Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
Is lockdown a cure that kills the patient? by Steve Apfel
Lockdown may be the most brazen experiment in human annals. In unison or in sequence, governments shut down countries, closed borders, installed quasi-police states and elevated technocrats who toggle ‘what if?’ scenarios on a keyboard.
The lockdown, an exercise in social engineering that would do Stalin proud, is the mortal threat posed by the latest pandemic. The excuse smacks, if not of manipulation then of convenience for ‘Lords of Lockdown,’ the cute title I give to the political and expert class from whence lockdown orders and made up rules come.
No such overlords rode into battle against contagions of the past – equal, we may add, to Covid in terms of killing power. Until the crowned virus burst out of stealth mode from Wuhan in January 2020, public health policies were variants of laissez faire. Governments stood aside to let a virus play itself out, as they once believed viruses do.
All of it poses different puzzles. The supreme one is, why would anyone whose life is disrupted or ruined or terminated by the lockdown, bow to suppression of a magnitude closer to totalitarian rule than to democracy. Why is it that the cleverest people meekly submit, or submit because they feel beneficent, moral, and pure?
One admits, the notion of helping to save a life is hard to resist. In that cause huddling at home seems the right and good thing to do. The idea of saving a life is more than a strong allure; it is an absolute mandate. But if hard evidence counts? It must do, or we might invent any crackpot cure.
Well, if you consider hard evidence there is little to be said in favor of lockdown. Israel is on its umpteenth brutal one, and more of the same threatens. Coronavirus Czar, Nachman Ash says a March lockdown looks likely because of “a bleak forecast.”
And Ireland? Today the country has one of the highest infection rates in the world. Not long ago, consider, Ireland won praise for its early lockdown and the strictest rules on social distancing. The UK went so far as to cancel Christmas, yet experts are warning that the UK will see further “record-breaking” rises in Covid fatalities after the country recorded its highest daily death toll since the pandemic began.
Stop to think. Would you keep going to a doctor who administers a strong drug three times and each time another of your vital organs goes kaput? Well, the lockdown is such a doctor. Round three in the world series. Another lockdown.
Who knows, it could work. Third time lucky. No one gives a faulty kettle or a faddish diet three tries. Yet a medical experiment on humans, numbering hundreds of millions: it gets three chances. What will it take to learn:
The lockdown no more stops transmission of Covid than traffic fines stop car crashes. Unless, of course, a lockdown is meant to buy time until most of the population is vaccinated – what Israel is doing now and which is the purpose of its current lockdown.
The remedy has no science backing, nor as Beatle John Lennon sang, “and no religion too.” The ‘sanctity of life’ principle has been another misapplication, by the religious who misconstrued God’s command, and by the secular who anyway liked the feeling one gets from saving a life.
What of the morality argument for the lockdown? Does it score higher than the science and religious arguments? Consider. What if saving the one precious life means sacrificing multiple of equally precious lives? And what if multiple infinitely precious lives have to be taken to save the one? More, what if the one dies anyway? Was it all for nothing?
Closing down society is not a win-win game. To save one life you have to sacrifice many lives. What is the limit to how many may be taken to save the one?
The UN reckons that 490 million people in 70 countries will become poverty-stricken. How many lives saved will make it worth ruining 490 million others? Is there an international rate of exchange? And what if those who are saved inhabit mansions, while those who are ruined to save them inhabit hovels? Do we give a lower weight to the dirt poor than to the filthy rich?
The West’s knee-jerk copycatting of the command model used by dictatorial China came to be the accepted model. Indeed so accepted that dissenters, be they top medical specialists, have their Tweets, You Tube videos and FaceBook pages closed down. The day the Wuhan virus made landfall every commentator and his aunt predicted that freedom-loving people would never tolerate the way Hubei province was shut down and quarantined by the Chinese command. Well, we did more than tolerate the idea; we clamored for the Chinese cure. Not once, not twice, three times over.
Three lockdowns worldwide, three rounds of making havoc, and those in charge call for more of the same. If you like picturesque parallels, trying out lockdown on a pandemic has no more sanity than trying out a bazooka on a cockroach.
