Exchange of thoughts with Louis Urban Kohler,
a Gentile American friend, 2010-03-25

G. S. 
initial posting 25 Mar 2010 - last update 08 Jan 2011


A half dozen years ago Mel Gibson’s bloody blockbuster, The Passion of the Christ, did what it was supposed to do. It made a pile of money from people’s fascination with witnessing — from a comfortable spot at a safe distance — scenes of horror and suffering, whether on a small scale as in the torture of Jesus or on a massive scale as in the “shock and awe” unleashed on Iraq by Bush Junior and Richard Cheney. I posted an article, about an open letter to Yasser Arafat, who reportedly found the film “moving and historical”.[1] A friend reacted as follows.

Subject: Re: A letter of protest from Uri Avnery to Yasser Arafat
From: Louis Urban Kohler <>
Date: Fri, 9 Apr 2004 18:38:10 -0700 (PDT)

      In my experience (raised with intense Catholic indoctrination) the idea to hate Jews because they killed Jesus was just not there!

      I was puzzled to hear this idea for the first time, as a freshman in college. I heard it from a Jew, a sophomore who lived in the next dorm room. He teased me that we Catholics hated Jews because they killed Jesus, and I still remember being too confused to respond. I didn’t feel anything at all toward Jews. I was unaware of any kind of polarity and it was not in my nature or training to regard any other human as different from me or as an enemy. I can honestly say I was indifferent to “semitic” people — not even knowing what that meant — until Jews with whom I was thrown together in college, as dorm-mates, classmates, friends and housemates, created in my mind the feeling that there was a difference, a polarity, — even enmity & ethnic or racial hatred. Even then, as I accepted their version of the situation, — on nothing more than their insistence that it was so — I remember wondering how it was that I had gotten all the way to college without even the faintest inkling of anti-semitism. I shrugged it off that I had somehow missed something important, since it seemed so important to them.

      Now, nearly a half century later, I can draw on much more experience, having watched the middle east situation unfold and evolve, plus having lived in Russia (Moscow) and noted some interesting aspects of the situation there for the Jews, (the alleged anti-semitism which the letter (see Avnery letter linked to in endnote [1]) describes as having driven over a million Jews to refuge in Israel).

      Jews in Russia during the time of Gorbachev, when I lived there, felt besieged — and I noted the similarity with my first experiences with “anti-Semitism” — that this seemed to be expressed only by Jews themselves. They claimed they were discriminated against on a grand scale. At the same time I learned that as 1% of the population they held 17% of the advanced college degrees in Russia. I also noted (and admit this is purely anecdotal) that the Jews I knew in Moscow consistently had better apartments and better furnishings than anyone else I knew. And, of all the people eager to get out of Russia in those days, Jews seemed to be the only ones actually emigrating. They were going mostly to America and Israel, taking their state-sponsored education with them.

      After a lifetime of puzzling over these issues, I sincerely believe that Jews have developed a useful tradition of keeping alive a “persecution perception”. This helps drive them to try harder, to stick together and support and favor fellow Jews. It seems to me to be working so well that the persecution reality is no longer true. David has become Goliath! Jews may be resented, but it would seem to be due to their overwhelming success & power, and to their sticking together and disdaining non-Jews.

      Just as I don’t think “who killed Christ? etc.” is relevant, I also don’t think we should be making as much of ethnicity as we do. But I honestly think there is an agenda to force this feeling of polarity.

      I could go on at great length explaining decades of anecdotes, observations, readings and general world awareness that have led me to this perception, but it is meant only as a suggestion, a request this possibility be considered by those Jews and supporters of Israel who are conflicted between their tribal & ethnic loyalties and the actions taken in their name by Zionists and the likes of Sharon & Netanyahu, and their own sense of justice and humanity as regards the plight of Palestinians.

      I began this response with the intention of saying only that, in my experience, who killed Christ and why and how, etc. has no relevance to today’s situation. As a young man I was forced to acknowledge a polarity that for me did not exist. I suspect that kind of artificially created perception of anti-Semitism served the purposes of Zionism, the way those purposes were served, much more brutally, by the notion mentioned in the recent internet flurry (on CERJ and Fixgov) of invective over the seven Jews who control America's media — the notion that Zionists wanted Jews to be persecuted and tortured and killed, in order to solidify Zionism.

      Things have become very distorted. Many of even the most sincere Jews have a blind spot regarding Israel and its policies. We all have blind spots, and I don’t want to point fingers of blame. I just want to propose for consideration by sincere people the lessons of my own personal experience, sketched here incompletely but I think clearly enough for open minds. —Louis Urban Kohler

P.S. consider this paragraph from the end of the ‘letter to Arafat:’ (see Avnery letter linked to in endnote [1])
      “ . . . Without anti-Semitism, the Zionist vision would have remained an abstract idea. From the pogrom of Kishinev, through the Holocaust to the anti-Semitism in Russia that has recently driven more than a million Jews to Israel — anti-Semitism was and remains the most dangerous enemy of the Palestinian people. There is much truth in the saying that the Palestinians are “the victims of the victims”.

