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The Atlas Society Asks Michael Kauffman

The Atlas Society Asks Michael Kauffman

December 18, 2023

The news coming out of Israel in the days after October 7 was so horrifying and shocking, the anti-semitic celebration of the carnage so disheartening, the scope and implications of the crisis so overwhelming, that we knew some would be tempted to unfocus the mind—or as Rand put it: “If you don’t look…you are free to believe what you wish—and you experience a foggy, pleasant, but somehow guilty, kind of hope.” 

We turned to Michael Kauffman, MD, Ph.D., on the ground in Tel Aviv with his wife and children, for an in-person, Objectivist perspective on the attacks, analyzing the failure of Israeli intelligence and the deeper governmental dysfunction it represents, along with the Israeli defense response. Michael Kauffman has spent the last 28 years in the pharmaceutical industry and currently splits his time between Tel Aviv, Israel, Miami, and Boston. A generous supporter of our work at The Atlas Society, he gave a keynote speech at our Galt’s Gulch student conference in Nashville this summer, decrying the alliance of the Mystics & the Muscle in Israeli politics, and advancing an agenda of how Objectivist principles must set the agenda for a flourishing democracy in the Jewish state. Watch the interview on YouTube or read the transcript below.

JAG: Hi, everyone, and welcome to a special current-event episode of The Atlas Society Asks. My name is Jennifer Anju Grossman. My friends call me JAG. I am the CEO of The Atlas Society. We are pursuing our moonshot of introducing a billion young minds to the ideas of Ayn Rand in fun, creative ways, including graphic novels and animated videos. Today, we are joined by Dr. Michael Kauffman.

He is live in Israel, in Tel Aviv. Before I even begin to introduce our guest, I want to remind all of you who are watching us to go ahead and start typing your questions into the comment section of Zoom, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or YouTube. You can get your questions in, and we will get to as many of them as we can. So, our guest today, Michael Kauffman, has spent the last almost 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry. He currently splits his time between Tel Aviv, Israel, Miami, and Boston. He's a generous supporter of our work at The Atlas Society, and he gave one of the keynote speeches at our Gulch student conference in Nashville this summer, decrying the alliance of the mystics and the muscle in Israeli politics. He's been very critical of that, and he was advancing an agenda of how objectivist principles must set the policy for a flourishing democracy in the Jewish state. Michael, I appreciate you joining us. I know it is late there in Israel.

MK: Good to be here, and I'm glad we have electricity and the Internet.

JAG: I know you were just mentioning that you are hearing the Iron Dome in action and getting constant alerts. Maybe you'll show us one of those from your phone. And, you are just in-and-out of the shelter there in your apartment building.

JAG: So, Michael, first just tell us a little bit about how you came to be in Israel. I haven't been there for many years. My brother was Bar Mitzvahed at the Wall. My sister worked in a kibbutz there. Your wife is Israeli, and your children are in school there. So tell us a little bit about your move and how you came to be there.

MK: Sure. My wife and I retired from running our pharmaceutical company, which we started, and we decided, and she led this, of course, that she wanted to spend some time in Israel, and I thought that would be great. So, we jumped in here just before COVID started, and actually, by the time we got in, COVID was taking off. So, we had a rough go for the first year. But, we've been here a couple of years and it's always been a very exciting time in Israel. We have the protests over the government, we had COVID, and now we have the war. But it's an amazing society, and it's certainly one of the most flourishing societies in the Middle East and even across the world. So we've got a lot of great stuff to talk about. And I should put a plug in, too, for the Mediterranean Sea. The beaches here are astonishing and wonderful.

JAG: Well, between Miami and Tel Aviv, we don't envy, we aspire to your life.

So tell us a little bit about what you've been experiencing. You were just mentioning that you have friends. I think it's important to put this into context. I believe about 1200 people have been killed by the Hamas terrorists on the Israeli side. If you compare that on a per capita basis to the United States, that's about nine times the loss we experienced on 9/11. 

MK: Yes, I think it's super important to do that, and I think everybody should.

As you think about what happened here, if you're not aware of it, but even if you are, you think about the kinds of principles that we have in America—and frankly, a lot of Israeli principles are also based on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—if you think about a lot of Ayn Rand's principles about reason and purpose and self-esteem, you just keep that in front of you when you think about what actually occurred here.

My family and I were lucky enough to have been on a vacation because the high holidays were going on and we were outside the country, and we were actually sitting in the waiting area ready to board a flight from Frankfurt back to Tel Aviv on Saturday morning when the flight was canceled.

All flights from Frankfurt on Lufthansa were canceled, and we had no way to get out. So, we spent two extra days in Frankfurt, and we made it back on Monday. I'll give you some real-time stuff on Monday. But for those of you who don't know some of the details, about 05:30 a.m., there were some altercations, either with drones or with people or with both at the border fence in Gaza. There may have been an attack as well, because the security cameras that lined that fence were largely not functioning. There were drones that took out part of the fence that were followed by bulldozers, and large gaping holes were made in the fence. Again, the details are not yet clear, but suffice it to say that 1500 Hamas terrorists broke through those holes in the wall. 1500 terrorists entered Israel-proper, and started to branch out and attack many of the towns that sit in the Gaza area down in the south of Israel.

