Straight talk with Israel Shamir
G. S.  <georgeisalzman@yahoo.com>
initial posting 5 June 2009 - last update 27 Dec 2010

URL: http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/t/2009-06-05.htm

      A few weeks ago I'd never heard of Israel Shamir. Somehow or other his name came up, prompting a Google search. It quickly became clear that he was reviled by some of the most despicable of Israel's apologists. Which whetted my interest in learning more about him. So I wrote a letter, the first one, which follows the figure caption, on 24 May 2009. Much to my surprise, and pleasure, Shamir wrote back the same day (the 25th in Israel-Palestine), and so our exchage was under way.


Some things can't be fixed. Here in Oaxaca there are endless demands for 'justice' for people who we all know have been disappeared by government thugs, undoubtedly killed, most likely after having been brutally, excruciatingly tortured. Such victims are beyond justice. All we can do is try to prevent the continuation of such inhumane actions. This frightful photo is from an article by Nidal Sakr at http://www.marchforjustice.com/showdetails.php?id=32731. It should be unthinkable that other human beings -- and they are always 'other', not infrequently with darker skins -- are starved, if not to death to a state of severely stunted development, prevented, at the least, from ever experiencing a healthy existence.


      1 First note, from me to Ellen Cantarow - who was a former colleague at UMass-Boston, Israel Shamir, and three folks who had been critical of Israel: Ali Abunimah, Hussein Ibish, and Manfred Ropschitz.

Subject: People whose honesty and human compassion I can trust
Oaxaca, Mexico, Sunday 24 May 2009
Dear Ellen,
      A few weeks ago the name Israel Shamir didn't ring a bell for me. Now it does, loudly but not yet as clearly as I would wish. Can I trust this guy? I think so, but I'm not yet sure. Can I confidently add his name to my trusted list: William Blum, Mazin Qumsiyeh, John Pilger, Joe Bageant, Harold Pinter, Isaac Deutscher, Bruno Traven, Upton Sinclair, Dahr Jamail, Mohammed Omer, Peter Kropotkin, Robert Fisk, . . .? Just yesterday I saw Ali Abunimah's dismal but almost surely correct assessment of Obama's impact on the Israeli conquest of the Paletinians. I know I'm with Ali on that score, and on just about everything of his I've seen. But I also read the part of your statement that Israel Shamir quoted in http://shamir.mediamonitors.net/april162001.html, namely


Now I shall refer to other concerns raised by Ali Abunimah and Hussein Ibish. As for my alleged comparison of the Jews with 'virus', I quote the lines of Ellen Cantarow, who was present at the talk.

"I do want to stress that the comment about "viruses" cited by Ali in his letter was taken out of context. I was there; I heard the talk. This is NOT what Shamir said. Which makes me feel that The Jerusalem Post reference should be looked up in context. I do not feel it wise, when one has not read the entirety of a text, especially in a controversy like this one, to fan the flames by circulating partial statements. For those on the limited list to whom I send this note, in the Tufts [University] talk Shamir referred to the movie "Matrix," with its references to "organic" "mammals" and to predatory viruses. He then said that the original Palestinian population had an "organic" relation to the land in Palestine, whereas the European-Jewish immigrants and colonists did not, and in their consequent actions, expelling the original inhabitants, destroying villages with beautiful architecture, etc., could be compared to the "viruses" in "Matrix." I find this in perfect keeping with his "Dulcinea" essay and other pieces".


      I'm asking you, Ellen, as a long-time colleague, for confirmation (or refutation) that my impulse is not mistaken, i.e. that I can trust Shamir. He strikes me as being a brilliant, skilled polemicist whose take on many issues is either coincident with or very close to mine. I read through the entry in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_Shamir today, much of which seems intended to cast doubt on his truthfulness, and yet I'm left with the impression that he emerges as a good person. And I also read Manfred Ropschitz's piece at http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2005/04/309818.html, which focussed on 'What is the true identity' of Shamir rather than on what he said. It was that piece, clearly intended to 'do a job' on Shamir, that made me think of the wonderful works of Bruno Traven, who very deliberately wished that people would come to know him through his writing, and acted to mystify his 'true identity'.

      My desire is to have a world with uncensored communication universally, so that the intelligence of ordinary human beings, most of whom are humble, not 'highly educated' or of the so-called intellectually elite, can be shared openly by everyone. The world's campesinos have a lot to teach the privileged few with our high-tech- and high-wealth-facilitated expensive travel and luxury.