      Keeping in mind the ideas I described above, isn’t it possible to realize that anti-Semitism could be claimed, exaggerated and even nurtured to serve the cause of Zionism?

Date: Wed, 26 May 2004 20:14:01 -0500
George wrote:
Subject: Belated acknowledgement of your perceptive letter

      Thank you for your response to my distribution of the letter from Avnery to Arafat . . .

      . . . the issues are evidentally important to many people . . . The variety [of responses] is quite large, some based, as yours is, on substantial life experiences (I’m guessing you’re in your late 60’s or early 70’s).

      I tend to agree with your conjecture that ‘Jews have developed a useful tradition of keeping alive a “persecution perception”.’ Also, like you, I think that ethnicity is not (in a basic sense) important, and that it is something useful to play upon for purposes that I won’t go into right now. Until 2 years ago I knew so little about Zionism and the history of Israel that I had no fixed opinion, except that I couldn’t tolerate the cruelty visited on the Palestinian Arabs.

      [An] anecdotal [note] . . . About 70 years ago I was a little kid growing up in Far Rockaway, Queens, NY. Down the block were some Irish families, with their kids, of course. I remember one time (though not the circumstances) being called a Christ killer by one of them. I don’t recall ever being in a fight with any of them. At the same period of my life my closest friend was Everett Molinari, whose Irish mother treated me like her own. I remember coming into their house one bitter winter morning on the way to school, fingers numbed and nose running. She wiped my nose and warmed my frozen little hands. Her husband, who loved fishing, was Italian, also Catholic . . . Kids learn different things from their parents and their peers.

Fecha: Miércoles, 13 de Abril de 2005 03:40 p.m., Louis wrote:
Asunto: Re: The Jewish Threat -- real or imaginary?

      Well, the links to the Bageant essay didn’t work for me, but I’m provoked by your subject line: The Jewish Threat — real or imaginary? to say something. I have several Jewish friends and neighbors with whom I have built up enough trust over the years that I’d like to think they would accept an honest opinion or question from me without dismissing me as anti-Semitic.

      WRONG! apparently!

      I have had so many negative experiences trying to make sense of news stories and analysis regarding the Middle East that I find myself treading very lightly around them. I feel like I’m punished and disdained immediately whenever I broach the subject. This morning, I read a NY Times front page item saying Sharon is asking Bush to put pressure on Iran about the nuclear program, and on the internet read a reaction from an intelligent non-Jewish friend saying there is an obvious double standard. The US & Israeli nuclear weapons are “OK”, being on the side of right, and those of Korea, Iran, etc. evil and a threat to world peace. I would really like to see how these Jewish friends deal with these questions that seem so obviously crying out for balance & seeing both sides fairly, but I just don’t dare bring it up anymore. Careful as I’ve been, trying to sound them out about these things, I feel already that they are gently shunning me, and the threat of further shunning, or worse, is very real to me!...

On science and the real world

Fecha: Wed, 28 Sep 2005 14:28:17 -0700 (PDT), Louis wrote:
Asunto: machines and “collateral damage”

      I enjoyed your posting about power & entropy, etc. because it really rang a bell — the first time I have ever seen addressed, a thought that has nagged at the edges of my consciousness — The notion that more powerful machines are more destructive & wasteful than less powerful ones.[2]

      With over four decades of experience in construction and some experience overseas I have noticed a particularly American penchant for using the biggest and least efficient means possible to accomplish anything. When this becomes the industry standard, it raises the cost and somehow generates disdain for any “lesser” approach. (both considered good results)

      This is just a thought stimulated by that posting, and not completed here, but one I’ll ponder further.
Fecha: Thu, 29 Sep 2005 10:37:40 -0600, George wrote:
Asunto: Re: machines and “collateral damage”

      Your patience is indefatigable! I remember dashing off a note to you before leaving for Boston last May, promising to write you an adequate letter when things settled down, and of course the entire summer went by, and tomorrow will be one month since I returned to Oaxaca . . .

      My thoughts about entropy generation came from having taught a thermodynamics course for a number of years. Max Planck’s discussion of the entropy function is as close as I know to proving the existence of a true thermodynamic function, S, for a real closed system. And I remember that he did it beautifully for ideal gases, but his attempt to generalize was in my opinion not convincing. Still, what a beautiful effort! And I believe in the existence of an Entropy function (the faith of a physicist), even though it seems to me he didn’t quite prove it.

