Tag Archives: Israel

The dark side of community organizing

I’ve had a long simmering suspicion towards “community organizers”.  Might have been since college.  While I preferred to listen to people, I watched career minded organizers come in with their own agenda, rally people around it, and kick out anyone who disagreed.

Then came the Iraq War.  I was opposed to it – even though I’m not a pacifist, I didn’t like being lied and manipulated into a war.  I organized MoveOn movie nights because it was a great way to find like-minded people and try to amplify our opposition that way.  But MoveOn quickly became an organizing agent for the Democratic party, and when our discussions were replaced with “Bush as an Idiot” slogans, I backed off and dropped out.

Now, it seems, such “community organizing” has taken a toxic turn.  In the past few years I’ve seen first J-Street appear, and then Jewish Voice for Peace.  These groups have no organic connection with the Jewish community.  Their only real connection is with the Democratic apparatus, their only unifying factor a desire for Democrat coattails.

I’ll leave J-Street alone for another day, I’d like to focus on JVP for now.  The articles about them are damning, and yet I wonder how long they’re going to last.  Their own website looks like they’re a bunch of slick internet hacks.  First of all, it’s only available in HTTPS, which means you can’t track or verify any of their traffic.  But it looks like they’re disputing their Wikipedia page, which points out that their only claim to fame is giving the anti-Israel lobby some cover against the charge of anti-Semitism.

Of course, that doesn’t stop other groups from revealing who they are.  The ADL has a whole page devoted to their tactics.  Forward magazine also has a great article about them.

And if they were recognized as such, that would be one thing.  But Democrats like Karen Bass are starting to give them an air of legitimacy.  And that’s what concerns me.  Note:  she originally posted this on her Facebook page, but once I commented with the ADL link, she took it down.  Luckily, the internet loves to archive pages.  And so do I.

Overall, my IT pro analysis is that they’re great at overinflating their numbers and influence, claiming to not only speak for Jews, but questioning whether established groups like AIPAC, ADL, etc. actually represent them.  This is what makes them valuable for the Democratic party, and why the Obama campaign has been really pushing them to the forefront as an alternative to those pesky established Jewish organizations with their pesky demand that Israel remain a safe haven for Jews.

And see, here’s the ultimate difference between a “community organizing” group like JVP and an established community group like ADL.  It’s the daily advocacy and work that groups like ADL, AIPAC, Hillel, Chabad, do on a daily basis for Jews.  Charity work, research work, going out of your way for other Jews, taking complaints about slurs and hate crimes against Jews, taking them seriously, advocating on different governmental levels.  The political programs are only an extension of this daily work.  And that’s why all these Jewish groups are tireless advocates for Israel.  They know how desperately Jews need a safe haven in this world that so quickly aligns against them.

I can tell you without any more than a peek at JVP that they do NONE of this.  That’s what makes them a fraud.  That’s what makes them toxic to this country, and why they need to be outed.

We don’t even need to make this about Jews, either.  I’m sure other races and people have similar issues.  Whereas the organic community has their own organizations and culture, ruling class representatives go in with foundation money, not to advocate for that community, but to push their own agenda on them.  The community is just a stepping stone to a political or intellectual career.

Response from ADL re: UCLA Divest motion

For those of you who don’t know, UCLA’s student government recently passed a motion calling on the UC to divest from Israeli companies and academic institutions.  As an active Bruin, this disturbs me greatly.  I wrote to the ADL, this is their thoughtful and complete response.  I figured I’d make it publicly available.


