An open letter to Manuel Garcia —

on Kim Petersen's rebuke of William Blum
for using the term “Israel Lobby”

April 27, 2006

this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-04-27.htm

Preface on “horizontal” communication.

Enlightenment is not a worthy goal. Well, of course it is, but not all by itself. Enlightment is only the first step; we first have to understand what’s wrong with the world, then figure out how to correct it, and then the critical final step, we need to act. At this point, I believe, none of us really knows what we ought to do. All that I object to in the opening statement is endless study (which academics are capable of, if paid), as though seeking understanding by itself, unaccompanied by further steps, is inherently a worthy goal.

      When this belief is combined with my anarchist conviction (also a belief) that no significant social problem is truly soluble in a humane way by hierarchical power structures, I then conclude that we, the ordinary everyday people of the world are the only source of satisfactory solutions. That is, a good society can only be built from the ground up, or as the Zapatistas say, “from below”. We must start with our feet “on the ground.”

      With this in mind I have been trying to do what I can to contribute to “horizontal” communication. But this effort is itself an exploration. It was my motivation for including e-mail addresses whenever I could on my website, and on the recently begun weblog, and most recently in multiply-addressed e-mails. When we communicate directly (i.e. without mediation) with one another we are able to gain familiarity with the real individual that each of us truly is, an understanding untainted by the adjectives with which other people may describe us, or by third-party “explanations” of what we think. We can speak for ourselves.

How is “horizontal” communication working out?

      Hard to say. The weblog posting on 14 April, No. 13 in The Jewish-Israeli Lobby category, had 35 visible addresses. A fair amount of correspondence followed, some probably in continuation of the earlier discussion over censorship of the play “My Name is Rachel Corrie”, but mostly about the debate begun by the Mearsheimer-Walt paper, “The Israel Lobby.” I asked people to post their comments directly to the weblog rather than writing me, with only limited success. Part of the reason, I believe, is that often there are no replies to comments posted on a weblog, whereas an e-mail to an individual is more likely to draw a response. I guess we all like to get letters.

      I sent the e-mail reproduced below to 33 visible addressees and to 22 Blind-CC recipients. These latter can, if they wish, join the ongoing discussion. Of the 33, 29 were from the 35 visible addressees in the 14 April weblog posting, and 3 were new additions to the "small" list. A few folks asked to be removed. My hope is that by making e-mail addresses available, direct, i.e. “horizontal” correspondance is made possible and stimulated.

      Manuel Garcia is a friend I met several years ago through “horizontal” correspondence, one from whom I've gained very useful leads on internet items I ought to be aware of and (many of which) I ought to take the time to read. His website is at http://www.idiom.com/~garcia/. I recommend getting onto his e-mail list, which you can do by writing him at <mango@idiom.com>. After getting a note from him this morning (27 April 2006) I sent the multiply-addressed response that follows.