      The key realization for me regarding the importance of spatial gradients is shown in the mathematical expression for the differential dS (a true differential, i.e. a mathematically integrable infinitesimal quantity), which consists of a number of inexact (i.e. non-integrable differential quantities) infinitesimal quantities divided by the absolute temperature, the Kelvin temperature T. For example, if infinitesimal heat transfer occurs, the term dQ/T represents the infinitesimal contribution to the change of S. The inexact differential dQ (which should be displayed with a slash / through the d) signifies that there is not a heat function (a quantity of heat) within a body. The key observation is that in order to have heat flow into (or out of) a body, there must be a thermal gradient. The greater the gradient the larger the heat flow and the larger the entropy change. Engineers always strive to use materials that permit the greatest possible spatial gradients, in order to get the most power, and so more entropy is generated.

      The real question for me, which I’ve never been able to resolve, is whether metabolic energy production occurs with small spatial gradients, which I believe is likely to be so. I simply don’t know enough biology and biophysics to explore this without having to study it long and seriously, which would mean abandoning my social-political efforts. And I’m not ready to do that. I’ve talked with a few working scientists occasionally, but none of them were particularly interested. Which is not surprising, given that there’s no support for research that might show the dead end direction of Western Civilization. And of course one doesn’t have to know the science in this kind of detail to know what we must do to prevent destruction of the biosphere.

      . . . I’m going to quit here. I’ve got a noon meeting with a good Catholic friend, a so-called lay missionary with the Maryknoll order, who wants to catch up with my doings after my three months away.

On money, the Federal Reserve, and right libertarians

Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2007 06:04:09 -0700 (PDT), Louis wrote:

      I read your William Blum posting and the entire column. [3]

      I was uhappy to find such credible criticism of Ron Paul, bacause I wanted to support his presidential candidacy on the basis of his opinions about the federal reserve and our debt-money system.

      I do think the man is correct to demand we change the way we create money. After decades of study and investigation I believe our money system is badly flawed if we want our society to move toward equality, justice, and sustainability. Our money system is a prime cause of wealth concentration, war, corporate consolidation of media, corporate control of political candidacies, — all of our skewed priorities can be traced to the way our money system enables (demands) greed and lethal competition . . .

      Regarding the issues you were rightfully concerned with recently — the events in Mexico and the silencing of (was it Finkelstein?) the guy who wrote the book about the double extortion, etc. I remember analyzing and coming to the same conclusion — that they were examples of our flawed and entrenched money system protecting and prolonging itself . . .

      The place for change, effective, lasting change; has to be at the underlying, common-denominator cause, if we can find it. I believe where to look for the underlying cause is at how money works. Thirty-plus years of study continues to reinforce my conviction . . .
Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2007 14:58:51 -0500, George wrote:

      My limited experience with people who call themselves libertarians was they they condemned government but left unstated their desire that the role of the government should be to keep private capitalism unfettered. They’re fine with the U.S. protecting United Fruit’s interests in Guatemala by overthrowing the Arbenz regime, for example. Also, it seems to me they embodied a fair amount of hate, which I think goes with greed. On this basis alone, given Ron Paul’s conjectures about Blacks in D.C., I’d not even think of him.
Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2007 05:19:17 -0700 (PDT), Louis wrote:

      You said: “. . . libertarians . . . OK with overthrowing the Arbenz regime, . . . hate, . . . , greed. On this basis alone, given Ron Paul’s conjectures about Blacks in D.C., I’d not even think of him.”

      To me it’s a very stange political landscape: Hilary now gets enormous campaign money from big insurance & big Pharma; Barack might not be “black enough”; candidates seem to come out of nowhere, like “Mitt” — & then it turns out they are all (even Jimmy Carter?) members of secret and not-so-secret elitist clubs. (& who bandy about slogans about democracy, justice, — yet believe the masses incapable of self governance & not to be trusted with the truth . . . )

      I HAVE to believe change is possible, and given the power MONEY has in our lives and over our institutions and organizations, and the massive frauds being perpetrated as a result of the secrets of money creation, I believe the money system, — the nature and origins of our money today — badly needs to be widely examined and carefully “deconstructed.”

      Yet a very effective taboo seems to be in place against even mentioning it in the context of whence arise our problems. You yourself, when I broached the subject, DID respond, in your recent note to me, but about libertarians (who are a group advocating most loudly the examination and exposing of the fraudulent money system.) Which brings me back to Ron Paul. I think I must still support him (not that he has a prayer) or someone who is not busy, as all viable candidates must be, (witting or unwittingly) helping distract us from the true source of our misery.

      After decades of trying to break through the fog of our public discourse to find a direction that could produce genuine progress I have concluded meaningful change must begin with radical reform of our money system. It is simply enabling the wrong policies, pushes us toward total privatization — the very ills YOU have been addressing in Mexico, and if analyzed can be shown to be responsible for virtually all human inequities large and small. (OK I probably overstated that, but not by much)

      You have shown me over and over that you are unusual for an educated Jewish man in that you (& Seymour Melman & Norman Finkelstein . . . etc.) do not have the blind spots about Israel, AIPAC, etc. many sincere Jews seem to have. But are you still a victim of brainwashing about the money system? I don’t mean to jump to a conclusion, but our presidential candidates rise and fall on what issues they emphasize, and for me Ron Paul stood out as being willing to go where most fear to tread in this world so ruled by money — to the very basis of the problem, the fed.