Thank you for contacting ADL regarding your concern, especially as a UCLA alum, over the recent passage of a BDS resolution targeting Israel by the Undergraduate Student Association.  We are well-aware of this particular situation and worked diligently with the UCLA Jewish and pro-Israel students, staff and faculty in helping them determine their best course of action.  We reported on this situation last week on our website and Facebook page.  I have included the links for you below:

·         ADL Los Angeles Blog: Jewish Students Display Strategy and Strength in Face of BDS Movement on Campus

·         Access ADL National Blog: California Campuses See Increase in Anti-Israel Activity

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns, both on and off campus, are something that ADL has been fighting since they first became active.  We are a great resource for Hillel professionals, Jewish and pro-Israel undergraduate and graduate students, university administrators and campus leaders on issues related to anti-Semitism, responding to anti-Israel activism and developing pro-Israel programming.  ADL provides most of its support “behind the scenes,” empowering students, faculty and staff to stand up to effect change.

ADL has a multitude of resources, including a Webpage talking about BDS and other anti-Israel activities in the U.S. and how to combat these activities, as well as one specifically for campus issues, College Campus Affairs.  All of our resources and publications are free and available to the public.

We appreciate the time you took reaching out to us about this.  Please continue to check our website and social networking pages to see further updates about campus activities and what ADL is doing on campuses across the country.


ADL (name redacted)

Migrating away from Facebook commenting

Facebook has a problem with Jews.  I hate saying that, I hate complaining about things I have no control over, but I too have shortcomings and I have to complain.  They suspended me from commenting for 24 hours because I put forward the following in a comment on someone’s post:

The Jews are ONE people.
They have ONE G-d.
Their ONE capital is Jerusalem.
The heart of Jerusalem is Temple Mount.

Makes no sense, does it? Makes no sense to me.

To add insult to injury, I see the lie that Israeli Jews are some fake Ashkenazi Zionazi conspiracy all the time.  It’s not even worth fighting it, the hordes repeat it so often.  And I’m not the only one, in face, there’s a quiz about it.  And I hear other Jews complain that their rebuttals get removed from Facebook all the time.

Now I’ve defended Facebook against its detractors for years, because I know they never challenged the core of its business model – the ability to moderate people’s interaction.  In fact that’s an adage: the Internet belongs to those who can moderate it.

Now, was what I said provocative?  Sure why not.  I don’t think it was insulting or hate speech.  But at this point, if Facebook blocks this, I have no idea what else I, or others, could say defending Israel that will get them forcibly removed from the conversation.  Remember they also blocked my Blood Libel pic, a pic that generated two lengthy threads and the ADL deemed important enough to act on.

And if we are to have a discussion on Israel, it means especially Jews need to be free to express their beliefs without fear of being shut down.  Facebook cannot guarantee that, and that means they cannot moderate the discussion.  We need to move the discussion to other channels.

I will also look into a Twitter plugin, since a lot of my discussion has been on there, and has been free of censorship.

One reason the GOP won

NOTE: I was going to make this part of a larger blog entry “New Rights and Lefts” but at this point it seems like that will be more a book than a blog entry.  Rather, I’d like to make this one instance of how new politics is escaping old paradigms.

But I was just forwarded this video where AP writer Matt Lee quizzes WH Spokeswoman Jen Psaki.  Like the rest of us, he was trying to reconcile Dempsey’s remarks that Israel went to “extraordinary lengths” to protect Gaza civilians with Psaki’s earlier remarks about “appalling casualties”.  To wit: “When you say the Administration is appalled, did you just mean the State Department?”

Now let’s get some things straight, as if I need to.  I voted for Obama, twice.  If anything, I think Obamacare needs to go further.  I think global warming is real and a threat to civilization.  All that being told, this right here encapsulates everything that so quickly disillusioned me about the Obama administration.  This is one of those things that I thought had a priori bipartisan support.  If not being explicitly pro-Israel, at least fact-checking before making official statements on behalf of the President of the United States.

I know a lot of people wonder why so many GOP candidates won last Tuesday, but as a lifelong Democrat who actually talks to the other side, I hope this sheds some light on it.  Obama has certainly been the butt of a lot of vicious attacks and conspiracy theories.  Benghazi has been a rather noxious one.  But when taken as a whole, it reveals a distinct policy difference that more stately likes of McCain can certainly address and exploit.

I, for one, am looking forward to seeing McCain chair the Armed Services Committee. I hope he will elevate so many conspiracy theories (like Benghazi) into needed policy debates. If he shines in that role, he could play kingmaker for the 2016 GOP presidential run.

And if the Democrats want to thwart this advance on the American center, they can’t just fire back with “they cut funding for the VA” or arguments which, while technically valid, miss the point of what voters are looking for.  The presidential election isn’t about pork or benefits.  It’s about a grand overarching policy and vision for America.  When even the Economist is asking “What will America fight for?”, it’s a legitimate and pressing question that Democrats will ignore at their peril.


Blood Libel in Los Angeles


I found this walking down Santa Monica Blvd. just west of Sawtelle, on the South side of the street.  I registered this with ADL and they worked with the city of Los Angeles to have it removed.  I also posted it on Facebook, but they removed it after a week without giving a reason… along with a few threads that went along with it.

I’m not sure what I can do to contest Facebook’s decision to drop this picture, but it’s either gross negligence or flat-out anti-Semitism on their part.  This was a shock to everyone who saw it, and we had a good thread going on how to deal with it.

Here’s the old link:  facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10154568647330637&set=a.64370195636.141227.591625636

More later.

“Do you agree Hamas fired 4000+ rockets at Israeli civilians?”

People tend to think wars are complicated.  They try to disentangle it with endless debate like some unmanageable Gordion knot. But wars are usually quite simple, and come down to a simple question that gets debated over with guns. Much like Alexander the Great did, when he cut through that Gordion knot with his sword.

The Gaza conflict is no exception. After many debates with people over Twitter, I found the whole war can be distilled into one question:

“Do you agree Hamas fired 4000+ rockets at Israeli civilians?”

Without fail, the answer of everyone who supported Hamas in this war was either crickets, deflecting the question, or outright hostility.  Occasionally someone makes a grudging admission but immediately qualifies it with some crazy lie or excuse.

It certainly explains the historic need for an inquisitor.

This is by no means a conclusive or exhaustive list of the replies I got. Rather it’s a small sample that I will keep adding to as my debates continue. Enjoy.

Philip D Clarke ?@PhilipdClarke Sep 3
@rbassilian @proadstudio @Miguelcubells @riwired No #Zionazi has ever admitted to #ethniccleansing #Colonisation #GenocideinGaza

Sadaf Ahmed ?@OscarChilde Sep 3
@rbassilian @buberzionist That’s not the beginning. The beginning is the Nakba dork. Go away you know nothing.

@QueenNzinga13 Sep 3
@rbassilian @HotInfidel74 @hotspur007 @lennydogin @FIREFIGHTER3899 @ink_spilled There’d be peace if government changed wicked policies

ameer ?@ameer6691 Sep 2
@rbassilian @HotInfidel74 @rondbusa who in the earth r u to question me?

Ahmed Khalil #Gaza ?@alKhalilA Sep 1
@rbassilian @IDFSpokesperson And Palestinian rockets are not military grade or carry warheads, they are just fireworks that make holes.

Acer Jamal @AceJam13 • Aug 31
@rbassilian are you Jewish big boy? Don’t dodge the question? <<@IsraSupremacist do you think this mofo is circumcised?



Ending the six day war – after 47 years

I think the best way to describe the world’s response to the latest Gaza conflict is: confused.  Who won?  Who lost?  What did people die for?  With the right optic, the conclusions are really quite simple.  It’s a lesson as old as the Iliad: wars are not fought over land or money, they’re fought over RIGHTS.  The land and money are just spoils.  What Israel achieved in this latest episode was the right to do as it will with the occupied territories.

But let’s back up a bit … 47 years, to be exact.  When Israel was REALLY surrounded by sworn enemies on all sides.  Enemy governments, with militaries, ready to invade and quash the adolescent state from all sides.  The only way to stay alive was to wage a pre-emptive war and push their armies back to safer borders … annexing Sinai, the west bank of the Jordan River, and the Golan Heights.

Taking the land, in that case, was the easy part.  They took over the territory so they could demilitarize them and give them some breathing room against invading armies.  But what to do with it?  What to do with the people?  This is where we see how important rights are.

Since 1967, Israel has been stuck in a quandary.  They didn’t want to annex the territories, since that would mean granting citizenship to predominantly Arab areas, thereby diluting Israel’s Jewish identity and sovereignty.  A double-whammy considering the outright hostility of local Arab states to Israel.  They couldn’t just catch-and-release, since that would defeat the purpose of the entire war.  So the solution was to just maintain them in some limbo where those living in the occupied territories became refugees.

Now when it comes to refugees, the UN has some jurisdiction.  And this is the same UN that equated Zionism with Racism in 1975 – it wasn’t exactly friendly to Israel.  Israel basically had to suffer the next 47 years dealing with Intifadas, Arafats, a UN that both funded the refugees and readily condemned Israel for its treatment of these refugees at every chance it could.  Meanwhile, the other Arab countries refused to grant them citizenship within their own borders.

Indeed the whole “Palestinian” cause originated in 1967 as a political move against Israel.  Where the Arabs couldn’t win militarily, they would win diplomatically.  They would goad the refugees to make life as difficult as possible for Israel, and as soon as Israel was forced to respond militarily, they would rush in and call for an immediate end to Israel’s “aggression”.  A UN friendly to their agenda made sure Israel had no choice but to comply.

And so It would take several decades – the Camp David accords, 9-11, an Intifada, Israel’s exit from Gaza, the Arab Spring – to shift the winds of diplomacy into Israel’s favor.  The president of the USA no longer talks about Israel as an “apartheid state” but talks about its “right to security”.  Jordan has dropped its hostility towards Israel, even the UAE talks about the need to normalize relations with Israel.

But what really sets this conflict apart from the last few is that this is the first one since the Arab Spring and subsequent crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.  General Sisi has blown up the tunnels leading from Egypt into Gaza, making them completely blockaded.

So where once Hamas and Gaza had open support from the Arab world, they now were cut off with no way to survive.  This is why they unleashed such an irrationally suicidal mission against Israel – they had no other choice.  It was a Hail Mary (so to speak) in hopes that they could spark enough sympathy for their plight that Egypt or somebody similar would break the blockade.

Instead, whereas in previous conflicts other Arab countries would rush to their aid, this time they stayed back.  Yes, we heard of the anti-Semitism and demagoguery flaring through Europe and Turkey and the like, but the relevant fact is no government offered them any official support.  No military aid, no diplomatic pressure.  The words against Israel were just words.

So, when Netanyahu says Israel came out victorious, what he means is that Israel set out its mission – Operation Protective Edge – and completed it as fully as possible with no need to scale back or cancel.  This is a first.  To go any farther than that against Hamas would have required invading with ground troops, and that was never a part of this mission.

This implies Israel now has other rights.  And you hear the conversation around Jerusalem shifting to reflect it.  For the first time, people are openly discussing programs to help the refugees emigrate to other Arab countries.  It’s still in hushed tones, but give it time.  The US is preparing a motion in the UN for an international effort to demilitarize Hamas.

Meanwhile, Israelis are clamoring for more to be done.  More will be done, for sure.  The irony of Bibi’s “decrease” in popularity is that people veered towards his RIGHT.  They wanted him to go in immediately and finish them off.

So give it time.  Already Netanyahu went and annexed the 1.5 square miles associated with the kidnapping of the three teenagers: a bold move that asserts Israel’s new confidence in its security position.  The opposition has been vocal — but only a voice.

Meanwhile, a ground invasion, a feasible program to incorporate the occupied territories into Israel, abandoning the “two-state solution” or the “right of return”: these things were all unheard of just two years ago.  Expect to hear these more and more from here on out.

