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Testimony from Tel Aviv (with Blake Flayton)

October 15, 2023
Notes
Transcript
Columnist Blake Flayton speaks with Tim from Tel Aviv, Israel amidst the aftermath of Hamas’ terrorist attacks. Listen to his perspective on the politics both in Israel and abroad, as well as his opinion on why thing are forever changed in the region.

Watch Tim interview Blake on The Bulwark’s official YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/gUsWMImJyVI

This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:08

    Hello, and welcome to the next level Sunday interview. I’m your host Tim Miller. We have a good interview today from Blake Clayton. Who is coming at us from Israel Blake is a activist that is written for the bulwark in the past about Israel and Jewish issues. He was a liberal campus activist at my alma mater George Washington and was speaking out about anti Semitism that he saw among his peers even among those within the progressive movement.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:35

    So we talked about that. We talked about his experience in Tel Aviv, what he’s seeing on the ground. The massive fuckups of the BB Netanyahu regime, the response from Joe Biden and others in America. It’s a it’s a very good conversation. It was not what we were planning for this week.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:50

    Of course, I had to change the schedule. We have kind of a funny guest that hopefully we’ll get to in the weeks ahead, but that to me just didn’t feel appropriate given the horrors of of what is happening in Israel. And in the meantime, I was also called in to, do the circus this week on showtime. And so we need to move around our schedule a little bit. We’re taping this on Wednesday morning.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:12

    And so, obviously, there’ll be events that occur in the coming days. But I I think that this is, evergreen conversation that you’ll enjoy. If you’re listening to this on Sunday morning or even on Monday, you can get the app, tune in to show time, seven o’clock Eastern. I will, give you a dispatch from Iowa, New Hampshire. We’ll talk about the Republican race and how that has been or has not been impacted by Israel.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:37

    It’s a great show. Enjoy that. And we’ll be back next week with more of a normal next level schedule. In the meantime, enjoy my friend Blake Clayton to serious conversation. I think it’s an important one, and we’ll get to it after this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:05

    Hello. Welcome back
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:11

    to the next level Sunday interview. I am here with Blake Clayton who is live from Tel Aviv, and we’ll get into Blake’s backstory in a second. But first, brother, just, how are you doing? Give an update for how things are for you, how’s your mother, etcetera.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:27

    Yeah. I think, if you had my mother on, I think it would be a really different interview. I’m good. Given the circumstances, I think we all have a here in Tel Aviv, we all have a different definition as to what good is now. It means just not breaking down, not crying, you know, having a an okay handle on our emotions and mental health.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:48

    So given the circumstances, given the situation, I guess I’m as okay as I can be, The city of Tel Aviv is very quiet. Most restaurants and shops and even just convenience stores are closed. Most services are down. And, most people know somebody who has either been sent to the front lines or actually I’ll say everyone knows someone who has been sent to the front lines, and most people know someone who has been impacted either missing held hostage or murdered. So this is definitely a national tragedy that we’re all feeling the effects of.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:24

    So you wrote for the Jewish journal about your experience written for the bork before. So why I reached out to you. So just tell us about what your weekend was like, kind of leading up to the attack and then what it was like to experience having the city be under attack.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:39

    For sure. So I like to describe the day before Saturday. Last Friday, which feels like a lifetime ago already as the perfect day in Tel Aviv. You know, it was a holiday weekend. Most people weren’t worrying about going back to work in a couple of days.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:56

    My friends and I went to go to the beach to drink and to have a good time, and we had a lovely Shabbat dinner that the night before. And so nothing was out of the ordinary. And then Saturday morning, of course, at around seven thirty, I heard this loud boom explosion over my roof. And my roommate ran into my room to tell me that we were under attack. And then as I wrote in the Jewish journal reality simply changed.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:25

    We immediately went into the hallway where the stairs are in my apartment building. It doesn’t have a formal bomb shelter because it’s an older building. And of course, you know, we saw all of the neighbors there who had also just been woken up as well. And, you know, everyone is staring at their phones, trying to figure out what the hell is happening. And over the next couple of minutes, we realize the magnitude of what is happening and that this is not just a normal attack and operation that we’ve seen in Israel countless times.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:52