Subject: Kim Petersen’s rebuke of William Blum on the term "Israel Lobby"
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2006 10:00:46 -0500
To or CC:
        Kim Petersen <kim@dissidentvoice.org>, a new acquaintance
        William Blum <bblum6@aol.com>, incisive thinker and author with a sense of humor
        Adam D. Sacks <adam_artist@yahoo.com>, activist friend, advocate of local autonomy
        Alan M. Dershowitz <dersh@law.harvard.edu>, activist enemy in Israel über alles camp
        Beate Zilversmidt <info@gush-shalom.org>, Jewish Israeli peace activist
        Benjamin Melançon <ben@melanconent.com>, a close friend from NarcoNews
        Bill Templer <bill_templer@yahoo.com>, a Chicago-born Israeli Jewish anarchist
        Dan Hughes <d.hughes@tin.it>, a recent mathematician friend
        Dorothy Naor <dor_naor@netvision.net.il>, an Israeli Jewish woman I love
        Eldad Benary <eldad@hvc.rr.com>, a Jewish Israeli expatriate in the U.S.
        Fred Nagel <fnagel@earthlink.net>, a Jewish American struggler for peace
        Gabriel Bolaffi <gbolaffi@uol.com.br>, a brand new Jewish Brazilian contact
        George Salzman <george.salzman@umb.edu>, a Jewish rebel emeritus physicist prof
        J.A. Miller <jsec_miller@hotmail.com>, a new good contact from Manuel Garcia
        Joe Bageant <bageantjb@netscape.net>, great friend and drinking buddy
        John Mearsheimer <j-mearsheimer@uchicago.edu>, supporter of the American Empire
        Joshua Holland <joshua.holland@alternet.org>, new contact
        Juan Cole <jricole@yahoo.com>, truthful liberal middle-east historian
        Kirsten Sutherland <kirsten@almubadara.org>, staff member of Almubadara in Gaza
        Lawrence Salzman <gardveg@aol.com>, my “kid” brother, 76 this June 10
        Manuel Garcia <mango@idiom.com>, terriffic person, physicist, thinker
        Marianne Torres <mtorres@cet.com>, recent subscriber to my e-mail distribution list
        Mark Bruzonsky <mark@bruzonsky.com>, long time stalwart in exposing “The Lobby”
        Marlene Santoyo <marlsan@cavtel.net>, recent subscriber to my e-mail distribution list
        Martin Davis <martin@eipye.com>, longest-time close friend on this list
        Mazin Qumsiyeh <qumsi001@gawab.com>, admired Arab biologist from Jerusalem
        Michael Neumann <mneumann@trentu.ca>, a Jewish Canadian academic philosopher
        Noam Chomsky <chomsky@mit.edu>, admired friend, well-known Jewish “troublemaker”
        Norman G. Finkelstein <normangf@hotmail.com>, a truthteller hero – just can’t stand lies
        Scott Pinkleman <mnftiu496@yahoo.com>, a friend of James Herod, new acquaintance
        Stephen Walt <stephen_walt@ksg.harvard.edu>, supporter of the American Empire
        Thomas K. Wilson <ommani@getgoin.net>, correspondent and source of news
        Uri Avnery <avnery@actcom.net.il>, admired long-time Israeli Jewish peace activist
BCC: (22 Blind-CC recipients)

Oaxaca, Thursday, 27 April 2006

Hi Manuel,

      I'm not sure whether Liz Burbank’s <lizburbank@speakeasy.net> flaming and frequent compendiums are a gift or a curse you bestowed on me, but thanks for your good intentions. Where needed, I’ll hit the delete key. Burbank’s article, as you sent it in your e-mail, begins
----------------------------
The ROOTS of PALESTINE and of the U.S.-'ISRAELI' RELATIONSHIP are found in HISTORY:

There is No “Israel Lobby”
Kim Petersen, Dissident Voice co-editor
http://informationclearinghouse.info/article12849.htm

Those people of conscience who dare to rebuke the crimes committed by the Zionists must not cower at the insidious Zionist tactic of smearing its critics as “anti-Semites.”

...
Skirting the issue of whether the state designated “Israel” is . . .
----------------------------
      Omitted is introductory information Petersen supplied preceding the above phrase, information that places the discussion in context, namely
----------------------------
04/26/06 "ICH" -- Notable writer William Blum hinted acknowledgement of the power of an “Israeli lobby” in a 2004 article. [1] In his most recent Anti-Empire Report, Blum discusses again the entity that doesn’t exist: the “Israel Lobby” or the permutations of that wording, “Israeli Lobby” and “pro-Israel Lobby.” [2]

The paper entitled “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” by professors John Mearsheimer Stephen Walt has pushed the topic of the “Israel lobby” and its influence over US foreign policy into a more prominent spotlight. [3]

Prominent scholar Noam Chomsky is a steadfast denier of the efficacy of such a lobby -- so much so that he entitled his rejoinder to Marsheimer and Walt: “The Israel Lobby?” [4] Chomsky circumspectly stays away from defining “the lobby” and refers to it as such throughout his article. In his book, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel & The Palestinians, Chomsky devotes a section of a chapter to “Domestic Pressure Groups and their Interests,” but only by way of quoting Seth Tillman does he use the wording: “Israeli Lobby.” [5]

Chomsky discusses ‘Jewish interests’ being ‘Israel’s interests’ but only through quoting others. [6]

One is hard-pressed to find instances of Chomsky, himself, using the wording “Israeli lobby.” In a personal communication to Jeff Blankfort, a staunch critic of the lobby, Chomsky does, however, acknowledge such a lobby by name. [7]

Skirting the issue of whether the state designated “Israel” is . . .
----------------------------
Also omitted are the notes:
----------------------------
ENDNOTES

[1] William Blum, “The Anti-Empire Report: What Would Royko Write? CounterPunch, 6 April 2004.