Largely, these are people that do have security, but these are typically one or two security guards with handguns, and the Hamas terrorists were with AK-47s or other machine guns, M-15s or whatever they're using. It was literally a massacre. There was a somewhat well-discussed party that went on later in the day called a rave that occurred within a few miles of the border that had several thousand Israelis there. There were 260 people that were massacred.

They were completely unprepared.

They had no weapons, and they were just unprepared for this, and they were massacred. There were a large number of people that were taken hostage. The estimates were around 100 people were taken hostage. Those estimates, unfortunately, have gone up to 200, now. There were 22 dead Americans that we know about. Now, unfortunately, even since your latest updates, the latest numbers we have here are 1300 Israelis dead and 200 unaccounted-for that are known to be kidnapped. Still they are, unfortunately, uncovering dead people as they remove debris.

At the same time that Hamas was attacking with their ground terrorists, they were firing missiles. Hamas is one of the poorest countries—I shouldn't say countries. It represents one of the poorest areas in the world.

But they have plenty of—and the only thing they have plenty of—is missiles. Approximately anywhere between 2500 and 5000 missiles were launched on Israel in the first 24 hours. It's a mind-boggling number, if you think about it, and if you think about where you live, and if you even had one missile come at you and land near you, how you would feel and how terrified you would be. Unfortunately, Israelis have been living with this for a very long time.

Anyway, we are here now. The army was very slow to respond, and there are plenty of apologies and explanations, and there will be investigations about why this was and where our troops actually were stationed, where the specific Gaza enforcement group was, et cetera. But, this all led to the numbers that I've told you. There are over 3300 wounded. About a 10th of them are seriously injured or in critical condition, so we'll, unfortunately, probably lose a couple of hundred more there.

JAG: Let's talk a little bit about where those missiles are coming from. They have them in a seemingly unlimited supply. Who's funding that?

MK: Yes, behind all of this is fundamentally Iran. None of this would exist without Iran. We have all known this since we've had trouble with Iran a long time ago, since the attempt to limit Iran's nuclear program by giving them billions of dollars, much of which has led to the missiles both in the Gaza territory as well as the northern part of Israel, which borders on Lebanon. So, the whole southern part of Lebanon, which is controlled by Hezbollah, another terrorist group, again an Iranian proxy, also has probably 100,000 missiles, almost all funded by Iran. There are abilities within the Gaza Strip to produce some munitions. Most of these are very low tech, low yield, short range, still can do a lot of damage. But, the more precision missiles, including the ones that have been shot at Tel Aviv and even Haifa, which is the northern part of Israel, are all Iranian technology and mostly Iranian parts. You'll see every now and then in the news that the Israelis have intercepted yet another ship that is supposed to be carrying humanitarian aid, which, of course, is filled with various kinds of weapons to restock Gaza.

JAG: Alright, we're going to get to some questions shortly, I see our friend Ed Hudgins has joined us. A few others, including Jim Brown, are here with us on Zoom. I want to encourage all of you who are watching us across platforms to type your questions in because we're going to make this very interactive. But first, Michael, maybe if you'll just present what you talked about at our student conference this summer in terms of the dysfunction and Atlas shrugging in Israel and any connections; do you see a connection with what you described for us a few months ago, with the lack of preparedness and the inadequate response?

MK: Yes, look, I think the coincidences are way too strong.

Very briefly, a career politician, Benjamin Netanyahu, has written in the past and prior to his current very, very grandiose, arrogant comments about how he oversaw the transformation of Israel from agrarian society to a high-tech powerhouse with some of the highest patent numbers in the world, the skyscrapers in Tel Aviv, the amount of medical innovation, especially in the device areas, cybersecurity, high-tech agro-business; the list goes on and on of what's come out of here.

It's fairly true that he certainly was present for a lot of this, and he certainly surrounded himself prior to the current regime with people that obviously either allowed it to happen or fostered it. But, as long as governments stay out of the way and you let people flourish, they can flourish. And, Israel certainly has flourished.

What happened is that Netanyahu is under indictment for multiple counts and multiple charges.

He decided that this time around, he was going to form a government that was going to consist of right-wing zealots, both what I call the people that use muscle, that is, people that want to shoot everybody else who doesn't agree with them, and the mystics. These are actually not my words, of course. These are Ayn Rand’s words, and the mystics, who are the rabbis, the highly-Orthodox, super-Orthodox rabbis called the Haradim or the Dosim, and who believe that right now what we have is not good unless everybody follows the Bible strictly, women are in the back of the bus. And, he just goes on and on, and then they mix together that group with the muscle group, and he has surrounded himself with the most right-wing government ever present in Israel.