      I don’t have much faith in ANY political movement or candidate until this problem of corporate power — over our politics and priorities, is addressed. So to the extent that I will participate in American elections, (what a fruitless place to put energy!) I will be sorting candidates for their interest in such matters. So you, whose clear head and honesty I have grown to trust in this world of one-dimensional issues & candidacies, derailed me by bringing in other dimensions of Ron Paul, just when I thought I had found a candidate I could support. Where do I turn?
Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2007 12:35:37-0500, George wrote:

      I want to apologize for what seemed to you an evasion on the question of money. I realized of course that you saw it as a — maybe THE — basic source of much that is wrong with our society. I don’t understand our problems the same way you do, although I’m sure we agree on a great many things . . . Because I feel swamped I contented myself with a very brief response saying only why I think it would be a mistake to support someone who (as William Blum showed) is a firm racist — in the case of Ron Paul, towards Black men . . .

      Let me try to be a little more complete in my response today.

1. I believe there should be no money. The kind of economy I advocate is the ideal of anarchist-communism, such as Peter Kropotkin argued for. This obviously is not something we can achieve in the near future. But as an ideal to strive towards it has great appeal. It does not mean, in my mind, a total abandonment of measured exchange, as it did for Kropotkin, but the establishment of a communal-type society where in place of the extreme individualism promoted by capitalism, people come to see ourselves as part of a communal network of mutual support.

      The recent contest in Oaxaca between a traditional Guelaguetza and the commercialized Guelaguetza is an example of the difference in values they represent. Traditionally, among many indigenous peoples here the Guelaguetza is an annual cultural event for sharing, literally for celebrating and giving. The Oaxaca state government has tried to preempt the traditional event and make it into a great tourist attraction to serve the interests of the commercial sector in the capital city — hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, tour companies. Entry tickets were sold on-line, here in a state where most of the people (ninety percent of whom live outside the City of Oaxaca in remote areas, many mountainous) have no access to computers.

      Nancy and I went to a town that governs itself according to the traditional uses and customs (no party politics, but a community assembly that determines the government), to attend the town’s traditional Guelaguetza. It was free — no admission tickets. In fact, and this made me laugh, they were ‘politically correct’. There were many many folding chairs set up surrounding, on three sides, the performance platform, but not nearly enough to seat the entire audience. Many people sat on a large hill overlooking the stage, on the ground or on boulders. But people who were descapcidados disabled or del tercer edad of the third age were accommodated in the area smack in front of the stage. While we were seated there townspeople who were part of the Guelaguetza working group passed by handing out tamales. That reminded me of my first experience at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota when there was a public event (open to local people as well as students and faculty) at which everyone was fed — no tickets to be punched, no money, no chits, no I.D.s, we all just got on the lines and were served food. Those who wanted seconds of one or another item went back.

      While the custom of mutual support or mutual aid ought to be taken as part of a vision of how we might live, it’s not really free of what I termed ‘measured exchange’. Although it doesn’t involve the use of money as a measure of ‘exchange value’, in fact there is a sense of mutual obligation. Help is expected, and rendered, but the person giving it has at least a memory of it and the expectation that, should the occasion arise, the recipient will act reciprocally to fulfill his or her ‘social debt’.

2. My view of elections (in so-called democratic countries) is that they are part of the fraud called representative democracy. Despite my being a committed (and I hope principled) anarchist, I have voted in various elections where it struck me as desirable to try to express my disaffection. Almost always this means voting ‘for’ the least obnoxious candidate. But the main point I would stress is that it’s a mistake to put effort into electoral campaigns. They have essentially nothing to do with the actual behavior after election of whichever power-hungry craven candidate gains the post. The system is set up to be fraudulent. Direct democracy is, I believe, what we ought to aim for. Popular assemblies with face-to-face discussions seeking consensus are my hope for self-governing populations. The basic struggle in the world today, as I see it, is not because of money (one of many tools for domination and exploitation) but because of the dominant values embodied in capitalism. The very notion of ‘my money’ is a capitalist value held pretty much across the political spectrum from right to left. Cupidity, aspiration for power, resort to murder, torture, etc. of course long precede capitalism. But capitalism cultivates them for the advantage of the rich and powerful. And, with the mechanical power of science and technology at its disposal, capitalist society is reaching an awesome scale of destructiveness, threatening humanity and a viable biosphere.

3. I think many of us are desperate and don’t know ‘which way to turn’. I am certainly in that group. All that I can suggest is that we try our best to understand what the state of the world really is, why, and then to ACT on that understanding to try to change it. In my case, I see myself as a person of very limited ability to know many things and so I try to focus on what is important. People like William Blum, and a good number of others, are very helpful to me. I’m jealous — even envious — of the enormous abilities they have, but I’ve come to terms with myself and settled on DOING what I can manage to save the world. I’m not contented with it. I’m not happy. But I have to live with myself. And I keep trying. I think we can learn from each other. Like you, I MUST have hope, and like you, I believe constructive change can only come from below, from the grassroots.

