel in Ha’aretz called the Palestinian Authority’s policy of “blatant escalation” of its rhetoric. 

On every Arab TV station, and especially on social media, Palestinians are watching reports from the Temple Mount described as “Israeli attacks on Al Aqsa”. This has lead to a huge increase in the violence on the ground. There has been an escalation in the number of large demonstrations, from shooting and rock-throwing ambushes on highways, to a series of vicious murders.

Mahmoud Abbas and other senior Palestinian figures have been issuing daily threats against Israel in response to perfectly peaceful visits by Jews to the Temple Mount. Bassam Tawil, of Gateway Institute, has argued that the Palestinian leaders would like to see rioting in the streets of Jerusalem so they can hold Israel responsible for cracking down on “innocent” Palestinians participating in “popular resistance”. If anyone is desecrating Islamic holy sites, it is those who bring explosives, stones and firebombs into the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the first place.

Abbas has yet to condemn the attack by a Hamas cell in Nablus that killed Na’ama and Eitam Henkin, the murder of two parents in front of their four small children. Senior figures in his Fatah faction actually praised the murder of unarmed civilians as a heroic act. Thousands attended the funeral in Jerusalem where their nine-year-old son Matan said Kaddish for his parents. The following evening, Rabbi Nehemia Lavi, 41, and Aharon Benita, 21, were murdered by a Palestinian attacker in the Old City of Jerusalem near Lions’ Gate. Benita’s wife, Adele, is in a serious condition and their two-year-old son was also wounded. She told Israel’s Channel 2:  “I ran several meters with a knife stuck in my shoulder, covered in blood. And the Arabs watching, applauded and spit at me, calling out, “you should die too””.

These daily Palestinian assaults on Israeli civilians with guns, knives, firebombs and rocks have become so commonplace that they get very little press coverage. But the support the terrorists are getting from the Palestinian Authority makes it clear there is a method behind this madness.

Abbas wants to distract the world from its current focus on the mass slaughter of Arabs by fellow Muslims in Syria, a conflict that proves that pressuring Israel is not the key to Middle East peace, and to orchestrate a new wave of condemnations of the Jewish state. 

The deafening silence about attacks on Jews in the streets of Jerusalem reinforces the Palestinian belief that they can get more international support by escalating the conflict and refusing Israeli offers of statehood than by making peace.

As the delegates to the WZO convene, it is hoped the hateful incitement, which has included the firebombing of a Palestinian home by Jewish extremists killing 18 month old Ali Dawabsheh and his parents in late July, will now abate. Herzl’s vision has created the Middle East’s freest and most thriving state. 

President Reuven Rivlin at the Henkin funerals said “Terror has never shaken our foundation, and will never shake our hold on this land”. But the Zionist vision based on Jewish values, means embracing our fellow human beings and turning away from violence. We must build on the enormous progress that has been made.



Prof Antony Arkin

One of the hallmarks of a democratic society is freedom of the press. The United Nations’ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and import information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers”.

Freedom of the press is construed as an absence of interference by outside entities, rather than as a right of authors to have their works published by other people. It gives the editor exclusive control over that he chooses to publish. In this month’s issue of Hashalom, there are a number of letters referring to discontent in Durban’s major congregation. Some have been heavily edited to remove all references to particular individuals. The underlying principle is we believe Judaism is in favour of unity but opposed to uniformity.

On the one hand we know from Jewish history that disunity leads to tragedy, destruction and exile. This is the lesson of the Maccabean conflict. According to II Maccabees (Chapter 4-6) the decrees of Antiochus were brought about by senseless hatred among the Jewish leaders who ceaselessly plotted against one another. Similarly according to the Talmud (Yoma 9b) the Second Temple was also destroyed because of sinat hinam, senseless hatred.

On the other hand, our classic sources stress the importance of unity. “And who is like Your people Israel, one nation in the earth” (II Chronicles 17:21). Ezekiel prophesied that the kingdoms of Judah and Israel will be re-united (37: 16-27) like two sticks being “joined together in your hand...” Rabbi Yitzhak Abarbanel in the 15th century in his commentary to Judges 21:5 argued “All the good of Israel and their survival hangs on their being unified together”.

But unity is never achieved by uniformity. Our sages taught that pluralism is essential not only in the study of Torah, but among people and within Jewish law. “There are seventy faces to the Torah” (Bemidbar Rabbah 13:15-16) so one Biblical verse may convey many explanations (Sanhedrin 34a). In Midrash Tanhama (Pinhas, para 10) Moses asks at the time of his death that God should appoint a leader for the Jewish people. And who is the ideal leader? “Appoint over them a person who tolerates every single person according to his opinion”.

Throughout Jewish history a range of rulings co-existed side by side. In the Geonic period we find a series of disagreements between the yeshivot of Sura and Pumbedita and at least 55 halakhic differences between the Jews of Babylonia and the Jews of Eretz Yisrael. In medieval times there were hundreds of differences between Ashenazim and Sephardim. In modern times there are many disagreements between Hassidim and Mitnagdim and of course between modern Orthodox, Conservative and Reform.

Hashalom aspires then to the Jewish ideal of unity without uniformity. We wish to provide an open platform for all our community to freely express their views in tolerance and mutual respect. In the final analysis, we are all responsible for one another.



- Antony Arkin

Last month the rest of the world was transfixed by Sepp Blatter’s battle for survival as FIFA president amid a storm of corruption allegations engulfing world football. For Israelis though, the burning issue was a motion to expel their football federation from FIFA because of restrictions imposed on Palestinian footballers, and teams from Jewish settlements in the West Bank taking part in the Israeli leagues.

As the Economist argued it was clear that the vote would be shelved, but just the idea of expulsion ruined many Israelis’ weekend. Boycotts against Israel are nothing new. For much of its history the country faced an economic boycott organised by the Arab League. That boycott, which petered out in the 1990’s, prevented most Japanese firms from exporting cars to Israel and Pepsico from selling its soft drinks. But it did not stop Israel’s economy from evolving into a technological powerhouse which today is fully integrated into the global market-place.

In the short term the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), run mainly by American and European activists on social media, is unlikely to succeed where the Arab League with its petrodollars failed. So far BDS victories have been limited largely to the passage of pro-boycott resolutions by student unions. It urges artists, mainly through Facebook campaigns, not to perform in Israel.

A couple of weeks ago however, it briefly seemed for the first time that a big international corporation might cut its ties with Israel. Stephane Richard, the CEO of Orange, a French telecommunications giant, told a press conference in Cairo that if he could, he would end Orange’s brand-sharing contract with an Israeli mobile phone provider “tomorrow”. But after vigorous Israeli protests he soon ate his words. The French government which part-owns Orange said it had no intention of divesting from Israel. At the time of writing Mr Richard is in Israel to apologise.

The furore prompted many commentators to fret anew about the threat of a boycott. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks argued at the Herzlia Conference that the BDS movement is the latest incarnation of the denial to Jews as a distinctive faith and people the right to be: the right to govern themselves, in the land of their beginnings. During the Middle Ages Jews were hated for their religion. In the 19th and 20th centuries they were hated for their race. Today they are hated for their nation state. Anti-semitism is not simply about Jews. It is an offence against the fundamental dignity of difference.

The rebirth in this mutated form of anti-semitism within the living memory of the Holocaust should be chilling to anyone with a genuine sense of humanity. An assault on Jews or the Jewish state is never an assault on them alone.

This viewpoint is supported by the Archbishop Cranmer blog: “To single out the democratic Jewish state for ‘special treatment’ when so many other nations of the world are far worse is shameless anti-semitism. The evil of the delegitimization of Israel is that it isolates the only democracy and persecutes the only free people in the Middle East. If the past century has taught us anything at all, it is that our failure to confront anti-semitism and anti-Judaism has tragic consequences.”



Prof Antony Arkin

Last month the Jewish world celebrated the 67th anniversary of the re-establishment of the State of Israel. But it also saw social unrest by the Ethiopian community against entrenched racism and the creation of a narrow, far right government. We Jews however, have never looked at the “situation” with rose-tinted glasses. Even at our people’s birth, when the Israelites were led out of Egypt, the recently freed masses yelled at Moses “Because there were no graves in Egypt, has thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?”  (Exodus 14:11). So it may well give a better perspective to see how Israel has changed over the last generation. The following data was compiled by Dr Adam Reuter of Financial Immunities Ltd and published by Dror Eydar in Israel Hayom.

In 1984 Israel’s population was 4.1 million, thirty years later it had doubled to 8.2 million. Thirty years ago the gross national product was a mere $30 billion. Today it is $307 billion. The GNP per capita has increased over these years from $7000 to $36 000.

In 1984 Israel’s foreign currency reserves amounted to $3 billion. Thirty years later they have skyrocketed to $90 billion. Meanwhile the national debt which was 280% of GNP in 1984 had dropped to only 66% of GNP in 2014. Security expenditure has declined from 20% of GNP to only 5%.

In 1984 Israel’s exports were valued at $10 billion, and thirty years later at $96 billion, an 860% increase. High-tech exports were valued at $1 billion and $37 billion in 2014, a 3600% increase!

In 1984 the public sector employed 75% of the employed labour force, today it is only 43%. Employment of women was 34% and by 2014 it had risen to 54%.

In 1984 Israel had no independent sources of energy, today 38% comes from its own sources and it is well on track to complete energy independence. There was no desalinated water in 1984. Today more than 40% of Israel’s water consumption comes from its own desalination plants.

