Monday, April 29, 2019

How does Never Again become Yet Again?

In memory of Lori Gilbert Kaye, z"l, who will be buried today according to our customs, after being senselessly murdered by an AntiSemitic white supremacist on Saturday in the Chabad of Poway, CA.

With prayers of refua'ah shleimah - full healing of body for Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, Almog Peretz, and 9 year old Noya Dahan, wounded in the attack. And with prayers of refu'at hanefesh, healing of the spirit to all who are terrorized by this act of violent hatred against Jews everywhere.

Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers said Saturday, “My words of ‘never again’ have disappeared from my language.  They’ve been replaced with ‘yet again.’ And so it is that we stand here yet again at this corner as one united community.” The rabbi and his community also suffered a violent murderous attack against his synagogue in the fall, and now we have become.... what?

The number and scope of the public reaction is less.  That is a simple fact.  There are fewer vigils, fewer gatherings, fewer letters and comments of support, fewer shocked faces, and fewer tears. All of these are happening, but are more muted.  What are we becoming?  How fast to we "get used to" hate and violence?

Reading 8chan, the unmonitored websites that this shooter used to post his vitriol, it is clear that there are many more like him.  Comments include disappointment that he killed so few, anger that he didn't train better, mockery that he fled and worse. 

There must be no "normalization" of this hatred and violence.  The horror shock and anger of Pittsburgh must be held even higher today after Poway.  

More to follow.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Another AntiSemite Kills Jews in Chabad of Poway, CA

My heart and prayer goes to the members of Chabad of Poway in the wake of this horrific Passover news story.  Sh'fokh Chamat'kha al ha-goyim asher lo yad'ukha... As the passover Haggadah at Elijah's cup cries, "Pour out Your wrath" on those who hate and kill and have destroyed and devoured God's peoples in all places. We pray that God help us to remove hatred from the world we create with Him every day.

On Saturday, April 27, 2019 a little after 11:30 in the morning, a 19 year old white supremicist walked into Chabad of Poway, CA and opened fire.  He killed one, wounded 4 (including the rabbi and a young girl) and fled the scene when his AR-15 failed and congregants tried to oppose him.  He was captured on the highway shortly thereafter.

Like the murder in the mosques in Chirstchurch New Zealand, he posted his rambling hatred on the internet shortly before the killing began.  To read this example of white supremicist hatred, click here. He was clearly aware that he was attacking on the 6 month anniversary of the slaughter at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh PA by another white supremicist.  He reportedly referenced both, while saying that Trump is wrong to support Israel.  An initial report can be seen here.

Unfortunately, we are starting to have a large enough sample size of these killings to establish patterns and outliers.  Up to this point "lone wolf" attacks by radicalized individuals were isolated incidents.  The only indicators would be participation in hate sites on the web where free speech limitations prevent close individual monitoring and surveillance.  This time, however, the shooter claims to have fire bombed a mosque in the area, a crime previously unsolved.

This hate is not new, but the internet's ability to help an individual to feel a part of a larger world without actually meeting anyone in that world in person is the new wave. Now Dillon Russ, Robert Bowers, and Brenton Tarrant can all reach beyond their individual hatred of Jews, Muslims, African Americans and immigrants and be part of inspiring future violent hatred around the globe.

Friday and Saturday as we ended Pesach we had a Sheriff's car in the parking lot and armed manpower in the building.  We have received DHS grants for locks, doors, glass, cameras and more.  We have taken the necessary precautions.  But we are not at ease, because we know that a shooter like John Earnest would have seen the car and simply moved on to a softer target to kill.

The answer is not just in pylons, cameras, and door locks. The only answer is armed, trained, opposing force in every synagogue.  And it is an imperfect answer, to be sure. But the time of debating this has long gone. Synagogues need trained guns.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Today is Israel Election Day - Last Polls and Predictions

Today Israelis are already at the polls.  While initial turnout is reported as slightly low, this is unlikely to remain the case.  First, Israel has one of the very highest voter participation rates of any voluntary voting system in the world.  Second, the election is close and widely felt to be determinative of dramatically different outcomes based on very slight changes in results.

By Israeli law, no polls in the last 4 days may be published leading up to an election.  So here are the FINAL poll results available to the voting public as they choose the next Knesset.

There are two key indicators:

1) Kachol Lavan is consistently polling to take 1-2 more seats than Likkud.  However, as previously explained in my posts, it is Israeli President Reuven Rivin's prerogative to give either Likud (Netanyahu) or Kachol Lavan (Ganz/Lapid) the first crack at forming a governing coalition of 61 votes in the newly elected 21st Knesset.

