An Interview with Dexter Van Zile
by Jerry Gordon and Rod Reuven Dovid Bryant (July 2020)
For more than a month since May 25th the U.S. has been racked by daily, often violent, peaceful protests over allegations of police brutality ,anti-black racism and white privilege triggered by videos of the death of African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody arrested for allegedly passing a $20 counterfeit bill.
The nightly Black Lives Matter protests were set against the background of lurid flames and looting of minority owned businesses and fashionable stores from Manhattan to Santa Monica.
In a Jewish Press opinion article entitled ‘God Is Dead’: Leftist Rioters Vandalize Churches and Synagogues, Dan Greenfield illustrated how allies of the Black Lives Matter movement were torching African American and other churches including the President’s Church, St. John’s Episcopal on the periphery of Lafayette Park within steps of the White House. That episode figured in a dramatic assault with tear gas and rubber bullets clearing the protests. Greenfield cited further evidence of a pogrom in broken windows at the 225 year Reform Temple Beth Abraham in Richmond, Virginia and the Pro -Palestinian vandalism on the facade of an Orthodox Synagogue in the Fairfax section of Los Angeles; the latter indicative of “anti-Israelism the new antisemitism.”
On August 5, 2016, Tablet Magazine, headlined an article by Yair Rosenberg, From Left to Right, Jewish Groups condemn ‘Repellent ‘Black Lives Matter Claim of Israeli ‘Genocide.’ The article noted the anti-Israel and support for BDS in the foreign policy section of the Black Lives Matter 40,000 word manifesto:
The platform also contained a vicious bigoted slur against the Jewish state, which the document’s foreign policy section accused of perpetrating “genocide” against Palestinians. (The platform also labeled Israel an “apartheid state” and joined with the BDS movement in calling for the total academic, cultural, and economic boycott of the country—a demand made for no other state.)
What the media is not reporting is there are ominous signs that behind the “balagan” —chaos in slangy Hebrew—may be a disturbing anti-American Intifada.
To expound on this, Jerry Gordon and Rod Reuven Dovid Bryant brought back Dexter Van Zile, Shillman Research Fellow and Christian Media Analyst at the Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA).
Van Zile says “that the Third Intifada is happening in the United States. What began as a War on Israel and American Jews has become a war on the republic itself . . . the same institutions that facilitated the propaganda war on Israel have been enlisted in the war on the American middle class.”
Van Zile is concerned about the undermining of what have been middle class institutions in America. He states churches, land grant colleges and the media “have become places of Anti-American political indoctrination.”.
Despite his dour assessment, Van Zile spoke hopefully of “great awakening” about the Judeo-Christian values of middle class among young Americans, in a chapter in soon-to-be-published book, directed at American Evangelicals.
What follows is the Israel News Talk Radio -Beyond the Matrix interview with Dexter Van Zile,
Mr. Van Zile’s views expressed in this Israel News Talk Radio – Beyond the Matrix interview are his own and not that of the Committee on Accuracy of Middle East Reporting and Analysis.
Rod Bryant: Jerry and I have been talking to Dexter Van Zile. We received an email from him; the title was shocking. We were talking about what was going on with all the chaos and protests especially in America that mirrors what has been going on in Israel for the last 40 years. Jerry, why don’t you introduce our guest?
Jerry Gordon: Our guest is Dexter Van Zile. He is Shillman Research Fellow for the Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis, known by its acronym as CAMERA. We have had him on the program before. Dexter has rather incisive analysis about what is happening now in America. Dexter Van Zile explains what is going on now is an anti-American intifada here in the United States. He provides cogent reasons why it mirrors what Israel went through with two significant Intifadas trying to demoralize the Jewish nation’s middle class. That is the underlying theme for this program.