Surprise visit from Louis, who arrived in Oaxaca 16 Nov 2008 and e-mailed me soon after. We met that evening for a long talk, first time face to face.
Date: Mon, 2 Feb 2009 19:32:48 -0800 (PST), Louis wrote:
Subject: Zionists who don't know they are?

      I was South of you (actually mostly East) for over two months after we had coffee together in Oaxaca. It was a great way to spend most of the winter, (mostly Honduras with a week in Belize, then home via Cancun) and I expanded my appreciation of cultures different than the prescribed US formula. I came back determined to have a more interesting life, by being not afraid to challenge the status quo, and to ferret out hypocrisy where it is most entrenched. The opportunity was quick in presenting itself. Our town is quite adamantly pro-Israel, with many prominent Jews, so it was no surprise when a beloved local rabbi appeared on stage at the celebration of our non-violent American hero Martin Luther King Jr. (King Jr. day, Jan 19.) Rabbi David sang a song and told a story about the Israelites’ deliverence from slavery in Egypt. He called for the “redemption” of Palestine. Interpreting his position to be conciliatory and sympathetic toward the plight of the Palestinians, I was thrilled and joined the loud applause at the mention of Palestinian redemption. It was a few minutes further in his presentation, hearing him call for redemtion of all the evil people out to harm anyone, that I realized I had misinterpreted his words and intentions. I wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper recounting my joy followed by disappointment and then asked if it was possible that our town’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr., our prince of non-violence, had been turned into a forum for tacit justification of Israel’s current violence in Gaza?

      I was told by several friends this would bring down the powerful local Jewish wrath upon me. I had experienced that wrath before, having been fired from a radio job I loved, simply because in what I thought was a private conversation between two respectful adults, (the other a retired Jewish professor of Political-Science) I questioned the morality of what Israel was doing. (in 2002) This guy got furious with me, then got quiet when he found out where I worked. He engineered a few phone calls to the Jewish station master, who passed along to the newly hired manager, also Jewish, I believe, the task of firing me for whatever vague reasons he could come up with.

      So now, I have little to lose. My letter was worded in such a conciliatory way that nobody has attacked me for it. I have actually recieved some smiles that I attribute to the letter — smiles from Jewish and non Jewish acquaintances. But a local Judge (Jewish, whom I have known for decades) had a letter published four days after mine which said that recent letters about Israel had suffered from wrong information. I called and asked him if that was a response to mine. He said no and at first pretended he’d not seen mine, then acknowledged he had read it, and his letter was addressing a previous letter also published on the opinion page. So I asked how he felt about what Israel is doing, and he said they are defending themselves. About the disproportionate retaliations he said the numbers game was bogus just like Viet Nam. I asked what he thought of my letter and he said it was fine, that the rabbi was probably inappropriate to use MLK Jr. day celebration to justify Israel. He also, when pressed, said Jewish settlements in Gaza were a disaster, and that he had been there when they had been ordered to disband, etc. He could mean they were a disaster for Israel, because he shows no empathy for Palestinian plight. Anyway, I have begun a possible exchange of emails with him. I intend to press the issue, try to engage him and not let him do what he tried to do today, which was to intimidate me with his superior credentials. I intend to argue his credentials don’t mean squat if what he says is biased and polarized, which so far it certainly is.

      This won’t be easy. He has the arrogance of those who know their “side” holds all the advantages. But I intend to make him trip on his own arrogance. Not sure how yet, but would certainly like any possible advice from you, whom I really trust in these matters. You could help by reiterating how you explain your position to your brother, for example. Anyway George, I hope you are well and have some free time to respond to this situation. In any case I would love to hear from you again. —Louis Urban Kohler

Date: Mon, 02 Feb 2009 22:26:34 -0600, George wrote:
Subject: What a surprise! AND what a coincidence!

      Your e-mail popped into my in-box just minutes after I sent out a mailing to my so-called ‘small’ group, and my first reaction was, How could he respond so quickly? But then it occurred to me that I hadn’t added your name to my ‘small’ list. Ill add you right now, and here’s the e-mail I had just sent out.
Date: Mon, 02 Feb 2009 21:09:07 -0600
Subject: Turning history around
To: undisclosed-recipients:

      You are one of a ‘small’ group, now up to 84, to many of whom I’ve been writing occasionally with Blind CC notes, like this one, which is going to the entire group. My immodest goal is to work at moving the world away from the catastrophic path it’s now following. After months of being blocked from my website at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, I am now able to post materials again. Two items that I uploaded a short time . . .
      I think your experience is valuable for people to know about. Would it be OK for me to make it public? The critical thing to have in mind, I believe, is that many American Jews are so totally brainwashed by years of almost completely uncontested propaganda that they honestly believe, for example, that Israel was really defending itself by its assault on Gaza. I’m not able to advise you with regard to how I dealt with my brother, which has been quite unsuccessful. He’s glued to his position, believing that he is a kindly, liberal Jew. He’s not an unkind person, but his position with regard to the Palestinians, or more generally ‘the Arabs’ is that everything is their fault. Like the German Nazis’ attitude towards the European Jews.

