of the Human Problem
by G.S. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
13 May 2006
this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-05-13.htm
this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-05-13.htm
Catholics?, or Muslims?, or . . .?) can't be all bad
Priorities in struggle; keeping our focus on the primacy of our
1. I believe the top priority in our struggle for liberation — right after not losing our sense of humor — ought to be our effort to build our own grassroots infrastructure in direct opposition to the dominant global capitalist web. It’s fun working on things we really want to do, but that’s not why, or at least not the major reason why I keep trying to pull myself away from getting entangled in endless theoretical arguments. It's because positive, constructive efforts will, if enough of us undertake them, enable us in the long run to actually gain control over our collective and individual lives. In order to free ourselves from oppression by landlords, banks, corporations, and hierarchical governments, we need to focus on steps that will lead to replacement of the capitalist system and the entire set of values that maintains it, some of which long precede capitalism itself.
2. Of second priority in the struggle for liberation are massive protest actions, for example, mass mobilizations that demonstrate widespread oppositon to an ongoing or threatened attack on another nation (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, etc.). Campaigns to persuade congresspeople to act differently and to affect public opinion by writing letters to the newspapers are also widely advocated “legal” actions. These mass efforts are not nearly as effective, I believe, as the enormous resources expended on them would require in order to be justified. Local counter-propaganda efforts carried out in hundreds or thousands of small communities, done by familiar local people, would be much more “cost effective” in altering public consciousness.
3. A third arena, of least if any significance, consists of the incessant buzzing of academics and intellectuals attempting to second-guess what the political power-wielders are likely to do or not do, and seeking to analyze what has happened (9-11, Pearl Harbor, the J.F.K. Assassination, etc.), on the basis of miserably incomplete information because governments, all of them run by duplicitous politicians, conspire, act in secrecy and invariably lie about what they are doing and why. Even worse are the interminable arguments (and ensuing accusations) 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 again (see the Mearsheimer-Walt-inspired debate on The Jewish-Israeli Lobby on my website and weblog as well as elsewhere — Oi! Oi! Oi!).
These suggestions are primarily but not exclusively for people who have some disposable income beyond what bare-bones living requires every day. So they are mainly applicable in the U.S. and other rich countries, although in every nation there are well-to-do people, the economic upper classes, who can in principle contribute to overthrowing global capitalism. A much more extensive list of actions for boring into the heart of the monster is in James Herod’s essay, Getting Free, Section 7, titled “Ways to Begin Gutting Capitalism” at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/GetFre/07.htm.
1. Do everything possible to avoid taxes. All taxes are for support of the bureaucratic state structures, at all levels: federal, state, county, city or town. Instead, build true communities based on autonomous self-governing local neighborhood assemblies with face-to-face direct democratic decision making. Examples of such small communities exist in parts of Mexico, not ideal of course, all of them struggling to assert their autonomy against the dominant bureaucratic structures. Above all, build trust with your neighbors. True communality cannot exist without mutual trust. Capitalism thrives on, and generates mutual distrust.
2. Build a vibrant “underground” economy, based on non-commercial trading of goods and services and/or, better yet, on direct mutual aid to avoid taxes on money or other “measured” transactions and to cement a true sense of communality. Encourage sharing and common use as much as possible, to reduce private ownership and accumulation of private material wealth. Think of your children and grandchildren inheriting a better world rather than private property. Work towards true social security based on a true local communal social structure.
3. One example of diverting real material wealth into the grassroots infrastructure is provided by a house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1999 I deeded it irrevocably to a Trust. Currently five housemates/tenants live there and each is contributing $500/month to the Lucy Parsons Center Building Fund. This lowers what would be my rental income (since I have a so-called life estate in the property), and thus my income taxes, and because the Lucy Parsons Center (LPC) http://www.lucyparsons.org/ is a tax-exempt group, it also lowers the income taxes of my housemates, a win-win situation, while diverting $2,500 per month into the building fund. Eventually when the LPC is able to buy a building and pay off any mortgage incurred, that will be a part of the “On the Ground” material wealth belonging to our grassroots infrastructure.