Rod Bryant: Jerry, we have heard this statement many times over. Whatever happens in Israel is the gateway to the West, especially here in the United States. We are now seeing it erupt all over this country. What is, behind all what Israelis call ‘balagan,’ this chaos and confusion in the US now mirrors the same things that were done to Israel to delegitimize, demonize the government and disorient its people. In the current protests we see calls to de-fund police departments, to shake up the middle class, to shake up our governments, de-legitimize our Constitutional Republic. It is time for Americans to stand up. Dexter, you made statements in emails sent us that were disturbing. In them you appeared to have evidence that what we may be witnessing is an anti-American intifada, equivalent to what Israel has experienced.
Dexter Van Zile: Yes, that is right. The first time that I really started to have concerns about this was during the summer of 2014, when there were seven anti-Israel rallies in the city of Boston. It was a year after the Boston Marathon bombing. I saw people chanting in Copley Square, which was just a couple hundred feet from where the bombing took place, calling for an intifada. They were chanting, “Intifada! Intifada!” One of the things that really bothered me the most about it was two leaders from the local school bus drivers’ union that were inciting and leading these cheers. They were basically encouraging these people at the anti-Israel protests. These people were representatives of school bus drivers who had negotiated agreements with the City of Boston. I said to myself, “That doesn’t seem right.” Because when you really think about it, an intifada is about people engaging in acts of violence against civilians. In Israel, some of these attacks were in fact perpetrated on buses. I just could not get it.
The thing that really set me off this time was we see an awful lot of violence associated with these current protests. Now, one of the things that I should make clear upfront, is that police brutality against African Americans is a problem, and police brutality against anybody is a problem. When police kill people that they are supposed to arrest as peacefully as they can, that is a bad thing. Thus, reforms are necessary. CAMERA is a non-partisan organization, but the fact is, equal rights before the law is a foundational principle of the republic.
On May 31, 2020 there was a webinar by the United Church of Christ. Palestinian American Linda Sarsour and several other speakers were on this conference. Linda Sarsour, one of the things said, she wasn’t speaking literally, “We’re not talking about reform. We’re talking about basically, let us burn it all down.” That was essentially the language that she used. You can see the exact quote I posted on Twitter. When you look closely at all the things that were being said about this, during this webinar, it was very troublesome. One of the speakers, Reverend Naomi Washington said, “it’s a lie that America ever was a democracy, this was never a land of the free and home of the brave. We never had equity in government, and when you have justices saying we have no rights that we are bound by. That seems to me the notion that America’s a democracy is a lie, and so we should stop calling it that.” One of the other speakers, Julian DeShazier, Sr. Pastor of University Church UCC, Chicago, said, “We live in a capitalist democracy that is crushing us.”
The whole webinar was based on a sermon given by Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, who is the Senior Pastor Sr. Pastor, Trinity UCC in Chicago, who took over from Rev. Jeremiah Wright a few years ago. People should watch the sermon for themselves. It basically omits huge swaths of American history that would provide them with no context. Moss’s narrative is that America was founded in slavery. It is the 1619 narrative, which first surfaced in The New York Times. It provided no context nor information about the role that white Americans played in bringing slavery to an end. It was about African American suffering, which is genuine, which is real, and African American resistance against slavery, which is a legitimate part of the story. But Moss’s sermon basically denuded American History of the Abolitionist Movement, the Civil War, the 13th and 14th Amendments and the Civil Rights Movement. One of the things that Moss mentioned in passing was the Underground Railroad that was organized largely by white abolitionists.
I said to myself, “Where have I seen this narrative before? Where have I seen a vibrant democracy delegitimized, its founding portrayed as an evil act, with no redeeming qualities. Where have I seen a narrative that any force used to protect this vibrant and imperfect democracy? That, any defense against violence directed at an imperfect democracy, is itself illegitimate, because the state itself is illegitimate? The same tactics, the same narrative, and the same agenda was used to demonize Israel during the first and second Intifadas.
