How Adam Neumann Used the Mystique of the Kibbutz, and Much Mumbo-Jumbo, to Make a Bad Business Idea Seem Appealing

Following its dramatic rise, WeWork—a company renting office space that billed itself as an innovative startup—was revealed in 2019 to be a house of cards, and quite possibly a scam, with an unworkable business model and questionable practices. At the center of its story is its charismatic Israeli-American founder and former CEO Adam Neumann, who somehow made many millions off the venture. Matti Friedman reviews Billion Dollar Failure, a new book about Neumann and his company:

If WeWork had been merely a rapacious business that failed, the story wouldn’t be much fun. The narrative electricity here comes from the loopy culture of the tech world, which requires its capitalists to speak a language of ideals—you are not out to make money, God forbid, but to connect people or save the planet or, as Neumann liked to say, “elevate consciousness.” (On the podcast WeCrashed, one of Neumann’s detractors had a good name for this: “yoga-babble.”)

My own introduction to the phenomenon, around the same time WeWork was gaining steam, came when I was reporting on a press conference for the launch of an electric car made by an Israeli startup that was going to change transportation forever and make the world green, or something. A reporter sitting next to me asked the CEO an innocuous question about how investors planned to make money. The CEO looked down from the stage as if he’d been asked about a recent case of syphilis and informed us, “I work for your children.”

As Neumann reinvented himself in America as a visionary CEO, with a certain Israeli mystique working in his favor, he made much of his kibbutz background. WeWork was a community, a kind of capitalist collective. People renting desks weren’t tenants but “members.” They’d share resources like coffee machines, printers, and fruit-flavored water and have unplanned yet productive meetings in the corridors. Sure, they were paying, but that wasn’t the point—the point was We. It was, he told Haaretz, “Kibbutz 2.0.”

Despite all of its subject’s babble, Friedman concludes, Billion Dollar Failure tells a “very human story of greed, ego, and gullibility.”

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American Jewry, Kibbutz movement

In the Next Phase of the War, Israel’s Biggest Obstacles May Be Political Rather Than Military

To defeat Hamas, Israel will have to attack the city of Rafah, which lies on the border between Egypt and Gaza, and which now contains the bulk of the terrorist group’s fighting forces as well as, most likely, the Israeli hostages. Edward Luttwak examines how this stage of the war will be different from those that preceded it:

To start with, Rafah has very few of the high-rise apartment houses, condo towers, and mansions of Gaza City and Khan Yunis. This makes street-fighting much simpler because there are no multilevel basements from which many fighters can erupt at once, nor looming heights with firing positions for snipers. Above all, if a building must be entered and cleared room-by-room, perhaps because a high-value target is thought to be hiding there, it does not take hundreds of soldiers to search the place quickly.

Luttwak also argues that the IDF will be able to evacuate a portion of the civilian population without allowing large numbers of Hamas guerrillas to escape. In his view, the biggest challenge facing Israel, therefore, is a political one:

Israel will have to contend with one final hurdle: the fact that its forces cannot proceed without close coordination with Egypt’s rulers. President Sisi’s government detests Hamas—the Gaza offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood they overthrew—and shed no tears at the prospect of its further destruction in Rafah. However, they also greatly fear the arrival of a flood of Palestinians fleeing from the Israeli offensive.

As for the Israeli war cabinet, it is equally determined to win this war in Rafah and to preserve strategic cooperation with Egypt, which has served both sides very well. That takes some doing, and accounts for the IDF’s failure to move quickly into Rafah. But victory is Israel’s aim—and it’s not going to give up on that.

Read more at UnHerd

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security