The need for anti-Semitism

12 September 2007, by G.S.  <george.salzman@umb.edu>

this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-09-12.htm
the print version is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-09-12P.htm

Acknowledgements, a caution, and a remark [*]

Part I. Anti-Semitism in America

      Hold on! Don't jump to conclusions. I'm not a Jew-hater — either of other Jews or of myself. But also don't kid yourself. The crude stereotype of Jews brimming with loathsome qualities is alive, not very vigorous but alive in America. Never mind the calculated alarms drummed out periodically by the Anti-Defamation League and various other such so-called mainstream Jewish organizations in their well-funded and well-orchestrated anti-Palestinian, Arab and Muslim frenzies.[1] Anti-semitism is real, and some American Jews are concerned with it, I among them. For Scots-Irish American writer Joe Bageant it isn’t an obsession, or even a big deal , but he’s not blind to it either in his not atypical hometown of Winchester, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley. In his essay, “Poor, White and Pissed: A Guide to the White Trash Planet for Urban Liberals” he suggested its presence when mentioning an editorial that appeared in the local paper just after the prominent Jewish intellectual Susan Sontag died. Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of his piece: [2]

If you are reading this it is very likely that you are a liberal . . . you probably live in an urban area, or someplace with reasonable cultural diversity. More than likely you are educated and can read this without moving your lips. Maybe you even live in the freethinking People's Republic of Berkeley, or bustle along under the fabled lights of Manhattan where you can see independent films and buy such things as leeks and soy milk at your grocery store.

I, however, live in a town where it is easier to find chitterlings, ponhaus and souse in the grocery store than a leek . . . My hometown’s claim to fame is the 1983 “Rhinehart Tire Fire” in which some five million discarded tires burned for nine months, gaining Winchester, Virginia national news coverage and EPA superfund cleanup status. The smoke plume was visible in satellite earth photos, the cleanup took 18 years and the fire stands as my hometown's biggest event of the Twentieth Century. As for intellectual life, this is a town where damned few residents ever heard of, say, Susan Sontag. Even though our local newspaper editor did manage a post mortem editorial on Sontag, which basically said: Goodbye you piece of New York Jewish commie shit!, most people reading the paper at their breakfast tables around town were asking themselves, “Who the hell is Susan Sontag?” They would ask the same thing about Daniel Barenboim or Hunter S. Thompson because those figures have never been on Oprah.

      Joe salted up his characterization of the editorial with the adjective Jewish, which didn’t appear in the original,[3] but I’d bet that even if Sontag had been identified as Jewish there would not have been a raft of angry letters to the editor, as would have been the case in any New York City or major national paper. My guess is that it wouldn’t have rattled local sensibilities, just reinforced already current notions. So, assuming I’m right and a stereotypical characterization of Sontag as a piece of New York Jewish commie shit would have gone down smoothly in Winchester with the morning coffee and greasy Dunkin’ Donuts’ sugar platter, what does that mean?

Does it mean they hate Jews in Winchester, Virginia?

      Hell no! It doesn't mean that at all. In fact, most people in Winchester wouldn't know a Jew if they saw one. When I was there two years ago no one even looked ‘funny’ at me as though I was anything other than some old guy walking around with Joe, having a couple of beers or a sandwich or whatever. They didn’t have a clue that I was anything other than an ordinary human being. So what is the nature of the anti-Semitism that I don’t dispute exists in the minds and feelings of many Americans? If it’s not hating Jews as Jews, then what exactly is it? It seems to me that’s not very hard to dope out.

      Obviously this is going to be conjecture on my part, but I think it makes pretty good sense. According to American Jewish historian Peter Novick, “By the 1970s Jews were preeminent among the “haves” in American society, and the gap between Jews and non-Jews in income as well as in representation in all elite positions, widened over subsequent decades. Jews had everything to lose and nothing to gain from the more equal distribution of rewards which had been the aim of liberal social policies.” [4] Speaking of 1992, Novick quotes Abraham Foxman, head of the notorious Anti-Defamation League (ADL) saying, “antisemitism has gained a new respectability not seen in the U.S. since World War II.” Novick disagrees, commenting, “Given the overwhelming evidence that in recent decades anti-Semitism in the United States has become less and less respectable, and given that in recent decades Americans have been much more aware of the Holocaust than they were in the postwar years, it’s hard to know what to say about [such] assertions.” [5]

      After his questionable hesitancy in saying what seems so obvious to me, Novick remarks weakly that these assertions, “were probably believed by those who made them, and thus gave Jewish leaders a pragmatic incentive to spread Holocaust consciousness.” It’s as though Novick had never encountered ‘wishful beliefs’ before, in my opinion highly doubtful. I don’t agree with him in so gently letting Foxman, Podoretz, Berenbaum and others in their alarmist camp so gently off the hook. However, on his assessment of the position of Jews in American society at that time, I fully agree. Writing of the 1980s and 1990s, he says, “American Jews were by far the wealthiest, best-educated, most influential, in-every-way-most-successful group in American society — a group that, compared to most other identifiable minority groups, suffered no measurable discrimination and no disadvantages on account of that minority status.[6]