“Considering the surge of cases in countries around the world,” wrote an Israeli Rabbi, “it is not surprising that my family contracted the virus. Yes, we were careful, and we followed all the guidelines, but we got it anyway.” I rest my case.
Steve Apfel is an economist and a cost accountant, but most of all a prolific author of non-fiction and fiction, published in many journals and sites. His books include: ‘The Paymaster’ (Fiction); Hadrian’s Echo (Non-fiction); ‘A bias thicker than faith’ (non-fiction, for publication during 2020), and ‘Balaam’s curse’ a WIP biblical novel.
Thailand Sold Itself as a Paradise Covid Retreat. No One Came By Randy Thanthong-Knight
+2 Country allows foreign tourists to visit for up to 9 months But quarantine requirement limits the number of arrivals
It’s hard to imagine a more luxurious place to spend two weeks of quarantine than the Anantara Phuket Suites & Villas in Thailand, where visitors are pampered in private residences that can have their own pool and courtyard. Yet more than three months after the resort and more than a hundred like it reopened to extended-stay travelers in an attempt to revive Thailand’s battered economy, foreign arrivals have failed to meet even rock-bottom expectations. Just 346 overseas visitors have entered the country on average each month on special visas since October, according to the Thailand Longstay Company, which helps facilitate the program. That’s well below the government’s target of about 1,200 and a tiny fraction of the more than 3 million who came before the pandemic.
The tepid response to Thailand’s highly publicized reopening illustrates the difficulties facing tourist-dependent countries as they try to shore up economic growth while also protecting citizens from Covid-19 before vaccines become widely available.
Thailand had hoped to lure retirees escaping the European winter and others who could stay for an extended period. They would have to go through quarantine, but that could be done in the comfort of high-end resorts in a country that had been relatively unscathed by the pandemic. After two weeks, Thailand would be theirs to roam for as long as nine months. The lack of interest is adding pressure on Thai policymakers, who have struggled to accommodate both industry players calling for relaxed quarantine rules and public-health experts warning against putting people in danger. All the while, as the beaches stay empty, many tourism-related companies are going out of business. To make matters worse, virus cases have jumped in the country. “It’s really challenging to balance the demands of the tourism industry and locals,” said Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association. “I understand how hard it is to be stuck in a room for 14 days. I’ve done it.
But the safety of the people gets priority because tourists come and go but locals live here.”In 2019, Thailand received more than $60 billion in tourism revenue from about 40 million visitors. The industry contributed about a fifth of the gross domestic product before the pandemic, compared to about 10% globally. But six months without any foreign arrivals followed by months with just a trickle has battered the sector. At least 931 registered tourism-related companies closed last year, according to a Bloomberg News analysis of data from the Commerce Ministry’s Department of Business Development. The real number is probably much higher as many tourism businesses aren’t registered in any database.
On Thailand’s famed resort islands, the situation is particularly bad. Take Phuket, which got about 90% of its tourism income from foreign visitors before the pandemic. At Patong, its main tourist town, a once busy street of bars and nightclubs lies empty. Bangla Road is lined with shuttered businesses, with chairs stacked on tables and chains barring access. Dust gathers on the barstools and countertops. The few places that are open have barely any customers.“When there are no foreigners, the area is just empty,” said Rungarun Loiluen, who works at The Kitchen, a restaurant and bar at the end of Bangla Road. She’s one of eight employees who kept their jobs from about 30 before the pandemic, albeit with fewer working hours. “There’s barely anyone walking down the road.” .
An average of just 346 overseas visitors have entered the country each month on special visas since October.
On the next block over, Hotel Clover Patong Phuket has slashed its prices by as much as 75% to attract domestic travelers instead of its usual clientele of American, Russian and Chinese tourists. Still, it ran at about 10% occupancy in December, a period that used to be overbooked, according to Jessada Srivichian, the hotel’s country financial manager.
