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Nationwide Unrest And Riots Drive Jewish Veterans To Arm Themselves And Protect Their Own

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I received an unexpected message this week that gave me a new sense of hope that I wasn’t, in fact, alone in my thinking about the current tension in our country posing a threat to the Jewish community. The Twitter Direct Message came from Leibel Mangel, someone I have admired for so long.

Mangel served in the Israel Defense Forces as a combat soldier. He was a lone soldier, meaning he chose to serve as an American. He enlisted at 19, leaving his hometown of Cincinnati to fight terrorism and antisemitism on one of the most hostile battlefields.

What’s more, Mangel’s grandfather is one of the youngest living survivors of Auschwitz. The issue of antisemitism is personal for him and he’s made it his life’s mission to be outspoken against it.

https://twitter.com/LeibelMangel/status/1123994199647506436

His battle didn’t end when he hung up his IDF uniform and returned to the States. Rather, Mangel’s fight was now to be fought, although differently, on his home soil.

Directing a new organization under “Magen Am” called “The Lone Soldier Veterans Program,” Mangel has set out to train Jewish veterans from both the U.S. military and IDF to protect Jewish communities and institutions.

“As anti-semitism and civil unrest continues to rise at alarming rates, we have made the decision to stop relying on others to protect us,” Mangel told me.

Over a period of twelve months, the veterans learn security tactics including training in firearms and Krav Maga, a self-defense system used by the IDF. The program also gives a purpose to those returning from their service, which is often very difficult and contributes to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly seen in veterans.

The group mobilized trained security from within the Jewish community when rioters in Los Angeles targeted entire Jewish neighborhoods and many local Kosher stores and synagogues. According to reports, the group responded to 10 break-ins and received hundreds of Whats-App alerts at the time. The group also reportedly stopped vandals from destroying a local synagogue. Unfortunately, many others were ruined.

“History has not been kind to those who can not secure and protect their own community from within. We will utilize our most skilled protectors, our military veterans, to ensure the safety of our community and the future of our people,” he added.

Although many rioters have called for defunding the police, the Jewish community sees the police as an ally amid the uptick in violence and chaos. Mangel is one of them and his organization works in concert with local police departments to ensure community safety.

“We are very proud of our relationship with our Police Departments. Our local police play a vital role in the safety of our Jewish community. We have been in constant communication and look forward to continuing to coordinate with law enforcement at every level to keep our community safe,” he explained.

What happened in Los Angeles is just part of the story and it’s a reason why Mangel hopes to not only bring security to the Jewish community in California, but to Jewish communities across the nation.

When riots started in the streets of D.C. after the tragic death of George Floyd, the groups targeted my favorite stores and neighborhood restaurants, but also my spirit, my synagogue. I still walk by the building to see the shadow of a hateful phrase spraypainted on the historic building that I don’t think will ever come off unless repainted.

We always had a guard at the front to protect us and I never felt unsafe even after similar instances of vandalism. In fact, looking back on my childhood, it wasn’t at all abnormal to have bomb threats to our Jewish schools or community centers. That was normal.

Only recently, as I came to learn what those groups taking aim at my synogague truly want to achieve, I decided to take a course on personal protection and safety. I never felt compelled to, I sometimes floated the idea among my non-Jewish friends who encouraged me to, but I never even took the time to understand why I needed to. I think that’s a flaw of my community and sometimes it’s not even a flaw, but just that we are optimistic and try to see the good in this world.

When Mangel called me, it was when I realized this.

As we’ve learned throughout our history, reality hits us often when it’s too late when things are already dangerous. Right now, there are calls to defund the police and anti-law enforcement rhetoric is at an all-time high. This, combined with a rise in Jew-hatred, makes it difficult to know who will be there for us. I’ve come to realize that it may be us that needs to save our own.

I’ve spoken with European Jews, the ones who haven’t yet fled to Israel but certainly consider it, who struggle to get full support from their governments in defending their synagogues, schools, and businesses. Often, they’re funding the majority of their own security.