      Actually the few million Jews and the few million Palestinians are but a minuscule part of the world’s peoples, and my interest is in tackling the really large problems, of which this is but one manifestation . . .

Date: Thu, 5 Feb 2009 17:00:34 -0800 (PST), Louis wrote:

      . . . I believe Allen is sincere and potentially open-minded, especially in light of the paradigm shift that many believe is happening and anyway MUST happen . . . here is the note I just sent to my friend the judge . . . the local Jewish pro-Israel lawyer & long-time friend I told you about:

      Allen, I’m really at a loss for what to do here. You clearly are committed to defend Israeli policy no matter what. You and I have some common ground about Israel’s mistakes, but you are also clearly very far from considering the possibility that Israel has gone far awry, due to having been shielded from criticism by many loyal Jews as well as non-Jews (such as my brother Tim, who just the other day expressed the very firm opinion that Israel is justifiably defending itself, — if perhaps lethally and disproportionately, from an irritant [Hamas?] that just won’t go away.)

      I DON’T believe you would agree with me that Israel has gotten away with acting like a rogue state, enabled by this powerful unconditional support from people like you and my brother the world over. (plus the American government, on which the “Israel lobby” has an enormous influence, see Mearsheimer & Walt). You may agree with me privately that Rabbi Zaslow was perhaps inappropriate blaming only Palestine at the Ashland MLK tribute, and that Netanyahu is dangerously extreme, and that the settlements have been a disastrous provocation, but your public posture that I’ve seen is 100% pro Israeli policy, regardless, with seeming very little empathy for the position into which Palestinians have been corralled.

      My tendency as a response to your Monday note and Tuesday forward of a news item about Hamas rockets and Israeli retaliation, is to take a polarized position in response. It’s as if I HAVE to pull in the other direction to get you to middle ground. I won’t do that, but if I were to give in to the impulse to pull hard in the other direction, I would demand you respond to this article written by a Jewish man, Emeritus professor of Physics from UMass Boston: (His credentials are every bit as good as yours. I know this man personally and know him to be as sincere and honest, as you I presume will take him, to be misguided and a fraud, as you do Mr. Finkelstein.)

“Doing away with the Zionist state of Israel, an earned fate”, at

      I’ll be surprised if you don’t dismiss him immediately, but George Salzman is a sincere and sane Jewish man, well aware of what he is up against. His own brother has opinions very similar to yours, as of course do most Jews and many non Jews such as my own brother. I give you George’s link as an example of a growing groundswell of world opinion that you MUST be aware of. I have another well credentialed friend, Tom, an 87-year old retired lawyer in Tulsa, who spent his carreer in a law firm with two Jewish partners. Tom got my attention a year ago by saying that there is a “Zionist conspiracy to control the world” behind both the ”new world order” and the state of Israel.

      Then there is Simona Sharoni, to whom I already referred you, as someone whose first-hand credentials on the topic of Israeli policy surely trump yours.

      I am telling you these things to make you aware that my research has taken me far and wide. Tom says there is a significant difference between Judaism and Zionism and claims that Jews are generally unaware of this difference. Both He and Salzman have corresponded with Doreen Bell-Dotan, who is an American Jew who emigrated to Israel and has written some powerful stuff on the difference as well as convergence of Judaism and Zionism.

      I myself have long been of the impression that “Zionism” was an extremist position, but I’m afraid I don’t understand its history and exact nature very well. Just last year one of my favorite Ashland people, a Jewish man named Mel, told me there’s nothing wrong with being Zionist. I know Mel well enough to know he has not a devious or prejudiced bone in his body, and also to believe this is not an original thought of his. So I assume that is an opinion he received at temple or similar source. Is this a fair representation of local Jewish opinion?

      Allen, maybe you can help me to understand the difference between Judaism and Zionism. How do you see the difference, if any?

      Finally let me say I can’t possibly expect to match your skill in a debate, about this or any other issue. I have already seen that, in your ability to frame the issues discussing this subject with me, and in your two notes, but also from your long-standing reputation in the community. (including your dealings with Tim.) Even so, I also cannot concede just because I am clearly overmatched in trying to persuade you to consider a new angle. I believe you are a very skilled and effective advocate, (“abogado” is Spanish for lawyer) and I offer this caveat: As I see it, a lawyer starts from a desired conclusion and emphasizes everything that supports it, while ignoring, dismissing, and when necessary, attacking and discrediting any evidence to the contrary. Truth in this context is irrelevant. You’ve spent your whole life and career perfecting the art of the lawyer. You’re very good at it. Has it blinded you to the truth about Israel?.