These are the rights Israel has fought for, and won.

Open letter to The Economist

SIR – I will spare you any vitriol about your coverage of Israel last week Losing the War – I’m sure your mailbox has been full of it already. Rather I’ll say I’m disappointed. It was so focused on Israel, and whether you find it legitimate, you blinded yourselves to the real news and opportunities coming out of the entire region. Egypt is discarding politicised Islam, what seems to be a popular move and not just dictatorial fiat. They destroyed the tunnels to Gaza and are railing against Hamas in their media. Even Saudi Arabia is jumping on board. Israel is looking at its neighbors and seeing itself NOT surrounded by sworn enemies, for the first time ever.
It’s setting the stage for an entirely new politics and economy in the Middle East. To not report on this, and discuss the opportunities involved, well that’s like refusing to cash your dividend check because it was signed by a dirty Jewish banker.
Meanwhile, your analysis of people’s perception of Israel seems to only be a census of social rot. Ironic that it follows on the heels of “Tethered by History” and a rather weak defense of why the Jews should feel safe in Europe in the face of renewed anti-Semitism. It would be more interesting to see the demographics involved in this. If I am correct, classic European neo-Nazis and Muslim immigrants are getting together to bash Jews. Politics makes strange bedfellows indeed, and it’ll be a nasty hangover when they wake up from that orgy and look across the bed at each other. It calls into question the deepening decay of Europe.
A whole new world is being born out of this conflict in Gaza. The Economist’s mission is smart capitalism which is aware of political events and the economic opportunities they bring. Failing to see and analyze this would be a catastrophic failure on your part.

When New Worlds are Born

“Hannibal Tactic” – it’s the new term my mom told me the Israeli left was using about the Israeli military.  That somehow they killed those three soldiers themselves and blamed it on Hamas so they could break the truce.

The current conflict in Gaza, with all its Fog of War, has no shortage of such conspiracy theories.  Some on the left have even proposed that there’s oil under Gaza and the war is a pretext to exploit it. I’m not going to debunk them here, I’ll just say I’ve seen enough of them at work in my many years of political activity to notice what’s really going on.

The real issue is that people tend to get their worldviews at a certain point in their lives, and it works for a while, but then they never stop to examine their views.  Meanwhile, the world changes in ways that boggle the imagination and needs to constantly be rethought and re-analyzed.  So they keep trying to jam current events into a worldview that’s been obsolete for years, even decades, and only come across as more and more ridiculous.

Indeed that’s why I got into political theory.  It recognizes at its heart that there’s nothing absolute about reality, that it’s a social construct that is actively fought over by various political powers in a life and death struggle.

And what we’ve been seeing in the past three years, beginning with the Arab Spring and culminating in this conflict over Gaza, is our entire understanding of world politics being rewritten.

You could say the current understanding of the Middle East comes from two events: the 1975 UN resolution equating Zionism with racism, and the Camp David accord declaring peace between Egypt and Israel in 1978.  This set a framework where Israel was isolated by Arab neighbors who were steadfast enemies, while Egypt maintained a shaky peace that everyone thought was only maintained by a dictator against the population’s will (Anwar Saddat, the Egyptian signatory, was assassinated).

And the world watched and interpreted those events in Israel and the Occupied Territories according to that framework.  This gave Israel very few options for dealing with Palestinians in those territories, since any military action met with swift calls for a cease fire by its neighbors.  And Arabs both in the occupied territories and neighboring countries like Lebanon felt much bolder to take potshots at Israel.

Enter the Arab Spring. Which I called a pro-Western, secular democratic revolution in earlier blog posts.  Others quickly lamented all the shortcomings of these revolutions, which is complaining that the newborn can’t speak, but I saw world-changing potential.

And now those potentials are coming forth.  The major change in this current conflict with Gaza is Egypt is no longer a friend of Hamas.  Egypt destroyed the smuggling tunnels leading into Gaza, their media rails against Hamas, and as I write this they are negotiating with Hamas without Israel’s presence, and it sounds like they’re just trying to bring Hamas back to reality.

Indeed it seems like Hamas is still operating with the demands and politics of the 80s, and their unpleasant surprise is now – there’s a new reality in the Middle East.

And, while the world continues to rail against Israel, Egypt quietly dissolved the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing .  A quick search of the comments section shows that Egyptians welcome this move.   But very few news channels are really exploring this.  CNN posted this, which is a start:

And even they aren’t noticing the elephant in the room.  Wait a minute – Egypt is ALLIED with Israel?? Wait another minute … SAUDI ARABIA and JORDAN are allied with Israel?  Even if it’s under the radar, even if overtly they insert an obligatory “death to Israel” at every speech (like this guy) we’ll take it with jubilation!

Because at the same time, they’re alerting Hamas and the rest of the world to a new political reality.  It’s a reality where Israel will look around at its neighbors and see, if not friends, at least people with similar interests and temporary alliances.  And that is HUGE for a country that’s been isolated since its inception.

Like I told my mom, just wait another month.  Everything you know about the Middle East is going to be thrown out the window, and a whole new world will be born.

UN Out Of Gaza

In case you haven’t heard, Israel shelled a UN school.  It’s been on the news for two days straight.  It’s the worst atrocity since … I dunno, Fallujah?  Boko Haram?  Two weeks ago?

But I kid.  The real issue is people are trying to make moral statements about the war without any attempt to peek through the fog of war and see what’s actually happening.

So before I make my moral assertions about this war, let’s cut through that fog of war to see the events surrounding the shelling.

The basic issue is that the UN school was sheltering an alleged 3000 people.  Of those people, 20 died.

Now, if Israel were directly targeting the school with artillery fire, a lot more people would have died in that attack.  It’s pretty safe to say that entire structure and everyone in it would have been decimated in a minute.

Let’s also keep in mind that the whole compound is in a crowded neighborhood, where Hamas fighters are engaging Israeli troops all around it.

Now, I don’t make any apologies for engaging Hamas fighters with overwhelming force.  You don’t attack without it, all militaries use it.  That means softening up their hiding spots with artillery fire.

So, the likeliest explanation is that Israeli troops engaged Hamas relatively close to the school.  And a couple of artillery shells, which are “blunt instruments” exploded a bit too close for comfort to the school.

This certainly jives with what we’ve seen in videos, even from CNN’s lookout tower, where artillery shells were falling all around them.

So, for the UN to make this moral assertion without bothering to peek through the fog of war; to make this assertion that Israeli troops were targeting a UN school despite some serious contradictions: this now makes the UN the target of moral scrutiny.

Just what are they doing there?  Are they there to shelter innocents?  Or are they there to erode Israel’s moral authority for self defense?

Hamas has engaged Israeli troops in their own turf, in Gaza.  There’s no shortage of evidence showing their willingness to hide behind civilians.  This means no neighborhood is now safe from the conflict.  Gaza City is imminently an occupied city, much in the tradition of Atlanta, Dresden, Berlin, Fallujah.

Why insist on keeping civilians so close to the line of fire?  You want to tell me there’s no other way for them to keep civilians safe, if this is their mission?  How about barges on the coast?  Buildings on the border?  Something that Israeli troops can secure?

And let’s not forget the video footage being shown for two days straight.  It’s the same stock footage of Palestinian mothers screaming and crying, which cries out propaganda video.  If people were seriously wounded, mangled, killed, the footage would be a lot more grisly.

And for the UN to take it and run with it like this, this makes them sound like a propaganda arm.   Not so much for Hamas, but for the millions of anti-Semites in the streets right now, calling for death to Jews.

UN, J’accuse.  Get out of Gaza, now.  You serve no purpose there other than to foment further conflict around the world.