In the Netherlands, for example, 2019 saw a 35 percent increase in antisemitic incidents. Still, the Jewish community’s calls for extra support have fallen on deaf ears in the Dutch parliament. And although the House of Representatives voted in July to establish a national antisemitism coordinator, and passed a number of initiatives to combat the hate, a motion to fund security for synagogues failed.

“Usually, us Jews in the European diaspora, we in a way, look up to American Jews where a community seems to be a lot more vibrant, established, bigger of course, for obvious reasons. But, now, with antisemitism making a comeback in the United States, this is something that, ironically, we in Europe have more experience with in many ways,” Aron Vrieler, a spokesman for the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) told me.

Vrieler added that there is some support from many municipalities such as Amsterdam and the central government allocates funds for security as well. But a majority of the funds, which is roughly estimated to be about 70 percent (1.5 million Euros) of the Jewish community’s security costs, comes from the community itself, he said.

He explained, “As you may understand, this is hardly an unnecessary luxury in Europe. The Netherlands was spared fatal antisemitic terrorist attacks in the recent years, unlike Germany, France and Belgium. However, borders are completely open. The risks here are hardly different than in those countries.”

With three major antisemitic attacks in 2019 on a Jewish business in Jersey City, a Rabbi’s home in Monsey, and a synagogue in Poway, gathering as Jews as a community is under threat in America, and it’s a threat to our lives. Antisemitism is happening at a rate that feels like on a daily basis. Luckily, our situation is still better than in European countries.

As the amazing Bari Weiss once said, “Jews here have experienced the best diaspora experience that we’ve ever had in all of Jewish history.” Our founders, she said, viewed themselves “as new Israelites starting a new promised land” and supported the full integration of Jewish people in America.

That very Jewish experience in America our founding fathers set to create for us is exactly what Mangel wants to protect. If you want to learn more or get involved with Magen Am and the Lone Soldier Program, click here.

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China Expands Charm Offensive in Southeast Asia to Squeeze out U.S.

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Similar to what is happening in the Pacific, the US is facing a significant uphill battle to balance China’s rise in Southeast Asia. During the recent G20 and ASEAN summits in Indonesia and Cambodia, the Chinese Community Party (CCP) media upped its propaganda war against the United States over Southeast Asia. Outlets like Global Times and Xinhua claim that China’s interests in Southeast Asia are focused on mutual benefits, while the US is a malicious force in the region. The CCP press also claims that China is generously giving robust and purposeful aid to the Southeast Asian countries, while the US is neglecting them.

Claim #1: China’s Interest in Southeast Asia is Peaceful and Mutually Beneficial

China’s approach to Southeast Asia is benevolent and focused on mutual benefits, according to the CCP-run press. “China’s goal is to achieve a truly prosperous and peaceful ASEAN,” and “doesn’t interfere in ASEAN members’ internal affairs,” according to Global Times. “China focuses on pragmatic issues, such as promoting infrastructure construction, living standards, which are needed in those countries,” and “China is seeking a cooperative path toward common development,” according to another Global Times article. That same article quoted Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as stating that China and the ASEAN countries “are good neighbors who will always be there for each other…”

One country that is particularly thankful for growing Chinese influence, according to the CCP press, is Indonesia. Indonesians want China to “lead…the world to a more peaceful and prosperous future,” and view Chinese President Xi Jinping “with an apparent sense of affability and affection,” according to Global Times. Marzuki Alie, former speaker of the People’s Representative Council of Indonesia, praised China as “becom[ing] essential in improving global governance,” and that “the visionary concept of building a human community with a shared future proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping shows China is willing to work with other countries to create a peaceful and secure world with openness and inclusiveness,” according to Xinhua. And perhaps the most perplexing aspect of China’s “benevolence” in Indonesia is the “Peace Ark” – a hospital ship that has recently docked in Indonesia, but that is also a navy ship run by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), according to Global Times.

Malaysia has a favorable view of China as well, according to the CCP press. Koh King Kee, president of Center for New Inclusive Asia, a Malaysian think tank, stated that “China is the backbone of the global supply chain and acts as a ballast stone of the global economy in times of uncertainty,” according to Xinhua.