[2] William Blum, “ All War, All the Time,” Anti-Empire Report, 22 April 2006.

[3] John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” KSG Faculty Research Working Paper Number: RWP06-011, 13 March 2006

[4] Noam Chomsky, “The Israel Lobby?ZNet, 28 March 2006. James Petras wrote a compelling refutation to Chomsky on this topic. See “Noam Chomsky and the Pro-Israel Lobby: Fourteen Erroneous Theses,” uruknet.info, 3 April 2006.

[5] Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel & The Palestinians (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1983, 1999), 13.

[6] Ibid., 15.

[7] Jeffrey Blankfort, “Damage Control: Noam Chomsky and the Israel-Palestine Conflict,” Dissident Voice, 25 May 2005.

[8] Chomsky, Fateful Triangle, op. cit., 15.
----------------------------
      It’s unclear why Petersen sees fit to indulge in his nit-picking commentary aimed at William Blum, who is one of the most incisive and clear commentators on the tragic era of human history it is our shared fate to be living through. Many of Petersen’s statements are patently correct, for example, ‘No one will argue that the “Israel Lobby” is representing the interests of “Arab-Israelis.”’ and ‘Jews are not a monolith and neither are “Israelis.”’

      Other statements are wrong, for example, ‘Since the “Israel Lobby” ... represents Jewish interests worldwide, the label “Jewish lobby” (there is no need to capitalize the “l”) would be much more accurate.’ The notion that the lobby represents what Petersen calls "Jewish interests worldwide" is clearly incorrect, based as it is on his false assumption here that such a concept is meaningful. In fact his earlier (correct) statement that ‘Jews are not a monolith’ shows that he really knows it.

      To write, as Petersen does, "Blum ... is remarkably off base when he says: “the purpose of the lobby is to help Israel”, is to ignore the obvious, i.e. Blum means the Israeli state, and anyone who has the slightest acquaintance with Blum knows he doesn’t confuse the population of a nation-state with the ruling structure. So why carp in this non-productive way? In order to conclude that Blum, by "[c]aving in on a more accurate wording of" the "lobby" ... is guilty of "complicity through silence."

      I fully support calling things what they are, and of course labels are important, but this kind of supposedly critical analysis is bullshit that diverts our attention and efforts by quibbling among ourselves. My own preference is to follow Mark Bruzonsky in terming that loose collection of American Jews and Jewish-dominated organizations that are committed to supporting the government of the nation-state of Israel, "The Jewish-Israeli Lobby."

      The clearest analysis I have yet come upon of the issues brought to the fore by the Mearsheimer-Walt working paper are by Gabriel Ash, published in Dissident Voice, namely
--------------
http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Apr06/Ash18.htm
Why Oppose the Israel Lobby? Comments on Mearsheimer and Walt, 18 April 2006
--------------
http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Apr06/Ash20.htm
The Israel Lobby and Chomsky’s Reply, 20 April 2006
--------------
      There is also discussion, analysis and pseudo-analysis on my website and the weblog, at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Latest.htm and http://pwgd.org/gs/category/the-jewish-israeli-lobby/ respectively, which include the two most recent postings to my website:

William Blum’s Anti–Empire Report — it’s “must” reading, posted 22 April 2006.
      One of the really great truth-tellers I’ve come to rely on is William Blum. His once-a-month Anti-Empire Report is something I just don’t miss. Today his latest issue came, with the first item on the debate following the Mearsheimer-Walt paper, "The Israel Lobby". ... To see this item and the notes for the entire paper, click htm.


The Jewish-Israeli Lobby and Noam Chomsky: an exchange between Jeffrey Blankfort and George Salzman, posted 9 April 2006.
      When I came upon Jeffrey Blankfort’s work about a year ago, it was at once clear that he was incredibly informed, in detail, about efforts of groups and individuals to control public discourse in the U.S. regarding the state of Israel. ... To see entire paper, click htm.