4. Support, in whatever ways you can, building a vibrant local and global grassroots communication and news network. The need for authentic grassroots-based news has never been more urgent, as you can glimpse by reading, for example, the Narco News website at http://www.narconews.com/en.html that reports on the current, absolutely fascist assaults by the Mexican government against Mexicans in communities near Mexico City. The horror perpetrated by the armed police forces is misrepresented by the corporate media as having been instigated by the townspeople. Of course they show the violence — that’s their bread and butter, the more bloody and frightful the better, but they lie about its cause. And many people are deceived.
nations oppress poor people to benefit the wealthy
Turning to one of the “oldest” parts of the world, on 8 May I got a desperate e-mail from the Gaza Community Mental Health Center. Just past midnight that night I wrote my brother, and then sent my “S.O.S. from Gaza” e-mail. This Israeli siege of, and attacks on 1.4 million Palestinians trapped in Gaza in a “Medieval siege” resulted in a vigorous e-mail exchange, some of which is posted on the weblog at http://pwgd.org/gs/2006/05/11/7-sos-from-the-gaza-community-mental-health-
program-gcmhp/. The longer items are given or linked to here, in the order sent or received.
Date: Tue, 09 May 2006 00:37:47 -0500. A note to my brother that continued earlier correspondence, at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-05-09L1.doc. The file also contains his response to that note and his response to the S.O.S. e-mail distribution My note refers to excerpted material from the Mearsheimer-Walt research paper that I sent him, and from which I quoted. The excerpts from Mearsheimer-Walt are at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-05-09L2.doc.
Date: Tue, 09 May 2006 01:07:10 -0500. The S.O.S e-mail distribution in included in the weblog posting linked to two “paragraphs” above.
Date: Tue, 9 May 2006 19:37:17 EDT. I received from my brother, without comment, a New York Times May 9, 2006 article, “Israel Seizes Boat Carrying Explosives to Gaza”, by Steven Erlanger. The link to this article is http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/09/world/middleeast/09cnd-isra.html?_r=1&
Date: Tue, 09 May 2006 20:43:12 -0500. I mailed my brother, without comment, a New York Times May 8, 2006 article, “Funds Cut, Gaza Faces a Plague of Health Woes”, by Steven Erlanger. The link to this article is http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/08/world/middleeast/08gaza.html
Date: Wed, 10 May 2006 08:55:03 EDT. An e-mail to me on the previous item..
From: Lawrence Salzman <email@example.com>
A tragic situation. However, if you read the article it points to the fact that “his anger is a sign of the mounting frustration over the gaps in health care here, which are a result of a double crisis: the budget deficit in the Palestinian Authority which has worsened significantly since Israel stopped transferring tax collections, and the United States and the European Union cut off aid after the Hamas government took over and the inability to get goods into Gaza through the main crossing point at Karni, which the Israelis keep closing whenever there is a security alert.”
The last phrase in this paragraph is a gentle way of saying “suicide bombers.” There have been a number of them, killing both Israelis and Palestinians waiting in line to get through.
Later on it says, “Though the lack of funds is a significant problem for the Palestinian health care system, supply shortages are less severe on the West Bank, where cargo crossings are less of an issue.”
Why do you think “cargo crossing are less of an issue” on the West Bank? Very simple, better control over potential suicide bombers and other possible attacks.
Also, as the article notes, “The Palestinian Authority is in part the author of these problems, for failing to stop attempted attacks on Karni...” The Israelis are not angels, but the Palestinians have to assume a significant part of the blame for their own situation.
And, “After the Hamas victory, Israel stopped handing over tax payments, and after Hamas took office, Washington and the Europeans suspended aid because Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and forswear violence.”
Realize, Hamas has to pay for the weapons it tries to bring into Gaza as well as the West Bank. I sent you an article yesterday about Palestinian attempts to smuggle arms into Gaza by ship. By the way, if you read that article, the Israeli patrol boat that spotted the smugglers, did not catch them as the arms on the Palestinian “fishing boat” were quickly dumped overboard and the boat fled, blending in with the many other Palestinian fishing boats. The Israeli patrol boat decided not to try and find them, but sent divers down to retrieve the arms and ammunition which they found in, if I remember correctly, 30 feet of water.
Among other reasons, one is that if the Israelis turn over the roughly $50 million a month it collects which up until Hamas took over, and in spite of all the prior problems, was turned over to the Palestinian authorities every month, can be and obviously would be used to pay for the arms that it attempts to smuggle into Gaza and the West Bank.