      I’m not trying to provoke or annoy you. I turned to you because I think the only hope for getting Israel off it’s horribly destructive course lies with American Jews. As a group, with your blind support you have enabled the state of Israel to “go rogue.” Only you can turn her around.

Date: Fri, 27 Feb 2009 17:43:49 -0800 (PST), Louis wrote:
Subject: Another note to the Zionist Jewish judge.

      . . .You advised me to focus on non-Jews, and so did other mature friends with whom I correspond. With one exception, and that was my lawyer friend from Tulsa, Tom . . .

      . . . Here is my latest note to the judge, after not getting any satisfaction from trying to provoke him into examining his own Zionist prejudice . . . I wonder if you have a comment on my personal first two paragraphs:

      Allen, I am quite sure you are sincere in your own mind. I also have come to believe that as a trained lawyer and someone who has received powerful pro Zionist teaching probably throughout your life, that you are selective in what evidence you consider. I find proof of that in the fact that you acknowledge (privately to me) that rabbi Zaslow may have been inappropriate in what I told you he did at the MLK Jr. event, and that Netanyahu is extreme and that Israelis have done awful things to the Palestinians, (settlements and the wall) yet you have not, in you public work, such as letters to the editor, ever acknowledged such reservations about Israeli policy etc. Also I think I made some good points in a couple of notes to you. You ignored them, just as you were trained as a lawyer to do.

      I think that this kind of commitment you have, and many many sincere Jews have, to give Israel and the Zionist cause your unconditional love and support, has enabled Israel to become a rogue state, a very powerful one with the backing of American Jewry and the American political system, wherein no politician, not even Obama, dares to call Israel into question for her many violations of international law, and enormous sums of money are routinely given to support whatever Israel does. You probably see no future in continuing a conversation with the likes of me, since your ideas enjoy “incumbency” so to speak. Mine represent a large but powerless questioning of the status quo. Yours are comfortably ensconced in the halls of power.

      I’m sending you a week old posting from the Guardian. Maybe you can do me the favor of commenting on the huge gulf between these current facts and your cherished opinions.

      So much for the fraudulent ‘peace process,’ the virtues of non-violent resistance, and Israeli ‘victimhood.’ The pre-humanist Israelis will stop at nothing. The Guardian article begins: [4]

The real Israel-Palestine story: the West Bank
Israel's targeting of civilian resistance to the separation wall proves the two-state solution is now just a meaningless slogan, by
Ben White, Friday 20 February 2009 14.00 GMT
      It is quite likely that you have not heard of the most important developments this week in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the West Bank, while it has been “occupation as normal”, there have been some events that together should be overshadowing Gaza, Gilad Shalit and Avigdor Lieberman . . .
Date: Sat, 28 Feb 2009 13:58:29 -0600, George wrote:

      To be very blunt, I personally think it is a mistake and a great waste of time and effort to attempt to converse with Jewish American Zionists who are committed to the nation-state of Israel. In attempting to be cordial, understanding and interested in knowing why your ex-judge is so committed to publicly protecting Israel despite its intolerable Nazi-like behavior, he’s left being able to feel that you’re both good guys, just with conflicting opinions about this particular issue. But he’s not a ‘good guy’, any more than Germans who supported Hitler when knowledge about that gruesome genocide was current deserved to be thought well of. I think that people like him (and my brother) don’t deserve to be treated as though they are basically decent human beings. They have become depraved, psychologically crippled by ‘being Jewish’ instead of ‘being human’. They ought to be shunned by decent folks, ostracized and made to feel that their opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are unacceptable to the vast majority of informed, compassionate human beings. Why make believe that the two of you are capable of ‘talking it out’ and eventually coming to agreement? I would say, Don’t screw around with him. He’s not worth it. Better to put one’s efforts into reaching the young folks who, in rapidly increasing numbers, are impacting popular American consciousness on this issue in many colleges and universities, and schools. It’s straightforward to be furious at the deliberate killing of children. No fancy logic or philosophical or religious meditations are needed. That’s my stance. Please forward it to that damn lawyer if you’re so inclined.

Date: Sat, 28 Feb 2009 19:10:12 -0800 (PST), Louis wrote:

      Thanks for the advice George. I think it’s pretty clear you are right: Trying to meet a committed Zionist on a level field has been a waste of my time, and worse, as you say allowed him to pretend we are both sincere individuals with a simple difference of opinion. His response proved exactly that. Thank you for being blunt and clear.

A warning about my contact with Israel Shamir

      Back in June of last year, almost ten months ago, Louis wrote me enthusiastically about my new contact with Israel.