      Novick also stresses that American Jews have a preeminent position in the very important sectors of society that largely determine the prevailing ideology. He writes, “We [Jews] are not just “the people of the book [the Old Testament],” but the people of the Hollywood film and the television miniseries, of the magazine article and the newspaper column, of the comic book and the academic symposium.” The fact that the “2 or 3 percent of the American population that is Jewish” is ideologically so influential is, Novick says, “often nervously avoided.” [7] At times the ‘nervous avoidance’ of being seen as manipulating American public opinion (and foreign policy) can rise to vehement denial, as we witness with the full-throttle attempt to discredit, for example, the work of Mearsheimer and Walt [8] and the vicious efforts to deny Norman G. Finkelstein a proper academic post and thereby attempt to discredit his work.[9]

Stating the obvious

      When World War II ended and the United States was in the preeminent position to exercise control over much of the globe, the government set up a top-level think tank as part of the National Security Act that established the Central Intelligence Agency. Senior political operative George F. Kennan, when he headed the US State Department Policy Planning Staff – the think tank – wrote a now infamous policy paper, Document PPS23, dated 24 Feb 1948.[10] Although the oft-quoted excerpt of Kennan’s assessment concerned Asia, the principle he formulated is quite general:

...[W]e have about 50 per cent of the world's wealth but only 6.3 per cent of its population ... In this situation we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity ... We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world benefaction ... We should cease to talk about vague and ... unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratisation. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.

      Kennan laid it on the line. An equally clear statement analogous to Kennan’s applies to the bulk of American Jews. Explicitly, if we Jews are as well-off, i.e. privileged compared to the rest of the American population, as Peter Novick maintains (I think correctly), then “In this situation we [Jews] cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment.” There are other respects in which Kennan’s statement is relevant to the behavior of organized Jewish American groups, and deserves to be heeded (in fact by all Americans), but first I want to conclude the ‘anti-Semitism’ discussion, namely Part I of the essay.

      Anti-Semitism as it is traditionally understood, i.e.hatred of Jews because we are Jews, seems to me negligible in the United States, mainly limited to small marginalized neo-Nazi white supremacy groups. Novick claims “overwhelming evidence that in recent decades anti-Semitism in the United States has become less and less respectable,” which is surely true. However, I think there is a related sentiment that is connected with the widespread belief that Jews have a lot of money. Given the fact that many folks, Joe Bageant’s ‘poor, white and pissed’ Americans (the majority of America’s poor are white) are having a rough time, experiencing economic threats to their well-being, they are naturally envious and resentful of people who are riding high. Of course the overwhelming percentage of the ‘high riders’ are not Jews, but there is a significant and well-publicized group of Jews among the big money people, and even though Joe’s neighbors most likely don’t read The Wall Street Journal, the word gets out – There are lots of unsavory Jews – which is unfortunately true. That there are far more unsavory non-Jews in America (simply because there are many more non-Jews than Jews) doesn't change popular perceptions.

      Rush Limbaugh may not explain to Joe’s friends exactly who Michael Millken is or his role in massive theft through his invention of junk bonds, or just exactly why Henry Kissinger can demand a $25,000 fee for an evening’s appearance, but it’s no secret that American Jews (and non-American Jews) like them have played a very destructive role in recent American history, and profited personally by their shrewdness and total lack of personal decency and honesty.[11] Moreover, the association of Jews with money is difficult to miss: Alan Greenspan, James D. Wolfensohn, Paul D. Wolfowitz, Charles Hurwitz, Milton Friedman, Paul A. Samuelson, George Soros (born György Schwartz), among others.[12] It’s no secret that some Jews are into money big time. That’s true also of people in all ethnic, national and religious groups, but it has a particular sting for Jews because we have long been stigmatized as Shylocks in popular culture. And the stereotype, we ought to admit, is not without some basis, though clearly it should not be used to smear all Jews. The trouble with stereotypes is that they are used, not infrequently, without discretion.

      So what can we say about Joe’s ‘Poor, white and pissed’ Americans? My impression, and I sure as hell don’t know this, is that probably a number of them harbor a vague feeling of generalized anti-Semitism, but that most of them are not virulently anti-Semitic, i.e. they don't automatically hate all Jews simply because we are Jews. My impulse is to distinguish between the traditional violent hatred (“classical” anti-Semitism) and the generalized vague sentiment (“neo” anti-Semitism) that I believe is to some extent current in the U.S. today. In fact, what I think this latter form derives from is (1) the ‘envy and resentment’ Kennan anticipated among impoverished struggling people who see others who are clearly riding high, and (2) the widespread perception that American Jews are ‘at the top’, just ripping off the system.