Over the last five years, the cumulative economic growth was 21%, the second highest rate among the developed nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The Economist has conducted a study to divine where it would be best to live in 2030 in terms of health, wealth and personal security. Israel was ranked 20th, higher than the UK, France, Italy or Japan. According to the Wall Street Journal Israel is the second most educated country in the world, just behind Canada. Of the 148 countries analysed, Israel ranks first in innovative capability, second in entrepreneurship and third in global innovation.

Israel is ranked 19th in the United Nations Human Development Index which uses life expectancy, education and income to calculate its results, ahead of Belgium, Austria, France and Finland. The UN’s 2015 World Happiness Report has just been released. Israel was ranked 6th among the OECD states and the 11th overall, out of 156 countries worldwide.

While there is in Israel still a great deal of real poverty, inequality and racism we need to remind ourselves how miraculous Israel is. This can serve our community as an antidote against the venom of anti-semitism. In this way we continue the legacy of Joshua ben Nun and Caleb ben  Jephunneh, who were wise enough to say: “The land which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceeding good land” (Numbers 14:7).


Bibi is back

Last month Israel went to the polls in almost the only free elections in a region stretching from Marrakesh to Bangladesh. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel won a clear victory and seems all but certain to form a new government and serve a fourth term. With 99.5% of the ballots counted at the time of writing, Netanyahu’s Likud Party had captured 30 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, sweeping past the Zionist Union alliance of Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, which got 24 seats.

An interesting development was the third place position of the Arab list which gained 14 seats and could potentially play a more prominent role in the future. It may still take many weeks for a coalition government to be formed.

Most of the election was focused on economic issues, how a liberalized economy with a thriving high tech sector still faces large and growing inequalities in income, real poverty and very expensive housing. Yet Netanyahu owes his election win to Israeli security fears. Any new government will operate in a Middle East that has become the most dangerous place in the world. It is one gripped by social decay, crumbling politically and becoming increasingly poor. It will also need to keep Iran’s nuclear program in the forefront of world attention.

These challenges offer excellent opportunities for the new Israeli government. Israel is no longer isolated. It shares interests with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and a number of the Gulf States. The struggle these countries are waging against Islamic State and other Jihadist groups, along with their concerns regarding the Iranian threat, has reduced Arab hostility towards Israel. Reuters reported the remarks of Sami al-Faraj, a Kuwaiti security advisor to the Gulf Co-operation Council: “Without any sense of collusion with Israel, there is a feeling of affinity in the Gulf with Israel’s stance on curbing the influence of Iran in the area”.

This affords Israel the choice to push for a broad regional settlement aimed at making peace between Israel and the Arabs. The framework of such a settlement should also include the outlines for a resolution of the Palestinian issue. The ongoing tensions between Israel and the Palestinians may well increase. Their chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, told AFP that they will intensify the diplomatic offensive against the Jewish state. To many Israelis traumatized by missiles and rockets, giving the Palestinians control over their own land will only bring more violence. The Palestinian narrative remains that Jews are aliens to the Middle East and Jewish sovereignty over any territory is intolerable.

Netanyahu’s statement that his new government would rule out a Palestinian state therefore is not quite what it seems. As Stephen Pollard, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle writes in the Telegraph, it will have zero impact on any peace negotiations as there has been zero prospect for any serious progress for years. Whenever Israeli leaders have offered deals, the Palestinians have rejected them.

However, without a Palestinian state, Israel will either endanger its Jewish majority or lose its moral standing by subjugating and disenfranchising the Palestinian population. Israel will lose support abroad even when it legitimately defends itself. Netanyahu’s new government will need to hold pragmatic talks with the Palestinians.



Prof Antony Arkin

The Jewish people have for thousands of years yearned

for one thing above all, shalom, peace. We are all

meant to be rodphei shalom, pursuers of peace. We

must never abandon that quest, that belief in the

possibility. Yet at the same time we cannot become

so mesmerized by it that we lose all perspective on life as it actually

is today. More Israelis have been killed by terror in the past month

than the last two years.

At the time of writing four people were murdered this morning

in a West Jerusalem synagogue in Har Nof. Last week Sergeant

Almog Shiloni, 20, from Modi’in was killed in Tel Aviv and Dalia

Lemkus, 26, was stabbed to death in Alon Shvut. The week before

a senior Druze border patrol officer Jadan Assad, 38, and Yeshiva

student Shalom Baadan, 17, were killed when a Palestinian terrorist

rammed into a crowd of people at a Jerusalem light rail station. The

first victims this month were three month old Chaya Braun and

22 year old Karen Mosquera who were both killed by a terrorist

who also drove a car into a Jerusalem light rail station. Furthermore

more than 100 Israelis have been wounded in the past month due

to terror.

Hamas, having failed to achieve its goals after firing thousands of

rockets during Israel’s summer is now desperately trying to stoke

a third intifada in the West Bank. In lockstep there has been a huge

spike in anti-Semitism worldwide. Thousands of demonstrators

marched through the streets of Paris, Berlin and other European

cities, many chanting “Death to the Jews”, “Hitler was right”, “Jews

to the gas chambers” and “Re-open Auschwitz”. Led by its mayor,

Durban had the largest march in its history. Newsweek’s cover story

was “Exodus: Why Europe’s Jews are fleeing once again”. Three

European leaders, the foreign ministers of France, Germany and

Italy issued an unusual joint appeal against the surge in anti-Semitism.

South Africa’s ruling party has compared Israel to Nazis. Its General

Secretary, Gwede Mantashe, proclaims the illegitimacy of the right

of Israel to exist. A Western Cape ANC leader Tony Ehrenreich

calls for Jews to be expelled from South Africa. Its student affiliate

COSAS placed a pig’s head in the meat section of Woolworths.

We cannot remain indifferent or complacent. We Jews are a people,

we share a destiny. We have a collective responsibility to one

another. We identify with our Jewish brothers and sisters around

the world, who today face a new level of danger and fear. We

expect world leaders not only to denounce anti-Semitism, but also

to take sustained action against it.

But in the spirit of our tradition this is a time for each of us to

say “Hineini! Here I am”. Through support of DIVOTE, collecting

for bomb shelters by the JNF and WIZO and by donating to the

IUA we can each make a difference. It is our responsibility to

prevent Israel’s opponents’ penetration of the media, universities

and unions. In seeking peace we must oppose the hatred that has

violently and viciously attacked Israel, a liberal-democratic nation

legitimately established in the ancient homeland of its people. We

stand with Israel affirming our pride, solidarity and support.



The 50-day war that Hamas caused claimed more then 2000 Palestinian lives, many of them in the words of Steve Huntley of the Chicage Sun-Times “cruelly and illegally wasted as human shields by Hamas”. More than 60 000 homes and 5 000 businesses were destroyed or damaged. Donor nations that have given so much money to the Palestinian cause are hestitant about again funding the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. These nations donated huge sums for rebuilding after Hamas terrorism from Gaza provoked military operations in 2009 and 2012. That money evaporated in explosions this year when Hamas launched another conflict by kidnapping and murdering three Israeli teens and firing rockets and mortars into Israel.

The tensions between Israel and the US and other Western allies have increased in the wake of Operation Protective Edge. Beyond horror at the devastation in Gaza there is growing impatience with the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This vexation is made worse by Israel’s continued settlement building in the West Bank, in stark defiance of global opposition. The West’s conclusion is that peace talks with Palestinian President Abbas must be restarted. This will make it easier for the West to recruit the Arab world in the fight against the Islamic State. Israel holds the opposite to be true which has resulted in a dramatic shift in policy.

Israel contends that the heavy fighting during the Gaza conflict serves as proof to what happens in areas from which Israel withdraws. The West needs to acknowledge the dangers facing Israel in a region beset by Islamic extremism, with Hamas still ruling Gaza and constantly seeking greater influence in the West Bank. Hezbollah is armed to the teeth in southern Lebanon, Syria is an anarchic, unpredictable hellhole, the Islamic State is on the march there and in Iraq. Iran continues to fund terrorism in the region and beyond while relentlessly upgrading its expertise on the road to a nuclear weapons arsenal.

The actual obstacle to peace remains the hostility to Israel of the Arab world, including from the Palestinians. The assumption is that any renewed negotiations with Abbas will only end in a stalemate or an explosion of Palestinin anger. Ron Ben-Yishai has argued in Ynet that instead of striving towards the two-state solution that would see the Palestinians receiving sovereign territory which Hamas could then take over and use to fire rockets at Israel, Jerusalem is shifting towards a “conflict management approach” until the Middle East stabilizes.

Israel will assist as much as possible with the reconstruction efforts in Gaza in an attempt to create an incentive for the population to demand that Hamas not drag it into another  devastating war. It has waived its objection to internal Palestinian reconciliation and the formation of the unity government between the Palestinian authority and Hamas. It will assist Abbas to extend his authority and control to Gaza. On the ground this means economic benefits and restriction easing for residents of both the West Bank and Gaza. Security considerations will be the only limitation preventing the re-armament of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Khaled Abu Toamed of the Gatestone Institute has argued that “many Arabs still have not come to terms with Israel’s existence, and apparently are not interested in coming to terms with it”. Under these circumstances the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in their current form is futile. By easing the lives of Palestinians in return for greater oversight over Hamas Israel hopes to restore calm to its South. Reducing the Gaza restrictions is the new two-state solution.