2) Ra'am-Balad (Beduin/Arab nationalist), Gesher (Orly Levy), Kulanu (Kahlon) and Yisrael Beiteinu (Lieberman/Russian) are all hanging near the 3.25% threshold for inclusion in the Knesset. A minimum of 4 seats is given to parties making the cut this year, but their votes are distributed proportionally among the victor parties if they don't.  Ra'am-Balad would vote to the left, and Yisrael Beiteinu to the right.  Gesher seems to be entirely out of it at this point, but would likely not support Netanyahu.  Kulanu would vote to the right.  Shas, and the other parties, have all established themselves in the polls.  Netanyahu's last minute announcement that he would annex Jewish settlements and towns in the West Bank/Judea-Samaria could take some votes from the far right parties, and could actually hurt him if it drops

Despite that possibility, every poll on April 3-5 showed a right wing coalition forming under Netanyahu as Prime Minister.

The ONLY possibility of a left wing government, by these polls, would be if Yisrael Beitenu AND Kulanu fall below the threshold, while Ra'am-Balad rise above it.  Then the "left" might have a chance at organizing a coalition first - if Rivlin permits it.  This is a highly unlikely scenario.

SUMMARY PREDICTION:  Netanyahu will enter the 21st Knesset with a solid coalition of right wing parties, and will proceed to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank/Judea-Samaria.  The next great challenge to this will be twofold.  First, the Palestinians will receive broad and unified international support against the move, and the forces of "West Bank Boycott" will grow - particularly in Europe, but also in America. Note that the Democratic Party is solidly "two-state solution" still, so this will enter the American Presidential election.  Second, It will become increasingly difficult to simultaneously deny that there is an "occupation" on the one hand, and not allow Palestinians in the West Bank/Judea-Samaria to vote on the other hand.

This may or may not be "inevitable" or "right," depending on your own political view.  The entrenchment of a one state solution, however, will clearly create a long term challenge to Israel's democratic character.  Claims of Apartheid and "Palestinian bantustans" will grow, and while the actual development of the Israeli and South African maps are completely different historically, socially, economically and politically, the visual image of pockets of Palestinian settlement within surrounding Israeli settlement will not go away.

That's it for now.  Let's count the votes and watch the developments in the days/weeks/years ahead.

Bottom Line:  Netanyahu emerges stronger than last time.  Now he just has to worry about his Attorney General's pending indictments.  


Poll results are listed in the table below in reverse chronological order, showing the most recent first. The highest figure in each survey is displayed in bold, and the background shaded in the leading party's colour. In the instance that there is a tie, then both figures are shaded. Parties that fall below the threshold are denoted by the percentage of votes that they received (N%) instead of the seats they would have gotten. When a poll has no information on a certain party, that party is instead marked by a dash (–).
These tables list the polls published from the time that Yisrael Beiteinu left the government coalition in mid-November 2018,[7] until election day.
Note: Political blocs do not necessarily determine the exact makeup of post-election coalitions.
DatePolling firmHadash
MeretzLaborBlue &
Current seats[8]5851811110530N/A35765466
5 AprElection silence starting end of Friday before election day.[9]
5 AprPanel Project HaMidgam/Statnet/Channel 13[10]6451128(2.8%)4428667565466
5 AprSmith/Maariv[11]745929(2.6%)5427566675466
5 AprMaagar Mohot/Radio 103FM[12]77931628667675466
4 AprSmith/Jerusalem Post[13]64592845527456665664
4 AprMidgam/Yedioth Ahronoth[14]7451130(2.2%)5426565575763
4 AprMaagar Mohot/Israel Hayom & i24 News[15]6(2%)81032(2%)6(2%)27666585664
4 AprTNS/Kan[16]846830(2.9%)5(2.4%)31666465664
4 AprMidgam/iPanel/Channel 12[17]7451030(2.6%)5526565575664
4 AprMiskar[18]7451028(2%)(3.18%)(1.2%)31878665466
3 AprPanels Politics/Walla![19]8461030(2.1%)(2.9%)429567565862
2-3 AprDialog/Haaretz[20]7451027(2.8%)5430557565367

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Quietly Rebuilding the Cold War: Russia 4 - US 0.