      If it’s true that economic envy is the real motor force of this “neo” anti-Semitism, then the resentment is actually directed against the middle and upper economic classes. Such ‘envy and resentment’ is not only understandable but entirely justified.

Recognizing and redefining “neo” anti-Semitism,
or should we call it ‘anti-Semitism Lite’?

      Opposed to Kennan’s goals as I am, I hold that instead of attempting to force poor people to submit to the injustices they face while we who are well-to-do bathe in relative luxury, we should act to eliminate the terrible disparities so that all people will have a fair shake at life, able to lead lives of modest pleasure and dignity. We too should hate the system that generates so much unnecessary suffering. It’s this desirable hatred — not of individual people but of a brutal social/political/economic system — that we ought to identify as the core meaning of ‘anti-Semitism Lite’.

History, historians and historical truth

      Peter Novick’s masterful exploration of the involvement of organized Jewish groups in trying to mold American public opinion and to influence U.S. policy, in particular with respect to the State of Israel, leaves no room for doubt that these efforts have been ongoing for decades and have consistently been very heavily funded.[13] The strength of his book lies, aside from his assiduous research in the archives, in his rich curiosity as he pursues an entire raft of questions about the gyrations in the behavior of the group of organized “mainstream” American Jewish organizations, and their interaction with American society over the decades from World War II until the end of the Twentieth Century. In reading The Holocaust in American Life I’m left with the sense that Novick is a totally honest person who clearly identifies as being both a secular Jew and a well-integrated American, i.e he does not feel ‘outside’ mainstream American society but very much a part of it. He is devoted to historical accuracy, has a lively sense of humor, and shows no particular axe to grind on the larger social issues. But that doesn’t mean he is free of biases or lacks an ideological perspective, as is the case for each of us. I strongly recommend this volume as an illuminating work especially for American Jews, but also for non-Jewish readers.

      Novick, a University of Chicago professor emeritus of history, celebrates – indeed revels in – the nuances of human behavior, which helps make his study so fascinating. I learned of him during the unsuccessful struggle to prevent Norman G. Finkelstein being denied tenure at DePaul University because of the illegitimate Dershowitz-led attack by an apparently successful Jewish campaign pressuring DePaul not to keep him.[14] Like Finkelstein, for whom Novick appears to harbor strong personal dislike, he also believes that “the prominent role the Holocaust has come to play in both American Jewish and general American discourse is” [not] “as desirable a development as most people seem to think it is.” [15]

      Of what importance is historical truth? For example, does it really matter whether German-American Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt was most struck by Adolph Eichmann’s “terrifying ordinariness; that far from being the demonic monster portrayed by the Israeli prosecutor, he was a bland and mindless though all-too-efficient bureaucrat, motivated principally by personal ambition; that while he zealously carried out his orders, he had no influence on policy; that he was not even particularly anti-Semitic.”? Novick juxtaposes Arendt’s view with that of Jewish American historian Barbara Tuchman, to whom Eichmann was evil incarnate, and who said Arendt wrote out of “a conscious desire to support Eichmann’s defense.” Novick says, correctly, “... this was not just false but the reverse of the truth. Arendt’s loathing and contempt for Eichmann was manifest on every page of her book [Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil]” [16]

      If knowledge of historical truth is for the sole purpose of satisfying the intellectual desire to understand the reality of our lives, then it is no more nor less legitimate than any other investigation undertaken in response to human curiosity. If it goes no further than to provide enlightenment, then I would say it is of no social importance, or more accurately of negative social value. To be of positive value the knowledge must serve to shape actions. If we see our goal as merely to understand historic truth, we are adopting a passive role as objects of history. I contend that we ought to think of ourselves as subjects of history, not just as people on whom history acts. We are both objects of and shapers – even if only passively – of history. It is up to us not to be passive but to actively take part in building the world we want. To do that intelligently we need to be informed of historical truth.

Could there be another holocaust in America?
A wakeup call to my fellow American Jews

      Yes. I believe it is well within the realm of possibility, especially if the surging social and economic inequalities are not substantially eliminated. However, this wakeup call is intended not only for American Jews but for all privileged people, of which group Jews constitute but a miniscule part. In other words, what I want to argue is that in order for American Jews to try to safeguard ourselves against the possibility of an American Judeocide, our effort must be generalized to embrace the entire American middle and wealthy classes. My understanding of historical truth, for what it is worth, points to the need, in order for us to be secure, for a basic solution to the global problems of raging inequalities and unbearable suffering. Achieving our security is possible only within a framework where all people are secure. Of course Jews alone cannot resolve these terrible injustices, but I think we can play a role, along with all other privileged peoples.