Rod Bryant: Dexter, let me ask you this, because it is important that we develop a foundation for your position. What is the agenda here, who is planting it and why are we seeing that happen in this country now? What are they trying to prove?
Dexter Van Zile: The agenda is the strategy; to do the same thing to the United States that they did to Israel, which was delegitimize the nation, demoralize the people who live in that country, disorient the young people who live in that country and make them think that there really is no hope for the future, that reform is impossible. What they are hoping to do is divide the country to the point where, if there was a conflict on the international scene, the United States would not be able to muster an army because the country was so badly divided.
That is what I think is going on. Given the prevailing problems in this country the irony is that the United States may in fact be more vulnerable to an intifada than Israel. Israel has a much higher degree of solidarity and unity among its citizens because the threat is so obvious to them and so close. It is the same tactics and the same narrative as the Durban Strategy. In effect, the Durban Strategy has come to the United States.
Jerry Gordon: Dexter, you have written about the book Beyond Hashtag Activism by Mae Cannon promoting the work of a Palestinian “lawfare” organization called Al-Haq, a member of its board is a leader of a PFLP terrorist organization. Draw some connection between her and an incident that happened in Brooklyn during these protests we have seen.
Dexter Van Zile: There were two lawyers arrested for handing out Molotov cocktails to people in Brooklyn at the scene of protests against the NYPD. What they were hoping to do was provoke people to launch these firebombs against American police officers in New York City. One of these protesters was bailed out by a woman by the name of Salmah Rizvi. Salmah Rizvi was an intern with Al-Haq in the West Bank. She described the defendant she was bailing out as one of her “best friends.”
I want to make it clear that the defendant is entirely entitled to a fair trial. If the judge thinks they should get bail, well, okay. I have a tough time believing that if I were handing out Molotov cocktails, that they would let me out on bail. [Note: the defendants’ bail was subsequently revoked.] Al-Haq is basically using the same strategy as another organization here in the United States, Palestine Legal. What they do is deploy legal arguments on behalf of a political movement that by its own definition would deprive non-Muslim Arabs of rights. Because if you look at the fourth article of the Palestinian National Constitution, they essentially say that Sharia law is the source of legislation for the future Palestinian state. What they are doing here in the United States is using a legal system based on equal rights before the law. They argue in favor of a political movement that will deprive people of those very rights, and at the same time, denies the Jewish people the right to self-determination, the State of Israel.
Rod Bryant: There are several agenda items that we need to expose. I asked earlier, what is the agenda? What are they trying to prove? What are they trying to achieve in their wrecking of a society? Dexter, you answered that well. What would you like to add to that?
Dexter Van Zile: The primary targets of these protest groups are institutions that the middle class, the United States rely on to pass on its knowledge, world view and values to their children. We are talking about the churches, the colleges and universities, the mass media. The liberal Protestant Church that I grew up in, the United Church of Christ, was a great engine for the middle class. American Protestantism and Catholicism were engines for the church-going middle class as were the public land grant universities throughout the United States. Those were the first set of institutions that were able to be undermined with this anti-Israel Palestinian narrative. The 1619 narrative is essentially that narrative. The universities have basically produced a whole generation of young people that are more worried about whether they are “woke” and can recite the tenets of the 1619 narrative on command than whether or not they can work in the economy once they graduate. For woke students, the ability to demonstrate ideological conformism is more important than being a useful and genuine blessing to the people around them.
I think what we see now has gone from the colleges and universities into the streets when you see Antifa and anarchists assaulting people in the streets.
James O’Keefe has been able to document this. I realize that he is a controversial figure, I can understand why, because he delivered the goods. He captures these people on the record. We have been writing about this. I wrote about what occurred at the University of Massachusetts with Sut Jhally, the communications professor. There was another woman who was a communications professor at the University of Missouri a few years ago. There was a pre-Intifada uprising there. People stopped sending their children to that school. There were empty dormitories there, because they understood that if you wanted your son or daughter to come out of college with a decent education, that was probably one place you should stay away from.