Changing the Guard

Shimon Peres, the last of Israel’s founding fathers is stepping down as President this month. Now 90, Peres has stood at the forefront of Israeli politics for 65 years. With a political pedigree eclipsing any rival, Peres has held just about every major office in Israel in a career spanning seven decades. Peres, as a Nobel laureate and elder statesman, has carved out a reputation as a peacemaker. He has taken advantage of his largely ceremonial post to push a political message of peace. Though often at odds with Israel’s right-wing premier, Benjamin Netanyahu, he never overstepped the boundaries of his position. He did nothing without the prime minister’s consent. He has a special status in capitals around the world. Peres’ departure from office will be the end of an era.

Former Knesset speaker Reuven “Ruby” Rivlin was elected by the Knesset for a seven year term to replace Peres. He is a Likud party elder statesman with a unique reputation for integrity in Israel’s sometimes messy political system. He was supported across the political spectrum for his role in preserving Israel’s democratic character. In two stints as speaker of the Knesset, Rivlin was known for his respectful treatment of colleagues of various political affiliations, though he is not as accepting of diversity within Judaism.

As Ben Sales writes in, Rivlin’s most scathing remarks about Reform Judaism came in 1989 after visiting Temple Emanu-El, a Reform synagogue in New Jersey. “I was completely stunned. This is idol worship and not Judaism. Until now I thought Reform was a stream of Judaism, but after visiting two of their synagogues I am convinced that this is a completely new religion without any connection to Judaism”. Rivlin, who is secular, is of course not alone among Israeli politicians in seeing Orthodoxy as the sole authentic Jewish practice.

Rivlin, as a self-identified disciple of Revisionist Zionism founder Ze’ev Jabotinsky, opposes territorial concessions to the Palestinians and wants Israel to retain the West Bank. As a committed democrat however he supports giving Israeli citizenship to West Bank Palestinians. His opposition to a two-state solution means he would be unlikely to reprise the diplomatic role that Peres has played as president. Peres has been uniquely suited to the task of representing Israel to audiences abroad that are sceptical of the country’s right-wing government.

Rivlin’s energies are likely to be devoted then to internal issues such as strengthening democracy, promoting better governance and advocating for more tolerance and unity. In an interview with The Times of Israel he promised he would not interfere in government policies. “It’s not for the president to determine the arrangements between Israel and the Palestinians, and the Arab world, but to be the bridge between opinions, and to facilitate dialogue and understanding”.

Together with the rest of the Jewish world, we wish both gentlemen congratulations, thanks and most importantly, shalom.



Prof Antony Arkin

In the few years since the establishment of the Durban Holocaust Centre it has become a significant force in the community’s cultural life. Indeed, across the globe interest is growing immensely as millions of school children study the industrialized slaughter of Jews by the Nazis. In its immediate aftermath, the Holocaust went largely unacknowledged. Perpetrators and bystanders preferred to forget. Commemoration began in Israel, 5 years after the State was established. This is home now to many survivors. But even there it was done quietly. It was only after the Eichmann trial in 1961 that this changed. Today some 200 000 students annually tour Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

Unlike Yad Vashem, which portrays Jews as outsiders in Europe who find redemption in Israel, new Jewish museums in Austria and Poland present Jews as an intrinsic part of European heritage and culture. The exhibition at Yad Vashem ends with a display of Israel’s declaration of independence and the playing of Hatikvah, whereas European equivalents emphasize a Jewish rebirth in places where massacres happened.

America has the world’s second biggest Jewish population. But with no death camps to commemorate it follows a surprisingly universal path in Holocaust teaching. Museums focus on the dangers of racism, bigotry and intolerance. Discussing the Holocaust in the context of other human horror is popular in Africa, Latin America and Asia as well. South Africa uses the Nazi race laws to examine the apartheid regime. In Senegal the Holocaust is used as a way to develop remembrance about slaves. Argentinian pupils examine the Holocaust in the light of their dictatorship a generation ago.

In China, parallels are drawn between the Holocaust and the wartime atrocities of the Imperial Japanese army. The methods developed by Yad Vashem have become guidelines for memorials to the Asian tragedies in Cambodia and China. In India the Holocaust is seen as the core event of the 20th century in Europe. Last year some 46 500 South Koreans visited Auschwitz.

The main geographic exception to the growing global interest in the Holocaust is the Muslim world, where it is commonly viewed as a dramatisation meant to win sympathy for Jews bent on grabbing Arab land.

Treating the Holocaust as a neat moral issue could devalue its study regardless of its proliferation. As Emil Fackenheim argued in “To Mend the World” (Indiana University Press, 1994) the Shoah had distinguishing characteristics:

The “Final Solution” was designed to exterminate every single Jewish man, woman and child.

“Jewish Blood” was sufficient to warrant the punishment of death. Jews were the only people killed for the “crime” of existing.

The extermination of the Jews had no political or economic justification. Resources that could have been used in the war were diverted to the program of extermination.

The people who carried out the “Final Solution” were primarily average citizens.

There is the concern then that the Holocaust is losing its specificity. Perhaps the biggest threat to the remembrance of the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis is trivialisation. Jews do not need to compete in a morbid contest as to who has suffered the most in history. It is important however to explain why the Holocaust is a unique part of human history.



Prof Antony Arkin

Last month a solidarity conference in support of the People of Palestine, Cuba and Western Sahara took place in Parliament under the auspices of the International Relations and Co-operation Portfolio Committee.

In the words of the joint statement issued by the SA Zionist Federation and the SA Jewish Board of Deputies this was "a staged managed show trial" run by anti-Israel extremists. Those participating included Fatima Hajaig who was forced to resign as deputy minister over her anti-Semitic remarks, Bongani Masuku who was found guilty of hate speech by the Human Rights Commission and Muhammed Desai who is on record as justifying the chanting of "Shoot the Jew" by his BDS supporters.

This is of course no isolated incident. It has been more than a decade since South Africa became the ground zero of initiatives aimed at boycotting Israel. Einat Wilf has argued in Ynet that South Africa is perceived today as "the world's conscience". It is the country which overcame apartheid, gave the world Nelson Mandela and is a symbol of equality between blacks and whites. The actual reality of corruption, violence and discrimination is irrelevant. It is no co-incidence therefore that the initiatives against Israel which began in South Africa have developed into global phenomena.

South Africa was the country which hosted the UN human rights conference in Durban in 2001 that turned into an anti-Jewish hate-fest. This paved the way for misusing the human rights discourse to isolate and boycott Israel as a criminal apartheid regime, known as the "Durban strategy".

South Africa was the country which implemented an academic boycott policy against Israel in the unprecedented decision of the University of Johannesburg to cut its ties to Ben Gurion University. South Africa is the country which began labelling products from communities located beyond the Green Line.

Uniquely however, South Africa engages in an actual policy of boycotting official visits to Israel.

The Zionist Federation and Board of Deputies joint statement goes on to indicate that "a striking feature of the conference was the complete absence of any expression of support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.”None of the speakers examined how the conflict could be peacefully resolved. Their strategy seems to indicate that the BDS campaign strengthens the Palestinian bargaining position. They will not therefore have to compromise by giving up the right of return, or by agreeing to a de-militarized state, concessions that are necessary for peace, but difficult for some Palestinians to accept". The leader of the BDS movement, Marwan Barghouti, has repeatedly expressed his opposition to Israel's right to exist as the nation state of the Jewish people even within the 1967 borders. At bottom, the BDS movement is opposed not only to Israel's occupation and settlement policy but to its very existence.

Instead of stupidly providing another Kangaroo court to bash Israel, the International Relations and Co-operation Portfolio Committee should have provided the moral voice to demand that both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority accept a compromise peace that assures the security of Israel and the viability of a peaceful Palestinian State. The true South African way is not the use of immoral extortionate threats, but rather by negotiations, compromise and goodwill.



Prof Antony Arkin

The State of Israel and the Jewish world lost one of its most charismatic and influential leaders when Ariel Sharon died last month. For decades his actions shaped Israel's history and the world's image of the Jewish nation. He will ultimately be remembered as the man who saved Israel when she needed him most.

On the battlefield, Sharon was the soldier his superiors counted on to execute difficult and aggressive assignments. Sharon largely created the ethos of the Israeli Defence forces and laid the backbone for her extraordinary special forces.

As commander of Paratrooper Battalion 202, he took the Mitla Pass during the 1956 Suez War. He spearheaded the invasion of the Sinai Desert during the 6 Day War commanding the Armoured Division 138. During the Yom Kippur War, he showed his mettle .While all was at crisis point, Sharon forced a crossing of the Suez Canal and surrounded the Egyptian 3rd Army thus forcing the Egyptians to accept a cease fire.
As a soldier Sharon never held back from a fight. As a politician he was exactly the same. A key player in the formation of the Likud Party, Sharon supported the settlement of the West Bank. As Defence Minister he received widespread blame for the 1982 campaign into Beirut. But for Sharon the war was a necessary action and lead to the expulsion of 8856 terrorists, including Arafat, from Israel's northern border. The political fallout resulting from the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps by a Christian Phalangist force allied to Israel lead to him resigning his post as Defence Minister.

The most important part of Sharon's political career was in his later years. On the fifth anniversary of Rabin’s death in 2000 Sharon addressed the Knesset. “To achieve peace as Yitzhak Rabin understood, you have to make painful concessions and compromises.” On September 28, 2000 Sharon visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Immediately after the visit the Palestinians, following Arafat's instructions, launched a wave of terror. Believing only Sharon could stem the violence he was elected Prime Minister in 2001. In 2002 Operation Defensive Shield and the building of the barrier led to a drastic decline in suicide bombing.