    Is a war. There’s been terrorist infiltration and massacres. And then, you know, everything just went numb. I went over to my friend’s house who, has an actual bomb shelter in her building, and we’ve been here ever since. So I’ve been staying at her place ever since.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:09

    I just threw all my shit in a bag and made a run for it. And now here we are five days later.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:14

    Have you, like, reach everybody? You don’t have anybody that you haven’t accounted for in your life?
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:19

    So thank god. I have nobody in my immediate circle who I’m close to who is missing. But that can’t be said for a whole lot of people in this country right now.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:33

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:33

    I I know people who are close to my friends who have died. And who are still missing. Yesterday, I went to a press conference with four Israeli American families who are still missing either a child or a parent. It’s affecting everybody. And, of course, many of my friends have been sent to the front line in uniform.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:53

    Yeah. Okay. Well, I just you know, wanted to level set and check-in first, but for folks who don’t know Blake, I thought there’d be some value in kind of going back a little bit in time. So you’re you’re American and go into GW. We both went to GW.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:06

    We’re not gonna do our graduation years, but, we went to GW in the same in the same epoch. And did you know he was such a political school, right? And you kind of have a background as Democrat, a liberal, and go to GW, I’m sure, like, many people, like, excited to get into, you know, politics in some way or another. But you kind of came into the public view because of what you saw on campus and what a lot of us have now seen this week who aren’t on campus, which is the anti Semitism coming from the left in particular, obviously, there’s right wing anti Semitism too. And you wrote about that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:41

    You wrote about your concerns about that. You organized around it. So so why don’t you just maybe give folks a little bit of that backstory.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:46

    For sure. So you really hit the nail on the head. The GW was a very political school. I went there because I was in and in politics and wanted to work in liberal left wing spaces as I had done all throughout high school growing up in the states. So I went to GW, and I like to describe it as a place where everybody wants to be president.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:06

    And I immediately
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:07

    Or everybody wants to be David axelrod. Either president or, you know.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:13

    Yeah. I mean, we can talk about that for three hours, but I involved myself in all of these different progressive organizations and progressive spaces. I worked on Capitol Hill for my congressman. I was at a protest every other weekend. Whether it was on campus or just in DC in general.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:31

    And, basically, I started my career in commentary on Jewish issues and Israel related issues when I began writing about the blatant antisemitism that I experienced in these spaces. And it took a while for me to understand that what I was hearing from the people who I had called friends and the people who I assumed were comrades in the fight. Were not criticism of Israel. They were not political. They were not even out of sympathy for Palestinians.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:03

    It was classic anti Semitic tropes that have followed the Jewish people for a millennia repackaged and repurposed. To fit the the current zeitgeist and the current zeitgeist on American universities right now is a very hyper identitarian hyper left wing narrative of the world and lens in which to view global affairs And unfortunately, and I believe unjustly Israel is not only on the wrong side of that ledger, but Israel is the epitomizing entity of which all of this politics is organized against. And, you know, I kept writing about it, and I have stayed very on top of anti Semitism on college campuses since my days at university. And, you know, with a day like yesterday when you see all of these students for Justice and Palestine chapters, and not only students for Justice and Palestine chapters, but, you know, at Harvard, you have thirty four student organizations signing a letter that places all of the responsibility on Israel for what happened. And you have the president of the NYU Barr Association saying victory to Palestine.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:17

    And you have students at Columbia saying glory to the martyrs, example after example, it feels like validation. It feels like vindication, but from what Jewish college students have been trying to get a lot more people to realize over the past couple years, but in in no way feels good. It’s incredibly depressing. We hope people will wake up to it now that there is justification for such, like, abject horror. We’re optimistic that this could be a turning point in how Jewish college students and their stories can be received but we’re not entirely sure.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:49

    Yeah. I gotta admit I was I was sympathetic to your perspective, of course. I thought as if I didn’t believe that it wasn’t happening on campuses but the extent of it, right, and the pervasiveness and maybe the threat. It’s tough. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:03

    When you’re off campus and it’s been a while, you’re trying to decide, like, this like eight agitators? Right? Is this people just trying to trigger their classmates? I don’t, you know, I took some radical views in college just for ships. You know what I mean?
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:17

    To, like, piss off people in class. Right? And so, like, trying to balance that. Yeah. Well, was that a rocket?
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:24