Go to Phuket for the Beaches, Stay for the Food and Adventure Despite the government’s efforts to help tourism businesses, such as subsidizing the cost of hotel rooms, meals and airfares, domestic tourists who usually travel just on weekends can’t fill the gap left by foreign visitors. Even though only about half the country’s hotels have reopened, the average occupancy rate is only about 34%, Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said in an interview in December.“I’ve been in Phuket for 20 years and have never seen it this quiet,”
Hotel Clover’s Jessada said. “We need international visitors. We’re not thinking of making a profit but instead focusing on minimizing losses, because as long as there’s a quarantine requirement, people won’t come.”
The government should consider waiving the two-week isolation requirement for visitors from regions of countries with no local infections for more than 60 days, Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said in late September. He was hoping to have the rule relaxed for visitors from some parts of China, Thailand’s biggest source of tourism income. But no such deal was concluded. “It seems impractical to double the duration of a trip to satisfy the local quarantine requirements,” said Ron Cooper, an American photographer and business consultant who traveled abroad for leisure several times a year before the pandemic. “Add to that the cost of staying in a hotel for two unproductive weeks -- not a very attractive proposition.” Vacation Days Average length of stay for 40 million tourists in 2019 was 9.3 days Source: Ministry of Tourism & Sports
Thailand’s approach contrasts with other tourism destinations that have been less cautious. The Maldives reopened to overseas tourists in July without requiring a quarantine, although a negative Covid-19 test is needed. The archipelago has seen more than 172,000 arrivals since then, according to Maldives Immigration data. While new infections increased in the aftermath, they’ve since declined.“It was bold, daring to open up the Maldives with all the risks attached to it,” said Dirk De Cuyper, chief executive officer of S Hotels & Resorts Pcl, whose December occupancy rate at Maldives properties was 70%. And that might be bad news for Thailand, he said. “Many travelers won’t buy into quarantine, particularly when other countries are opening up and they have no quarantine rules.”
But most Thais opposed the reopening plan and are unlikely to want relaxed quarantine rules, partly because local residents live close to the resorts, unlike in the Maldives where properties are often isolated on their own islands.“If I had to choose between health and income, I’d choose health,” said Wiparad Noiphao, a fruit and vegetable vendor at Banzaan fresh market in Patong. “We have to prioritize safety.” Majority of Thais Oppose Lifting Tourist Ban on Virus FearsAs a compromise, the government’s Covid-19 task force discussed shortening the quarantine period to 10 days. But that has yet to be implemented because of concerns about new infections. The government has also approved six golf resorts as quarantine centers.
Any modification to the original plan would mean higher risks,” said Thira Woratanarat, an associate professor at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine. “There are many examples of free international travel that led to a resurgence,” he said, giving the example of Europe. “We should wait until the global virus situation has improved.”
A resurgence of the virus has also weakened the case for easing quarantine rules. Thailand has seen Covid-19 infections more than double to more than 12,000 in less than a month. An outbreak that began in seafood markets and migrant communities has spread throughout the country. The government curbed travel in some high-risk regions but has so far refrained from imposing a broad lockdown. It has also extended its travel-subsidy program
Ultimately, the country won’t fully reopen until vaccines are widely available, government officials have said. Thailand plans to offer the shot developed by Sinovac Biotech Ltd. to frontline health workers and those with underlying conditions before the end of February. From May, it will give one by AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford, aiming to inoculate at least 33 million people, about half the nation’s population, by the end of 2021. Patong beach, the few places that are open have barely any customer.
Questions remain about how international tourism will function as more people become vaccinated worldwide. Vaccine passports are seen as a way to get people traveling again, but whether and how they will be implemented is still unclear. It’s not even known whether vaccinated people can transmit the virus.Thai Beaches Won’t Reopen Fully Until Vaccines Become Available Taking all this into account, the Bank of Thailand estimates that even in 2022, overseas visitors will still fall well short of the 40 million in 2019. It projects that 5.5 million people will visit this year and 23 million in 2022.
The economy is estimated to have contracted 6% in 2020, the biggest decline since the Asian financial crisis. It’s projected to expand 3.5%-4.5% in 2021, according to the National Economic and Social Development Council. Early morning at Phuket’s Big Buddha Statue. About 90% of the island’s tourism income came from foreign visitors before the pandemic
Despite the hit to the economy, the Phuket Tourist Association’s Bhummikitti says Thailand’s cautious reopening plan was the correct option, and the embattled tourism industry has little choice but to wait for vaccines to take hold. “We can’t close our borders forever, and we can’t let people in without strict measures in place,” he said. “So this controlled, gradual reopening is the best approach.”