As it continues, “There has been discussion of a new structure to funnel aid to health and education departments or individual Palestinians that would somehow bypass the Hamas government...” It appears that this is what will be done and from what I’ve read, in the immediate future as governments realize the tragedy for ordinary Palestinians, a tragedy caused to a great degree by Palestinian leadership.
“It also pays for the treatment in Israel...” Notice, a percentage of Palestinians who need medical care go to Israel. Trudi and I observed this when we visited Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, a hospital that ranks literally with the finest in the world.
“Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said there had been no special restrictions on transferring medical supplies since Hamas took over. “Israel wants to do all it can to avoid suffering among Palestinians,” he said. “But we have legitimate security concerns with an administration run by Hamas, which espouses terrorism against Israel.”
I assume you will dismiss this paragraph as you appear to dismiss anything that doesn't fit your totally biased view of the general tragedy.
The last two sentences of the article you sent say, “Unfortunately, the whole world has chosen to punish us for our vote for Hamas. And I also blame everyone who calls himself a Muslim and who does not help us.”
Notice he “blames everyone who calls himself a Muslim...” The situation is multidimensional. However, until and unless Hamas changes its political stance not to recognize Israel’s right to exist and curbs violence, there is little chance of even an approach to a dialogue. Notice that Abbas is trying to gain a greater degree of political clout within the Palestinian authority as he wants to sit down with the Israeli government and work out a solution and peace. Abbas is being opposed by leaders of Hamas. Los
Date: Wed, 10 May 2006 09:51:41 -0500. My response to Lawrence on the newspaper articles.
I read the article by Steven Erlanger that you sent, and of course the one I sent you. I don’t know whether you believe them partly or entirely?
This kind of back and forth on what can be deliberately falsified reports (like by the Israeli military) is unlikely to be fruitful. You want to believe what The New York Times prints, and I am extremely skeptical. Thus you interpret what is written in as favorable a light for Israel as is possible, ignoring any question of credibility. The New York Times, you no doubt recall, was a major propaganda force for justifying the “pre-emptive” attack on Iraq, a savage and despicable act by the U.S. Later, when it became incontrovertably clear that there had been no weapons of mass destruction, The Times did a mea culpa, letting itself off lightly and firing the chosen culprit, Judith Miller. This is not some new phenomenon. The Times has been lying on behalf of the ruling class ‘forever’. It is part of the ruling class. You’re happy when the interests of that group coincide with what you (mistakenly) believe are the interests of the State of Israel and world Jewry. I would not be at all surprised to learn that you were pleased that the U.S. was going to attack Iraq, and that now you’re in favor (though probably not openly) of an attack on Iran by the U.S. or Israel. Avid support for both attacks was nowhere as great as in Israel and in the so-called mainstream Jewish groups such as the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC). It’s clear that you would even would like to believe the statement in the article,
“Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said there had been no special restrictions on transferring medical supplies since Hamas took over. ‘Israel wants to do all it can to avoid suffering among Palestinians,’ he said. ‘But we have legitimate security concerns with an administration run by Hamas, which espouses terrorism against Israel.’”
Are you equally ready to believe the blatant lies regularly pronounced by the White House mouthpiece for Bush? I tend to doubt you are. In any case, this kind of exchange, which you seem to prefer instead of dealing with more fundamental issues, isn’t going to resolve our differences.
I’m waiting for a substantive response from you on the questions of the intentions of the Zionist program, as exemplified by the statements attributed to David Ben-Gurion in the excerpts from the Mearsheimer-Walt working paper I sent you. If you can provide evidence that they are false that will go a long way in destroying my belief that the Zionist leadership was conniving and dishonest from the very early stages of the project. It would not convince me that the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine was at all justified, but that is a separate question.
Your resort to what amount to ad hominem criticisms of my judgement are, I think, indicative of your unwillingness to deal with facts that you claim trouble you, e.g. you wrote, “I assume you will dismiss this paragraph [the one quoting Mark Regev above] as you appear to dismiss anything that doesn’t fit your totally biased view of the general tragedy.” I believe you are unwilling to acknowledge that (as Ben-Gurion acknowledged) the Zionist project envisioned the conquest of Palestine, and part of that plan required maintaining a substantial Jewish majority, and hence ethnic “cleansing”, which has been and is continuing to be applied with, as Ben-Gurion stated, "brutal compulsion". Your frequent use of the term “general tragedy” is a resort to unreason, making it seem you are compassionate and wish (which I believe you do) the human suffering could end, but avoiding its genesis. It’s an empty wish. I believe you are content that “the Jews are ‘winning’", uncomfortable only with the fact that the “brutal compulsion” is becoming more and more widely recognized and condemned, and you wish “the Arab problem” could be resolved in a less offensive, more humanitarian way. I believe you are in a logical and moral impasse. Clearly, we can’t both be right.