Remarkably, none of the four or five major ministers in his cabinet have any experience, and they have never been in the Israeli Defense Force. You have to realize that somewhere around 70% of the Israelis serve in the IDF because it's mandatory. The only people who are allowed not to serve are the Haradim and the Arab Israeli citizens who generally do perform some kind of volunteering and will join some parts of the IDF, but they are not absolutely required to, as far as I'm aware. But, your run-of-the-mill Israeli, they send their kids after high school. Those kids go for either a two-year for women or a three-year for men stint protecting the country. And then people remain in the Israeli reserves for many years after that.

You may have seen that the reservists have been called up. So, what's remarkable is that he's surrounded by people that have no knowledge of security.

His internal security minister, Ben-Gvir, never served in any kind of security situation. He has a justice minister who's a devout orthodox person who knows nothing about what we would all consider justice and so on it goes. A lot of this was to keep Netanyahu out of prison and to change the legal system here weekly or biweekly or, I should say, two-to-three times a week. There were massive protests involving several-hundred-thousand people across the country protesting the changes that were trying to be made on the judicial system. The economy has taken a big hit. The dollar has gotten much stronger against the shekel.

It used to be 3.1 shekels per dollar. It is now 3.97 shekels per dollar. This is the worst the shekel has performed in eight years. The economy is in deep trouble, and anybody who's looking at the data knows that foreign investment is down by 60% to 80%, if you can believe these numbers. I can tell you in biotech, which is where I spend my time, there is no interest from any US or European investor that I know of to invest in an Israeli company. Now, due to the uncertainty of what's going on, this is before the war.

I also note that the only person in the cabinet who had any real IDF knowledge, Gallant, who is essentially the equivalent of our head of Department of Defense, so he's the Minister of Defense, was fired by Netanyahu several months ago because he didn't agree with the judicial reforms. And, there was a massive uprising in the country. Around half-a-million people, I believe, were protesting. There were strikes, there was a general strike called. The universities went on strike, the doctors went on strike, and all but emergency services were available or were discontinued.

And this led to a reinstatement of Gallant shortly thereafter. But there's no question that Gallant is an outlier amongst this group of mystics and muscle.

I don't think anybody could be very surprised that when a government is completely focused on essentially getting rid of the Supreme Court and changing the way judges are elected so that they can own the judges, and is not focused on what's important, which is defense of the country, that this happened. Now, one other comment, and I'll turn it back over to you, Jen.

One of the things that the muscle group likes to do is they like to take over the West Bank. So right now, there's disputed areas in what are called Judea and Samaria, which are the West Bank, which sometimes are Jewish areas, sometimes they are Arab areas, and sometimes they're mixed.

This government has decided they're going to move most of the troops to the West Bank, which means that, as far as we can tell, with the information publicly available now, troops that were protecting the Gaza border were actually moved to the West Bank. And one of the reasons that the terrorists, so many of them, could run so freely for so long is because we didn't have sufficient numbers of troops stationed in the Gaza area because they had been moved to the West Bank.

JAG: One of the things I like to say is that the choice to do one thing is also the choice to not do another thing. I applied that most recently to COVID and the pandemic and the choice of the CDC to focus on the pandemic of racism and focus on gun control rather than focusing on what purportedly that agency is supposed to be doing. Clearly, I think we're also reaping the bitter fruits of that as well in Israel, with the choice to focus on political gain and staying in power and amassing benefit at the expense of not focusing on what the only legitimate job of a government should be, which is the protection of individual rights, including the defense of its citizens from invaders.

MK: All right, I want to jump real quick on that because I think you make a great point. Not only have they been ill prepared, but the army is under-equipped. They have too little equipment. They don't have the right equipment. In many cases, it's out of date. Food distribution from the army is way suboptimal. We're not talking about moving food now like the Americans had to do to Afghanistan. We're talking about moving food 10 miles, 20 miles, 30 miles.

There just wasn't any preparation in this. Now, what's amazing about this country, and we saw it during the protest, is that everyday people, and we see it around our neighborhood, will go to the store, purchase $200–$300 worth of, say, chicken, make schnitzel; pound out the chicken, bread it, put it into sandwiches, and then they'll come out with a truckload of sandwiches which will be taken to the troops privately.

This goes on with water, it goes on with foodstuffs, it's going on. I've seen bulletproof vests that are being donated because they don't have the right bulletproof vests. They're out of date. Now, they're getting the proper modern ceramic ones.

This is an amazing job by the people to step in where the government has failed.

JAG: Well, you know, there's Ayn Rand's famous quote about Israel, “In a conflict between civilized men and savages, you support the civilized men. Israel is the only country dedicated to the protection of individual rights in the Middle East.” I was very disheartened to see us getting a lot of flak and pushback on that. But, there is something about the Israeli sense of life in terms of the fellowship, in terms of the focus on self-interest and trade and building businesses and flourishing and not on destruction. And, so I’m sorry, but if you cannot recognize what happened over the weekend, the invasion, the slaughtering of civilians at a concert, the burning of babies in their bed, the chopping off of children's heads, if you can't recognize that as savagery, what would constitute savagery to you?

MK: I think there's something more broken, actually.