These have been the institutions that we have relied on and they are failing us.
The New York Times editor, James Benedict resigned in the face of an internal staff revolt for publishing an op-ed by US Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton. This is a newspaper that had published op-eds from Iran and Hamas, but a member of the US Congress, Harvard Law School graduate and who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan cannot make a reasoned case for use of the military to quell violent protests. People may argue about whether it is reasonable. You cannot say, “Look, we need to stop the riots that are taking place in our cities.” That is exactly the type of effect that we saw in Israel. It may have had an unintended effect in Israel, but in the United States, there are people who will buy into that narrative and promote a certain division.
I think the land grant institutions and universities throughout the United States have some level of accountability because they were founded with the purpose of promoting the health of the American Republic. However, when you look at some of the smaller private liberal art schools, like Oberlin, where a group is their students essentially protested outside a local business after one of their students was arrested for trying to shoplift from a store. The store won a huge settlement against Oberlin. That reveals the level of rot in our institutions of higher education. With the crisis as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, I think a lot of people are really asking themselves whether or not they want to send their children off to these schools if this is the impact that it is going to have.
These universities are serving as a home base for the Intifada in the United States. Look at the younger staffers who revolted and were able to get an editor fired from The New York Times for doing his job. That is really the problem. I think most parents are going to say, “Look, this is not how you build a future for yourself and your country.” Israel has been able to keep that at bay, but the situation in the United States is an open question. I think that is the real issue.
Jerry Gordon: Picking up on the other thread that you talked about—freedom of worship in this country—Daniel Greenfield, in a Jewish Press article, talked about the resurrection of the term we have not heard since the 60s, ‘God is dead.’ It was in the context of physical attacks against synagogues and churches, including black churches throughout the United States. You had windows broken in a 225-year-old reform temple in Richmond, Virginia reminiscent of Kristallnacht. In the Fairfax section of Los Angeles—with a large orthodox Jewish community—you had entrances and walls of synagogues festooned with Palestinian propaganda. This goes to the heart of not only the anti-American but also anti-Israelism doctrine behind these protests. What is your comment?
Dexter Van Zile: First of all, one of the things that we must state explicitly is this Black Lives Matter organization has a plank that is opposed to Jewish self-determination, meaning Israel. When I first started doing this work since 2005, I initially thought that the defense was “Let’s protect Israel from dishonest lies and defamation.” Then I recognized that the attack on Israel was not just an attack on Israel, but it was also an attack on Jews. It was psychological warfare in the United States against American Jews because, if you could somehow distance Americans from the Jewish State, that would undermine the commitment to Judaism itself.
Now, I see this is more than that. It is a threat to our constitutional republic itself. We were founded on the notion of equal rights before the law in three fundamental events here in the United States.
First, was the Declaration of Independence in 1776, followed in 1787 with the Ratification of the Constitution. The second was the American Civil War and the end of slavery; unfortunately, replaced by sharecropping and Jim Crow laws. That was clearly wrong.
The third was the Civil Rights Movement that took place in the 1960s. We have struggled with the whole premise of equal rights before the law. One thing that stands out about the Black Lives Movement is, they say, “We want equal rights before the law,” even as they demonized Israel and American Jews in a manner that serves to deprive them of their ability to live in safety. On one hand, they were affirming or demanding rights for one group, while at the same time, they are making it more difficult for Jews to exercise the very same rights that they claim for themselves. That is an outrage. We need to understand that. I started out defending Israel, then became worried about the safety and reputation of Jews in the United States. Now I am concerned increasingly about the very foundation of the republic itself.
Rod Bryant: In the pre-show discussion we noted a recent PBS documentary about Fascism in the 1930s in the United States, Germany and Italy. Are we seeing a fascist revival taking place in many places in the world? Look at the UK, they were tearing down statues and defacing the statue of Churchill? Is this not just the same thing? I want to issue a challenge to those people who are good pious people of the world, Jews, and non-Jews alike, as to how we can take a stand against this war of information and ideas.