I ask again for Samantha’s e-mail address. By the way, you don’t need to inform me about the Nazi’s intentions and what they did. I will at some point list for you the books I have read that deal explicitly with that horror. Yes, I am a latecomer to what you term a “general tragedy”, but that does not mean I cannot try to learn as much as I am able and come to informed views. I am indeed tortured by the state of humanity.
Best wishes in the worst of times,
Date: Wed, 10 May 2006 22:04:16 +0200
From: Dorothy Naor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Marianne Torres <email@example.com>, Jeffrey Blankfort <firstname.lastname@example.org>
CC: George Salzman <email@example.com> . . .
I don’t usually enter your (or other) debates, merely because as an Israeli (Jewish) activist against the occupation, I haven’t much time to debate (except when doing presentations when abroad). There is just too much to do, and not enough of us to do. So mainly I use email to inform, not to debate.
Actually, that is also my intention here — to tell you something you might not know. Tonight an Israeli television news report (channel 1) seems indicative of things to come, and the word should be spread. The report reveals that a Palestinian city with some 400 structures, narrow alleys, even a minaret has been built in the Negev for Israeli and American troop convenience — to practice house to house fighting in urban Palestinian and Iraqui communities. This does not bode well for either Iraq or Palestine, but my concern now is the latter.
This village-for-warriers-to-practice-killing-Palestinians, together with what I see happening in the OPTs [Occupied Territories –G.S.] (I’m there at least once a week — mainly in the Salfit governate, though I also go to some demonstrations against the wall in other areas) bring me to conclude that Israel is increasing its endeavors at ethnic cleansing. The changes that have been occurring the past several months (fences everywhere, more road blocks than ever, longer waits at checkpoints, tall lookout towers that can be used to snipe from springing up outside villages that have never been violent, continued land theft, etc etc etc suggest that attempts at ethnic cleansing are increasing in intensity, with the notion that making life as tough as possible for Palestinians will encourage them to leave, if not Palestine, at least their villages and run to urban areas that are safer (e.g., Bethlehem or Ramallah). There are not many of these ‘safer’ urban areas left. It appears (to me, at least) that Israel’s ethnic cleansing is aiming at driving as many Palestinians out as possible, in order to urbanize the OPTs for continued Jewish settlement to produce the ‘greater Israel,’ leaving Palestinians 4-5 cities with no hope for expansion or means of sustenance.
Immigration to Israel has almost entirely dried up (this past year population increase was due to birth not to immigration). The notion of a Jewish state demands a Jewish majority. With demography the main Zionist criterion, it appears that Israel’s governments have realized that the only way to keep a Jewish majority here is by driving the Palestinians out. The simulated Arab city in the Negev is an ominous sign of what awaits the Palestinians. Heaven help them, and all of us, because it doesn’t seem as if the world gives a damn more about what happens to Palestinians than it did about what happened to Jews, Gypsies, Communists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc during WWII.
This Palestinian city in the Negev was undoubtedly paid for with American $s. If you have time and influence, use it to cut American military aid to Israel, and to encourage the Presbyterian Church and others to engage in divesting from (at the least) companies that help maintain the Occupation, and boycotting Israel.
Date: Wed, 10 May 2006 16:46:51 -0700
From: Manuel Garcia, Jr. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Dorothy Naor <email@example.com>
CC: Marianne Torres <firstname.lastname@example.org>, . . .
Hello everybody (as Grover might say),
Thanks for the informative, if depressing responses. Doesn’t it strike you that Israel and Palestine are like a laboratory experiment that the US is fiddling with, observing the results of test procedures (e.g., missile-firing helicopters, walls, checkpoints, probably “smart” electric wire fences and sensor arrays, tunneling probes, bomb and contraband “sniffers,” propaganda and disinformation campaigns and “peace plans” etc.) to shape its response to its own North American Palestine — Mexico.