    That was a big boom over over us. Jeez. That was a big boom.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:30

    You know, and then you see yesterday in this week, One thing that that struck me when you’re talking about your weekend, you know, you’re talking about going to the beach. Literally in the GW students for Justice and Palestine are alma mater. In their statement, They said that any Israeli or traveler who is, quote, lounging on our occupied beaches is an aggressor, quote, unquote, and not really subtext. The text there is that their murder, their slaughter is part of some resistance fight that is worthy. I mean, that is sick shit, and that is alarming.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:05

    And I I wonder, a, what your response was what your thought was when you’re seeing this. I guess it was not the surprise that my thought was. And and just talk about the pervasiveness. You know, like, is this a small cohort Is this the median student?
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:19

    I think in order to answer that question, we have to take a look actually off the campus into the Palestinian cause itself which as we have been proven over the last couple of days is ideologically Of course, there are different details such as Islamism rather than race science in its European Ron DeSantis. But in its essence, this ideology is nazism, and it is the most barbaric and inhuman form of anti Semitism that the world has ever known. And it just so happens that that doesn’t resonate very well with western respectable liberal ears. And the Palestinians know this certainly Palestinian partisans internationally know this. The Iranian regime knows this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:12

    And very far left wing thinkers and academics and intellectuals across the world know this as well. And so over the last couple of decades really ever since the seventies. We have seen the masking of the true intentions of the palestinian liberation apparatus, if you will, varying, you know, organizations. We have seen them disguise their true intentions with the language of social justice and the language of human rights and also West’s plane, which is, you know, a play on the word man’s plane Sure. That is coined by Doctor.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:48

    Annette will, former member of Kenneth said, West explaining away what the people on the ground are really saying. So when the people on the ground are really saying, We want death to all Jews. We’re going to rape them, murder them, set their homes on fire and destroy Israel. In the west, it’s sanitized into saying Palestinians just want self determination, and Palestinians just want an end of the occupation, and Palestinians just want to lift the siege on Gaza. Or the blockade of Gaza.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:15

    And so to millions of progressives in western countries, this all sounds like very digestible rhetoric and very reasonable proposals and demands, especially when you impose racial relations that we have in the United States or in Europe onto Israel Ron DeSantis, you know, the Jews in Israel as the white people the oppressors and the Palestinians as the people of color, the oppressed. That whips up a lot of anger and a lot of resentment against Israel and Jews in your midst. And it’s well funded. It is broad. It affects so many different universities and college, big and small, public, and private.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:57

    And this ideology, the people who are pushing it know that these people are not going to get rid of these beliefs and grow out of them once they graduate school. They are going to enter all of our institutions, politics, media, culture, law. I mean, you name it. And bring this this sanitized Nazi ideology into these respectable places. We’ve already seen it happen, which is the backing, of course, behind these statements.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:26

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:29

    I wanna kinda get back to the you response, but I I wanna level set a little bit because this is really kind of an intra left and even intra liberal, and I’m even using liberal small l kind of including my people that never trumpers, right? Like an intralibril dispute and, like, fissure. Right? Because some people I think could listen to that answer in say, oh, man. This sounds like, right wing, scientist, whatever, trying to impugn folks that are fighting for for justice, but like that’s not really quite right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:00

    Right? And I think that the interesting thing about you and and many many others in Israel and here American Jews a lot of liberal folks who really are unhappy with BB, really unhappy with the government yet at the same time recognize this threat. So talked about how that is manifesting in this moment, and I know you were doing activism in Israel before this all happened about the quote unquote reforms that the view is putting forth. So just kind of talked about that vision and, you know, where you kind of fit in that world.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:30

    Of course. I mean, one of the reasons why Saturday was so dramatic is it was a complete one eighty shift in what you know, the discourse was about in Israel. I moved to Israel last year, almost exactly last September, and more or less since last September, every day here has been consumed with anti government activism. As I’m sure most listeners know there have been major protests almost every week. In fact, every week multiple times a week in Israel since the election of this current coalition in our parliament There has been mass civil unrest.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:13

    There has been reservists not showing up to duty. There has been strikes from high-tech workers and nurses and other sectors of the army. It’s just been madness here. The conflict between the right and the left, between the religious and the secular, between different factions in Israeli society. And that’s what we thought we all had to worry about at this moment.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:36