And in response to US concerns over rising Chinese influence in Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base, Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian dismisses the base as not targeting any third party, according to Global Times. Cambodia’s Minister of National Defense Tea Banh further claimed that the Chinese involvement in that base is benevolent, stating that the base helps Cambodia “in cooperating with friendly countries and help[ing to] maintain regional peace, stability and prosperity,” according to that same article.

Claim #2: The US’ Interest in Southeast Asia is Manipulative, Malevolent

In contrast to China’s benevolence, the United States “only wants [ASEAN] to serve as its pawn to counter China, and to fulfill its own hegemony goal, according to Global Times. At the G20 conference in Bali, the US takes a “hegemonic, unilateral and protectionist approach,” and “is preaching war and confrontation,” according to that same article.

The US and the West are merely using the G20 summit in Bali “to advance their own geopolitical agenda against Russia, therefore preventing the crucial meeting from tackling serious economic issues,” according to another Global Times article. “Such a geopolitical focus “will worsen this uncertain and unstable world,” according to Veronika S. Saraswati, China Study Unit Convener at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies Indonesia.

According to another Global Times article, the US is using ASEAN “to drive a wedge between China and Southeast Asian nations in the future,” is attempting to “rope in the region via political, security, and value-oriented agendas,” and is trying “to buy off” Southeast Asian countries “by pledging to spend certain amount[s] of money.”

Claim #3: China gives Robust, Targeted Aid to Southeast Asia

CCP media taunts the extensive aid that China is giving to Southeast Asian countries. China has pledged $1.5 billion in “development assistance” to ASEAN countries in November 2021, and Chinese-ASEAN trade was about $878 billion in 2021, according to Global Times. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang claims that of the 160 “cooperation initiatives” that China has suggested with the ASEAN countries in the previous 10 years, over 99.5 percent of them have been implemented, as reported by another Global Times article.

Li also stated that China is planning to build emergency storage for medical supplies and rise within the ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan and South Korea) framework, according to Global Times.

Chinese state-run media is particularly touting China’s Belt and Road investments in Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia and Laos. According to Global Times, the Jakarta-Bandung high speed railway will be operational in June 2023, and as a “flagship project of China-Indonesia cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative,” will be the first high speed train in Southeast Asia, according to Xinhua. China’s ambassador to Indonesia praised the project, claiming that the railway “will greatly reduce traffic jams, make travel more convenient for local people, improve local investment environment, boost businesses and tourism along the route, and accelerate the building of a high speed railway economic corridor.” The ambassador also mentioned that existing Belt and Road initiatives with Indonesia like the Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park and the PT Virtue Dragon Nickel Industry Park, “have generated tax incomes, job opportunities and foreign exchange earnings, and provided Indonesia with opportunities for greater participation in global industrial chains of stainless steel and new energy.”

Meanwhile, Global Times asserts that the China-Laos Railway has generated at least $1.7 billion in trade and has transported almost 10 million tons of goods.

Claim #4: US Investment Lags Behind China

On the other hand, the CCP media claims that the US is lagging far behind Chinese investments in Southeast Asia. President Biden’s newly announced “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” with the ASEAN countries “…looks more like a symbolic act. The US is playing the catch-up game with China,” according to Koh King Kee, president of a Malaysian think tank, according to Global Times.

US and ASEAN trade, at $441 million in 2021, was almost half that of Chinese investment for that same time, according to Global Times. President Biden pledged to ask Congress for $850 million in aid for electric vehicles and clean energy to ASEAN countries, but this amount is “symbolic” and a “mere ‘drop in the bucket’,” according to Global Times. In May, Biden “announced a $150 million development and security package” for the ASEAN countries according to that same article, which pales in comparison to the amounts in aid that China claims it is giving those same countries.

According to Global Times, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang mentioned that US investment in ASEAN is “a drop in the bucket if compared to US support for Ukraine” during the Biden administration, which Global Times claims is “over $18.9 billion in security assistance.”

Conclusion

CCP media is waging a charm offensive targeting Southeast Asia. While China is investing heavily in these countries, the US has yet to devise a credible counter to such influence.

You can follow Steve Postal on @HebraicMosaic 

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