      Hey! What do I mean privileged peoples? Most of us aren’t used to thinking of ourselves as particularly privileged. We tend to believe that what we have in the way of material wealth we obtained by hard work. Even those of us who are well-off because of substantial inheritances usually believe we are entitled to what we have. These beliefs are part of the value system of capitalism with which most of us have been more or less successfully indoctrinated. I would say someone is privileged (relative to most of the world's people) who
1. does not fear hunger, and
2. regularly has access to adequate nutricious food,
3. lives in a secure dwelling with reliable utilities, i.e. safe potable running water, gas and electricity,
4. can rely on an adequate safe home heating system,
5. is able to afford essential medical care,
6. does not lack a telephone or essential transportation,
7. expects his or her children to be able to complete college and anticipate a fulfilling life, and
8. is not so exhausted by the daily struggle for life that neither time nor energy remain for relaxation and enjoyment.

      I remember well that my own early cultural indoctrination included the maxim, “A smart Jewish boy doesn’t have to work with his hands. Better he should be a doctor, a lawyer, a professor.” ‘No dirty hands for me’ was the message. So it came about that I did not become a stevedore or a miner. Instead, in later life many of my friends, colleagues and acquaintances were in academia, and were like myself privileged white male heterosexual (I think) liberal Jewish American professors. We make up, by and large, a part – admittedky a small part – of the urban liberal intellectuals to whom Joe Bageant tries to reveal some of the reality of contemporary life in America. But of course we don’t live lives such as he describes. We don’t work in auto repair shops or gas stations or fast food shops or for roofers or as longshoremen. If our hands are not free of callouses it’s due to our training activities, trying to keep our bodies physically fit in corporate ‘fitness centers’ or in sports, e.g. competitive rowing, or just for relaxation, in scenic places (such as the Charles River adjacent to the main campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts). We don’t work as garbage collectors or hotel busboys. Some of us do walk our dogs when they are not being kept in commercial kennels for us while we are attending some important conference in another part of the world.

Part II. We, the middle class and wealthy
beneficiaries of capitalism

      As we privileged people go about our ordinary activities much of what we do is directly supportive of the corporate infrastructure of giant capitalism. Perhaps topping the list of our accustomed daily consumption items is our use of energy. Electic energy, though not the major form of energy we consume, serves many household purposes. If it were not regularly available we would consider ourselves greatly inconvenienced. A few figures comparing our yearly electricity consumption to the averages in selected other nations and the entire world may surprise you.


Annual Electrical Energy Consumption Table [17]

Country          electric en. used      population          percent of            av KwHrs used
                     in million KwHrs       in millions      world population          per person

Haiti                        320                    8.12              about 0.124                39.4
Guatemala             6,360                  14.7               about 0.228                433
Colombia              38,910                  43.0               about 0.671                905
Mexico                183,310                 108*               about 1.67                1,697
Canada                540,160                 32.3              about 0.500             16,723
United States      3,815,670               300*               about 4.65              12,719

Entire World      15,746,540          6,454,000                100                      2.44

* The U.S. and Mexico population figures that I used for the calculation were for 2006, which may have made their figures for calculated electric energy use per capita a bit less than for 2005.


      The only surprise this table had for me was my discovery that on average Canadians are more profligate in electrical energy use than Americans. Their average per capita annual use is about 1.3 times ours. The first point to note is that we privileged people consume much more electrical energy than the averages shown for our countries. Thus, for example, to say that on average an American uses 12,719 / 905, i.e. about 14 times as much electrical energy as a Colombian, and to assume this comparison applies to us is to greatly underestimate our relative luxury. Statistics are always limited in the information they provide, and can thus be used, as they sometimes are, to bolster false or misleading arguments. Always it is important when issues of social justice are involved that we not content ourselves with mere statistics, but insist on understanding specific details. A case in point is the relationship between particular groups of people who live in Colombia and in the United States.

      This case reveals the kinds of social injustices of which many of us, privileged urban liberal intellectuals, can easily be unaware, injustices from which we individually benefit. It is based on the research work Aviva Chomsky recently reported in the Boston weekly periodical, The Phoenix.[18] Such grim reports of the mechanisms by which global capitalism enables us to enjoy the wealth stolen from poor peoples in distant places, often stolen with lethal force, are beginning to find their way into the corporate media ( The Phoenix, although ‘alternative’, is a capitalist enterprise). However, the major corporate media, when they do report such capitalist-driven violations of human rights, normally treat them as aberrant examples of ‘corporate irresponsibility’ attributable to individual failures of executives and/or others in the organization’s chain of command. This is not at all surprising given that the owners of these media are themselves primarily giant capitalists and want to obscure the fact that the flaw lies not in individual shortcomings but in the very nature of the dominant economic/social/political system of global capitalism.

      Although statistics can hide information, as I mentioned, they can also be quite revealing. Haiti, I’m fairly certain, is the most economically impoverished nation in the Americas. Of the six nations in the above table, Haitians on average consume the least amount of electrical energy, about eleven times less than Guatemalans, the second lowest national consumers among the selected nations, and a whopping 323 times less than Americans. But, compare these impoverished Haitians to the world average, which is only one-sixteenth of the Haitian average! The statistics imply, in fact they scream at us, that the gulf in material well-being between the overwhelming majority of the world’s people and we privileged Americans is intolerable to them. It ought to be intolerable to us as well. Clearly I have looked at only one measure, average electrical energy consumption. One could make a grand study of this, for there are many possible ways to measure well-being. But let’s not kid ourselves. The results will be essentially the same, though the details of numbers will vary. We privileged American are living high on the hog, much too high.

Where does material wealth come from?
Some fundamental facts

      This is so elementary that I almost feel embarrassed to be writing it – as though I am a child who has discovered that 1 + 1 equals 2 and I feel I must announce it to the world. Nevertheless I think it needs to be made explicit as part of the logic of the argument I promised to pursue earlier when I said, “There are other respects in which Kennan's statement is relevant to the behavior of organized Jewish groups, and deserves to be heeded, but first I want to conclude the 'anti-Semitism' discussion.” So please be patient. My focus here is on material wealth only. Every society possesses a great deal of non-material wealth in its culture — knowledge of the seasons, of the habits of animals, music, sculpture, literature – whether oral or written, modes of food preparation, and so on. The richness of a particular culture includes far more than the material wealth of the particular group. The non-material wealth reflects, as does also the material wealth, the creative imagination of our species.

      Without belittling the critical importance of our ability to think, two essential sources of material wealth on which I want to focus are
1. the exploitation of human physical labor, and
2. the exploitation of natural resources.
By ‘exploitation’ I mean simply ‘use’, i.e. with no pejorative implications. Such use can be either non-exploitive or exploitive (in its pejoritive sense), depending on the particular circumstances. The use of animal labor, which also contributes to material wealth, I include among natural resources. By natural resources I mean everything in the world of nature that can be utilized — sunlight, water, plants, animals, minerals, and so on. It is crucial to emphasize that no material wealth can be gained without the use of both human physical labor and natural resources. There is simply nothing else on which to build the material base for a human society.

      The variety of societies that human intelligence can construct, based on the use of human physical labor and natural resources may seem mind-boggling, innumerable. In spite of the vast range of possibilties, each society must be consistent with the laws of natural science — chemistry, biology, physics, geology, and so on. Within these limitations, which we cannot alter, the possibilities for arranging our social lives are indeed infinite. The arrangements within a particular society evolve in response to many factors, such as external conditions – changes in weather, actions of other societies that impact on the particular society – and in response to internal struggles, changes in technology, and so on. Along with the evolution of social arrangements the values that constitute the ideology of the culture also evolve. For example, in the early decades of the United States many Americans believed that chattel slavery – the literal ownership of one person by another as property, specifically of black people by white people – was perfectly normal and acceptable. Chattel slavery had a long history, far predating capitalism. Now throughout most of the world chattel slavery is illegal and considered unacceptable.

      The purpose of such slavery was to benefit the owners by the exploitation of their slaves’ labor and by selling the slaves’ children, who were also considered to be the property of the masters. The practice was of course rationalized and defended by the owners. Now in the United States and in most other countries, many many millions of people are forced by the economic system to work for money wages in order to survive. They are not ‘in principle’ slaves, i.e.chattel slaves, but they are in fact ‘wage slaves’, effectively held in bondage by their need for money to survive and the absence of better-paying jobs. This is part and parcel of the system of global capitalism. The purpose of wage slavery is to benefit the employers by exploiting the labor of their employees. A search in major media for an explanation of why there is so much poverty side by side with a relatively tiny very wealthy class will usually be futile in so far as showing the true source of the disparities.

      Just as chattel slavery was rationalized and defended by its beneficiaries, so now wage slavery is defended, although indirectly, as a reasonable and rational practice. However, because of the stigma that now attaches to the idea of slavery, it would be absurd to try to convince people directly that wage slavery is a desirable social norm. Instead, the corporate media promote values that support the capitalist system – competitiveness, self-reliance, independence, individualism, materialism, the virtue of hard work, personal achievement, success in advancing economically, patriotism, military power, religious faith, nationalism, racism, sexism, ethnic separatism, and so on. If the workers – the wage slaves – internalize these values, if they can be persuaded to accept them, then they will support the capitalist system without realizing that it is they themselves that are being exploited for the benefit of the wealthy. They will be unconscious of the fact that they are wage slaves.

      The powerful propaganda machinery in the hands of the very wealthy has been notably successful in convincing many millions – probably hundreds of millions – of people that the system of capitalism is the optimum way to organize social life. I think it was former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who in defending the prevailing economic system, said assuredly, as though it were an unchallengeable truth, There is no other way (than capitalism). But she was only one head of government among many. More pervasive is the institutionalization of the controllers of mass ideology: the corporate media and the educational establishment. For example, the ‘Laws of Economics’ are taught in colleges and universities as though they were as immutable as the laws of physics. They are practically unquestioned in the corporate media, which speak ad nausium of investments that ‘earn’ a high rate of return, of millionaires who ‘earn’ unthinkably high annual salaries. Where the wealth comes from that provides such obscenely high ‘earnings’ is not made clear by the proponents of capitalist ideology. “If you work hard and are frugal, you will be OK, and you might even become rich” is the message. And as Joe Bageant makes clear, a lot of ‘poor, white and pissed’ Americans buy into that lie.

What about us, the privileged intellectuals? What’s our role?

      Because each of us has legal control over much more wealth than the average American, we have correspondingly much more freedom to do with “our money” as we refer to it, as we wish, and of course we also have more of it than an average American. Acculturated in a highly individualistic society in which the right to private property is treated as inviolate (if it’s yours you can dispose of it as you wish, with but few restrictions), naturally there is great variation among us in how we use “our money” and our other monetarily valuable wealth.

      My basic faith is that human beings are not inherently, that is to say genetically disposed, to be destructive. Moreover, our species is uniquely equipped to think. I believe we ought to do as much as we possibly can to allow for the possibility of decent lives for all human beings, including not just those alive now but the generations I hope will follow us, and also to prevent destruction of the biosphere, essential for all life. I suggest that those of us who agree with these ideas begin to form a communication network and to share our ideas of how to proceed.

      Those of us who are privileged American intellectuals most likely already have an internet connection or are able, if we choose, to obtain one, and with high-speed access. This technology allows us vast possibilities for being in close touch with one another, and coming to know and trust each other without travelling long distances and spending lots of time and the money resources such travel requires. We can share what we know, learn from each other’s experiences, and exchange ideas that will inspire us to creative actions. The social value of cooperative intellectual effort — its superiority over competitive intellectual effort — is exemplified by the growing success of the ‘free’ software movement, free here meaning deliberately not for commercial profit. Obviously it is not free in the sense that it doesn’t require labor. The programmers who write it do plenty of work — some also benefit financially, but for many the work is motivated purely or primarily by the joy of doing something creative.

      Many of us, I’m reasonably confident, already make deliberate use of the internet for socially constructive purposes, by maintaining informational weblogs, participating in particular topical discussion groups, publishing articles on well-established websites or on our own sites, and so on. These activities, to my way of thinking, are all to the good. I hope they will flourish and that many of them will nurture each other. It may well be that my notion of a

Global think-act tank: an internet-based global think-tank
stimulated by, and encouraging local actions

is, unknown to me, already in existence. Certainly the components of such a global effort have already been formed in many parts of the world. So what am I thinking of that may be new?

      Most, if not all of us know that on a world-wide basis, the mass media are still overwhelmingly in the hands of giant capitalist interests and governments. This is so even in those nations that are nominally left-oriented. In all such situations the perspective presented is one that accepts centralized power both as a given (which it is) and as necessary and desirable. In the major capitalist nations the situation is most dire, because they do the most damage and their people are the most misinformed. For example, in the United States effective grassroots sources of information are essential if the majority of the population is ever to become informed — i.e. knowledgeable and literate — about the reality that is governing our social lives. Joe’s ‘poor, white and pissed’ friends need, quite literally, to be educated so that they come to understand why, for example, poor undocumented Mexicans are competing for their rotten but desperately needed jobs. They need to be educated about who benefits from their racism, xenophobia, narrow patriotism, economic insecurity, etc. and why. Joe’s fellow townspeople, like all people, are not stupid. They’re ignorant, and that is deliberate, the result of the dominant, wealthy sector of society keeping them ignorant in order to profit from it.

      In view of my belief that grassroots-based educational efforts are critically important for our liberation, I’ve tried over the years to find ways to support them. As a privileged American there were a number of possibilities open to me. I’ll mention a few of them below as examples. But my intent is not to urge you to act in a particular way. Rather it is to suggest that each of us who is a privileged person, whether American or not, think about the destruction our species is causing, and what we can do, as individuals and together, to end it. If enough of us take part in such an effort we can become a global think-act tank.

Some personal efforts

      A few contributions I’ve made to building a grassroots infrastructure.
1. Set up a trust and irrevocably deeded my house in Cambridge, Massachusetts to the trust.[19]
2. Deeded a mortgage on a part interest in a farm to the Lucy Parsons Center, a 501(c)3 organization.[20]
3. Contribute from my retirement income to various groups working to make a grassroots infrastructure (including the trust).
4. Do not accumulate savings, have no investment portfolio, avoid acquiring non-essential personal property, reduce expensive travel, live modestly.
5. Reduce my taxable income as much as possible. In 2006 with these efforts my deductable charitable donations came to $41,600 and my tax to the IRS was $6,251.

NOTES

[*] Acknowledgements, a caution, and a remark. Thanks to Irving Wesley Hall and Tom Hendren for encouraging comments, thoughtful criticisms, and constructive suggestions for improving the essay.
1. I would like to emphasize that the terms Jewish and Zionist are not interchangeable. Some Jews are Zionists. Many are not. Among those who are not, some such as I are opposed to Zionism. There are also non-Jewish Zionists.
2. The essay divides into two rather distinct though related parts. The first part is focussed largely on social actions that I believe impact destructively and dangerously on the relationship between Jewish Americans and non-Jewish Americans. The second part focusses on what I see as the inherent divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ in U.S. (and global) society, i.e. the world’s ‘privileged’ and the impoversished bulk of humanity, and the central role of capitalism in establishing and enforcing this divide.