      I would appreciate hearing not just from you, Ellen, but from any of you who care to help 'set me straight'.


      2 Second note, from Shamir in Jaffa to me in Oaxaca.

Subject: Re: People whose honesty and human compassion I can trust
Date: Mon, 25 May 2009 07:47:49 +0300

Dear George,
      This was a nice letter! If you were now in Israel/Palestine, I'd stand you lunch in a fish restaurant in my Jaffa. For me, beside honesty and compassion, I'd like a sound judgement I can trust.
      Matters you refer to are quite old - some eight years ago it was all the rage to unmask Israel Shamir. I was worried then that it could bring disaster (or even a fanatic gunman, an igal amir) to my family, but thank God, everything passed peacefully. What I wrote in 2001 was very shocking then, but nowadays it was repeated by Mearsheimer amd Walt and by Slezkine and by Gilad Atzmon and many others. To speak of 'Jews' in 2001 while referring to Israeli conflict was as no-go as to speak of cunt in Lady Chatterley's Lover. A few years later - nobody even understands the reason for uproar.
      I haven't heard from Ellen for a very long time, but I see her texts from time to time. Ibish was a beast and remained an even worse beast. Martillo wrote on him: Ibish has an obnoxious tendency [http://eaazi.blogspot.com/2009/05/arab-american-two-staters-go-insane.html] to accuse Arab activists and religious Muslims of anti-Semitism in order to validate himself as the politically correct Arab-American spokesman. If they have a chance to accuse a man of Jewish origin of the same, they will always do, be it AbuNimah who condemned me or Joseph Massad who accused Israel Shahak. Mind you, I appreciate Massad, though some of his remarks were over the top. As for Abunima, he is usually saying things I am comfortable with. In 2001, he knifed me in the back, but I do not nurse hate. Who knows what he was offered. I wrote a few responses to his letter then, you can see it on my website http://www.israelshamir.net if interested. But life goes on! Please do send me your article when completed - I'll run it on my listserve shamireaders.
Yours,
Israel Adam Shamir
Jaffa


      3 Third note, from me to Shamir.

Subject: Re: People whose honesty and human compassion I can trust
Date: Mon, 25 May 2009 15:38:02 -0500

Dear Israel,
      Thank you for writing back -- it's always enjoyable to get a friendly letter. Still, I should admit that I still feel uncertainty. In your essay, Carter and the Swarm, which attracted me (and still does) there are some references that make me wonder about your judgment. In particular, your link in "overnight Lindbergh went from cultural hero [http://www.kevinmacdonald.net/BenderskyRev.htm] to moral pariah" connects to a piece by Kevin MacDonald that strikes me as being 'over the top'. Also, Eustace Mullins, whose name was unfamiliar to me, has a piece attributed to him at http://www.yamaguchy.netfirms.com/7897401/mullins/flu.html which, assuming it's not a spoof of some sort, is totally absurd.
      I've tried corresponding with Kevin MacDonald, but in spite of my evidently harshly condemnatory view of the Israeli Nazis' conquest of the Palestinians and my clear contempt for Morris Dees' Southern Poverty Law Center and Heidi Beirich's smear job for the SPLC on MacDonald, he hasn't really been responsive. I have a fair amount about MacDonald in one of my essays, which begins

Raw Hate, Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year

– a Christmas rant –
 
by G.S.  <george.salzman@umb.edu>  25 December 2007

this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-12-25.htm

      Ah, nostalgia once again during ‘Christian Global Brotherhood Week’, nostalgia . . .
My sense of MacDonald is that he is not motivated by hatred of Jews, but he believes that Jews are destroying what he regards as the civilization of northern-European derived Christians. This is a tough row to hoe, and a non-Jewish Canadian friend has cautioned me about the virulence of Gentile anti-Semitism, as I mentioned in my most recent completed essay, headed

Zionist censorship at colleges and universities
U of Ottawa, Canada; U of Cal at Santa Barbara;
De Paul Univ, Chicago; Bard College, NY State;
Clark U, Worcester, Mass

by george.salzman@umb.edu  2009-05-12
this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/t/2009-05-12.htm

      I first became ‘actively aware’ of the strenuous effort of Zionist groups in North America to suppress open public discussion of Israeli policy in universities about two years ago from an e-mail sent by a friend in Egypt. That involved a campaign which successfully prevented Norman G. Finkelstein from gaining his well-deserved tenure at . . .