I have to agree with you, and further, that a group of Harvard societies—35 different societies from Harvard—penned a letter supporting the Palestinians. I don't even know what that means. There's been multiple polls of Palestinians that would far rather work in Israel than work in Gaza because there are no jobs.

There is a leadership, quote-unquote, which is a terrorist organization in Gaza who are animals and savages, who are another form of ISIS, another form of Taliban, another form of the kinds of people that committed 9/11.

And, there are the citizens there, who—probably—the majority are okay and actually good, who are caught in this horrible place and stuck in it, who've actually said when they can, they would rather work in Israel because their rights are respected and they're given work and they can develop some dignity. The fact that our students here in this country (and I do think it’s a significant quantity, I don't know if it's a majority or a significant minority of our students, and I don't know where they got their lessons from) don't understand this, and they somehow believe that good people will arise out of Hamas despite everything that history has told us and despite the fact that it has never, ever happened, is just beyond me.

JAG: Well, I think sadly that goes back to the Bush administration and the decision to allow Hamas to have power and representation in those territories with the idea that somehow they're going to improve. In fact, we've seen quite the opposite.

All right, some questions. I'm going to get to our friend Jim Brown first. He is wishing you, Michael, and your family the best. Has a very interesting question: If Israelis had a Second Amendment right to bear arms, would they be more secure against terrorist incursions like this?

MK: So, the timing of that question is great, Jim. They were at least given it; I don't know if they had it before, but I can tell you that there's one town that has come under terrible attacks and missile attacks, and that's Sderot down in the south, not far from Gaza, and they were just allowed to all get handguns.

So, I think, remember that a lot of the people here that were in the reserves do have access to weapons, in theory at least, but there's no question that this country is going to arm itself, there's a great trust. And, by the way, if you've ever been to Israel, you'll see soldiers all over the place carrying their machine guns.

Generally, they're not allowed to have any ammunition in them or they have to be highly trained to do that, and they walk around in public and nobody is afraid. Nobody is afraid.

In general, day to day, this is far safer than America because when people start to do bad stuff here, you have dedicated good citizens who support the society, the civilized society, and will take them out, and that's what they do. So, yes, I think there's going to be a great arming of this. I can tell you that people in the south are terrified now that every time they open their door, terrorists are going to come in.

There is the amount of trauma this is going to incur, and these are for the people that have survived unscathed, I'm talking about. We're not even talking about the people that were actually attacked by terrorists. There were enough people who opened their doors and terrorists came in and either killed them, raped them, mutilated them, or kidnapped them, or all of the above that those people are obviously in trouble for the rest of their lives. But, there were enough people that this didn't happen to who are just as shocked and traumatized.

JAG: So if you can, Michael, give us a level set in terms of what is the state of gun control in Israel?

Can citizens buy and own guns?

MK: You know, Tel Aviv is a little bit of an outlier. It's a dense city. We have a lot of security around, in general. We have had terrorist attacks. We had sort of the equivalent of Fifth Avenue, New York City equivalent. We had a terrorist attack within the last year. But we have a lot of good, trustworthy police and Secret Service-type people. They don't call it Secret Service, obviously, but they have Shin Bet, which is the FBI equivalent, and so on, around. So, I don't know what the actual individuals can do right now, but I strongly suspect that things are going to get much looser. They are allowed to bear arms.

I just got a note from a friend of mine who's listening to this and who knows. They're Israeli.

MK: They require a lot more training and have to go through a much more strict licensing process.

JAG: Interesting. All right. Candice Morena, our friend on Facebook is asking Michael, what is the day-to-day in Israel? Right now, this is Thursday.

MK: Yes, this depends on where you live. Quickly thinking about this, I would put this into three classes. Right now in Tel Aviv, the day-to-day is okay. On Monday, we were in our bomb shelter here. We're in an apartment building. We're on the 7th and 8th floor. We have a reinforced room which has got a three-inch-thick steel door. It has its own air supply because it can deal with chemical and, theoretically, biological weapons as well.

It has some limited electricity, and so on.

We had to go in. Whenever you have a rocket alert, which is the app that I showed people at the beginning, you need to take cover, and you can do that in your house now, or you can do that in a public bomb shelter. This is not dissimilar to what Americans went through when there were scares during the Cold War, but this is something people here do on an almost monthly basis.

Tel Aviv is also protected, as are most of the major cities, with Iron Dome, and by David’s Sling, and some of the other very high-tech anti-missile missiles that have been developed between Israel and the US, and, by the way, that are being used in other parts of the world with our friends because this is some of the best technology.

The life right now in Tel Aviv is reasonably back to normal. We had no sirens today. We had four or five yesterday.

On Monday, we had a number of them by the time we had gotten in, but they are declining. If you live in the South now, anywhere near, you're getting red alerts pretty much every hour. You are stopping what you're doing and you are running to some kind of a shelter every hour. There are no schools. It's difficult to get outside and buy stuff.

Transportation is limited in those areas. There are missiles falling. The Iron Dome takes out many of them, but some get through. And if the people controlling Iron Dome believe that the missile is going to land in an area that's not populated, then it'll go, and if you happen to be walking there, then you're in trouble.

I should say that a couple of things to mention, though, are that while all this chaos is going on and kids are not back in school yet, all schools have been shuttered because they represent terrorist attraction points.

We don't know for sure. Imagine this, we're six days into this and we don't know for sure that all the terrorists are captured and killed. We had 1500 terrorists that we know about that came in, but we don't know about the other ones that might have come in. So, every time we open our door, we're a bit nervous, if it's really who it's supposed to be.

JAG: Talk a little bit about the response, the military response, Michael. We've talked about the invasion and the attacks, bring us up to date.

MK: Let me actually start with a little bit turning that on its head, because I'll get to the military. What I'm shocked about, because this just wouldn't happen in America, at least not anywhere I've been in America: As I mentioned earlier, the number of people that are volunteering, producing food, collecting clothes whether it's for families that have been harmed, for families that have lost their homes or a substantial part of their stuff, for people who have loved ones who are in the hospital, and so on, for troops that don't have enough food or don't have good food.

Almost every family that we know is doing some kind of volunteer work and taking most of their day to support the army and to support the people that have been hit hardest by this. There are people that I know have driven down south even in the midst of this danger. There are people that are driving up north because Hezbollah is threatening to open up the northern front. And the other thing is that the reservists in the army, there's actually an overabundance of reservists that have come back to Israel.

It's unheard of. There are now private charter flights being paid for by the government to get people back into Israel. Can you imagine a country in a war zone where people want to come back in to join the war effort and do their part?

The army took 36 hours or so, 24-to-36 hours to get its act together.

It was certainly not the Israeli army that we all believed in and have seen in the past. There was no rapid response. There was a lot of chaos. Nobody really knew what was going on. There were, unfortunately, entire brigades of soldiers that were massacred at the beginning of this. I mean, it's never happened that I am aware of in the history of Israel, including the Yom Kippur war and really since 1948 that this sort of thing happened.

Part of that is because there's nobody in the government except Gallant who has any idea what to do. It's very hard for one person to do it. Since then, the government took all of five-and-a-half days to come up with an emergency government to bring in three or four other people that actually know something about defense and how to support the security of the country. It should never have taken that long. But, when you're Ben Netanyahu and all you care about is how am I going to survive this and make sure I don't go to jail, it's okay if you're suboptimal on your defense response.

The army is now on par with the best we have ever seen. The other thing I should say is that for the first time, and I've disagreed with my wife for a long time on this, is that in the past—this is very important—in the past, Israel has always tried to avoid or minimize civilian deaths in Gaza by dropping dummy bombs first on any building that it was targeting, to alert the people in the building that the bombing was coming. Okay. Now, of course, that also alerts the terrorists who can then go into their terror tunnels and so on. But the decision had been in the past that it was more important and ethical and moral for the Israelis to alert the potential civilians. They were the only army in the world that ever did this. The US army has never done that. We apologize when we kill people in schools by errant missiles and bombs, but we never ever did anything like this. I found this practice, although I understand why it would be considered moral, and it sure as heck is much more moral than anything most other people would do. You can't fight a war that way. And I am pleased at least to say that Israel took the gloves off, that they are done with this. When you have 1500 animals coming in to slaughter your people and you have missiles coming in indiscriminately (missiles have always been indiscriminate; they're never fired at defense structures here, they're always fired at civilians) that they are no longer doing this. They are bombing Gaza. They are trying now. They have bombed a lot in Gaza.

Most normal countries would have given up by now. This is not a country, this is not normal. The Hamas leadership has no interest in its civilians, else they wouldn't have spent 95% of the money coming in to build military structures, and so on. They would have spent it on its people. All the money that came from the European Commission, Qatar, Russia, et cetera, all that money that was supposed to go for humanitarian aid went into building structures. So, the Israeli army has decided enough is enough and they are going to destroy Hamas. They are no longer interested in trying to slow Hamas down or put it off until the next attack. They have said they are going to destroy Hamas.

They have turned off electricity, they have turned off water, they have turned off all entry. And by the way, Egypt, which is supposed to be a friend to the Palestinians, has also turned off their crossings. So, let's be clear, this isn't just Israel, but nobody wants these kinds of people in their country.

The army is spot-on right now and they are doing what needs to be done. Like I said, the number of missiles has gone way down.

They have decided that any terrorist inside—caught inside—Israel will either be captured or killed.

They are shooting to kill and they are also shooting people coming across the border because there continue to be attempts to get across the Gaza border into Israel. They're shooting to kill.

JAG: This might be a kind of dumb question, but from your perspective, what is the objective of Hamas? What are they trying to do (just trying to wrap my head around why they see this in their rational self-interest)—killing, sowing destruction, fear?

MK: Yes.

One of the remarkable things about civilized people is we think everybody else is kind of like us.

JAG: Yes.

MK: We walk into a lion's den and we have a pet lion, and we train him. And, as you know, some lion trainers end up getting killed by the lions, because at the end of the day, they are lions and they're wild and they eat and they have instincts.

The notion of rational to do with Hamas or any terrorist is a misnomer.

First of all, if someone comes in and says to you, I'm here to kill you, generally, you take them at their word. So, when someone has a constitution that actually says, our stated objective is to annihilate Israel and to kill Jews, that is in their constitution. This is publicly available. You can download the Hamas constitution, and you can see that that's what they're doing, so in that sense, they are following their rational code. Their code is to eliminate Jews. By the way, their end game is to make the entire world into a Muslim caliphate. I mean, it's not that different from ISIS. These people are a little bit more barbaric and a little less religious. But, at the end of the day, you're either exactly like we are, or you're dead. It's very, very straightforward and very simple.

They have a slogan “from the river to the sea.” What that means is that they intend to take over all of the territory between the Jordan River, the West Bank of the Jordan River, all the way to the Mediterranean Sea, which means completely annihilating Israel. And, by the way, they will be happy to annihilate any other person, Christian, even Sunni Muslim, getting in their way because these are generally Shiites funded mostly by Qatar and Iran, and that's what they do. So, there's no rational self-interest. By the way, every terrorist that came into Israel had to know that they were going to be martyrs, they were going to be killed. Now, of course, their religion teaches the men that if they are martyrs, they get to go up to heaven and have 72 virgins. This is what we're dealing with. The West has somehow decided to soften all of this.

This is not really what we're dealing with, they say. The constitution of Hamas is not really what they mean. They don't really mean it. First of all, when someone says something and they're an adult, you take them at their word. Second of all, what about their behavior makes you think they don't mean that? Everything they've done, everything that Iran wants to do, everything that Hezbollah wants to do, is consistent with that. Annihilating everybody else. That's what ISIS wanted, that's what Iran wants, and that's what Hamas wants.

JAG: All right, we have 20 minutes left and many, many questions pouring in. Our friend Ed Hudgins had asked a previous question about the reaction of morally-degenerate U.S. Students on college campuses, which you addressed in part, but he wants to know what is taught in Israeli schools, and you have children in Israeli schools. Enlightenment principles, technology from rational minds in the hands of entrepreneurs creating a prosperous future?

So, yes, what's your experience? Have those schools also been infected by these kinds of woke mind-viruses of identity politics and what have you?

MK: Yes, I can tell you that, first of all, it's very hard to have woke politics when you're defending your country.

And it's very hard to actually worry about the color of someone's skin when the person next to you defending your country has a different color skin. Like, who cares?

I had the privilege of spending four days on a Magav base, which is the Border Patrol base, and it's actually the training base in the West Bank. So, it's over the official line protected by Israel, but it's not Israel-proper.

And there were 60, 70, 80% people of color.

There were 30% people that would be considered white here and generally are of northern European descent. But there are a ton of people from Northern Africa, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Morocco. Nobody cares. Honestly, it is beautifully shocking and really was a welcome thing that these young people just get along and we were really immersed with them. A group of older men like myself, who support Israel a lot as part of the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces, were there, and it was beautiful.

There is a little bit of this kind of mushiness here, but it is nothing like the kind of baloney that has, unfortunately, become the weeds that have grown up in America. The people that don't understand that the reason they're allowed to shoot off their mouths and tweet and do all the things that they do is because other people have died for them to protect them in their free society, they somehow don't understand that that's on the protection side. They don't understand on the technological advancement side, that the reason they have all these great things and essentially unlimited food supplies, and so on and so forth, is because other people have worked their asses off and sweated and burned to do this stuff.

They teach a lot more math in Israel. They are not trying to excuse it like they are now in California. There's a move afoot in California to get rid of math all the way up until high school. These people are the opposite. I mean, they are teaching geometry to my kid in second grade.

JAG: Wow.

MK: Yeah. So, she gets that. And, she even has her electronics class in second grade. It's early stuff, but they're doing it. They teach a lot of technology.

They teach Israeli history, definitely from the founding of the country, from the Holocaust to the founding of the country, the pre-Holocaust.

Herzel, Theodore Herzel, who is one of the founders that the city of Herzliya was named after, and so on.

There's much less of the kind of mushy crap. They don't have time here for that. The one other thing I would say is that you mentioned it already, JAG, that they have a love of life here for people that are surrounded by enemies who want to annihilate them to a small strip of land where everything is too crowded. Parking spaces are 90% of what they should be, roads are just too narrow, et cetera.

They just love life. They're excited, they're energetic. They're all out and about. I always joke that Israelis are running at about two-and-a-half times the speed of normal people. There's just a lot of motion here, and it's a very dynamic culture. I think that's the resilience you see during this horrible time where instead of moping at home and locking ourselves in, you see people volunteering, driving all over the place, getting on the phone, how can I help? What can I do?

JAG: Interesting. Yes. I wonder if there's almost this stoic sense: Memento Mori. Remember death, because it is present, it is an actual, real threat. We think about times in the past, wartime, and that at the same time there is a sense of grabbing life with both hands and enjoying it. All right, a couple of more questions on Instagram. Eternalskeptic asks, “Can there be any reasonable critique of the government of Israel or do we write it off as anti-Semitism?” Well, Eternalskeptic, you are asking a guy who's been incredibly critical of the Israeli government. And, as a Jew, I don't think it's anti-Semitic. But can you address that, Michael?

MK: Yes, there's just some ridiculous idea that human endeavors are perfect or can be perfect. They can strive. At the end of the day, we're human. We should strive to be the best that we can be, and you should strive to be good. That will prevent you from doing evil almost always.

But you're never going to get it perfectly right. There's always going to be your heritage and everything that you carry along with you. I'm trained as a physician. If a patient has five things wrong with them, you don't generally deal with all five at the same time. You attack the one that's most likely to kill the patient first, and you knock that off. And then you move down the list. You prioritize. What I find so remarkable in these sorts of discussions is that somehow while a group of people are here murdering innocent civilians, cutting off babies' heads—let me say that again—they're cutting off babies' heads, we can have a debate about whether Netanyahu is a good guy or not. Now, we are having that debate, that's Israeli's business right now. But, the issue that's going to kill civilized society, and it's not just Israel, is going to be this behavior that it's somehow okay or in some way justified to cut off babies’ heads. There is no justification.

Zero, zero tolerance. The reason we are here, where we are today, is because we have all put up with this for too long. We collectively, as humanity, have put up with the Hitlers and the Ayatollahs and the Putins for too long, and we never have the guts to stop it.

We just don't. We did it in World War II when we dropped bombs on it. Now, we all can have a discussion about whether we should have leveled Dresden in Germany and how many innocent people got killed, or whether we should have dropped two atom bombs in Japan. But, we stopped it. We stopped the evil.

The evil will always try to come back, just like weeds always come back. But, we have to start to get our priorities together.

And I think that's our life. Liberty in the pursuit of happiness. Period. Full stop. My liberty ends where yours begins. I cannot step on you. You cannot step on me. Leave me alone. You do your thing, I'll do my thing. If we do stuff together, we like it, great.

Israel has made many mistakes. Of course, they have. But in the grand scheme of things, this is an acne problem on a cancer. And we're sitting here debating about whether we should be using acne medicine when a patient has metastatic lung cancer and three months to live. Really?

As a doctor, I cannot fathom this. As a philosopher, I can't fathom it. I really cannot. And, it's a tragedy because humanity has done so much. Look at our skyscrapers. Look at how some of us get to live.

Many more people could get to live that way. In fact, many of the people that used to be in squalor have cell phones now, because of where humanity has come, we can do better for a lot more people, but not if 95% of your funding is going to create bunkers underneath and make bombs. It's really simple.

JAG: All right. I see a lot of questions like this, and I want to get to them. From X,  Twitter, Cuban Hermana asks, Michael, I really feel for you in Israel, but I disagree that there is love for life when they cheer when IDF bombs Gaza, how do you reconcile it? Cuban Hermana, I'd ask, do you think that there should be no response? Do you think that Israel should not try to eliminate the terrorists and their organizations? Michael?

MK: Frankly, I don't respect your question, and I think this is part of the problem that we're in. If someone comes in and annihilates my family, I am extremely comfortable and I will be gleeful when I annihilate them, if life which we just said was at the foundation of everything we believe in. If someone takes away our life or the life of a loved one or our colleagues or our citizens, we have not only every right, but we have a duty to annihilate them. And, I mean that word “annihilate.” There is no acceptable aggressive force unless it's in defense.

There is not. You can read a lot of philosophy about this. If you think the way to a successful society is to allow people to beat the shit out of you and you say “thank you,” which is essentially what you're doing, then you're going to end up with thuggery and you're going to end up with Putin. And I don't believe in that.

JAG: So, this is a very interesting question from Sharon asking, “Do you think that in this mission, Hamas is being used as step one of a bigger plan designed by the Iran/ North Korea/China/ Russia axis to get the US to a weakened position between Ukraine, Israel, and then Taiwan?” It's really interesting. I think it also gets to why the US should care and be involved.

MK: I think a big question is: are there bad actors out there that want to have a different world order? I think you really would have had to be asleep for the last hundred years to not think that there are people that would rather be the number-one country. China has said it: we want to be it. Russia has tried it. They lost the Cold War and they haven't recovered since. And Putin's entire goal is to recreate the USSR and bring back the number-one, well-stocked-with-nuclear-weapons, country. Iran is a theocracy of a bunch of crazies mixed with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who are nothing but a barbaric, muscle-bound assassination team. If you think I'm making all this up, read about their history. You've seen the protests in Iran. 

So, the notion that somehow what's considered good, which is really us, western Europe, and now more of eastern Europe, along with Israel—and Israel being the lone example in the Middle East—with, interestingly, Arab countries trying to come along, that's one group, those are the good guys. Those are just like in World War II. They were the allies. Then you have the axis, which is Russia and China and Iran and North Korea. None of us would prefer to live in those countries. Even the idiot students who are protesting what's going on, none of them want to go there because their phones are taken away and they’re not allowed to do what they want to do.

They can't go into raves and they can't do everything. As soon as they criticize the government, they're going to have their heads chopped off. They will. That's how it works over there.

So, I absolutely believe that this is a move by Iran—I said that before—with backing from China and Russia as quietly as possible. Russia less so. So, by the way, Qatar has a lot of money, a lot of money from oil. They also pump in a lot of money here to take out the Western world and go into some kind of totalitarian-mixed-with-theocratic autocracy.

JAG: All right. So, in terms of being objective and having perspective, I think it's also important to acknowledge that in the past several years, there has been a lot of progress in terms of treaties and peace accords between Israel and Arab countries. Thoughts on how what's happening right now can impact progress there?

MK: Sure, great timing on that question because many of you may know that Israel was this close to signing a deal with Saudi Arabia. And Israel is even allowed now to go through Saudi Arabian airspace, which is something that hasn't happened. It just happened a couple of years ago. This would be a major advancement for the relations of everybody now, despite the fact that there are two parties to this deal, one is Arab, obviously, and the other one is Israel.

A lot of the reason for the timing for this [war] was that this deal was about to be signed. The goal that Iran has is to weaken its archenemy. Well, it has two archenemies. Its main archenemy, of course, is Israel. But, in the Arab world, Iran being Shiite, and the Sunnis coming from Saudi Arabia, Iran doesn't want to see the Sunnis succeed. They will go to war, just like they did in the Iran-Iraq wars, and kill each other. So, they hate each other about as much as they hate Jews.

For those of you that think this is all about and just about anti-Semitism, [Iran’s position is] these are actually good people, if it weren't for the Jews; well, they're good people, except for the other major sect of Islam.

So this partly, I think, was a catalyst to make this happen. Now that  this normalization deal is backing up, as JAG mentioned, the beautiful deals done with the UAE and some of the other Arab countries, they're wonderful: the number of Israelis that now go visit the major cities—the planes are full.

It's beautiful to see what would have been unthinkable ten years ago, to see Israelis, Jewish people walking around in modernized cities, a lot of it from oil money, but legitimate oil money, enjoying these countries, and being welcomed and thanked. We can easily get along. Israel has no interest in harming anyone else. None. There's no aggressive interest. Israel is not a colonizer. They were given land. They won land in a war where they were attacked from all sides. They are happy to be in their country. Yes, there are some fringe elements that are a problem. We discussed them with the government earlier. But, folks, we're not the aggressors here.

It's very clear. We are a country that wants to be left alone to do our thing and to work with others that want to. The fact that we can do it with various Arab nations and we're about to do it with the largest, I believe it's the largest, Arab nation is a beautiful thing. I hope and I do believe that this deal will go through.

JAG: I remain optimistic as well. We have started to translate a lot of our animated videos into other languages. As part of that experimentation, we translated videos into Arabic. Videos that get 1 million views in English have received up to 8 million views per video in Arabic. I think that it's a hopeful sign that there are individuals out there that are curious and perhaps eager to embrace reason and to explore capitalism and advance individual rights. They've had a lot of experience with other kinds of governing systems: socialism, Arab nationalism, religious totalitarianism. And, I think the younger generation is open to exploring some other ways of living. So, we're going to continue to do that, and I'm optimistic about that.  In the minute or two that we have left, Michael, and again, very grateful for giving us this time with everything that you've got going on. I know you had board meetings all today and yesterday between popping down to the bomb shelter.

Anything that you want our audience to take away from this?

MK: Yes, look, I think we would appreciate people helping to broadcast the truth of what's going on here, being very clear that our goal in Israel is to eliminate Hamas, be done with it, allow the people of the Gaza area and, frankly, in the Palestinian Authority area, to hopefully someday have a government that actually puts them first, and that they can start to thrive and to flourish, at least to have some of the basic things that we all take for granted. We just want to be left alone. I think your intolerance of some of the misinformation and some of the frankly despicable thought patterns that are out there, including the students from Harvard and Stanford, would be very helpful. Because one of the reasons that this has gone on for so long is because we, myself included, this generation, have put up with “every opinion matters” and “every opinion is equal.” Well, some opinions are wrong, and that's okay to say.

History bears it out. So, thanks so much for being here. Our thoughts in Israel are with you, and I hope yours are with us. If you want to jump over here, it's great. You can connect with us. We have room. We'd be happy to go out to dinner, go grab a coffee on the beach. Thank you.

JAG: Well, Michael, I might take you up on that. I really appreciate it. So, thanks, Michael. Thanks to all of you who joined us today. Record attendance. If you enjoyed this video or any of the other programming that we produce at The Atlas Society, head over to atlassociety.org and give us a tax-deductible donation. We appreciate it. All new donations will be matched by our Board of Trustees. Be sure to tune in next week when author Alexandra Hudson discusses her book, The Soul of Civility: Timeless Principles to Heal Society and Ourselves, on the next episode of The Atlas Society Asks. Thanks, everybody.

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