    Was the judicial overhaul and the potential dismantling of this really democracy. And we were really focused on the radicals in the government who hold the most detestable, far right racist views that I think a Jew or Israeli can have. It’s disgraceful. And then Saturday, the entire country came together in a split second and realized that we have one objective right now, and that’s to win first and foremost, to defeat Hamas, to respond with strength, to what happened in the south, and to make sure that we are under no threat from future attacks. However, all of that energy that has been building up for the last year, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Israelis, you know, taking to the streets to make their voices heard against the government, that’s not going to go away.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:26

    And when the dust settles from all of this and and I really hope it will be soon. I’m not sure if that’s too optimistic. There will be the most I’d say vicious and necessary inquiry against the decisions of this government that led to the disaster that we have now. In nineteen seventy three, fifty years ago this week was the Yamkeeper war when Israel lost thousands of soldiers, combatants, been a surprise attack that wasn’t really quite a surprise attack. There was sort of deliberation in the army and the fallout from that lack of decision making shifted the political trajectory of Israel forever, the labor party that was in power in Israel since the founding of the state, lost an election in nineteen seventy seven to the first time Manakim Bagon’sley could party, which then began to dominate Israel off and on for the next several decades up until this moment.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:22

    So we can only imagine the political shift that’s going to occur now. And this will be Benjamin Netanyahu’s legacy. During the protest movement, we were all convinced that his legacy was going to be the failed judicial overhaul, the dividing of Israeli society, and, you know, the corruption and the fanaticism at the very tops of our society. But now we realize it’s going to be even worse and that his egotism and narcissism, and it’s it’s going to be remembered for this, this horrible day.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:53

    It’s an interesting answer because that everybody comes together in a second and that, you know, I I can’t say this from New Orleans, right? But that seems true. But this is different than that. Right? There’s the nine eleven Sarah Longwell speaking in our egocentricism were, you know, Americans have American centrisms.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:09

    Everything’s about us, but there are these parallels to nine eleven. Right? This is Israel’s nine eleven. Even though, like, there are more deaths on a per capita us and hostages. Obviously, there are a lot of differences.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:17

    It just in the surprise nature of it and the wake up call nature of it. But eventually there ends up being criticisms of Bush and commissions that look into all this and etcetera, but not for a while. You already see in the is newspapers in the Israel commentary at, like, while the people are coming together, there is palpable frustration with Netanyahu’s government, not just because of the judicial nonsense that you guys have been protesting about. But because of just the lack of preparation, I I mean, this feels like it should have been BB’s Like, this is a meaty’s whole brand. Like, mister security, strength, preparedness for something like this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:58

    To be caught so off guard, there’s some reports that there were warnings, It feels like very quickly there is going to be much recrimination on that point.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:07

    There is absolutely going to be. And again, the two things are actually new actually exclusive. Right now, the Israeli people are coming together in a way that just reveals the absolute best of our society and our civilization as the world’s only Jewish state and what that really means. There’s donation drives and volunteer service all over Tel Aviv even all across the country. Three hundred thousand people have been mobilized.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:30

    People are caring for each other and raising millions of dollars from here and abroad. It’s just incredible. That is separate from this government. And by the way, as we’re doing this interview now, There is news that Benny Gantz, who leads one of the major opposition parties, and Netanyahu have accepted terms to an agreement that would form a emergency wartime unity government that is said to be sworn in tonight. And so the ball is already rolling.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:01

    The ball is already moving. People know that this is going to get intense blowback from a unified public because this war unlike news of the judicial overhaul, if you can even compare the two, has impacted everyone with the same outrage and the same brokenheartedness that we didn’t even know was possible a couple months ago. And so there will be. And, there’s gonna be very in commentary when when the time comes for a proper inquiry.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:27

    I mean, obviously, there’s still hostages, blood is still being shed. Right? So it’s like it’s impossible to do this now. But is there any sense there for, like, how, you know, they could have just been so blindsided by this? It just feels unimaginable that something at this scale would have just been absolutely missed.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:46