Dexter Van Zile: One of the things that I have said is, after World War II, anti-Semitism was essentially a discredited ideology. There was no way that reasonable people in America were going to embrace it after the Holocaust. People understood that as imperfect as the United States and the West were, that there were threats that were much worse. They understood that Fascism was much worse than the imperfect democracies that defeated it in World War II. The United States that defeated Hitler and Japan was not a perfect nation, and we are still not. However, the United States was a darn sight better than most countries that we defeated. We also stood up to the Communists in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. We knew things could always get worse and people knew what worse looked like. The problem now is we have many young people that do not know what worse can look like. We have people who are particularly good at raising legitimate public policy concerns in such a way that is only meant to divide and promote dissension and more division.
When people start talking about the abolition and defunding of police departments, that is the equivalent of saying, “Well, we need to go to a one-state solution. We need to tear down the security barrier. We need to tear down the wall. We need to promote the right of return.”
They are not talking about reform. They are talking about a revolution that would undermine the ability of the American Republic to function. This is the same way that they have struggled to make it impossible for the Jewish state to function. All the same strategies have their analogs on both sides of this issue, and that is very troubling.
One of the things that we talked about during the break, was a decline in religious belief. I just wrote a chapter for a book with the working title, Casualty of Contempt. It is about pushback against the growing scourge of antisemitism from mostly Evangelical writers.
I happen to be a Roman Catholic from Boston. My opening sentence in the chapter told Evangelical Protestants to go to seminary, become pastors and figure out a way to bring the church to un-churched young people in the United States. Either we have a great awakening in the United States, are we are going to have a disaster. That is really what I think we are struggling with now: we need to have a great awakening. Great awakenings are an engine for middle-class bourgeois behavior. When I went to college you never wanted to be considered bourgeois. But the thing is, those bourgeois values that I sneered were the values that have kept my family out of poverty. If there are injustices in the American economy, that does not mean that you can undermine those values. You just cannot.
Because there was a growing black middle-class in our cities and because unemployment was at record lows. Now what we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic is destruction of thousands of small businesses. The riots will keep many people out of the middle-class for a long time unless we figure something out quickly.
That prompted me to think, “Well, what was going on with these Intifadas in Israel?” The goal of the Intifadas in Israel was to undermine the confidence of middle-class Jews in Israel that they were able to have a stable, productive, peaceful, and purposeful life if they stayed in Israel. Fortunately, they defeated both Intifadas.
Now we are talking about Israel as a start-up nation. The United States now must look closely at what we must do to defeat this anti-American Intifada. Thankfully, the Jewish state experience may provide a lot of examples; an ironic twist for those who condemn Israel by supporting BDS. Because critics have set up Israel as a monster.
If you were someone up in Heaven, you didn’t know whether you’re going to be born a Muslim, Jew, a man, a woman, or gay or straight, and they ask, “Which country do you want to go to? Which country do you want to be in?”
Any reasonable person would say, “Send me to Israel. Don’t let me go anywhere else.” When you look at the human rights and the peace and justice communities, it is the reverse. They make it look like Israel’s the worst country in the region. Now they are trying to do the same thing to the United States. This is simply an outrage. We cannot let them get away with it.
Rod Bryant: I am just trying to figure out why in such a highly technical era where information flows freely like an ocean, people can be so ignorant of facts. It seems that they make these broad-brush statements, about Israel, that it is an Apartheid state, and oppresses homosexuals. The facts are absolute diametrically opposite to what is being said. What is it about this movement that does not see the facts at all? Does not even consider them for a moment. Why do you think why that is?