Walter Edward Guinness, 1st Baron Moyne (1880-1944) was a member of the well-known Anglo-Irish Guinness brewing family who began his political career in 1907, gaining prominence during the 1920s while holding a series of cabinet positions. A close ally of Winston Churchill, he served as the British minister of state in the Middle East until November 1944, when he was assassinated by the Lehi (acronym for “Fighters for the Freedom of Israel”), also known as “the Stern Gang.”
<figcaption>Photo of Lord Moyne</figcaption></figure>
Moyne played an important role in the hated White Paper, which sharply limited Jewish immigration to Eretz Yisrael, and he was a vehement opponent of the very idea of a Jewish state. In an address to the House of Lords on June 9, 1942, he charged the Jews with trying to make “political capital” out of British efforts to fight the Nazis and accused the Jews of aggression and domination in trying to “force an imported regime upon the Arab population.” A number of historians note that Moyne delivered anti-Semitic speeches in the House of Lords, including one in which he suggested that the Arabs should be awarded sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael because the Arab race was “purer” than the “mixed” Jewish race.
Moyne may also have been personally responsible for the deaths of a million Hungarian Jews. Joel Brand, a member of the Jewish-Hungarian Aid and Rescue Committee, approached the British in April 1944 with a “blood for trucks” proposal from Eichmann, pursuant to which the Nazis would release a million Jews in exchange for 10,000 trucks from the Allies. Brand was arrested and, in the course of months of British interrogation, he was asked at one point by Moyne, “What can I do with a million Jews? Where can I put them?”
There are commentators who dispute this conversation ever took place, but Brand testified accordingly at both the 1953 Kastner libel trial and again at the 1961 trial of Adolph Eichmann. When the British released him in October 1944, he joined Lehi – which assassinated Moyne about a month later.
The Zionists – and particularly Lehi – regarded Moyne as personally responsible for Britain’s anti-Jewish Eretz Yisrael policy. In particular, Moyne worked to prevent a Jewish state through the adoption of harsh anti-aliyah immigration policies, and the Zionists held him responsible for the Struma disaster. (The MV Struma, filled with refugees fleeing the Holocaust, was denied entry into Eretz Yisrael by the British and subsequently forced into the Black Sea, where it was torpedoed and sunk on February 24, 1942; a total of 768 people died in what was the largest exclusively civilian naval disaster of World War II.)
When the Zionist movement undertook a broad campaign to raise a Jewish fighting force, which was discussed in detail between Weizmann and Churchill, the plan was opposed by the Colonial Office under Moyne’s direction. Moyne warned that raising a Jewish army might incite the Arabs to rebellion at a time when British forces were over-extended on three fronts, and Churchill acceded to his view that consideration of a Jewish Division be postponed for six months.
In this historic November 5, 1941 handwritten correspondence on London’s Dorchester Hotel stationery, Weizmann, then president of the World Zionist Organization, writes to John Martin, Churchill’s Private Secretary:
<figcaption>Weizmann letter about Moyne.</figcaption></figure>
Here is a parcel of stuff re: Jewish Fighting Force. You may have time to read it here. Anyhow it will do in U.S.A. Moyne’s statement in the ‘Lord’s’ [i.e., in the House of Lords] is inaccurate. I have not been pressing for a decision prec [?]; only after the second postponement I suggested that an answer should be given and I have got a negative reply six weeks after my request was made. It was made on Sept. 1st a month after my return from U.S.A. Moyne’s refusal came on Oct. 15th…. You can see all that from the calendar of events.
At the time of this letter, Moyne served as Leader of the House of Lords, Secretary of State for the Colonies and, of greatest importance to the Zionist movement, as Minister-Resident and Plenipotentiary to the Middle East, in which capacity as the highest ranking British official in the Middle East, he exercised control over Eretz Yisrael.