[1] For an extensive study of the deliberate efforts by such Jewish organizations to manipulate U.S. public opinion in what they believed were the interests of Israel, see The Holocaust in American Life, by Peter Novick, Houghton Mifflin, Boston (1999).

[2] Bageant’s essay is at
http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2005/02/poor_white_and_.html .

[3] The editorial published by the Winchester Star, as kindly provided me by the editor, reads as follows:
Briefly . . . Susan Sontag
    Speaking of generosity -- or a total refusal to acknowledge it -- we note the passing on Tuesday of radical novelist and social commentator Susan Sontag. We realize it is not good form to speak ill of the dead; nonetheless, some of Miss Sontag’s more strident observations are worth highlighting one last time.
    For starters, she hardly considered the United States a generous nation. A genuine blame-Americafirster, she deemed this nation at fault on 9/11; we deserved to be attacked, she said.
    But Miss Sontag's vitriol flowed to subjects beyond America's borders. Not content merely to castigate this country, she, in one memorable 1967 essay for Partisan Review, dubbed the entire white race "the cancer of human history."
    Such a blanket condemnation is startling, particularly for someone of Miss Sontag's obvious intellect. We wonder if she ever realized that the precepts of freedom that allowed her to live the life she obviously preferred -- and, in like manner, so many of the advances and inventions that defined her existence as one of relative luxury -- were the products of fertile, rather than malignant, white minds.
    To this day, we cannot help but notice this disconnect, and will, even after her death, continue to do so.

[4] The Holocaust in American Life, p.183.

[5] ibid. p.177. I substituted [such] where Novick had [these] because he also quoted a statement by Norman Podoretz (for which he cited only ‘interview with Cohen’) and one from ten years earlier by Michael Berenbaum, a quote he attributes to Michael Kernan in “The Specter of Anti-Semitism” in the Washington Post, 1 December 1982, C1.

[6] ibid. p.9.

[7] ibid. p.12.

[8] The original Mearsheimer-Walt paper, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”, is at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=891198 .

[9] For part of the (unsuccessful) effort to repel the attack on Norman Finkelstein’s livelihood, see for example my articles:
    A dangerous struggle to bury the truth, 8 April 2007
http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-04-08.htm ,
    Help prevent Harvard's Alan Dershowitz from intervening in De Paul University to get Norman G. Finkelstein fired, 9 April 2007
http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-04-09.htm ,
    Dershowitz vs. Finkelstein III, The real problem is much deeper. James Petras and Bill Templer are straightening me out, 12 April 2007
http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-04-12.htm ,
    Dershowitz vs. Finkelstein IV, Beyond Dershowitz, institutionalized fraud , 18 April 2007
http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-04-18.htm ,
    Fraud by Anti-Finkelstein U.S.-based Jewish Mafia, Beyond Dershowitz, institutionalized fraud, 22 April 2007
http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-04-22.htm , and
    Is there a Jewish gene? Israel-Palestine, Alan Dershowitz, Norman G. Finkelstein, 4 May - 3 June, 2007
http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-06-03.htm .

[10] George F. Kennan. The complete statement prepared by Kennan is available at http://homepages.nildram.co.uk/~gw/georgekennanpps23.htm . Criticism of the use of the 'quote' by Gilles d'Aymery is at http://www.swans.com/library/art11/ga192.html . d'Amery points out that the ‘quote’ consists of excerpts from the much longer statement, and that George Kennan's concern in the quoted part was Asia. That’s true, but not particularly relevant.

[11] On Michael Millken and junk bonds, leveraged buyouts and Ponzi schemes, see for example “Mike Milken and the Two Trillion Dollar Opportunity” at http://www.seas.upenn.edu/~gaj1/trilgg.html. Kissinger's role as a facilitator, promoter and personal beneficiary of mass murder is well known. A totally despicable human being.

[12] Alan Greenspan was Chairman of the U. S. Federal Reserve Board, which oversees the Federal Reserve Bank, from 1987 until 2006 (see e.g. http://www.nn
db.com/people/164/000023095/
). James D. Wolfensohn was President of the World Bank from 1995 until 2005 (see e.g. http://www.china.org.cn/english/NM-e/33
545.htm
). Paul D. Wolfowitz was President of the World Bank from 2005 until forced to resign for monetary impropriety in 2007 (see e.g. http://topics.nytimes.
com/top/reference/timestopics/people/w/paul_d_wolfowitz/index.html
). Charles F. Hurwitz, a repulsive corporate raider junk-bond whiz who looted over a billion dollars, and as Chairman of the Board of MAXXAM, had ancient stands of redwood forests in the Pacific northwest logged (see e.g. http://www.jailhurwitz.com/ ). Milton Friedman’s notorious role as top economic advisor to General Augusto Pinochet during the Chilean dictator’s rule gained him my undying animosity. A flattering autobiography of Friedman is at http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economics/laur
eates/>1976/friedman-autobio.html
. Paul A. Samuelson was a big-shot economic theorist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Some info about him is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Samuelson . George Soros (born György Schwartz), Hungarian American financial speculator, stock investor, philanthropist, and political activist, ranked by Forbes 80th richest person in the world. See e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Soros .