      For the moment I'm going to leave it here. If you think any of my stuff is worth disseminating, feel free to do so.


      4 Fourth note, from Shamir to me.

Subject: Re: People whose honesty and human compassion I can trust
Date: Mon, 25 May 2009 15:38:02 -0500

      KMD (Kevin MacDonald) is a very brave and daring thinker. He is far from being always right; for instance I do not believe that Whites are a cohesive group, a volk, an ethnicity or even a unit. One has to have a very vivid and running wild imagination to consider Arabs, Italians, Russians, Greeks, Swedes, Brits, Spaniards forming a group opposing the US mulatto population - as far as I understand, the US has no pure-blacks whatever that means. So his concept of whiteness is based on illusion, in my view. If he would stick to WASPs, one would be able to agree, but he wants to form majority, so he needs Italians and Poles and other Catholics.
      As for Jews, he is an expert; his conclusions are to be considered, though not necessarily embraced. Lindbergh case was also discussed in Esau Tears, a very important book by Lindemann.
      In your essays, there is a logical fault, and this fault explains lack of your mutual understanding vs KMD.
      You write: "Individuals, of whatever ethnic heritage, should be judged on the basis of their individual qualities."
      Yes, every person is to be considered and judged on basis of his personal qualities - in interpersonal relations.
      No, every person is pre-judged on basis of his group belonging - in intergroup relations. At war, you shoot at your enemy totally disregarding his personal qualities.
      This is the error, in my view - you make this second sort of relations and attitudes dependent on hate or bigotry or else. One does not need so much of personal feelings. I took part in war, and I never felt any hatred to Egyptians or Syrians I fought against - though it did not interfere with my fighting qualities. Two baseball teams compete - but they do not have to hate each other. Boxers do not hate, but they do fight.
      KMD is concerned with competition for resources, an ongoing warfare between groups of society, and he pays attention to success of Jews in this warfare. He claims that this success is based on duplicity; i.e. Jews insist that they should be treated as individuals, while playing as a team. They do it (at least partly) by promoting the logical error noticable in the essay. Jews, in his view, insist to be judged on the basis of their individual qualities, while judging and dealing with others by rules of intergroup relations.
      In Israel/Palestine, we had a lot intellectual writing in Haaretz explaining why it is ok to besiege Gaza, and why it is different from Nazi policies. The key difference (in the view of these intellectual cheats) is territorial attitude versus ethnic-based. Though, why it is more acceptable to starve and bomb citizens of a certain city than to starve and kill citizens of a certain ethnicity - I can't answer. A possible explanation of KMD would be - Jews are non-territorial, that is why they promote an attitude that is good for them.
      KMD is very trying; listening to him is like listening to one's personal kategor (accuser) at Doomsday. This is painful, but good for soul. Just do not despair, as you rightly quote B.Traven.
      As for Mullins, he is a fabulous person, a disciple of Ezra Pound, and one of the most prominent American thinkers, totally outside of mainstream. Some of his views are as dreadful as those of Dr Freud who claimed that my (yours) little boy wants to kill me (you) and fuck my (your) wife, his mother.
      Well, enough for today :-)