    So the truth is to answer that question is we simply do not know. We have yet to have a compelling rock hard story that kind of lays out what exactly went wrong how exactly all of this was missed. Because remember, this wasn’t just one unit that wasn’t called to duty one morning. We have supposedly a smart fence and unbreakable barrier in between the sovereign state of Israel and Gaza. And on top of that, we have watch towers and drones and security cameras and soldiers, and then we’re supposed to have the police, and then we’re supposed to have a front line near the Gaza border.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:27

    All the time. And then, of course, first responders didn’t show up to the kibbutzim that were under direct attack from terrorists for hours. On Saturday morning hours. Civilians had to defend themselves and their families with no weapons. These are keep it seen near the Gaza border that the most peace loving
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:44

    What? I keep seeing that word. So as a gentile from America, I don’t really know what a key but
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:49

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:50

    I I was familiar with that word as a gathering where people chat. Yes. But it that seems like it has a different meaning than I realized.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:57

    So there’s like the historical nerdy characterization, and then there’s like the current characterization. Keyput seem are small Israeli communities that have been a staple of the zionist vision since long before the state of Israel was established They are kind of the product of socialist zionism because they were started as completely socialist agricultural communities where everyone shares the resources, everyone shares the wealth, and the community provides for the community’s defense. A lot of people seem more still very much based on the socialist model. They’re very predicated on oneness with nature, especially in the desert where these attacks happen. You know, oneness with the negev, which is a very sacred place in the Israeli imagination.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:41

    And we treasure them because they’re sort of this prime example of a good of Israeli society, Cubaseem are the heart and soul of the country, I believe, in a lot of ways. Our best and brightest come from Cubaseem, and they’re filled with people traditionally very left wing, peace loving people who provide this wonderful atmosphere for children and this wonderful atmosphere for innovation and service to Israel. And, you know, we heard a couple days ago that one of the women who is suspected to have been brought into Gaza, did work to provide medical care to Palestinians living in Gaza during war time. That’s your image of what a typical he putsnick in Israel is. And she has been taken hostage.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:21

    So these people had to defend themselves with nothing. And there was just mass slaughter and the security forces didn’t show up for hours. And so this was a a domino effect of complete failure and complete incompetency. And it’s just horrific. Was that thing else to say?
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:41

    I don’t know if this will lead to a knee reflection on the right of wall efficacy. But anyway, that’s for another time. On American stuff, I think that certainly there has been some shocking false equivalencies at both sides of them. Whatever you wanna say from some corners to leave and and even like Ed Markey. But Biden remarks yesterday were astounding.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:07

    In my opinion, maybe the best speech that he’s given since as presidency. What is the view from Israel on the American response and Biden and and what’s your take on you know, how we’ve responded here.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:20

    So I actually was watching this speech last night with a room full of Israelis, on the couch. And, you know, they were mesmerized by his speech. To put it lightly. They were very, supportive of the president’s words, and there was a general feeling not only in my own home when we were watching this, But across the Israeli worlds that this was a brilliant and much needed and reassuring statement of support, I would call it, yes, one of the best speeches of his presidency, and I would call it unprecedented in the heartfelt zionism and belief in the importance of Israel that came across. And I think overall, of course, there’s gonna be, you know, people in Israel who prefer the previous administration more, but even they, I think, can’t deny that this is an important moment for us.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:09

    Not a lot of sense there that Joe Biden is responsible for this attack, like Senator Tim Scott said, he’s got blood on his hands.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:17

    I don’t think any Israeli right now is blaming Joe Biden of all people for blood being spilled in our streets. Listen, I think that we ought to have an important and crucial conversation about Iran and about Sure. Democratic policy toward Iran because there’s no question that Iran is behind these attacks. Iran is orchestrating the motives of both hezbollah and Hamas. And there’s no question that perhaps we need a re examining of priorities in the Middle East.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:47

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:47

    But again, I think most of that agitation has come from American right wing arts.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:52

    Who
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:52

    are trying to use this moment to score a point rather than sympathize with people on the ground.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:57

    Sure. And there are plenty of policy reflections, even, I, I think So the Trump administration, at times, the eased up on Iranian sanctions, and I think there are arguments for that. But to me, I think if you are to criticize the Biden administration, a more apt criticism maybe than the six billion is. It seems as if I think everybody was hoping that if they just stopped paying attention to the Palestine Israel dispute, that maybe it was just gonna get quiet and go away.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:24

    Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:24

    I mean, I I you know, recent speeches from people in the Biden administration about the Middle East policy. And, like, this conflict isn’t even brought up.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:33

    Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:34

    Right. You know, there’s a focus on the Saudi deals, the Abraham accords and all these other areas. And I think that the fact that we had had a brief period of relative quiet in the conflict, I did think it led to some naivete and kind of a lack of focus on trying to reach sort of solution.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:52

    For sure. I mean, and there is political context to that as well. What the Trump administration did that even I have to say American liberals, especially Israeli liberals, but even American Liberals began to understand, was that and this is Netanyahu’s platform. This is his whole concept of organizing the world and organizing the conflict. He thinks and the Abraham accords were a sort of vindication of this idea that if you make peace with the larger Arab worlds against the axis of Iran, then the Palestinians will have no choice but to accept self determination within the parameters that Israel and the international community allows it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:37

    And again, after we saw Israel sign peace accords or normalization accords with the UAE and Bahrain and later in Sudan and later in Sudan and later in not go. This seemed to be the way forward. This seemed to be the logical thinking that this was the way to go. We will isolate palestinians because the Palestinians have only been able to sustain their war against Israel. These constant terror attacks because they have had support from the outside Arab and then certainly Islamic world.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:06

    And so we thought that if we cut off that support and we cut off that assurance that bigger and larger powers are gonna have your back all the time, then they’re gonna not gonna have a choice but to come to the table. That was
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:20

    Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:20

    The shift that the Abraham accords brought about. And in fact, these events that have happened in Israel over the last couple days, I will say strongly suspicious that they come as a reaction to the news that Israel and Saudi are on their way to normalizations because this is in some ways the Palestinian saying you will know. They know that this will be the end of their struggle because this will be if Israel and Saudi make peace effectively the end of the Arab Israeli conflict that has been going on since nineteen forty eight, and they know that their support system besides Iran will be completely cut off. And they don’t want this to happen, and they want the Saudi to stop it. And that’s why they did this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:01

    So you can say in respect to the Biden administration, the Biden situation, accepted this new conventional wisdom, like a lot of Israelis and liberals around the world. And Israeli liberals and liberals around the world, I don’t think you can blame them, but I think after today’s event, we realize that this is going to be actually more complicated than we thought. It’s not the first option of the, like, Clinton Obama years of make peace with the Palestinians and then peace with the Arab world will come after, and it’s not the Trump doctrine, and the netanyahu doctrine of make peace with the Arab world, and then peace with the Palestinians will come. It’s not black and white. There’s going to be a lot more complications in both directions.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:42

    Yeah. To be honest, I chose my my naivete about the region. I had a lot of complaints about the Saudi Viden normalization deal they were working on, but the response from Gaza from Palestine from Hamas from Hamas, you know, that unintended consequence was something I hadn’t thought about. And several folks, like you have heard, make compelling case on that point over the past few days, we could do a whole podcast on Zionianism and, you know, two state solution and all that. So I I don’t wanna go totally down that rabbit hole, but I, you know, I do think that there are gonna be some listeners of this podcast, you know, some people that discover it that are also the left that are compelled by the view that maybe not the GW students or Palestine view that anybody sitting on a beach in Israel should be murdered because they’re colonizer or whatever, but might be sympathetic to the view that The Israeli state is engaging in an apartheid.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:36

    They are colonizers that there is something fundamentally wrong with their existence in this whole model. I just, at the top level, wonder what your pushback would be or what message you’d have to those folks as, you know, they have intra conversations within liberal spaces, within progressive spaces where you know, you’ve been having these discussions since since you were in college.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:00

    Right. You know, every time a conflict breaks out, I think about the people who are going to be reading and listening to things about this conflict for the first time. And Right. It’s always like a Oiva voi moment because what information are they gonna see first? That’s going to probably dictate what lens they view the conflict through the next, couple of years.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:20

    Look, This is a very simple question. This is a crucial question. You have to ask yourself and you have of as the people around you in liberal spaces is do the Jews have the right to their own country with their own army in part, not all, but in at least some of their ancestral homeland where they trace their national and religious identity back to. That is the crucial question. If your answer to that is yes, because it is yes for most all people in the world because most of our planet is divided into nation states where groups control their own destiny.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:05