In 2003 he accepted the Quartet Roadmap to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a two-state solution. In 2005 he addressed the United Nations: "I reach out today to our Palestinian neighbours in a call for reconciliation and compromise to end the bloody conflict, and embark on the path that leads to peace and understanding between our peoples".

Sharon argued that Israel should disengage unilaterally from areas which would not be included in the future territories of the state. These areas would be the Gaza strip and four isolated settlements immensely complex operation but the pull out proceeded more smoothly than most believed possible. Sharon showed a vision of a new world and gave Israel the confidence to believe he could create it.



Prof Antony Arkin

One of the great privileges of attending the annual conferences of the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency in Jerusalem is seeing parts of Israel not usually visited. In a recent discussion on BBC News Yolande Knell argued that the fate of the Jordan Valley is key to the Israel-Palestine talks. This bleak moonscape makes up a quarter of the West Bank. It was captured by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War, and most of it is still under Israel's military and administrative control. In a report in the Washington Post General John Allen argued ..."the most contentious issue under discussion is military control over the Jordan Valley". The fate of the valley is said to be one of the points on which Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are struggling to find a compromise.
The Israeli position is that "Israel will not return to the indefensible lines of 1967". Just one month after the War Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon proposed Israel retain territories of strategic importance for its defense that would replace the vulnerable 1967 lines. Legally Allon based himself on the UN Security Council Resolution 242 which according to its drafters, envisaged the creation of a new secure border that would replace the old armistice lines.
The Allon plan, which was largely based on Israel retaining the Jordan Valley has remained a critical component of Israeli military thinking. Thus on October 5, 1995, two years after Israel signed the Oslo Agreements, Prime Minister Rabin declared before the Knesset "The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of the term". Even after he announced his disengagement plan Prime Minister Sharon told Ha'aretz on April 14, 2005 that Israel must continue to control the Jordan Valley. Israel's control is not only needed for defense against conventional attacks, but also for neutralizing the growing threat from advanced weapons that can be smuggled to terrorist organizations.
Minister Allon established two rows of settlements along the border parallel to the Jordan River. The Valley had very few Arab inhabitants, except for Jericho. The World Zionist Organization joined the IDF Nahal units to create the "security belt". Since 1967 the Valley has been transformed. The enormous disadvantages of high salt content in the soil, harsh climate and the total dependence on artificial irrigation have been overcome.
Agro-technical tehnologies have been developed, professional guidance has been given and research and development units established. The high temperature yields early ripening in the spring and late ripening in the autumn, allowing for high financial gains. The strong sun radiation encourages the growth of fruit and vegetables. The below average rainfall and moisture contribute to low infestation resulting in high quality crops. Treated waste water from Jerusalem has allowed agricultural production to be cultivated on 35000 dunam at a value of 500 million NIS.
These crops include 18000 dunam of top quality dates, with over 80% exported, 5000 dunam of table grapes, 50% of the yield is exported. Bell peppers are a major vegetable on 3500 dunam. Herbs and spices are grown on about 3000 dunam. These include basil, aragula, spearmint, tarragon and chives. Other crops include cherry tomatoes, eggplants, flowers, citrus, olives and pomegranates. After years of hard labour and searching for crops suitable for the harsh climate and arid land the farmers of the Jordan Valley have achieved remarkable success. Today the Valley comprises 66% of Israel's agricultural exports.


Seeking Peace

Prof Antony Arkin

It is now twenty years since the Oslo Accords were signed and eighteen since the assassination of Premier Yitzhak Rabin. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators seem no closer to a lasting peace deal.
In a viciously skewed article Karl Vick has argued in Time that without Rabin to reassure a nervous Israel that Oslo was a genuine path to peace, "extremists quickly began to drive events on both sides. Violence  erupted in 2000, and Israel's peace camp destroyed ...".
Israel wants peace. The Jewish people have never held a desire to rule over others. Oslo was initially met with enthusiasm among the majority of the Israeli public. It quickly became clear however that PLO leader Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian people continued to seek the destruction of the Jewish state. Both the Israeli and Palestinian delegations should be given credit for their attempts at peace. The Oslo Accords brought about mutual recognition, but at the same time it brought waves of Palestinian terrorism and continued rejectionism.
Israel Kasnett writing on the Aljazeera Network argued that many Palestinians rejected Oslo because they rejected recognition of, let alone peace with, Israel. Many Israelis however did not reject the Accords out of disinterest in peace. rather, they did not believe the Palestinians sincerely wanted peace. Numerous Israeli peace overtures, no matter how generous, have been rejected by the Palestinians.
In 1947 Palestinian Arabs rejected the UN partition plan and gave up an historic opportunity to create an Arab state in British Mandate Palestine. Though deeply dissatisfied with the terms of the plan, the Jews immediately accepted, but were continuously attacked by Arab forces. Immediately following the announcement of its independence in 1948, five Arab nations invaded the State of Israel. After Israel was attacked in 1967 it controlled the West Bank, Gaza and Sinai. Its peace outreach to the Arab world was met by the Arab League's three No's of Khartoum.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak made far reaching proposals at Camp David in 2000. He too was rejected. In 2005, in an effort to prove he was serious in reaching a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon evacuated the Gaza Strip. Instead of using it as a step towards statehood, the Palestinians have turned the area into a terror zone. They have fired thousands of rockets at Israeli cities, endangering millions of civilians. In 2008 Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered the furthest-reaching proposals to date in exchange for peace. The Palestinians did not respond. Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has implemented a settlement freeze, released Palestinian prisoners with Jewish blood on their hands and publicly called for a two-state solution.
Today the Palestinians and much of the West claim that settlements are the main obstacle to peace. This has already been proven untrue. In exchange for peace with Egypt, Israel gave up control of the entire Sinai. Settlements were clearly not an obstacle to peace back then. Nor were they an obstacle to creating a Palestinian state between 1948 and 1967 when Jordan controlled the West Bank and there were no settlements at all.
To realist Israelis the countless Palestinian terrorist attacks, indiscriminate rocket barrages aimed at Israel's civilian population, the glorification of suicide bombers and continued incitement have proved beyond doubt the Palestinian disinterest in peace. Many believe that peace will not result from the current negotiations. Former President Chaim Herzog's question in 1979 still rings true today "The basic issue remains as it always had in the past, do the Arabs want peace?"


"Shoot the Jew"

Prof Antony Arkin

The controversial struggle song "Shoot the boer" was adapted last month by protestors from Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) South Africa to "Shoot the Jew". Standing on the steps of the Great Hall at the University of the Witwatersrand they hurled insults at the capacity audience attending the jazz recital of the Daniel Zamir Quartet from Israel. They called for the destruction of the Jewish state - "down, down Israel".
The Wits concert was a response to the disruption of the recital of Israeli-born pianist Yossi Reshef in March. It was fully endoresed by the university leadership who have started disciplinary proceedings against the perpetrators of the Reshef concert.
As Ben Levitas writes in the Mail and Guardian "Rather than condemning the incitement against South African Jews and distancing his organisation from those calls Muhammed Desai, co-ordinator of  BDS-SA, sought to justify it". As quoted by the Wits Vuvuzela Desai commented "The whole idea of anti-Semitism is blown out of proportion".
The group later did issue a statement calling the chant racism, but made no mention of Desai's comment. "We unequivocally distance ourselves from the singing of this song and its sentiments. Also, to tarnish all Jews with the Zionist brush is racism, regardless of who does it. Racism is racism ... and racism is abominable" said Prof Farid Esack quoted in the Times of Israel.
Those Jewish poster boys sympathetic to the BDS movement also denounced the incident, saying it was a setback for the movement. Professor Steven Friedman argued that "Shoot the Jew" is not "a remotely acceptable slogan". The organisation risked losing its moral power over the incident. Activists Nathan Geffen and Doron Isaacs also came out strongly against the song. "We are committed to the struggle for Palestinian freedom, equality and justice. It is an extremely difficult struggle waged against one of the most effective and dishonest propaganda campaigns in history" they said in Virashni Pillay's article in the Mail and Guardian. They went on to argue "anti-Semitism, besides being personally insulting to us, scores an own goal. It undermines the struggle for Palestinian freedom".
The National Chairman of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, Mary Kluk,  condemned the statement in the strongest terms. "By allowing its members to make hateful and dangerous statements and subsequently defending them for doing so, BDS-SA has revealed its true colours". Kluk said the incident shows that BDS-SA's real agenda is not to stand up for the Palestinian cause, "but to incite hatred and possibly even violence, against Jewish South Africans".
These anti-Jewish slogans lay bare the hidden agenda of the BDS campaign, to destroy Israel, rather than propogate Palestinian rights. By obscenely linking Zionism to "murderers", "colonialists", and "racists" they disavow the right of Jews to live in their own state. This is a fundamental right enjoyed by every nation. By denying it to Jews, it is flagrantly anti-Semitic and racist.