The topic of "Russia" in American politics is, sadly, as shallow and misinformed as every other topic in the political mainstream these days.  Here are a few facts across the spectrum that people should pay attention to:

1) No, Trump never "colluded" with the Russians.  It has been as stupid accusation, now completely debunked by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report.  Collusion means that the campaign or candidate directly planned strategy and shared information during the election. Why collude when you have already hired a Russian representative to run your campaign? From the moment Paul Manafort was put in charge of the Trump campaign, every policy statement about Ukraine, Crimea, NATO and Russia were pro-Russian. The Democrats, woefully silent in International Affairs, missed the whole point.  At the same time, Manafort had been a paid Russian interests representative to advocate for Russian legitimacy in its incursions, political economic and military, in the Ukraine since 2014.  That was illegal, and he was in charge.  But that doesn't mean he "colluded" in the elections. Stupid accusation when the truth is so much more damning.  The ongoing Trump corporate interest in Trump Moscow into 2016 is a side show, again without legal basis for criticism.  Does Trump want to benefit economically from the presidency? Duh. Why did he get out and walk in front of his hotel in D.C. the day he was inaugurated?  Trump appointed Manafort. Manafort was a Russian representative.  That is the only legitimate criticism, and most Americans don't know enough about the disaster in Crimea and Ukraine to care.  Russia 1 - US 0.

2)  Syria.  Yes, Obama failed to oust Assad after the use of poison gas.  His strategy was week, imperialist and misunderstood two things: a) his Iran strategy freed up billions of dollars which would be used to bankroll Assad; and, b) Russia was in play in the ISIS theater of operations.  When ISIS made millions from control of oil fields, who did they sell the oil to? Hint: pipelines head north from there.  Russia also backs Syria, to a point.  That point has been, since before the 1967 war, at which Syria can pay for Russian military equipment, advisors and air protection.  With Iranian money, Assad could afford all.  Russia has never backed out of the Cold War influence game in Syria, Crimea, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgystan.  The southern border to the Middle East is a military and economic buffer like Eastern Europe used to be, but it never had a Berlin Wall to fall.  Russia is still invested in the Northern conflicts of the Middle East.  Again, less than 1 percent of the American voting public would likely be able to even label those countries accurately on a map, let alone vote based on an understanding of the dynamics of that power move.  Russia 2 - US 0.

3) Syria II. Trump is no better.  With the massive response of the West to arm, support and direct the war on ISIS came a liberation of Iraq and Syria, and inevitably another betrayal of the Armenians under Turkey along the Syrian and Iraqi borders.  The Trump declaration of victory against ISIS is a gross misunderstanding of the international and grassroots nature of the ISIS movement and those organizations that have sworn allegiance to it.  Yes, territory, oil fields and command and control was destroyed on the battle field.  But ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Taliban are all in rebuilding modes now and are perfectly effective as guerilla terrorist organizations moving to the future.  Pulling out of Syria simply hands Syria to Assad and the Russians.  Cancelling the Iran deal has an interesting effect, however, stripping Assad of his bankroll.  Not surprising, the Russians are now announcing their own pull out from Syria.  Assad wins, and remains in power poor with devastated infrastructure.  Don't expect him to allow any of the millions of refugees to return home anytime soon. So, while Trump ran against Hillary being part of the Obama power vacuum that allowed ISIS to take hold, he has in fact re-created the exact same power vacuum in the same area, and left Russia in charge to police it.  Russia 3 - US 0.

4)  Nuclear Arms.  The US and Russian together have a minimum of 3,500 nuclear armed warheads currently deployed around the world, with the US deploying slightly more.  Trump, almost immediately upon entering office, ordered an NPR (Nuclear Posture Review) and has since restarted Nuclear weapons research and development, a military "space force," and cancelled the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia. We are now "free" to build as many nuclear weapons as we wish, and deploy them anywhere - as is Russia. Now who thinks that is a good idea? What additional level of strategic deterrence is created?  Missile and anti-missile technology seems appropriate to cutting edge military research.  The warheads are already plenty strong enough.  When Russia inherited the Soviet Arsenal after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Ukraine and Belorus where also allowed stewardship over their weapons, in part to break central Russian control in the event of a future arms race.  Putin has now re-exerted his control over all three, and the US has freed his hand to build openly.  Russia 4 - US 0.

The bottom line is that the Obama and Trump administrations have ushered in a renewed age of Russian influence in the Middle East, while Trump has empowered Russia to expand its borders and rebuild its military along old Cold War borders and strategies.  It's a good time to be Putin.