Dexter Van Zile: Well, I think people should read this book. It is called Taboo: 10 Facts You Can’t Talk About,” written by Wilfred Reilly, A Professor at Kentucky State University. He is an African American, and he argues that social issues in the United States have been rendered taboo because you will come across as a ‘racist.’ If you say, “Look, I worry about the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of the police, but there are huge numbers of African-Americans who’ve been murdered by other African-Americans, and that’s a huge problem too.” Well then you are ‘racist.’
The same thing happened in Israel. Certain issues related to the Palestinians were rendered taboo, you could not talk about the incitement to hate and anti-Semitism. If you tried to get on mass media to talk about the incitement and the anti-Semitism that was rife in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas they would say, “Yes, we know.” But they do not even want to talk about it in Hamas.
When you try to talk about Hamas’ charter, saying, “Look, they want to destroy Israel” and when you want to talk about the Islamic roots of Palestinian hostility towards Jews, that is taboo because you cannot say anything bad about Islam.
These were the very same people who said, “Oh, well we need to reform Christianity. One of the things that we need to do is to reform how we speak about the Jewish people.” Well, the issue of supersessionism in Islam is a huge issue. Hostility towards Jews is embedded in the scriptures of Islam.
Nobody wants to talk about it because, Muslims were viewed through the orientalist lens of Arabs always being the victims of Western colonialism and oppression. When you looked at the history of the Middle East, the Sunni-Arab community, was the colonialist invader. They engaged in imperialism, just like other empires in the world.
If you look at the current state of Iran, it is in many respects a Persian Empire where radical Shiism is the dominant religion. However, within Iran there are minority ethnic groups badly oppressed by the Persian majority. The people who come from Iran to speak in the Iranian Studies or Middle East Studies Department are Persians. There are a broad array of issues that they will not speak about. The Islamic violence against Christians is taboo.
I have been to the West Bank; I have spoken with several Palestinian Christians at the Christ at the Checkpoint events in Bethlehem. When they talk to me privately, they typically say, “Yes, the Palestinian authority is terrible. It’s very corrupt.” However, when they speak in public in front of the camera, it is all about Israel. I think there is a certain amount of displacement taking place. If you take the resentment, anger, fear, and hostility about one problem that you cannot talk about, you project it on to another that you can.
Rod Bryant: Dexter, I would like to you to wrap it up by giving a charge to individuals. But the one thing that seems clear from this discussion is Ignorance is not in a vacuum. Ignorance comes when you do not pay attention to truth. What would you say?
Dexter Van Zile: First, on the current turmoil in the U.S. over the racial divide read Taboo: 10 Facts You Can’t Talk About, by Wilfred Reilly. Then read about the history of the Arab Israeli conflict and learn the truth. I recommend Adi Schwartz and Einat Wilf’s The War of Return : How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace.
Rod Bryant: Excellent, Dexter, very much appreciated. You are a tremendous influencer in our society. We want to encourage those who listen to the program to get active reading and become better informed and active in bringing sanity back to the world. Until next week, we say Shalom, Shalom.
Dexter Van Zile: Thanks so much.
Listen to the Israel News Talk Radio- Beyond the Matrix interview with Dexter Van Zile of CAMERA.
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Jerome B Gordon is a Senior Vice President of the New English Review, author of The West Speaks, NER Press 2012, and co-author of Genocide in Sudan: Caliphate Threatens Africa and the World, JAD Publishing, 2017. Mr. Gordon is a former US Army intelligence officer who served during the Viet Nam era. He is producer and co-host of Israel News Talk Radio—Beyond the Matrix. He was the co-host and co-producer of weekly The Lisa Benson Show for National Security that aired out of KKNT960 in Phoenix Arizona from 2013 to 2016 and co-host and co-producer of the Middle East Round Table periodic series on 1330amWEBY, Northwest Florida Talk Radio, Pensacola, Florida from 2007 to 2017.
Rod Reuven Dovid Bryant is creator and host of Israel News Talk Radio—Beyond the Matrix.
Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast