Israel / Palestine / World Situation

Tribalism and me

It has been more than six months since I have posted.  One of you actually wrote to me asking me to continue to write.  I began this blog in 2006.  For several years before, I was struggling to write a book on the history of broadband.  I discovered that at least for me, writing a book does not come easily.  I decided to write a blog instead.  I felt that this would help me developed the skills in research and writing that I needed as well as the discipline to stay focused on the topic. I believe I made a great deal of progress over the last twelve years.  About a year ago I began to explore writing a book.  This time I had an even larger objective.  I wanted the book to integrate the story of my life, my knowledge and personal experience in the development of today’s computer technology and finally, the knowledge and wisdom I developed through the many years of my professional career.  So far, it has not gone well.  I feel pretty overwhelmed with the task.  At the same time, I was dealing with a lot of life transition mostly resulting from the decision to move full time to Israel.   I have decided to go back to writing my blog for a while and then I hope to start the book.  I am now 73 years old.  Everything seems to be working ok (mind and body), but I am mindful of the time.

I should also say that since the election of Donald Trump I have been pretty depressed about the future of the world.  Generally, I am optimistic, so these feelings are kind of new to me.

Below you will find my first blog post of the year. It is a pretty serious one.

In January, my wife and I traveled to Rwanda primarily to spend time with the Silverback Mountain  Gorillas. There are about 900 of these fantastic creatures living in groups of about 30 individuals.  While this is is not a travel blog (my wife sometimes does that), but  I have to say the time we spent traveling in Rwanda especially the two visits to Gorillas families is something I will never forget.  The trip to Rwanda also had the side benefit of getting me thinking about the role that tribalism plays in our lives and surprisingly to me, the role it plays in my own life.

The Dominant Male (Alpha Male)


Gorillas live in small troops.  The troop is dominated entirely by one Silverback male (the hair on the back of the male turns silver when they are around ten years old).  There may be other males in a troop (sons of the Silverback), but they are subservient to the dominant male.  All decisions are made by the dominant male who can live into his 40s.

Humans are closely related to Gorillas,  The only animal that shares more DNA is the Chimpanzee.  They also have an Alpha Male structure. 

The history of humankind also demonstrates the concept of Dominant Male.  Through most of our history, tribes of human beings have been lead by a Dominant Male although there have been a few exceptions.  Modern Democracy is a relatively new concept.  It is not clear to me that it is an enduring one.  We can clearly see the rise of the Alpha Male throughout the world.  The two strongest economies of the world are now lead by Alpha Males (Donald Trump in the USA and Xi Jinping in China) 

See the behavior of Gorillas up close made me think that we humans may have a genetic preference for the Alpha Male. 



Rwanda is a lovely and tiny country with a population of about 20 million people.   It is located just south of the equator but since has a very high altitude, is pretty tempered.  The land is lush and green.  The people are friendly. Rwanda is considered by many to be the safest and cleanest country in Africa. The government is run by Paul Kagame, its president.  He is considered by many to be a dictator albeit a benevolent one, an Alpha Male.


There are two main tribes in Rwanda, the Tutsi and the Hutu (there is also a smaller third tribe of Pygmies called Twa).  Something terrible happened in Rwanda in 1994. The population of Rwanda was about 7 million people at that time of which the Hutu’s represented 84%, and the Tutsi’s represent 15%The Hutu’s carried out the mass extermination of the Tusi’s over a 100 day period.  As many as a million Tutsis, which represented 70% of their population, were killed. 

Rwanda was first colonized by the Germans in 1884.  After WW1, Belgian took over control of Rwanda.  Both the Germans and later the Belgians favored the Tutsi population and put them in a position of power. This was the standard method that was used by European Colonists to keep control over colonies. The basic concept was to put a minority tribe into power with the assumption that they would abuse their power and become hated by the majority,  This meant that the minority who was running a country for the benefit of the colonist would have to maintain the support of the colonial power to keep their position.  The Middle East is an example of this where Britain and France used this strategy extensively. The Tutsi population was just 15% of people living in Rwanda.

To strengthen the divide between the two main tribes, the Belgians introduced a system of ID’s that indicated which tribe the holder belonged to.  Actually, there was not much of a difference between the two tribes. They all spoke the same language and had the same religious beliefs. 

We visited the Genocide Memorial in the capital city, Kigali. It is a compelling experience. I have been to many memorials of Genocide especially those dealing with the Holocaust, but I was stunned by what had happened in Rwanda.  How much hate had been generated?  The Tutsi and Hutu’s lived amongst each other. Neighbors killed Neighbors.  The Hutu’s used machetes to cut off the head of the Tutsi’s. 

Think about all this, made me wonder about the power of tribalism. You can witness tribalism with our primate relatives.  For instance, if two troops of Gorillas meet, the Alpha Males will fight. Same for chimpanzees.  I began to wonder if our own genes doomed us to follow in the footsteps of our primate cousins. 


Political parties as tribes

I was born in the USA and lived there most of my life although I am also an Israeli citizen and actually live in Tel Aviv these days. 

I have watched the evolution of the two main American political parties evolve into tribes.  Winning power has become more important than standing on principle.  Nothing more has illustrated this than the accession of Donald Trump as President.  Trump does not stand for the key conservative values of the Republican Party but he won, and he is apparently an Alpha Male.  So supporting the Party and keeping power has played a stronger role than political principle. It is the driving force behind the Republican Party. I don’t think that the Democratic Party has made the journey to becoming mostly a tribal force, but they are on their way.

I think I would have understood this phenomenon earlier if I  had been interested in team sports.  Clearly, teams are just a way of creating a tribe.  The goal is having your team beat the other teams. 


Tribalism  and the Middle East

As I mentioned, I live in Israel and also that I am an Israeli Citizen.  I strongly support the state of Israel although I often disagree with the policies of the government.  I identify as a Jew.  My sense of being Jewish has always been my strongest identification and much stronger than my sense of being an American.  Funny, now I as write this blog, I recall that many times we Jews refer to ourselves as “The Tribe.”  We actually started off as 12 tribes.

My wife and I live in the Middle East which is a very tribal area.  The modern countries that exist here were created by the Europeans (namely the British and French) at the end of WWI. Before that, Turkey occupied the area and the Indigenous people identified with there tribes and not their nations. You can still see this in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Amongst the Israeli Jews these days, there are sub tribes based on where families came from.  So we have Yemenite Jews, Russian Jews, French Jews, British Jews, Moroccan Jews, Ethiopian Jews and of course American and Canadian Jews. We have religious Jews, super religious Jews, and nonreligious Jews. But what unites us that we are Jewish, and especially that we are not Arabs.  The Arabs have their tribes too.  Even in the West Bank, there are many tribes.  But what unites them these days is that they are not Jews. 

Tribalism and me

I have noticed that while I am very critical of the USA government’s policies against immigrants and refugees, I seem to tolerate some of the same behavior from the Israeli Government.  Even writing that is hard for me.  I have noticed that I anxiously read anything that is critical of Trump’s handling of immigrants/ refugees but might skip over a critical article about something Israel is doing in the West Bank for instance.  I pride myself on being open-minded and fair but am I?  Does the power of tribalism overwhelm my values?  And if so, what can I do to reduce its influence?

7 thoughts on “Tribalism and me

  1. Even Europe was tribal at one point in its history. Growing up in Africa, I’m used to the idea of tribes and individual cultures and languages, which for the most part live harmoniously. Maybe we have been seduced by the romantic idea that as we are all human beings we should all be as one. I think we nearly made it, but as you say, the romance is breaking up.


  2. Your last paragraph is a powerful one. I wish more people here in the USA would pause for a moment to look critically at the things they are primarily reacting to emotionally. Challenging ourselves to open our eyes a bit may create some space for two-way conversation.


  3. Will Israel’s domination of the high technology world trigger animosity towards Jews in general?

    The Talpiot Program was set up in 1979 to infiltrate Israeli Military Intelligence officers into the corporate high technology sector and other critical corporate and government structures. Also, Unit 8200.

    Netanyahu is acting very cockily and this is bad for Jewish communities world wide. His appearance at AIPAC four months ago was disgusting. Bragging Israel would boycott the world due to it’s dominance of tech.

    His recent close relationship with Russia’s Putin and the linkage of Chabad Lubavitch between them and Trump – feeding the Russia narrative and making Jews looks bad.

    Whats to be done? Especially as Bi Bi and Vlad BRAG they have space for Jews from Europe and the US. I dont think they want Jews from Yemen and Ethiopia.


  4. All tho,..
    tribalism is etched into human dna
    The need for a strong man leader,..

    It can and should be argued,…
    That as of humans we should be able
    To grow out of this,.. ape man mentality

    It seems the governments of the world
    Utilize the worst in people, for them to consolidate control,..

    I see this happening in Israel,. As well as here in my home (USA)
    I see black lives matter as well as the various alt-right/white ethnostate advocates,.. as both having valid points but dialogue is near impossible,. It almost seems even the language itself has been manufactured for these different “tribes” to clash,.. the evidence I have seen as to the think tanks and institutions,.. that provide the talking points to the main talking heads who are mini “tribal” leaders of these opposing groups,.. (council of national policy,gatestone institute,etc)
    Are well documented

    If the American elections of 2016 has taught us anything,.. it is that technology, data mining, and data driven talking points can subvert, prejudice, and pervert democracy,.. not to mention the alleged hacking,..

    This all begs the question,. All these shadowy figures,. Blackcube,. Cambridge Analytica,. Psy-group,. And the rest of em why they prop up a strong man alpha male(trump/irony) over a more sensible candidate (not that I agree with a sanders but..).?
    Do we as humans need a strong man as well as a strong enemy to consolidate a forced paradigm of tribalism?
    Can we not do better

    In Israel you have the Talpiot program
    Which has a unique structure and outlook towards education,.. even tho these cadets are conscripted into the military, they are not beholden to the general chain of command or treated like soldiers, they are encouraged to question their superiors and think in unconventional ways,. To solve problems,.. this seems to be a process that works,.. too bad most of this Human Resource is invested into
    Making weapons of war,.

    I have noticed that Talpiot graduates are praised as being the best and brightest
    But at the same time there is very little information on the internet,..
    And the ones that I have seen
    Seemed to be into technical advances that can benefit all of humanity,..
    but sadly they must be the tip of the iceberg and beneath the water lies
    A majority that are in active intelligence work on the world stage,. Or working on more devices of human suffering and torture,..

    Israel boasts of being 20 years ahead of the entire world in technology,. The rhetoric that exits the mouth of the trump of Israel (netenyahu) is one of concern.
    For the “tribe of outsiders”. On one hand it is israel is a light in a world of darkness,.. and on the other it is one of veiled threats,..
    From the outside it is impossible to see the country that lives in open apartheid and blatant racism (toward the African migrants and the Palestinians to even non Jews abroad),,..
    Is any sort of savior nation or relevant moral voice of reason,..

    When others see that the money behind trump,. And his actions ie ,. In the middleeast as well as his trade wars with China,. Benefit Israel,. I fear my country which is also sold as a beacon of freedom and tolerance,.. will slide into a deeper level of “tribalism” and they will
    Lash out against what you called “the tribe”.
    I also fear this is the plan of alpha males (some females) who behind democratic view, want this to justify the import of their tribe to their ethno state,. To solidify the need of tribe and and to perpetuate the myth the world hates and wants to exterminate them. The need to demonize and and dehumanize the other.
    As history constantly reminds us
    And as we constantly choose to ignore history’s sound advice.
    Is a very dangerous road to traverse.
    It always ends in suffering death and destruction,..

    I invite people to the idea of greater humanity,.. we know as humans when we follow our animal base instincts we are worse than animals for squandering our intellect,. We should aim to follow our higher human (dare I say angelic nature)
    ,.. and treat each other as that
    It is a better more sane road,. We as humans might live into the “22nd” century,.

    This requires work, honest soul searching,.. and reflection from all sides
    Of the human spectrum


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