      5 Fifth note, from me to Shamir.

Subject: Down to fundamentals
Date: Wed, 27 May 2009 20:23:10 -0500

      There's quite a gulf between us. Like you, I was brought up in a Western cultural setting. 'A smart Jewish boy', you probably also heard, 'doesn't have to work with his hands.' 'Better he should be a lawyer, a doctor, a professor.' The big advantage I had -- over you and so many of my other smart friends -- is that I'm not smart, and I've known it for many years, at least from when I started in Brooklyn College and found myself competing in math and physics classes to try to get good grades. Of course I was immersed in capitalist culture without knowing it, where competition was, and is, taken for granted. Laboriously I worked my ass off, keeping neat, careful notebooks, with little imagination and precious little poetry in my life. It's not that I was stupid, just that I wasn't smart, and that gift was supplemented by a poor memory. Nevertheless, by dint of steady application and a lot of schlepping I managed eventually to be anointed a Ph.D. in [theoretical] physics and to reap some of the privileges enjoyed by so few of the people in this badly fucked up world.
      In the Fall 1972 semester a new course, Science for Humane Survival, appeared at the Univ of Massachusetts, soon disparaged by some faculty as 'Salzman's propaganda'. By then I'd been somewhat radicalized, convinced that science, far from being 'objective and neutral', served the ruling class, and about that time, 35 to 40 years ago, I turned from physics research to social problems.
      Now, the gulf between us. You point to what you see as a logical fault on my part, my failure to distinguish relations between individuals and those between groups. I think our difference stems from my refusal to accept the world as it is, a world of which you too are highly critical but nevertheless recognize (and accept) as the social reality in which we find ourselves. The result, as I see it, is that you accept categories that I believe are illegitimate, categories that I reject as being harmful to our social life. For example, Jonathan Kovel in his Overcoming Zionism, argues (not perfectly but forcefully) for the need to give up the ideology of Zionism. I agree with him on that, but I think he doesn't go far enough. I believe there's a need to give up 'being Jewish', by which I mean the pervasive ideology among most of the Jewish people I know, and I know many, that we Jews are special, a particularly gifted ethnic group that excels intellectually (and hence ethically and morally, many falsely assume). It's the distilled result of the nonsensical notion that A smart Jewish boy doesn't have to work with his hands. This cultivated elite attitude, that manual work is suitable only for intellectually inferior people, exists of course among all privileged groups, of whom, according to Peter Novick in his The Holocaust in American Life, American Jews are among the most privileged.
      In my view, not only Jewish ethnicity ought to be considered illegitimate, but all ethnicities. No human is born with ethnicity. It's a patent absurdity, the notion of being, for example, 'born Italian'. The culture in which a newborn is raised imposes its mores, its language, its Weltanschauung -- on the 'victim', regardless of the wishes of the infant. Of course you know all this. Still, the idea of nationalism, which I see as another illegitimate concept, and of going to fight against people whose ethnic and/or national identity label differs from yours, doesn't seem to bother you, even though you "never felt any hatred to Egyptians or Syrians [you] fought against". You mention baseball teams and boxers. My view is that competitive 'sports' are part of the dominant ideology, promotion of competition instead of cooperation, promotion of mindless identification with 'the home team' or, in the Olympics, with nationalism.
      The idea that measured exchange ought to prevail, 'naturally' with money as a measure of value, ought to be abandoned, along with money, banks and all the coercive machinery of capitalism. I think Kevin MacDonald is badly mistaken in believing that Jews are, for example, inherently greedy for wealth and power, i.e. that it is an evolved distinguishing characteristic. When I lived in Rome in the academic year 1961-62 we had a seventh-floor apartment at Piazza del Diavolo (in the Quartiere Africano). The mammoth ground floor and first floor of that building housed the central computer of Il Banco del Vaticano. I remember reading a few years later of the bank's illegal money manipulations. My assumption is that it wasn't done by Jewish employees working for the Catholic hierarchy. The Catholic money lenders didn't need dishonest Jews to do their dirty work. They had their own shysters, as does every ethnic and national group. Whether or not Jews are 'over-represented' among the world's shysters I don't know, though I would not be surprised to learn they are. But to me, the major problem in the world is that of capitalism and the system of values that it promotes and enforces, including the widespread belief that different ethnic or national groups are inherently different in their social behavior.
      I'll leave this for now, not forgetting that on the most important issue -- Palestinians, and all human beings, ought to be able to live with dignity and a modicum of well-being -- we're in agreement. Would you mind if I make some of our correspondence available to others?