    If your answer is yes, then you’re a Zionist and you support the state of Israel and its protection. That does not mean at all as we have seen from the last year of Israeli protests against the government, which made the Israeli flag and, you know, national symbols like the declaration of independence and the IVF uniform, the symbol, the emblem of our protest against the far right insurgence in Israel, that does not mean you agree with all Israeli policy, of course, but it does mean that you’re a Zionist. If you say no to those parameters of the Jews having self determination in their ancestral homeland, then you are an anti zionist. And I want to stress very clear. There is no such thing as a nonviolent, non antisemitic anti zionism in the region of Israel Palestine and the wider Middle East.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:58

    The only time that anti zionism can carry an air of respectability an intellectual honesty because it often invokes dreams of a binational utopia where Israelis and senians have equal rights, and we live together in a sort of John Lennon Imagine universe. That only exists in Western academia and on the iPhones of college students. And it this disconnect, I hope from this latest conflict is being bridged here. That if you refuse to support the Jewish state, they’re right to a state. With all the politics away from it, they’re right to a state.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:37

    Then you are defacto sending your support to these people instead because these are the people who are actually on the ground pushing for your worldview. It’s not Judith Butler firing rockets into Tel Aviv from Gaza right now. It’s a Hamas terrorist who wouldn’t think twice about killing you and your entire family. That is the discrepancy that we’re up against right now.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:59

    So then okay. But what do you say to somebody that says, oh, well, I guess then using those definitions, I’m a Zionist, but I am deeply angry by how the Israeli government has acted out the Zionism and treatment of Palestinians, not everybody that lives in Palestine is okay with the actions of Hamas. And, you know, there has to be a way to view treatment of Palestinian through a social justice lens. What’s your response to that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:27

    My response to that is bring me one. Bring me one Palestinian from the West Bank and or Gaza, who before we get into to a debate about Israel and Palestine and who has the right over which land and what things went on in history that dictates, you know, where we are today. I want to have a conversation with a Palestinian who says to me within the first two minutes of the conversation, the Jewish people have a historic and ancestral right to part of this land and they have a right to national self determination and national self defense on this land. And all we the Palestinians want is a independent state of our own in the West Bank and Gaza. But the problem is is there has yet to be one.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:12

    You’re looking at social media and commentary from the last couple of days. And all of the people who are saying, this isn’t what Palestinian resistance look like. We need an end to the occupation. This is about settlements. This is about blockade.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:24

    This is about the open air prisons. They’re not Palestinian because the Palestinians have made very clear multiple times over the past several decades. That the only thing that they desire is dead Jews and the eradication of a Jewish state. Period, there has yet to be a movement in Palestinian civil society to reject this. Every single time that the Israeli government has tried to make peace, has tried to establish independent everything for Palestinians.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:53

    It has been rejected, and it has been met with violence and war. And look, I’m a peace, Nick. I’m an Israeli of the left. I believe wholeheartedly in the end of the settlement project and the establishment of the two state solution. But hopefully more people around the world will see now how even the farthest left Israeli has a breaking point where you cannot negotiate people who are not even operating in the same universe as you.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:18

    You’re willing to give, they’re only willing to take.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:22

    Your passion, you’re so obvious. I I just I do wonder, I’m gonna test this at the top, What was the draw to you? Like the ancestral homeland idea? Talk about that and like what brought you to where you are right now.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:35

    Well, so, I am not a very religious person at all. And Zionism, the concept of Zion was first thought of and then enacted and then defended by predominantly secular Jews. Zionism came out of the tradition of the European enlightenment that stopped placing so much emphasis on religion and faith and clergy doctrine And that’s how it started in the Jewish community. The Jewish community in the eighteen hundreds and the nineteen hundreds started looking at all of the anti Semitism around them and started asking themselves what are our rabbis doing for us? For two thousand years, we have prayed and prayed to be restored to the homeland, to be restored to the place where we were kicked out two thousand years ago.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:29

    And yet we have not been able to make it happen And we’ve only been met with violence along the way year after year. We need a complete revolution, a rebellion in Jewish affairs. And that’s where Jewish nationalism, zionism springs up as a rebellion against the strict Jewish theology that mandated the following of commandments, the following of Torah as the primary way to be a Jew. Now in our twenty first century, I felt increasingly before I made Aliyah that the only way to express my Jewish identity was through religion, was through closeness to a faith, to god. And I just can’t feel close to a god of which I do not believe.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:12