Churchill personally received Weizmann to assure him that the deferral in no sense constituted a reversal of policy, and that he would never let the Jews down. The House of Lords speech to which Weizmann refers in our correspondence was almost certainly Moyne’s October 22, 1941 address, in which he asserted that Britain lacked the capability to expand the war effort as the opposition had demanded. Moyne sent an official reply to Weizmann on October 15 (mentioned in our letter) expressing his reservations against a Jewish division.
With Churchill’s encouragement, Weizmann visited the United States during the spring and summer of 1941, to which Weizmann also refers in our letter – in fact, just prior to his departure to the U.S., Weizmann visited 10 Downing Street to personally bid farewell to Martin. In America, he encountered enthusiastic support for a Jewish fighting force, a fact he attempted to use to sway Churchill’s ministers.
Years later, in September 1944, Churchill’s government finally agreed to create a Jewish Brigade, six years after it had been first proposed. The Brigade, the only Jewish military unit among the Allied forces during World War II, went on to distinguish itself in battle.
In a November 4, 1944 memorandum to Weizmann, Churchill noted that Moyne had come over to the Zionist cause, and many commentators still argue that Lehi murdered a man who actually supported their cause. This is demonstrably false, however, as Moyne’s pro-Arab position had not changed. In fact, Moyne upped his opposition to a Jewish state after World War II when the Labor Party assumed power in England with the election of Prime Minister Clement Atlee and Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin, who was a fervent enemy of the Zionist movement and a vicious opponent of the very idea of a Jewish state.
There is no doubt that Moyne’s motivation was not to further Jewish statehood plans but, rather, to salvage land for the Arabs. His guiding light remained stemming Jewish immigration but, when the British proved unable to accomplish this task, his only remaining option became supporting partitioning Eretz Yisrael to ensure that the Arabs received their “fair share.” As such, he reached a Jewish state solution for anti-Jewish reasons: to minimize the possibility that the Jews would have a viable state or, at the very least, to ensure that Jews would not control the entire land.
Yitzchak Shamir, then a leader of the Lehi underground who directed its organizational operations, devised a plan to assassinate Moyne. The original plan called for shooting him in a busy intersection through which Moyne’s vehicle passed daily, but that strategy was vetoed out of fear that the bullets might strike an innocent bystander. Instead, Shamir decided upon an attack at Moyne’s home in Cairo, notwithstanding the significantly greater risk to the Lehi operatives, Eliyahu Bet-Zuri and Eliyahu Hakim.
Moyne had actually been warned in advance by British intelligence that he was a likely terrorist target, but he insisted that he receive no special protection. Following his usual military-like routine, which his assailants had studied assiduously, he arrived in his limousine in the early afternoon of November 6, 1944 accompanied by his driver, Arthur Fuller; his secretary, Dorothy Osmond; and his Aide-de-Camp, Major Andrew Hughes-Onslow.
When Hughes-Onslow exited the vehicle to open the front door of the Moyne residence, Bet-Zuri and Hakim jumped out of hiding and ordered them all not to move. When Fuller leaped out and lunged at Bet-Zuri in an attempt to seize the revolver from his hand – Fuller’s killing was not a wanton murder for murder’s sake, as some still claim – Bet-Zuri shot him in the chest and he bled to death in the driveway in mere minutes. Hakim then pulled the car door open and shot Moyne three times.
The murderers fled but, through a fluke of exceedingly bad luck, they were pursued and caught by an out-of-district Egyptian police constable. Moyne was rushed to a British military hospital in Cairo in critical condition, and he died the following morning after an unsuccessful surgery.
Jewish reaction in Eretz Yisrael and around the world was almost universally negative. Weizmann is reported to have said that the death was more painful to him than that of his own son and, in a letter to Churchill, he wrote, “I can hardly find words adequate to express the deep moral indignation and horror which I feel. I know that these feelings are shared by Jewry throughout the world.”
David Ben-Gurion described the killers as traitors to the Jewish people. Moshe Sharett (then Shertok and head of the Jewish Agency’s political department), announced publicly that Moyne’s slaying distorts the historical truth of Zionism before the entire world. Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz of Great Britain unambiguously compared the killers to Nazis.