Deep down, I think that’s the real US connection to Israel; it’s not “the Lobby,” though the Lobby certainly stage-manages much of the activity today, instead I think the draw is a visceral kinship of killing “redskins,” and wherever such killing is done is called “the frontier.” I imagine when US planners think logically about Israel it fits into schemes for controlling Middle East and World oil. But, down at the level of the limbic system, I think the dominant culture in the US is still fighting an Indian War, a pure, passionate and illogical, racist will to dominance. And that is why we stick with it so vehemently, it is just mesmerizingly exalting to be Nazis, to have the chance to exercise absolute power over a captive people is an orgasm that can’t be passed up. I think history shows that of those given such a chance, few have let it go. I do not think Nazism is an aberration, instead it is a very near potentiality of all populations. In this regard Israeli Jews are no different from anyone else. I know the “supporters of Israel” will argue (strenuously) that “Arabs” would do the same or “worse” if they were given the chance. I’m sure that is true, because I am sure the argument applies to all populations.
Logically, there are two possible outcomes, or “solutions:”
1. evolve beyond the attraction of your own opportunity to be Nazis (under you own brand-name, of course), and take the slow, tedious, diplomatic, and I believe socialist way out of non-violent negotiation, compromise and then really honoring agreements, or
2. we can just allow “force” to rule; when it is with us we dominate, and when — if our luck changes — we find ourselves at a disadvantage to the enemy hordes, then we must reconcile ourselves to similar treatment. One can think of this as the Trojan Option. I know the US and Israel look invincible today. It is not logical to imagine the situation will change dramatically or soon, but it is also true the the future is always uncertain. We are sowing what we will reap.
Manuel Garcia, Jr.
Date: Wed, 10 May 2006 21:05:07 -0700 (PDT)
From: Bill Templer <email@example.com>
To: George Salzman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
1. Dorothy Naor's input on an IDF [Israel Defense Force —G.S.] training facility for urban house-to-house combat operations in al-Naqab desert is part of the fascist reality which an Israeli organization she works with has been fighting for the past seven years: the group is New Profile. They are in the forefront of grassroots work for the (feminist) de-militarization of Israeli society and Israeli-Jewish mindsets. Here is their annual report for 2005: http://www.newprofile.org/showdata.asp?pid=1047.
Young Israelis in uniform are able to do what they do in part (maybe in large part) because of the militarism that permeates Israeli society. The broader electorate supports the Wall and this strangulation of the ‘enemy,’ contaminated by the same militarization brainwash. The Israeli plutocracy is engineering ‘collective punishment’ against Gaza and has mindcleansed most Israelis into accepting this policy as ‘eyn brera’ (‘we have no choice’).
New Profile is active on the ground round the clock in this key struggle against this military mindset that infects Israeli schools, male camaraderie networks and most everything else. Profil Hadash welcomes support (moral, material): http://www.newprofile.org/default.asp?language=en
2. The struggle against the Wall continues at Bil’in and elsewhere as we talk. Anarchists Against the Wall, as I’ve mentioned before, also needs support: http://squat.net/antiwall/. They’ve just issued a new call for people to participate on the front line at Bil’in this weekend, side by side with Palestinians. And could use material aid. This is physical resistance against the ghettoization, direct action hard ball. Check out this article in last Sunday’s Jerusalem Post, on the ground, informative: http://www.ainfos.ca/en/ainfos18063.html.
3. Another organization some of you might want to connect with, even become active inside, is One Democratic State in Palestine/Israel: http://www.one-democratic-state.org. We project the frame for an alternative to this insanity. Many political views inside ODS. A bit different from the ‘solutions’ Manuel imagines.
4. Whatever the basis of ‘comparison’ between Wehrmacht / Sicherheitsdienst operations of ‘punishment’ and 'reprisal' in WW II and the IDF, it probably misleads the specific discussion. Why debate this? I imagine New Profile would agree.
At one level, it’s arguably ‘worse’ than Nazi Germany. Most Germans after 1 Sept 1939 had little real idea of what was happening under the Occupation and at the front, they lived in a super-totalitarian state of total info control and extreme domestic repression. Israelis know what’s happening a short drive from Ashkelon or Tel Aviv, J’lem or Afula, or can easily find out. But ostrich out instead.
5. Jeff has some insightful comments, yet what is the possible meaning of this: “But we know what Israel thinks about […] the existence of non-Jews, in general.” The ‘existence of non-Jews, in general’?!
If you want me to add or remove your name from my “large”
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