    And therefore, zionism serves as a sort of third way, quote unquote, for Jews to feel Jewish, for them to feel Jewish in the national sense in the sense of belonging to a peoplehood of a culture, of a history, and all of the things that go along with it, language, customs, piece of land. Without going to synagogue and without following the commandments of our god in the old testament. Right? And that’s what Israel offers to millions of Jews both in Israel and around the world. Around the world, Jews connect to feeling Jewish.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:46

    By their zionism, by the Israeli flag and the feelings of pride that they have in Israel. And that’s ultimately why I decided to make aliyah because it offers, you know, the secular option I like to call it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:56

    Are you planning on staying? Have you thought about all that in light of this?
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:01

    I’m planning on staying for the for, forever. I think these recent events have only strengthened that resolve. You know, I was supposed to go to New York this week or a big family event. My whole family was flying out there, and I don’t get see them that often, but I canceled those plans yesterday because I just have to be here. I can’t leave this community behind.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:19

    It’s in times like these, it’s more crucial than ever to, like, the all the Israelisness.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:24

    If your mother was on this podcast, what would her answer to that question? Oh, I
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:28

    don’t even wanna talk about my mother right now. My mother has been, listen, my mother’s gonna be fine. The real question is how are the mothers of this country going to be even in the next two weeks, two months, two years, there’s going to be millions of parents and children who have post traumatic stress disorder. I mean, this is twenty times worse than nine eleven if you consider the scale based on the population of America and the population of Israel. And it’s all just a short drive from us.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:59

    It’s like if there was a nine eleven and all of the country was situated in the tri state area.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:04

    Right. Okay. I wanna let you go, but I do have to ask what’s next. I mean, you have to just I’m not asking you to pull out a crystal ball, but there’s to be a fear for where we go in the next week and and a fear for the young people of Gaza, kids, you know, that that are there, the hostages that are there, the families, like, what is the sense right now for like not what is next as in twenty twenty five, but what’s next, like, this next week? What is coming?
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:34

    So I think it’s pretty certain at this point that Israel is going to launch a ground invasion into Gaza, which is completely unprecedented. It promises to bring untold amount of casualties, an untold amount of destruction, And that’s just localized to Gaza. You know, there’s hundreds of thousands of reservists who are stationed up north should the event that Hezbollah get involved in this conflict, even more than they have. There’s already been reports of shooting across the Lebanese border. So I think we’re in for a extraordinarily difficult couple of days and couple of weeks.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:12

    Look, first and foremost, there needs to be a humanitarian corridor opened in conjunction with Egypt and the United States. I feel very strongly about this because I feel and I can predict not a military strategist, but this is just common knowledge at things point that what is going to happen in Gaza This is what our defense minister recently said. What was will no longer be. This is going to be a event of enormous proportions. And if we can save as many civilians in human life innocent human lives as possible, then the United States and Egypt need to be on top of that very soon.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:51

    Civilians from Southern Lebanon have already begun evacuating from their homes and moving further into the country. That is completely necessary because the IDF basically has a mandate right now. To carry out justice on the people responsible for this in any way they want. And especially from the speech with Biden, we have assurance going in.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:13

    How does god even continue to exist after this? It’s just very
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:18

    Look,
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:19

    hard to imagine.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:20

    I don’t think it is going to, at least in the way that it did before this event. And I don’t say that with anything but sadness and fear over what that means for the region in the future.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:35

    How can the people help? I know that you’re involved in groups there or the groups they can support or donate to or what will Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:41

    There’s a bunch of groups that you can donate to. The friends of the IDF is a big one. There’s also this program called adopt to Safta that brings food to, elderly people who are isolated in Israel. And I’m sure you can find on social media. There’s there’s so many organizations and donation drives that it’s at this point a little bit overwhelming, but also just taking a stand with Israel or a stand against terrorism at least in the killing of innocence online, making your voice heard, sharing the message with your friends, that that does a ton of good as well.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:15

    Thank you, Blake. Hang in there. We’re sending you our love. Appreciate you taking the time, man.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:19

    Thank you so much.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:20

    Peace.
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