Ha’aretz wrote that the assassins “have done more by this single reprehensible crime to demolish the edifice erected by three generations of Jewish pioneers than is imaginable.” The Jewish Agency Executive even went so far as to urge any Jew with knowledge of “the terrorists” to inform the British police, but two members of the Executive, Rav Yehuda Fishman-Maimon and Yitzhak Greenbaum – both later signers of Israel’s Declaration of Independence – vehemently opposed any such form of collaboration.
A bitter Churchill, who always characterized himself as a proud Zionist and was, in fact, a strong supporter of a Jewish State in Eretz Yisrael, spoke bitterly about the assassination and announced that he was reconsidering his support: “If our dreams for Zionism are to end in the smoke of assassins’ pistols and our labors for its future to produce only a new set of gangsters worthy of Nazi Germany, many like myself will have to reconsider the position we have maintained so consistently and so long in the past.”
The British assisted the Egyptian police investigation; successfully lobbied for a trial in a military court; urged the court to impose death sentences on the defendants; and, fearing that Bet-Zuri and Hakim could attain a tactical and propaganda victory were they permitted to speak, the British sought, but failed, to secure an order to gag them at their own murder trial.
The defendants, who were fluent in Arabic, insisted on speaking Hebrew during their trial, and a fiasco ensued where the Egyptians could not find a suitable translator fluent in both Arabic and Hebrew. Bet-Zuri and Hakim did use their trial as a means to draw international attention to British atrocities and malfeasance in Eretz Yisrael and to advocate for the justice of a Jewish state, and the greatest fears of the British were realized when courtroom attendees – and much of the public – regarded the defendants as sympathetic freedom fighters battling British imperialism.
Their Egyptian lawyers actually did a highly credible job defending them, arguing that they had acted with moral motives and that they had no animus against Moyne personally but, rather, against his immoral government. They cited passionately the plight of European Jewry; the pogroms, massacres, cruelty of the Holocaust; and the tragedy of the Struma and Jews drowning in sight of their Promised Land because they were forbidden entry.
They explained, “The Jews had tried everything, but nobody has heard them; some of them concluded that it was necessary to sacrifice themselves so as to appeal to the world to save their people.”
<figcaption>On the last day of their trial, before the verdict was known, photographers took pictures of the defendants. This is one of those original photos of Bet-Zuri and Hakim.</figcaption></figure>
Bet-Zuri, age 22, and Hakim, age 18, were convicted on January 18, 1945 and the case was referred to the Mufti who alone under Moslem law had the authority to impose a death sentence. He did, in fact, impose the death sentence and – heads held high and proudly singing Hatikvah en route to the gallows – Bet-Zuri and Hakim were hanged on March 23, 1945.
In a deal with Sadat three decades later, Shamir recovered their bodies in exchange for 20 prisoners from Gaza and Sinai. They were laid in state in the Jerusalem Hall of Heroism, where they were attended by many dignitaries, including PM Rabin and President Katzir, and then buried in the military section of Har Herzl in a state funeral led by Rabin with full military honors. In response to Britain’s formal protest against the honors afforded to the killers of one of their greatest statesmen, Israel referred to Bet-Zuri and Hakim as “heroic freedom fighters.”
Even to date, there is significant debate amongst scholars regarding the efficacy of the assassination. Many still argue that the murder soured Churchill on Zionism, adversely impacted British policy to the detriment of Zionist interests in Eretz Yisrael, earned the enmity of the world community, and unnecessarily delayed the birth of a Jewish state.
Others note that, in the struggle for a Jewish state, such actions, while painful, were necessary and that, at the end of the day, it was these very types of actions that led the British to finally give up their Mandate and leave Eretz Yisrael.
As Western consciousness began to come to terms with the Holocaust, Bet- Zuri and Hakim became the subjects of folk tales, books, and poems, and the dominant view in Israel today is that Moyne’s assassination was a seminal event in hastening the British leaving Eretz Yisrael and the birth of Israel. In 1982, Israel’s Postal Authority issued stamps honoring them as heroes.
<figcaption>Israel stamps honoring Bet- Zuri and Hakim.</figcaption></figure>