Prof Antony Arkin

Rosh Hashana is a time for introspection. Literally "head of the year" it is the opportunity to review our previous activities. The Bible in fact refers to the holiday as Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance, or Yom Teruah, the Day of the Sounding of the Shofar. It gives us the opportunity to get a perspective on the central forces reflecting us as a people, a nation, a community. The dominant theme is the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of each invidivual.
As dependable as the changing seasons, anti-Semitism may, like the weather, fluctuate, but it never dissipates. The ebb and flow is often influenced by events in the Middle East. When Israel defends itself, Jews living in places like Toulouse are inevitably targeted. The murder of a rabbi and four children encourages more violence. These atrocities break a psychological barrier, paving the way for more.
Professor Robert Wistrich, the eminent historian of anti-Semitism has argued it is the most persistent hatred known to Western society. Even the Shoah has failed to shock humanity into abandoning this lethal obsession. Manetha, an Egyptian historian who lived in the third century  BCE transformed Moses and the Hebrews into lepers who spread diseases as a means of making sense of his people's history of subjection to foreign powers. Early Christians used the term "Judaism" or "Pharisee" as the process which destroyed the "spirit" of the gospels. Muslims portrayed Judaism as the force that corrupted holy texts. Luther attached the church's "legalistic understanding of God's justice" as "Jewish". Marx's argument for the abolishment of private property arose from his desire to free society from Judaism's spiritual slavery. It was after all, the essential "Jewishness" of money and property that produced the despicable Jewish qualities in the gentiles who used them. For the former Prime Minister of Malaysia the evil liberal democracy arose from the core values of Judaism.
Anti-Semitism is not solely a negative attribute towards Jews. It has evolved throughout the ages as an intellectual apparatus for criticizing the world. It takes place irrespective of the the existence of living Jews. For many millions today, the challenges of the world are best explained in terms of "Israel".   But while Jewish political self-determination has created problems of its own, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict no longer lies at the strategic heart of the Middle East. News that the two sides had resumed peace talks last month was largely overshadowed by turmoil in Egypt and the Syrian civil war. Violence has flared again in Iraq, while the tensions over Iran's disputed nuclear progress have also risen. None of these crises will become any closer to being settled should, by some miracle, Israel and the Palestinians finally reach a peace deal.
Even then, this ancient hatred could well continue. Last week the Hezbollah leader Nasrallah came out of hiding. "The elimination of Israel is not only a Palestinian interest. It is the interest of the entire Moslem world and the entire Arab world". Such thinking suggests that even if the Palestinian leadership creates a state on land seized in the Six Day War, this will not satisfy the anti-Semites who reject Israel's very right to exist.
Rosh Hashana serves as a milestone for our past deeds, both as a people and as individuals. May the sound of the Shofar lead to a renewed sense of community and action. L'Shana tova umetkuah.



Prof Antony Arkin

For 85 years the Muslim Brotherhood have plotted and fought throughout the Middle East, using all means, including terror, to achieve their goal. They aim to establish Islamic regimes based on Sharia law in all Arab countries and ultimately the restoration of the caliphate. Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassodor to Egypt wrote in the Jerusalem Post that their radical ideology, tainted with a hefty dose of anti-Semitism, gave rise to even more extremist movements such as al-Qaeda, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
They have always been a Leninist-like party, with a strict hierarchy and a conspiratorial view of political life necessary to survive the long years underground. This worked against any spirit of inclusiveness once they were in power.
With the Arab Spring, the Brothers in Egypt were handed the opportunity to rule through free elections. Morsi narrowly won the presidency by 51% of the vote. He persuaded many secular and pious, but non-Islamist Egyptians, that he would govern from the centre, focus on the economy and be inclusive. Thomas L. Friedman argued in the New York Times  that many centrist Egyptians voted for Morsi because they could not bring themselves to vote for his opponent Ahmed Shafit, a holdover of the Mubarak regime. The Muslim Brotherhood never could have won with just its base alone.
The Brotherhood failed to deliver. They became much more focused on locking themselves in power than fixing Egypt's economy and making its government more representative. They imposed their brand of radical Islam as the economy tanked. While the economic situation went from bad to worse, they were busy drafting an Islamic constitution, severely curtailing civil rights and discriminations against women. President Morsi even tried to grant himself powers exceeding those of the overthrown Hosni Mubarak. Both the urban and rural poor resented the fact that instead of delivering jobs and bread as promised, Morsi only delivered petrol queues and electricity cuts.
Though many of the Coptic Christian community had been key supporters of the revolution against Mubarak, Morsi turned a blind eye to the escalating attacks on them by his Islamist supporters.
Poverty then rather than religion or ideology may have been the moving force behind the anti-Morsi demonstrations. Though Muslims make up over 80% of the population, most of them want a better life and are not interested in a revival of the caliphate. Though there was a military coup it was in answer to the will of the people. It is unlikely however that the army and its civilian allies will be able to quickly revive the economy. A major component is tourism which is unlikely to rebound any time soon. Poverty may spur a continued series of demonstrations with the Muslim Brotherhood engineering violent confrontations between demonstrators and soldiers.
A democratic Egypt will never be stable unless it has a government that represents all the main political forces of the country, including the Muslim Brotherhood. Democracy is more than election victory. As Mandela taught South Africa, as important are a respect for opposition parties, a commitment to moderation, a recognition of minority rights, an independent judiciary, a critical media that is also responsible in avoiding incitement and a fair distribution of wealth. These elements of democracy are absent from the Middle East outside of Israel. A stable, democratic Egypt will have little prospect for  development where the Brotherhood's aggressive variety of Islam is ascendant.



Prof Antony Arkin

At the time of writing I am eagerly awaiting the birth of my first South African-born grandchild. When my first Sabra granddaughter was born I analysed in this column the kind of society she would be born into.  In Na'ama's World I looked critically at Israel. The newest addition to my family will be a fourth generation Durbanite living in a small, vibrant, warm community that is both ageing and diminishing. But it is not a declining community. Resources are generously made available if one wishes to participate in a full Jewish life. All three congregations, Chabad, the DUHC and the DPJC have offered to name and bless the baby. It is a community which is respectful of differences and fully committed to democratic values and human rights.
The Durban Jewish community is socially and culturally integrated into the broader South African society. While committed to halacha, it is fully a part of South African culture and life. South Africa's robust ethos of anti-racialism continues to underpin our national culture. It is this culture, backed by a broad constitutional democracy which enables us to live as proud Jews with a bedrock commitment to Zionism and support of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people. But there are real difficulties. Though South African Jewry makes up less than one percent of the total population, it is confronted by an increasingly sophisticated, well-funded propaganda campaign of the anti-Israel lobby. In its efforts to woo the large Moslem vote, members of the ANC leadership have at times taken a vicious anti-Semitic stance. Other structures of civil society, such as COSATU and the SA Council of Churches, have followed suit.
This may well get worse, as the economy tanks. The African Development Bank and OECD rank South Africa a lowly 48th out of 52 African countries in term of its economic outlook. The sustained 5% growth rate that the government says is needed to cut unemployment and poverty is a world away. The Economist argues that the alarming decline in the Rand will push up inflation, which is already at the top of the Reserve Bank target range of 3-6%. South Africa has a current account deficit of more than 6%  of GDP and relies on foreign capital to bridge this gap. This makes it vulnerable to the mood of foreign investors. Recent labour unrest and wild cat strikes in the mines have scared many off. Unemployment is above 25% of the work force. If one includes those who want to work, but are too discouraged to look for it, this rate rises to 37%. Laws that make it costly to fire workers means that the bargaining of those with jobs is unaffected by the mass of jobless who might accept work that pays lower wages. To make matters worse, regulations in SA to enable job-creating new enterprises to emerge are among the most burdensome in the world. Of  course these structural problems are known to the ANC government, which has endorsed the  National Development Plan. Progress in implementing the plan has been "pitifully slow". Rather than muddling through like our government, Judaism which emphasises that all of humanity is in the image of the Divine, enables us to transcend political and denominational lines to shape the values of the Rainbow Nation. Maimonides posited more than 800 years ago we must be guided by the rational and reasonable, the core values of religious Zionism.



Prof. Antony Arkin

Last month's confrontation at the Western Wall between members of  Women of the Wall  and haredi Jews appeared in every major newspaper and television service throughout the world. Women of the Wall are best known for fighting for the rights of women from all Jewish denominations to pray aloud, read from the Torah and wear tallitot and tefillin, all of which is permitted by halacha. Praying women were spat on and cursed by thousands of haredi worshippers at the Kotel, some of whom threw stones, garbage and coffee at them. It was a hillul Hashem, a desecration of the name of God, of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
As Jeremy Sharon wrote in the Jerusalem Post  "Now the Women of the Wall issue has  risen to the top of Israel's national debate and political agenda, in conjunction with ... an ever sharpening dispute about the role of religion in public life".
The Kotel symbolizes for world Jewry their collective identification with Jerusalem. Its liberation in 1967 symbolized finally the coming home to Jerusalem as a free people. The paratroopers of 1967 liberated it for the whole Jewish people. The first mass pilgrimage to the Wall in 1967, on Shavuot, mere days after the end of the war, was a spontaneous outpouring of hundreds of thousands of Israelis, without any separation between men and women, secularists and haredim.
But the decades since have created a haredi lock on the Kotel plaza. Police have occasionally arrested members of the Women of the Wall for their activities, arguing they violate a 2003 Supreme Court decision barring them from wearing tallitot and reading from the Torah, because those actions deviate from the Orthodox  "tradition of the site", upset other worshippers and cause disturbances. An April 25 decision by the Jerusalem District Court ruled however that the Supreme Court decision did not warrant arrests of the Women of the Wall activists. This was a significant victory for the group.
The rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz, called for calm and Jewish unity. "The Western Wall is the one uniting place we have left". A credible solution does exist for accomodating non-Orthodox forms of prayer at the Wall. Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky recently presented a plan, backed by the government, which would create a dignified, ample space for egalitarian prayer.
For the first time the government of Israel has committed to building and subsidizing an egalitarian "synagogue". This is a historic victory for religious pluralism. As Yossi Klein Halevi of the Shalom Hartman Institute argued in the Jerusalem Post: "The Sharansky plan is also a victory for Zionism. At its core, Zionism is an ideology of Jewish people-hood. The genius of classical Zionism was its ability to include almost every variety of Jewish ideology- from Marxist to capitalist, from anti-clericalist to theocratic - under a shared, basic commitment. As modernity fragmented the Jews into rival camps, Zionism insisted that those identities were mere adjectives, and that the unifying  noun was "Jew".
To be true to itself, the state that was founded by Zionism must accommodate all parts of the Jewish people. That is what Sharansky is offering.