      6 Sixth note, from Shamir to me.

Subject: Re: Down to fundamentals
Date: Sat, 30 May 2009 00:35:03 +0300

      First of all, certainly everything I write may be forwarded and published in any way you find fit.
      Second, I do agree with you on a need to give up 'being Jewish'. I did it all right and I am happy you did it too. But it made me extremely reluctant to call for giving up other real territorial-based identities. I gave up my mythic Jewish identity, but I keep my territorial-cultural real identity. I wish others to have even more of their territorial-cultural real identity, or roots. Roots in soil, I mean.
      You write:
"In my view, not only Jewish ethnicity ought to be considered illegitimate, but all ethnicities. No human is born with ethnicity. It's a patent absurdity, the notion of being, for example, 'born Italian'. The culture in which a newborn is raised imposes its mores, its language, its Weltanschauung -- on the 'victim', regardless of the wishes of the infant."
      I disagree. Jewish ethnicity is indeed illegitimate for being exterritorial mythic identity devoid of culture, language, religion, landscape. Jews are not a national ethnic group, as Marx and Lenin convincingly wrote. But real ethnicities are perfectly OK.
      Indeed ethnicity is not (or not totally, or not to some extent) biological inheritable trait. But why this makes it illegitimate? I wear trousers, no human is born with trousers, still trousers are perfectly legitimate thing. I am a member of a Church, no man is born into a church, still church is legitimate. I do not see why ethnicity is more illegitimate than religion or party or mother tongue. Ethnicity is an abbreviation for language, mores, tradition, even faith.
      Indeed ethnicity is not something as clear cut as "being a cat". In your example, being 'born Italian' is not absurdity, it is a possibility. Most probably this identity would be chosen by a child of immigrants; a native child would probably consider himself Tuscan or Roman born and bred. Ethnic identity can change: before Garibaldi, being born Italian was impossible, not only absurd. Yes, to a great extent ethnicity is an acquired trait, yes, it can be changed, but it certainly exists and it is a legitimate shorthand for some mixture of values, culture, religion etc.
      Nationalism is not a wonderful thing, in my book, for perfect man with his roots in his native place and in his native culture has no need for nationalism. Nationalism comes as a sign of deficit - deficit of roots, culture, faith.
      However, we live in the world of deficit: due to industrialisation and modernity since the railways were built more and more people are born and bred with lack of roots. That is why they take nationalism as a city child takes vitamins instead of sun and fruits. It is a defence against Mammonist nivelation of Man, against the tendency to turn man into a cog.
      You say: going to fight against people whose ethnic and/or national identity label differs from yours, doesn't seem to bother you.
      Indeed. First, Is it any better or worse than going to fight against people whose ideas on ideal social arrangement or on divinity or on ownership differ from yours? Civil wars killed more people that inter-ethnic wars. Class war is also a very real, and bloody war. Second, People of different ethnicities never fight because of difference of their ethnicities: they fight because their ethnic groups have different view on "to whom this hill belongs" or "who may fish in this lake". This is a grave delusion to think that people ever fight because their ethnic and/or national identity labels differ. But ethnic groups are territorial groups, so they have perfectly valid reasons for conflicts. Now, Jews are non-territorial group; maybe for this reason one may forget territorial aspect of ethnicities.
      You write that competitive 'sports' are part of the dominant ideology.
      Re-read Odyssey, the scene of stone-throwing, when Odysseus wins in the competition. If this ideology remains dominant since Homer, have no doubt - that is not ideology, but biology.
      I do fully agree with you that capitalism should be undone. But we should be aware of our greater task, of undoing the damage capitalism did during last four hundred years. The world is going through terrible homogenisation, when all variety is being erased, and humans became more and more mass-produced. This should be reversed; that is why I view nationalists and antiliberal radicals everywhere as a positive element counteracting liberal nivelisation trend. Jews are guilty of speeding globalisation up, always supporting this unification. This is even worse problem than greed.
      Well, we should continue!


      7 Seventh note, from Ellen Cantarow, a March 21,2009 review she wrote of the book Defending The Holy Land: A Critical Analysis Of Israel's Security & Foreign Policy, by Zeev Maoz. Ellen's review is at http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/20927.

Subject: RE: [noaap] Young prizewinning Palestinian journalist in Rafah, Gaza, needs protection
From: Ellen Cantarow to me. ecantarow@comcast.net
Date: Sun, 31 May 2009 17:01:46 -0400

Thanks for the reference to the Mishal assassination book. See my review of a vaguely related book, attached.


      8 Eighth note, from me to Shamir.

Subject: I'll never catch up with you, Open letter to Israel Shamir
Date: Thu, 04 Jun 2009 12:24:37 -0500
      Finally got my piece on Mohammed Omer, Dahr Jamail and John Pilger posted a few days ago. In a note to Mohammed Sunday, May 31 I said in part "I hope you have not suffered any permanent physical injuries from the torture. I will try to help make your work better known among English language readers in the hope that that may afford some protection." He replied "I have severe damage in the spine as result of torture. Now in medical treatment in The Netherlands. Yes I do need protection!"
      So here it is, almost a year after the Shin Bet torturers beat him so ferociously, and he's still in need of medical treatment. To read about that horrible assault, click htm. One of the most revealing displays of the utter depravity of the Zionist State only came to my attention when I had just about finished the article. It's tacked on in Endnote 5, which reads:

A fascinating, and very timely revelation of the schemes to which the Zionist Nazis readily resort is given by the example of their attempt to kill Khalid Mishal by an untraceable crime. The book, Kill Khalid: The Failed Mossad Assassination of Khalid Mishal and the Rise of Hamas by Paul McGeough is reviewed in the 14 May 2009 issue of the London Review of Books by one of the editors, Adam Shatz. The review begins,
      "In early September 1997, Danny Yatom, the head of Mossad, arranged a special screening for Binyamin Netanyahu, who was then prime minister. The film, shot on the streets of Tel Aviv, presented the plan for the assassination of Khalid Mishal, the head of Hamas's political bureau in Amman . . . Netanyahu liked what he saw, and gave Yatom the go-ahead." Shatz's excellent review of the book is at http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n09/shtz01_.html.
      The same eager murderer is now again the Israeli Prime Minister. Evidence that this was not an aberration in the behavior of the Israeli government is given in the article, Israel's Failed Assassination Attempt on U.S. Ambassador Documented, by Andrew I. Killgore, at http://www.wrmea.com/archives/May_2004/0405013.html.

      Israel, you wrote me (29 May), "First of all, certainly everything I write may be forwarded and published in any way you find fit. Second, I do agree with you on a need to give up 'being Jewish'. I did it all right and I am happy you did it too. But it made me extremely reluctant to call for giving up other real territorial-based identities. I gave up my mythic Jewish identity, but I keep my territorial-cultural real identity. I wish others to have even more of their territorial-cultural real identity, or roots. Roots in soil, I mean." You gave up what I called the 'being Jewish' part of your ethnic identity -- your term is 'mythic Jewish identity', by which I suppose you mean that it's unreal, i.e. based on mythology, and you don't accept it as a valid representation of the real world. OK, on that we see eye to eye. However, I don't see the logic in your next assertion. Why should giving up something that you didn't consider real have any bearing on whether you give up another part of your identity? In fact, it seems to me you were not (at least in the past) reluctant to change your 'territorial-cultural real identity'. In saying this I'm assuming you left Novosibirsk in 1969 at age about 22 for life in Israel, a change in your geographical location and, I would guess, in significant aspects of the cultural mileau.
      You were responding to my note that said, "Like you, I was brought up in a Western cultural setting. 'A smart Jewish boy', you probably also heard, 'doesn't have to work with his hands.' 'Better he should be a lawyer, a doctor, a professor.' ... I believe there's a need to give up 'being Jewish', by which I mean the pervasive ideology among most of the Jewish people I know [mostly Ashkenazi Americans], and I know many, that we Jews are special, a particularly gifted ethnic group that excels intellectually (and hence ethically and morally, many falsely assume). It's the distilled result of the nonsensical notion that A smart Jewish boy doesn't have to work with his hands. ... In my view, not only Jewish ethnicity ought to be considered illegitimate, but all ethnicities."
      Probably I should have been more careful in expressing my view that all ethnicities ought to be considered illegitimate. When I wrote that I had in mind the socially very destructive uses to which the separation of peoples into different ethnicities has not infrequenty been put. For example, Christians-Jews, Blacks-Whites, Palestinians-Israeli Jews, Americans-Japanese, Serbs-Croats and so on. The dehumanization of people of a different ethnicity is almost invariable in wars. Germans as 'Huns' was standard in the U.S. in World War I. During the Second World War I had strong anti-German feelings. Your idea of ethnicity includes territorial familiarity and the entire culture of people living in a particular locale. That's fine. In fact in that sense different ethnicities offer a great deal of enrichment to one another. Our standard numbers are of Arabic origin. This is too obvious to labor.
      As for the value you see in being really rooted in the soil where you live -- what you call your territorial-cultural true ethnicity -- I have no criticism. I too think it's healthy and good to feel rooted in the place one lives, and to be connected to the soil. A good friend of mine, Joe Bageant, has an essay that puts the idea beautifully. Titled, "On Native Ground: The art of abidance and staying home", it's on his website at http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2009/04/abidance-in-form.html. And it's also on Tony Sutton's site at http://www.coldtype.net/Assets.09/pdfs/0509.Reader36.pdf. I know you're very widely read, but possibly these sites aren't familiar. Joe is from Winchester, Virginia at the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, and