A reply to Bill Templer’s “The Last Taboo?”

Templer’s letter is at http://pwgd.org/gs/2006/04/29/the-last-taboo/

reply by G.S.  <george.salzman@umb.edu>

April 30, 2006

this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-04-30.htm


Arenas of struggle: keeping our perspective
     A principal arena in the struggle for liberation is in direct resistance to repression by governments and their corporate bedfellows, the giant capitalists. Equally important is the struggle to build our own grassroots infrastructure in opposition to the dominant infrastructure. This work I refer to as "On the Ground" efforts. Far less significant are the debates among academics and intellectuals on the precise meanings of words, who said what, what it means and how it might be misinterpreted by right-wing hatemongers. As an unregenerate “self-hating academic” (and a Jew), I am determined not to get sucked into such diversions, a variety of intellectual masturbation. Hence my “answer” to Bill Templer.

Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2006 19:05:49 -0500
Dear Bill Templer,

      Yesterday Nancy and I went up to the small Zapotec mountain town of Guelatao de Juarez in the northern Sierra of Oaxaca, where a two-day festival was in progress to celebrate the 4-year anniversary of a communal radio station. Radio Estereo Comunal broadcasts, in Spanish, at 300 watts (i.e. with a 0.3 KW-signal strength — that’s the power used by 3 100-watt bulbs) that reaches about 40 kilometers (about 24 miles). It’s an unlicensed station, called a “pirate radio station” by the true pirates who make up the government-capitalist class of Mexico (and most nation-states). Like in the U.S., the Mexican ruling class is aware of the “danger” that open communication among ordinary people might present to the dominant power structure, and just passed a new law to make non-commercial broadcasting even more marginal. At the same time, the government has begun to close down some “illegal” stations by confiscating their transmitters. Same story in the U.S. of course.

      The poor people here are under unrelenting assault by all the forces of neo-liberalism, and the Indian peoples of Mexico see themselves threatened (I think accurately) with cultural genocide. Basically, that’s why the Zapatista’s “Other Campaign” is finding so much resonance here. Marcos, misunderstood and mislabeled a “blowhard” by a good friend whose views are influenced more than he would wish to believe by The New York Times, is in truth a poet, and a very sophisticated one at that, as the Narco News website makes clear in its reports on the “Other Campaign𔄙. A short (just 13 and 1/2 minute) newsreel shows him talking
Video Newsreel: The Windmills of Capitalism (13:32) about the destructive plans of the big-energy-allied financial interests in the language of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, his favorite book, I read.

      So, Bill, you’re wondering why I’m writing this as an “answer” to your e-mail to me yesterday. In brief, because I don’t want to be diverted from these real On the Ground struggles by what I’m coming to regard as your obsession with the fear that discussions of the role of The Israel Lobby (Mearsheimer and Walt’s term) are stirring anti-Semitism. This morning I read, first the Robert Fisk article, for which you did not supply an adequate URL, and then as much as I could stomach of the two articles you recommended and gave links to, as follows:
1. “London-based Sociologist David Hirsh critiques Fisk in an article “Slipping Standards” that is worth reading:
http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/david_hirsh/2006/04/conspiracy_is_an_easy_
way_out.html
"
and
2.http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=391.” The link that Hirsh gives is to The Independent, which only allows access to the full article for paid subscribers or those who purchase it (not for cheapskates like me).

      For the rest of us, it’s titled: Breaking the Last Taboo — The United States of Israel?, by Robert Fisk, available on ZNet at
http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=107&ItemID=10169 and on Counterpunch , which published it on 27 April 2006, at http://counterpunch.org/fisk04272006.html.

      Bill, speaking of the “website he [Hirsh] has organized over the past year ENGAGE http://www.engageonline.org.uk", you wrote that it “brings together much thoughtful commentary about the dangers of this discourse” and, a bit later referring to the eye-catching illustration that The Guardian used, you said “There [at the link below] you can also see the consciously offensive ‘stars and stripes’ cover of the Independent for April 27 that many Jews will find anti-Semitic in the classic sense. Of course there is more than one reading of the image:http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=391. What’s yours?”

      You say, “of course”, a semantic usage you found objectionable in Jeffrey Blankfort’s polemic, but here you preface what to me seems a false assertion with “Jeff’s” ‘of course’. And then you challenge me with the question, What’s my interpretation? There’s only one interpretation I see, namely replacing the 5-pointed stars in the otherwise accurate U.S. flag with the 6-pointed stars of David says, “Buy today’s Guardian and read how the Jews are running the U.S.”

      Have you, or sociologist David Hirsh confirmed that Robert Fisk is responsible for that choice of graphic? Hirsh, who is clearly “over the top” says in his article, “As if the Independent hadn’t noticed that the “Lobby” paper had been widely rejected as a profoundly flawed piece of work, it commissioned Robert Fisk to write a four-page piece about how wonderful it is and how brave Mearsheimer and Walt are.

“There is no doubt what the image used by the Independent of the Jewish Stars and Stripes says. It says that Jews control America. ...”

      Hirsh’s notion that The Independent commissioned Robert Fisk to write a particular article seems to me absurd. So far as I know, Fisk is not “commissioned” to write anything. He’s a truly independent person, as well as I can judge, and I would bet he wrote the article of his own volition. To my knowledge he is a regular employee of The Independent, and doesn’t rely on doing work for commissions. Am I wrong? And if so, how much was he paid to write that article? Moreover, I didn’t find it objectionable, at least from a first reading. It seemed quite reasonable to me.

      Incidentally, your ‘Of course’ statement also is in contradiction with the second paragraph of Hirsh’s statement that I quoted above. At this point, Bill, I’ve lost interest in refuting your earlier posting, article 15. Untouchables?, in The Jewish-Israeli Lobby category of the weblog. I began to mark my copy a week or so ago, but there’s no way I can deal with all the undertones of your polemics without giving up work that is more important to me, my efforts at local organizing. I’ll insert here an earlier letter about some of that work, for whatever interest it might have for you.

Sincerely and with all good wishes,
George


Subject: Guelatao, 29 abril 2006, diecisiete fotos de la fiesta del Radio Estereo Comunal
From: George Salzman <george.salzman@umb.edu>
Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2006 15:32:14 -0500
To: Kendy Hernández Luna <metztlik@hotmail.coma>,
       Juan José <comin @laneta.apc.org>,
       Jaime Luna <tioyim@yahoo.com.mx>,
       Aldo Gonzales <aldogonro@hotmail.com>,
       Nancy Davies <nmsdavies@yahoo.com>
BCC: (46 BCCs)

Oaxaca, domingo el 30 de abril 2006

Amigos y amigas,
      Muchas gracias por su hospitalidad ayer a la fiesta. Este miercoles Nancy y yo vamos a presentar un informe breve al grupo OSAG (siglas en inglés del Grupo Estudiar-Acción de Oaxaca) sobre su Radio Estereo Comunal. Nuestro grupo le gusta una discusión, Kendy, cuando es conveniente por usted. Mis fotos de la fiesta son disponible sobre mi sitio de web. Queremos mantener contacto. Felicitaciones sobre el aniversario cuarto de su Radio Comunal. Un gran desarollo.
Saludos y abrazos,
George

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