Prof Antony Arkin

Israel at 65 has achieved breathtaking successes. The rebirth of the Jewish state has been built on a rock-solid democratic foundation. Millions of refugees and immigrants from every corner of the world have been absorbed.
It is home now to the world's largest Jewish population. Israel has evolved from a largely agrarian backwater to a global high-tech power house. It has weathered the global financial crisis better than most with unemployment below seven percent and a growing economy. In the past decade alone there have been six Israeli Nobel laureates in the Sciences and Economies.
Israel's vibrant press carries news and opinions from every spectrum of society. Israel's cutting-edge technology has made important contributions towards improving the world. Israeli doctors regularly treat patients from across the Middle East. Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, Israel had one of the first rescue teams on the ground, and operated the only fully functioning field hospital in the country. Israeli scientists operate agricultural programs in a number of developing countries, using innovative Israeli technology to assist in dealling with environmental concerns like climate change and food security.
In 65 years Israel has emerged as the Middle East's strongest military force, a global high-tech power house and a prosperous homeland for the Jewish people. Yet the country is still grappling with the same basic issue that plagued it in 1948, peace with its neighbours. Dominating the short term is Iran's nuclear program, which Israel believes is aimed at developing an atomic bomb that  can be used against the Jewish state. Unrest along Israel's borders is equallly worrisome.
Over the long term, reaching peace with the Palestinians remains elusive. The latter still consider the very creation of Israel a catastrophe. Israel has made enormous sacrifices for the sake of peace, both in terms of blood and territory. Menachem Begin ceded control of Sinai to Egypt. Yitzhak Rabin's brave efforts to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict led to his assassination by a Jewish extremist. Ariel Sharon's disengagement from Gaza gave way to a deadly Hamas-led rocket campaign against Israel's southern cities and towns. Even today, despite repeated terrorist threats from the West Bank and Gaza, Israel continues actively to pursue peace with the Palestinians.
Israel at 65 then is an imperfect state, and continues to  grapple with many important issues. Israel still does not have internationally recognized borders, and remains in control of about 2.5 million Arabs living in the West Bank captured 46 years ago in the 1967 Six Day War. Israel's transformation into a high-tech, knowledge-based economy has also fueled a growing gap between rich and poor, setting off protests in 2011 against the high cost of living. Yet these and other difficulties have not hindered Israel's ability and desire to continue building a strong, dem cratic and prosperous Jewish state.


Obama's Kishkas

Prof Antony Arkin

President Barack Obama's first presidential visit to Israel focused heavily on resetting his relationship with the Israeli people. His aim was to reassure them that he is committed to their security and has their interests at heart. Obama, known for his cool, detached public persona needs to show that he feels their concerns. It is an opportunity, according to Dennis Ross, Obama's former Middle East adviser "for him to connect with the Israeli psyche". Obama, who visited Cairo, Istanbul and Riyadh during his first term, is hoping to build public confidence in Israel, the first foreign destination of his second term.

The symbolism began soon after his arrival, when Obama toured an Iron Dome anti-missile battery brought to the airport especially for his review. This joint venture with US money and Israeli tehnology signifies a deep partnership and iron clad co-operation, all the objectives Obama wanted to highlight.

Obama, who was sharply criticized for not mentioning the Jewish people's historical tie to Israel in his Cairo speech in 2009, " made up" by a visit to the Israel Museum's Shrine of the Book that houses the Dead  Sea Scrolls, the earliest surviving copies of a biblical text and evidence of the Jews' ancient connection to the Land of Israel. He also visited the especially created museum exhibit profiling Israeli technology. He and and the accompanying journalists saw Israel not only as the land of the Bible, but also as a country at the cutting edge of computer technology.

Obama's visit comes at a time when US and Israeli strategic concerns are more closely aligned than they have been in years with the West's nuclear standoff with Iran at a critical stage and Syria's civil war seen as a threat to regional stability. Obama insisted he was not bluffing about military action against Iran if all else fails. It is hoped he gave iron clad guarantees to Prime Minister Netanyahu that he will do what is deemed necessary, including the use of military force, to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb.

Regarding the peace process with the Palestinians, Obama said he had no concrete plans on how to move the process forward. His goal was rather to listen to both sides and hear their strategies and visions. Obama said the only path forward was for the Israelis and Palestinians to get back into negotiations. He would  further explore "whether that can happen soon or whether there needs to be further work on the ground".  By laying wreaths at the grave of Yitzhak Rabin Obama signalled his commitment to the peace process, as well as his homage to the slain leader. Of equal importance, by laying a wreath at the grave of Zionism's founder Theodor Herzl after Turkish Prime Minister's Erdogan's recent rant that Zionist is a crime against humanity, Obama sent a clear message affirming Israel's legitimacy.

Obama also addressed his relationship with Netanyahu, calling it "terrific, businesslike, we get stuff done". By finally communicating to the Israeli public that he understands that they live in a tough neighbourhood, have a dark history and have well founded fears, Obama has taken Israel to his heart. He finally understands Israel in his kishkas, his gut.


Breaking The Logjam

Prof Antony Arkin

On its cover the Econonist speaks of "Israel's lurch to the centre". Ha'aretz's headline was Bibi plummets to Victory. Time argued that Prime Minister Netanyahu is no longer "King Bibi". Almost universally the pundits got the election results wrong. While Netanyahu won the largest portion of the votes it was not the sweeping victory that he and his party had expected. Newcomer Yair Lapid's party, Yesh Atid, was the surprise success story of the election.

The number of seats in the 120 seat Knesset allocated to each party is proportional to the number of votes it receives. No single party has ever received the 61 seats to form a government. A coalition has always been necessary. The results of the 19th Knesset election was an almost equal split between left and right. The results are as follows: Likud-Beiteinu 31; Yesh Atid 19; Labour 15; Jewish Home 12; Shas 11; United Torah Judaism 7; Ha'tnuah (Tzipi Livni's party) 6; Meretz 6; Ra'am Tal 4: Hadash 4; Balad 3; Kadima 2.

The President of Israel, Shimon Peres, has asked Netanyahu as the leader of the largest party to start coalition talks. Peres after his consultations with all the parties has argued that a number of issues have to be dealt with by the new government. These include "the national deficit, social justice, the fight against discrimination, equitable sharing of the national burden, conscription to the IDF, restarting diplomatic negotiations to achieve peace and the ways to deal with security threats facing Israel". The coalition is expected to include between four and seven different parties, ranging from centre-left to right wing and including both secular and religious parties. The wide range of ideologies will make reaching a compromise on these key issues a difficult task.

The possibility that a new, more centrist government will be established provides an opening for US diplomacy that has not existed for the past few years. President Obama has chosen to make Israel the first foreign visit of his second term. It will demonstrate the importance of Israel as an ally and, in the words of the US Ambassador Dan Shapiro it will show "the depth, breadth and quality of the Israeli-US partnership". According to the Jerusalem Post editorial such a visit "would do much to fix the impression given during Obama's last visit to the region in 2009, when the US President failed to visit Israel ..."

The agenda is likely to concentrate on Iran's nuclear weapons program and Syria's huge arsenal of chemical weapons. As the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate even stronger US-Israel ties are likely to develop. The White House spokesman Jay Carney said that Obama would not be bringing a new peace plan with him to the region and downplayed the possibility of peace talks with the Palestinians. With the Arab world in turmoil the chances for constructive negotiations seem more distant than ever.

In accepting the mandate from President Peres, Netanyahu promised to set up a government "which will ensure the security, the unity and the future of the State of Israel".



Prof Antony Arkin

In ancient Roman mythology Janus is the two faced god who looks to the future and the past. As we start the secular new year it is useful to take stock of where we are as a Jewish community and our ability to meet future challenges. Looking back at 2012 with an eye towards the future, it is safe to assume that many of the problems the Jewish world faced in 2012 will figure prominently in 2013.

In the time honoured tradition of end-of-year list making a tally of issues affecting the Jewish world was compiled. The one issue of concern that rose above all others in 2012 was the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The shocking terrorist attack on Jewish school children in France reinforced for Jews around the world that anti-Semitism is still a serious problem. This was not an isolated event. Jews were the targets of anti-Semitic incidents in a number of European countries. In Greece, Hungary and Ukraine virulently racist and anti-Semitic political parties won seats in democratic elections. An Anti-Defamation League survey of attitudes towards Jews in ten European countries revealed that anti-Semitic attitudes are still deeply ingrained on the continent.

The Iranian threat is becoming critical. The USA and Israel share the common goal of preventing the Islamic Republic from obtaining nuclear weapons. While every effort should be made to negotiate, Iran might very well have no intention of halting its enrichment of uranium. Talks could well be a ploy to buy time and to weaken the impact of sanctions. From an Israeli perspective, time is running out. Prime Minister Netanyahu said in his September 27 speech at the UN that the critical moment for preventing Iran from developing a weapon would most likely come this Israeli spring.