Tony, originally from Great Britain, went to South Africa in 1974 to work for the black (i.e. non-white) media, then at the beginning of 1990 moved to Canada, where he now lives. He still does a lot of work in South Africa. Maybe it's worth thinking about the fact that you, Joe, Tony and I are each comfortable as 'transplants' to areas and cutures foreign to our native ones. Joe lives a lot of the time in a small seaside village in Belize. Each of the four of us has chosen to live in places we weren't rooted in. Of course our ability to choose reflects our privileged status. So even though I'm sympathetic, I don't think the value of 'rootedness' in a specific geographical spot is particularly critical. What I see as valuable is to be rooted somewhere, in a locale where one chooses to be. It's a real human need that most Israeli Jews -- the fucking Israeli government supporters -- want to deny those Palestinians who want to live in Palestine. I say that with a lot of venom. Those Jews who want to drive Palestinians out of Palestine should themselves leave. They are the truly dehumanized people in that tortured land. I know they are the products of a debased culture, but that's no justification for their readiness to ignore the horrors 'their country' -- and it is their country, not yours -- is inflicting on the indigenous Palestinians.
      You wrote, "ethnicity is not (or not totally, or not to some extent) biological inheritable trait. But why this makes it illegitimate? I wear trousers, no human is born with trousers, still trousers are perfectly legitimate thing. I am a member of a Church, no man is born into a church, still church is legitimate. I do not see why ethnicity is more illegitimate than religion or party or mother tongue. Ethnicity is an abbreviation for language, mores, tradition, even faith. Indeed ethnicity is not something as clear cut as 'being a cat'." My view is that a person's ethnicity is, in all socially significant characteristics, independent of genetics, i.e. totally a product of socialization. Obviously there are genetic characteristics -- skin color, hair texture, sex, and so on, but these are not determinants of social behavior. I called for ethnicity to be illegitimate because of the social damage that concept (in the limited but commonly understood sense I used it) lent itself to. It is up to us, ordinary humans, to decide on systems of values for human society. Not incidentally for our discussion, I also believe all religion ought to be seen as illegitimate. But I'll leave this for another time. If you don't like my labelling something 'illegitimate' beause it is socially harmful I can simply say it is a belief, a practice, an institution, or whatever, that ought to be discarded because it is socially destructive. My list of such things is quite large, including:
   the practice of measured exchange, buying,
   money,
   banks,
   interest,
   capitalism,
   sexism,
   racism,
   slavery,
   religion,
   all coercive hierarchies,
   torture,
   violence, physical and psychologcal,
   private property not held for personal use (a toothbrush is legitimate private property),
   exploitation of other people's labor,
   exploitation of natural resources,
   the fetish of modernization and energy infinitum,
   indulgence in destructive, non-essential travel, especially by airplanes,
   murder,
   war,
   the existence of economically differentiated classes,
   helicopters,
   und so weite.
     OK Israel, so it's clear I'm really a nutcase. Ask any credentialed psychiatrist. I'm probably going to tackle you on the issue of war, where I think you're quite off base, but for the moment this is enough. I love your openness, your readiness to say what you think and your willingness - one might almost say eagerness - to have it out in the open. I'm disgusted with people who want to say 'brave things' that they caution me to keep private. What a pleasure it was to get your letter that began, "First of all, certainly everything I write may be forwarded and published in any way you find fit." When I saw that I thought, WOW! This guy is a mensch. No wonder so many Zionists hate his guts. He must have had really loving parents to carry so much self-assurance into his mature life. A joy to argue with.
All the best,
George
P.S. Do you know Mohammed Omer or his family in Gaza?


George Salzman is a former American Jew living in Oaxaca, Mexico, an Emeritus Prof of Physics, Univ of Massachusetts-Boston.
All comments and criticisms are welcome.  <georgeisalzman@yahoo.com>

      If you know folks who want to ‘save the world’, starting with global open communication — no censorship, I’ll be glad to add them to my Notes of an anarchist physicist listserv [noaap]. To subscribe write me, including your first and last names, please, or send a blank e-mail to noaap-subscribe@lists.riseup.net.

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Initial posting of this page: 5 June 2009.
Last update: 27 December 2010