      Manuel, I’m much interested in your study of the relationship between energy and human well-being, and would like to be kept current on it. There are lots of efforts in the U.S., as well as elsewhere, to chart a course for the future based on true grassroots infrastructure. Adam Sacks, who’s much involved in struggles for local autonomy in the U.S., has taken on a role as an editor of the On the Ground category in the weblog, at http://pwgd.org/gs/category/on-the-ground/. Of course you, and anyone else who wishes to post articles on such efforts are welcome to do so. The weblog is open to everyone.

All best wishes,
George

Although this “multiple-address e-mail” is going to a relatively small
group of recipients (22 are Blind CC), not to my “mass” e-mail
distribution list (of about 1400), if you wish to be added to
or removed from this “small” list, please let me know.

      After I mailed out the above letter, a brief exchange followed which I’ll insert here. I think we have resolved the disagreement amicably.

From: William Blum <bblum6@aol.com>
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2006 11:37:42 EDT

George,
It’s not clear to me how your distribution works, but I trust that my reply will reach your readers as well as Kim Petersen. If “Israel lobby” is inaccurate because it’s not working on behalf of all those who live in Israel, then we'll have to dispense with many other common labels, like “American Empire” and “US foreign policy” inasmuch as the empire and the foreign policy do not serve the interests of all Americans; indeed, they serve the interests of, and are supported by, only a minority of Americans. So from now on we’ll have to say: “Ruling Class Empire” and “ruling class foreign policy”; not to mention the fact that there are many millions of Mexicans living in the United States, so perhaps we’ll have to start saying “American/Mexican Empire” or “American – excluding the Mexicans – empire”. Bill B


From: Kim Petersen <kimohp@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2006 19:40:50 -0400
To: George Salzman <george.salzman@umb.edu>
CC: Manuel Garcia <mango@idiom.com>,
        Kim Petersen . . . (32 CCs altogether)

First, my article was not a rebuke to William Blum. My article is about accuracy in language. Progressives (from Orwell to Chomsky to Blum) often decry the abuses of language, especially by right-wing ideologues, so why is it “nitpicking” when one seeks accuracy in language among progressives? What is it called when progressives demand accuracy from right-wingers and shrug at the same for progressives?

Second the article was not aimed at anyone. The article was aimed at what I contend is the incorrect use of the label “Israel Lobby.”

Third, the article acknowledges fully that William Blum “notable” and "incisive." This is not an attack piece and I respect the thought of Blum.

Forth, you graciously acknowledge: “Many of Petersen’s statements are patently correct, for example, ‘No one will argue that the “Israel Lobby” is representing the interests of “Arab-Israelis.”’ and ‘Jews are not a monolith and neither are “Israelis.”’

Fifth, what do you mean by “The notion that the lobby represents what Petersen calls ‘Jewish interests worldwide’ is clearly incorrect, based as it is on his false assumption here that such a concept is meaningful. In fact his earlier (correct) statement that “Jews are not a monolith” shows that he really knows it”? This is an assertion to me. Does the writer deny that the “Jewish Lobby” exists worldwide?

Sixth, you write that I “ignore the obvious.” For the sake of clarity, then Blum should have written the “state of Israel,” but this is still an inaccurate use of language. Progressives cannot have it both ways. If capitalists and imperialists are to be held to a high standard for accuracy in language by progressives, then it is axiomatic that progressives should meet and exceed any standards that they hold others too. Certainly, they should not use language that serves Zionist or imperialist ends, especially when such language is inaccurate.

Apparently, the letter writer seems to think accuracy in language among progressives is insignificant. Further, I respectfully submit that the writer undermines the entire basis of his complaint that I nitpick and “carp in this non-productive way” by carping at me.

This is emphasized by the duality of the writer's position: “I fully support calling things what they are, and of course labels are important” and then flipping over to state “but this kind of supposedly critical analysis is bullshit that diverts our attention and efforts by quibbling among ourselves.” How can accuracy in labeling be deemed important and yet discussing such is “quibbling”? Respectfully, the argument is rather untenable.

Finally, the writer erroneously attributes an unstated and false conclusion to myself. I did not conclude anything about Blum himself in the article – explicitly or implicitly. This is twisting language to serve the writer’s own ends. I attributed this concluding sentence to no one in particular. I also noted earlier why Blum had used the “Israel Lobby” label. He did not use it through caving in to any group. He merely picked up on the usage by others who he responded to. I submit that he ought to have enclosed the label in quotation marks to make this clearer.

However, the writer does proffer a good suggestion on a more accurate label that is worthy of consideration: “The Jewish-Israeli Lobby.”

kim
--
Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. — Albert Einstein


Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2006 22:37:51 -0500

Hi Bill and Kim,
      I’ve received both your e-mails, yours Bill this morning and yours Kim this evening.
      I laughed Bill when I read that it’s not clear to you how my distribution works, and thought, That makes two of us. I’m planning to post on my website my open letter to Manuel Garcia, with a few additional comments, and both your e-mails above, plus any additional comments and/or changes you wish to make. At the moment Kim, I’m not inclined to argue with you and to give you the benefit of the doubt that you did not intend your piece as a criticism of Bill, although your two final paragraphs still look otherwise to me. But I’ve given the URL for your piece, and people who are interested can read it all and judge for themselves. If it is simply an argument for accurate language, I have no disagreement with that. If you want to press me further to clarify what I wrote, I’m willing to respond, but not eager, since it seems to me that what I said is quite unambiguous. But maybe I’m wrong.
      I’ve posted the item, even though it's incomplete, at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-04-27.htm, but will not make it publicly known until I finish my remarks, add your e-mails and anything else you wish that seems germaine to the discussion. It’s no big deal for me to make corrections, so don’t hesitate to let me know if there are mistakes and/or omissions. This e-mail is going only to the two of you, i.e. there are no Blind CCs.
      My guess is that this is not something of much interest to most folks, but of course I don’t really know that. In any event, we are all on the same side in this struggle.
Sincerely, and with best wishes to both of you,
George


From: kim
Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2006 05:15:53 -0400

Dear colleagues,

Mr Blum makes a good point, but American Empire includes a wide cross section of American society. Although the ruling class makes the decisions in US Empire, they are backed by many other sectors in society, whereas in Israel the divide between Arabs and Jews is quite stark. With all due respect, the comparison is therefore inaccurate.

In solidarity,
kim


From: Angie Tibbs <newsplease@nl.rogers.com>
Date: Mon, 1 May 2006 03:16:28 -0230

Hello, Professor Salzman,

I’ve read with surprise and disappointment your comment “. . . on Kim Peterson’s rebuke of William Blum for using the term “Israel Lobby”.”

Incidentally, the name is Kim Petersen. I like people’s names to be spelled correctly. It is, after all, about the only thing we have that is our very own.

Please explain succinctly how Mr. Petersen’s article can, in any way, directly or indirectly, be seen as a “rebuke” to William Blum? I find this accusation very troubling, misleading, and grossly inaccurate.

The theme of Mr. Petersen’s essay, which should be apparent to everyone, yourself included, is the erroneous use of language with respect to the “Israel” lobby in the US. You must know, and I certainly know, as Mr. Petersen stated, that such an entity does not exist. In fact, anyone with a functioning brain cell is fully aware that there is no such thing as an Israel lobby in Washington. It should be called what it is, once and for all time, or is there some reason why it hasn’t been referred to as the Jewish lobby, which, of course, it is?

For goodness sakes, how can you honestly describe Mr. Petersen’s comments as “nitpicking”? If one doesn’t use appropriate language in one’s writing, then the reading public is being misled. Misleading the public is not what anyone should do.

For instance, using such phrases as “collateral damage” to dismiss murder; “disputed territories” to describe the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and so on is hardly the stuff progressives ought to be scribbling. And certainly “Israel lobby” is a huge misnomer if ever there were one.

Mr. Petersen’s articles are, and have always been, honest, well researched, and well written. His focus is the issue not the person. To state that his article, There is no “Israel Lobby”, is a “rebuke to William Blum” is not only inaccurate, it is very prejudicial.

Angie Tibbs
Canada


All comments and criticisms are welcome.    <george.salzman@umb.edu>

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