Six years of security co-operation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have resulted in an improved economic climate and low levels of terrorism. But the split Palestinian leadership has made the prospects of a negotiated peace unlikely. Intransigence on issues such as the "right of return" for Palestinian "refugees" and PA President Abbas's unilateral move of winning UN recognition for "Palestine" as a non-member state along the 1949 Armistice Lines have not helped. Neither have the months of indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli towns and cities by Hamas from Gaza.

Before a cease-fire brought hostilities to a halt, Hamas had fired more than 1400 rockets at Israel. Much of the world remained silent as the Hamas leadership vowed to destroy the Jewish state. The world's hypocrisy of not speaking out when terrorists call for Israel's demise is likely to increase in 2013.

In South Africa, Israel's defense against this bombardment was likened by Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim to an "outrage bordering on fascist aggression". In December the African National Congress voted to make boycotts, divestment and sanctions of Israel part of its official policy.

The call for even-handedness on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by prominent religious leaders and the Jewish community is not likely to materialise in 2013.
Writing this editorial in mid January named in honour of Janus by the Romans, Hashalom wishes the community a happy and peaceful secular new year. We should have faith in our ability to meet future challenges skillfully, courageously and ultimately with success.


Christian Zionists & Jews Are Natural Allies

Prof Antony Arkin

"We Jews have never been comfortable with interfaith activities, because all too often in history there were other agendas" - Rabbi Yossi Goldman.

As we end the secular year the Jewish world commemorates Chanukah, the rescue of Judaism as a culture, and the Jews as a people from annihilation. For hundreds of millions of Christians it is the time to celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus. These agendas have unfortunately surfaced again over the past few weeks. It is a time when Iran is threatening Israel in particular and the rest of the world with the spectre of nuclear weapons, and Christians across the Middle East are persecuted in the repercussions of the Arab Spring.

Yet Jewish-Protestant relations are currently undergoing a severe crisis after senior leaders of Mainline Protestant churches in the US last month accused Israel of "widespread" human rights violations and urged Congress to reconsider military aid to Jerusalem. The response by the major Jewish organizations has been articulated by Rabbi Steven Wernick: "In addition to being completely baseless this letter demonstrates that all our work and all of our Protestant partners' pledges of commitment to co-existence amount to very little if such a letter can be sent to Congress without even the courtesy of a heads-up". (Times of Israel)

Anti-Semitism started early in the Church out of a desire to separate Christianity from Judaism. Persecution was excused by blaming Jews for the death of Jesus. It was often justified on the basis of Replacement Theology that argued that when Jews rejected Jesus, God rejected the Jews. It teaches that God has cut his people off from the covenant and has no future plans for the nation of Israel. Of course Replacement Theology has a tough time explaining the supernatural survival of the Jewish people and the miraculous rebirth of the state of Israel after almost 2000 years. Christian teachings of contempt fed the fires of anti-Semitism for centuries culminating in the horrors of the Holocaust.

Christian Zionists started a theological revolution in the Church to redefine this relationship between the Church and Israel. The first steps were to reject Replacement Theology, recognize Judaism as a living religion and embrace the fact that God's covenant with the Jewish people is eternal. Christian Zionism has since become a loud voice against anti-Semitism. For example it was only the Christian Zionists who supported us eleven years ago at the hatefest of the UN Racism Conference in Durban.

For Christian Zionists the accusations of Jews being Christ-Killers have given way to thankfulness to the Jewish people for the Bible. As Shelley Neese argued in the Jerusalem Post "understanding Judaism is essential to understanding Christianity. While Judaism doesn't need Christianity to explain its existence, without Judaism there would be no Christianity". Christian Zionists emphatically believe they have a biblical responsibility toward Israel and the Jewish people. The cornerstone of Christian Zionism is found in Genesis when God tells Abraham: "I will bless those who bless you, and those who curse you will I curse". They take this as a direct command to provide for Israel's needs. Over the past 20 years Christian Zionists have given hundreds of millions to support aliya, victims of terror and provide for Israel's poor.

To quote Rabbi Goldman again "While we must be staunch Jews who are proud of our own distinctiveness, we mustn't be afraid, intimidated or uncomfortable with other people and other faiths". Some of our best friends are Christian. We wish them a merry Christmas and the community Chanukah sameach.


An Early Election

Prof Antony Arkin

Last month Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for early parliamentary elections after failing to agree with coalition partners on a national budget for the coming year. According to the Washington Post Netanyahu has been a popular leader who has overseen a solid economy and four years of relative stability in a turbulent region. It predicts that Netanyahu will easily win re-election on January 22nd 2013.

"In an election year, it is difficult for parties to place the national interest ahead of the party interest," Netanyahu said. "The result of this is liable to be a budgetry breach and a massive increase in the deficit, which would very quickly put us in the situation of the crumbling economies of Europe." A victory would allow Netanyahu to press ahead with the budget cuts opposed by the coalition partners and sustain his push for aggressive action against Iran. Re-election would also cement his mandate ahead of an expected economic slowdown.

But as Herb Keinon writes in the Jerusalem Post security issues always trump economic ones in Israeli elections. Israel is a society where the traumas of the terrorism of the second intifada are still etched in people's minds. It is a society where the Iranian leadership's threats of annihilation are not seen as merely overheated rhetoric. Jewish history gives a very different perspective. For many Israeli voters any Israeli withdrawal from Arab terrotories only leads to an increase in hostilities and a huge cost in human lives.

Though the early election was called then for economic reasons, it will be dominated by security concerns. The high prices of petrol and pita will be trumped by the enhanced sense of security from terrorism, even as rockets continue to rain down on the Negev from Gaza. As a consequence, both Ma'ariv and Ha'aretz polls indicate that the right bloc has a 68 to 52 seat advantage over the centre-left.

But in the long term economic factors will be ever more important. The rise of Islamism throughout the Middle East,the threat of a nuclear Iran and a moribund Palestinian peace process will dominate this election. In the near future however, the need to include Haredi men and Arab women in the work force will become critical. But amid this gloom and doom Israel's long term prospects are very positive. Tobias Buck in the Financial Times wrote how Israel's relatively recent discoveries of huge gas reserves in the Mediterranean Sea stand to transform the country to a resource-abundant powerhouse amounting to an "economic revolution". The Leviathan field is "the largest deep-water gas reservoir found anywhere in the world over the past decade". The Financial Post reported that Canadian expertise will help develop yet another major find in Israel, the Shfela Basin southwest of Jerusalem, containing about 250 billion barrels of shale oil, the third largest such reserves in the world. In calling this election Netanyahu first stressed security and only then talked about the economy. In the future these giant gas reserves will be a game changer. All of Israel's neighbours could benefit from the economic windfall. Given the profound security and economic malaise gripping the Middle East, this would only make sense. If only.



Over the last few days whipped up Arab mobs have stormed United States embassies across the Middle East. A deadly attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other officials dead. The ostensible cause of the violence was the posting on the internet of a provocative anti-Muslim film clip that the Daily Telegraph labelled "a barnyard production of mysterious provenance that portrayed Mohammed as a histrionic paedophile and homosexual".

Hilary Clinton, the Secretary of State was quick to condemn the video as "disgusting and reprehensible ... There is no justicication for this (violence)". Both the Libyan government in Reuters and American analysts in USA Today have argued however that the protest was long planned by Islamists. Professor Bernard Haykel of Princeton University argued "It's true that there are sanctions against insulting the Prophet, but this is really about political or symbolic opportunists, who use religious symbols to advance their own power or prestige against other groups". (New York Times).

President Morsi of Egypt issued only a mild rebuke of the rioters. Both his Moslem Brotherhood and Salafists continue to agitate for the freeing of Sheik Omer Abdel-Rahmon who is jailed in the United States for plotting attacks on New York City landmarks.

In Syria, body parts are strewn across the streets of Damascus and Aleppo while heartbreaking images of row upon row of children's corpses flash across our television screens. In Bahrain, doctors are thrown into jail for treating injured protestors. In Iran the Mullahs defy international sanctions in an unrelenting quest to achieve nuclear breakout capability.

A nuclear armed Iran would trigger a nuclear arms race over the whole Middle East.

Yet incredibly, eighteen months into the Arab Spring we are still being fed the myth that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root cause of all instability in the region. Its resolution we are told by the South African government amongst other, would alleviate all tensions and solve the most pressing problems of the Middle East.

It is argued Israel's occupation remains the main obstacle for peace and stability in the region. At a meeting of the South African Institute of International Affairs Deputy Minister of International relations, Ebrahim Ebrahim argued that the government's discouragement of South Africans from travelling to Israel was so as not to "glorify the occupation". The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is neither the defining issue of the region nor the principal source of Arab discontent.

The 1300 year Sunni-Shia divide makes the century old Israeli-Arab conflict seem brief by comparison. In reality, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a convenient sideshow to the real problems within Arab societies and an implausible excuse used by Arab governments who have ill served the interest of the their own populations and are now reaping the consequences of that neglect.

Prof Antony Arkin



As the Jewish community celebrates the High Holy Days we are increasingly appalled at the hijacking of South African foreign policy on Israel. Historically since 1994, although inherently more sympathetic to the Palestinians, South Africa has always attempted to maintain a minimum of even-handedness, supporting a two-state solution and promoting peaceful dialogue.

Over the last few months however this has changed. Deputy Minister of International Relations, Marius Fransman acknowledged in a speech to the Muslim community that Minister Davies' initiative for relabelling Israeli produce from the West Bank is a "strategy to apply economic pressure on Israel". He went on to admit he was "highly inspired" by the role played by organizations such as Al Quds Foundation which does not recognize Israel even in its pre-1967 territory.