[13] Regarding organized Jewish efforts to influence U.S. policy, Novick, The Holocaust in American Life, p.216, says

    ...as is well known, Carter's initiative [to appoint a commission for creating a national Holocaust memorial] was an attempt to placate American Jews, who were increasingly alienated by what they saw as the president's "excessive evenhandedness" in dealing with Israelis and Palestinians.[Note 31, ibid. p.335] If the estrangement continued, it could be devastating for Carter's prospects for reelection, in part because of Jewish votes in key states, and even more because Jews traditionally contributed a substantial portion of national Democratic campaign funds.[Note 32, ibid. p.335]
    Note 32 reads: J.J. Goldberg agrees with most other accounts in reporting that "Jewish money" comprises about half the funding of the Democratic National Committee and of Democratic presidential campaign funds. (Jewish Power [Reading, Mass., 1996], 276.)

[14] Novick’s own nuanced behavior is illustrated in a comment in The Nation by historian Jon Wiener of the University of California ( http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070521/wiener ), who wrote

    ...[Novick]'s been a sharp critic of Finkelstein’s writing, declaring that many of the assertions in Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry are “pure invention" and calling the book "a twenty-first century updating of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." But Novick objects to the way Dershowitz portrayed him — as an ally in the campaign to block Finkelstein's tenure.
    At Dershowitz's suggestion, the political science chair asked Novick for "the clearest and most egregious instances" of Finkelstein's malfeasance. Novick replied that while inviting outside opinions on a candidate for tenure was common, soliciting "the dirt" was totally improper, and he wouldn't satisfy such a request. Novick then published key parts of his letter in The Chronicle [of Higher Education ] to publicly disassociate himself from Dershowitz's tactics.
    "Of course Finkelstein's work — like that of all of us — is 'flawed,'" Novick wrote. The question, he said, is "whether, on balance, the positive contribution of the totality of his scholarly work outweighs its faults." His own published criticisms of Finkelstein's The Holocaust Industry "reflect my values, my sensibility, who I am...but I don't confuse those criticisms with holy writ." Novick then appealed for "pluralism" in the academy: "There are those who relish the adversarial role, who delight in combat, whose greatest joy is in advancing a cause... such people are often inclined to stretch evidence to the breaking point, and occasionally beyond.... Professor Finkelstein seems to be of that number, as does Professor Dershowitz." That was not his own style, Novick said. While it would be "disastrous," he wrote, "to have a university composed exclusively of people like Finkelstein and Dershowitz," it would be "equally undesirable to have a university composed exclusively of people like me." . . .
    Novick told me that he thinks Finkelstein and Dershowitz "deserve each other." But he added that "it's not Finkelstein who's threatening Dershowitz's employment."

I find Finkelstein’s work totally credible. To my knowledge, Novick has offered no evidence on which he based his incredibly disparaging remarks. His book, which of course represents his scholarly work, is a model of discretion, in contrast to his non-scholarly comments reported by Wiener.

[15] Novick makes this unambiguous in the first paragraph of the Introduction to The Holocaust in American Life, p.1.

[16] ibid. p.135.

[17] The U.S. Department of Energy tables on Internation Energy Consumption are listed and linked to at http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/international/electricityconsumption.html . The table, Total Electric Power, All Countries, 1980-2005 for the International Energy Annual 2005 (Billion Kilowatthours) energy data is at http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/international/iealf/table62.xls . For the population data and the calculated population-related values in the table I used population figures from various websites.

[18] Aviva Chomsky, “The dirty story behind local energy: Eastern Massachusetts hums comfortably on Colombian coal. But the mines are devastating land and lives in the Guajira peninsula.” October 1, 2007 10:28:47 AM. Available at http://thephoenix.com/article_ektid48183.aspx . I highly recommend this well-researched and well-written article.

[19] The trust. Legally the Grassroots Infrastructure Charitable Foundation, it’s a tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization that makes grants to various groups within the popular movement. An introduction to the trust that goes from its formation in 1999 through the end of 2002 is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Grass/Infra/Infra-8.htm .

[20] The Lucy Parsons Center (LPC) contains a non-sectarian radical bookstore and serves as an important community center. I assigned the mortgage to the LPC in 2005. Some information about this property and the mortgage is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Grass/Infra/Infra-8.htm and at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Grass/Trust/2005-05-09MortgagePay.htm .


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