Last month the other Deputy Minister of International Relations Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim ostensibly called for a boycott. "Israel is an occupier country which is oppressing Palestine, so it is not proper for South Africans to associate with Israel." He continued " We discourage people from going there except if it has to do with the peace process". The Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor commented that this policy is nothing "but a boycott in disguise". It is "openly calling for a generalized, non-disciminating and discriminatory boycott of Israelis".

South Africa's Jewish community has slammed Ebrahim's comments. "Such a stance is grossly discriminatory, counter-productive and wholly inconsistent with how South Africa normally conducts its international relations and contradicts its official policy of having full diplomatic ties with Israel", according to a joint statement by the SA Zionist Federation, SA Jewish Board of Deputies and Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein. "The result of such a policy is that South Africa, instead of lending its weight to international efforts to bring about a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, will be seen to be supporting those who wish to promote a complete boycott of Israel and to that end shut down any intitiatives aimed at meaningful dialogue".

Ebrahim of course denies having called for a boycott of Israel. In a subsequent press briefing he argued that as a government "we discourage South Africans from visiting Israel; we do not prevent them. The decision is left to the individual or the organization that is invited to visit Israel". But in an open letter to Ebrahim in the Jerusalem Post Chief Rabbi Goldstein argued that Ebrahim's actions "support the forces of extremism, hatred and violence, and undermine the forces of tolerance, freedom and peaceful negotiations. Israel is a multi-ethnic society where Christians, women, trade unions and journalists enjoyed greater rights than anywhere else in the Middle East. More information and dialogue is needed between peoples, not less. "You clearly do not believe so, and hence you are unfit to hold public office. Do the honourable thing: resign", Rabbi Goldstein said.

This boycott not only violates international free trade, it is an obstacle to Mideast co-existence and constitutes the revival of racism. As we enter the New Year it is time for South Africa to regain control over its foreign policy which has been hijacked by ministers with no sense of fairness or appreciation of human rights.

Prof Antony Arkin



Together with the rest of world Jewry we express our horror and sorrow for the victims of the terror attack on a busload of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. At the time of writing 7 have been killed and 32 injured, some critically. We are mindful that this tragic event occured on the 18th anniversary of the horrific bombing of the AMIA (Jewish Community Centre) in Buenos Aires that left 85 dead. While separated by years and by miles, these attacks are related: the targets were Jews, they were civilians, they were children, women and men. Within hours, Israel sent three planes with medical specialists, including surgeons and pediatricians to assist the wounded. Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "All the signs point to Iran. Just in the last few months, we saw Iran attempting to harm Israelis in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, Cyprus and other countries".

The Simon Wiesenthal Center argued that this deadly attack must serve as a warning that the international community must never isolate Israel when it comes to the battle against global terrorism. The attempts to make Israel a pariah state must he vigorously opposed. This seems to be the position by some segments of South Africa's ruling coalition. The 2012 ANC Policy Conference reaffirmed its intention to "increase" support for the Palestinians and the boycott of Israel. In an address by Deputy Minister Fransman on South Africa 's position on Palestine he argued that "our government, through the Ministry of Trade and Industry has recently, in May 2012, released a Government notice 379 of 2012, as a strategy to apply economic pressure on Israel". He went on to state "I am highly inspired by the role played by organizations such as Open Shuhada Street, PSG, the MJC, Al Quds Foundation and others".

The Congress of South African Trade Unions ( COSATU) issued a vicious press release after the Pretoria march by the ACDP, Inkatha, and Shembe church against the re-labelling issue. The thousands of black South African supporters of Israel were urged not to act as the instrument of the South African Zionist Federation and its associates "whose hands are dripping with the blood of our sisters and brothers in Palestine". Reminiscent of Nazi propaganda Israel was characterized as a "legislation of Jewish supremacy to further dehumanise everyone outside their scope of Zionist purity".

Parroting the attempts by the Palestinian leadership to appropriate the pre-exile Jewish history of Israel, COSATU's press statement described present-day Palestinians as "descendants of Jesus" who were being hounded by Jewish colonizers.

The letter elicited a vigourous response from the Rev John Atkinson. He argued the idea that the SAZF were manipulating blacks into doing their will as a "stunning insult to the intelligence of South African citizens and their ability to think for themselves". Christians in South Africa did not need the SAZF to tell them that Israel was being unfairly singled out.

While South Arican is still seen as the benchmark on how to deal with issues that are perceived as racist, it has lost all credibility to play any role in the Middle East peace process by advocating boycotts. More immediately, Netanyahu has argued "the murderous Iranian terror continues to target innocent people. This is a global Iranian terror onslaught and Israel will react forcefully to it". We extend our condolences to the families of these innocent victims. We stand with Israel and Jews around the world to deplore this horror and we stand in solidarity with all who seek the paths to peace.



What is all the fuss about? On the face of it the technical trade issue raised by Minister Rob Davies in the Government Gazette on 10 May 2012 merely states that he wants merchants "not to incorrectly label products that originate from the Occupied Palestinian Territory as products of Israel". The notice did not specify what the label should say, only stating "the burden for proving where the products originate will lie with the traders". The proposal has not taken effect, pending a 60 day period for public objections that can be submitted by the end of July.

If passed, South Africa would be the first country to require distinct labelling of settlement goods. Speaking in Parliament, Davies did stress however that while consumers had the right to know where goods were produced, there was no intention by the government of promoting a boycott of goods from either Israel or the West Bank.

However, according to Jeremy Gordin in Ha'aretz, Pick 'n Pay and Woolworths would have to continually investigate if any of the plums, tomatoes, dates, and figs which they sell are grown over the Green Line. The cosmetic brand Ahava sold by Wellness Warehouse and Foschini would also be affected. Soda Stream products and halva sold by Spa would also fall into this category. Ben Levitas argued in Cape Argus when faced with the practical difficulties of tracing the origins of goods or parts of products, traders will avoid importing any goods from Israel rather than fall foul of the law.

This is of course the hidden agenda of Open Shuhada Street, the small civic group that the minister mentions as the applicant who brought the complaint against the beauty product Ahava. This group has been advocating sanctions, divestment and boycotts against Israel, and uses the apartheid analogy to dellegitimize it in order to weaken it and bring about its ultimate destruction. Local BDS spokesman Muhammed Desai is quoted in the S A Jewish Report that "the requirement to re-label productss originating in the West Bank was just the beginning of a world wide campaign to achieve an effective economic boycott of all Israeli goods".

Responding to the notice, the SA Jewish Board of Deputies urged the government not to adopt a policy that was "discriminatory and inconsistent with how it deals with similar questions relating to products imported from other parts of the world". Other disputed territories as Tibet, North Cyprus, Kashmir and Western Sahara face no such re-labelling legislation. It discriminates only against Israel. Minister Davies' notice was greeted with outrage in Israel. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman levelled charges of racism against South Africa for its discriminatory anti-Israel policies. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmer described the intention of re-labelling Israeli products from the settlements as a reflection of "the sour state of ties between the two countries".

The South African government is seen by many as providing the benchmark by which we measure racism. Through its actions during the past month South Africa has disqualified itself as an impartial potential peacemaker in the Arab- Israel conflict. Where once it could have played a vital role in brokering a lasting peace in the Middle East, it has now lost all credibility.



That was the title of an editorial in the Washington Post last month. Fareed Zakeria on CNN went on to argue that "under Netanyahu Israel is stronger than ever". Its per capita gross domestic product rivals Italys at $31 000. It is ranked sixth in innovation capacity by the Global Competitive Index. It is third in the number of companies listed in Nasdaq after the USA and China. Militarily it is widely regarded as the region's superpower. By bringing the centrist Kadima Party under its new leader Shaul Mofaz into his ruling coalition, Netanyahu now leads one of the largest parliamentary majorities in Israel's history. The new govenment commands an astonishing 94 Knesset seats out of the 120 total.

Depending on their outlook, commentators immediately speculated that this new, wall-to-wall government was in a far stronger position either to launch a military strike against the Iranian nuclear threat, or to re-open peace talks with the Palestinians. The reality is that all politics is local. Domestic considerations were paramount.

Facing the unravelling of his Likud-led coalition, Netanyahu preferred to extend his current tenure by eighteen months rather than endure an early election in September. Polls predicted that Kadima's support would fall from 28 to 14 seats. Mofaz dodged the possible devastation of his party. Further, the polls indicated that defence minister Ehud Barak's Independence Party would disappear altogether.

Four priorities were cited in the news conference announcing the new coalition: firstly both Kadima and Likud as largely secular parties are committed to passing a national service requirement for the now exempt ultra-Orthodox youth. Secondly they would reform the election law to reduce the disproportinate power of the small parties. Thirdly a biennial budget would be passed. The fourth priority, and the only one not part of the domestic agenda, is peace talks with the Palestinians. But Netanyahu, the first Likud prime minister to recognise Palestinian statehood did not need Kadima to enter peace talks. For two years he has offered to negotiate without preconditions. Mahmoud Abbas has yet to come to the table. The new coalition is not likely to change that.

What does change is Israel's position on Iran. It is hoped that the current international negotiations succeed in their initial aim of halting Iran's higher level enrichment of uranium and the suspension of activities at a new underground facility. However, if the talks fail, or Iranian nuclear activity accelerates, Israel will have a national unity government well suited to respond. An Iranian nuclear bomb is not only an existential threat to Israel, but a critical danger to the whole world. While it would be far preferable if the international community actively took responsibility for that threat, Israel has to be the final arbiter of any decision bearing on its survival. If it is forced to go it alone this new "united, strong" Israeli government will have the support of the entire nation.