Date: Wed, 10 Jun 2009 09:42:07 -0700 (PDT), Louis wrote:
Subject: Re: [noaap] Straight talk with Israel Shamir

      I was delighted to read your exchange with Shamir. I hope it continues and gets spread far and wide. Especially helpful is taking note of the progress that has been made — the difference between what was shocking to read just eight years ago and is much more common knowledge or acceptable now. So the firewall protecting Zionism is weakening, Yet I sometimes still despair to see that even as the understanding of the situation spreads, the possibility of doing anything about it seems if anything more remote. The idea that widespread understanding of the situation would lead to it being corrected, seems like an illusion at the moment, because understanding is spreading rapidly, yet the power being wielded outside of our field of vision seems as solid as ever.

      In my town automatic and near universal acceptance of Zionism seems a fait accompli. Folks here consider themselves enlightened and progressive, yet when anyone does muster the courage to make even a meek attempt to question the status quo of American-Israeli activities, they are punished unmercifully, especially by ordinary people who really don’t seem to understand the situation at all, yet feel a zealous commitment.

      I have to believe that truth and justice will eventually prevail, and resolve to continue to do my part. It helps to see what you are doing and the trusted friends you find in your work.

      In marked contrast to the delight Louis Urban Kohler <> expressed in my contact with Israel Shamir, a secretive professor — of philosophy no less at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. — sealed his mind against any possibility of contacts with Shamir and other recently acquired friends of mine and asked to slink back into the shadows. Mark Lance <> is an interesting example of people who do not at first display their true colors, and indeed are likely not conscious of them. Ostensibly a friendly exchange at first, it ended with Mark declaring he would have nothing further to do with me. An account of those events is posted separately.[5]

      I think it’s worth noting that of the over 1200 individuals to whom my open letter of 2010-02-28 to Giordano, and his same day reply went, [6] only three of the two dozen respondees were evidentally hostile to what I had written, the three bolded names on the list:
    1. Tadit Anderson
    2. Alberto Giordano
    3. Jeffrey Blankfort
    4. Jonathan Campbell
    5. Mark Lance
    6. Martin Posner
    7. Ansel Herz
    8. a friend who asked to remain temporarily unidentified
    9. Mark Metzelaar
    10. Gerald Spezio
    11. Stan Gotlieb
    12. Nancy E. Vinal
    13. Ramor Ryan
    14. Stephen Zunes
    15. Julie Webb-Pullman
    16. William Blum
    17. Earl Fish
    18. Amy Hendrickson
    19. David Sketchley
    20. Michael Barker
    21. Benjamin Melançon
    22. Ana María Lopez Perez
    23. Eric Pottenger
    24. Tom Hansen

Date: Sat, 20 Jun 2009 15:13:58 -0700 (PDT), Louis wrote
[responding to my note of thanks for encouraging my efforts]:

      Hey George. I’m pleased you found my note worthy. My town is Ashland Oregon, population 21,000 [Jackson County]. Did you want to publish the name of my town with my note? I suppose that is appropriate, but makes me uneasy. I’ll try to tell you why (& would it then be appropriate to publish this too?)

      I totally feel justified in what I said about local acceptance and defense of Zionism. A Peace House director moved here to take the job a few years ago from another Oregon town (Eugene, pop 144,000) and was shocked by the difference as regards community acceptance, or not, of any criticism of Israel.

      I hesitate to buck this community solidarity. As you may remember I was summarily fired (2002) from a job at the locally based community Radio network, for unexplained reasons. The firing followed quickly a local Zionist learning I worked there. He was a political Science Professor retired from UC Berkely, with whom I had discussed (away from the job) the Palestinian problem, and who found my views unacceptable. I’ve become convinced he orchestrated the phone calls to the (also Zionist) station master, and years later when I said to him “You got me fired” He replied “That was a long time ago.”

      The same station master has steadfastly resisted community efforts to have “Democracy NOW” and “Alternative Radio” air on Jefferson Public Radio (JPR), an Oregon/California network that originates in Ashland. Both of those programs often give air time to critics of Israeli policies and American Mid-East policy. Of course this has never been acknowledged as the reason for keeping them off JPR. But I suspect the station master (who like the retired Zionist Judge, was once my friend, from my work in construction) won’t allow such programming because of the occasional reporting critical of Israel. This is some of the evidence I see of Ashland’s blind pro-Israel bias.

      I have suffered much grief and little reward over the years from any questioning of Israeli policies or US backing, so you will understand I don’t relish the thought of having my words critical of Zionism broadcast here. It’s not that I want to hide these beliefs, it’s frankly the fear of punishment of the kind I have already suffered plenty with no perceptible positive results. I am not into ineffectual martyrdom & haven’t enjoyed being shunned or treated suspiciously in my community. You can believe what you want in Ashland. Just don’t speak out. Of course this kind of unwillingness and fear of speaking out has helped bring the situation to where it is today!

Date: Fri, 26 Jun 2009 22:19:48 -0500, I wtote
Subject: Re: A 3rd ‘Shamir-inspired’ posting: Straight talk 3, overcoming being Jewish, no joke

      Thank you Urban for contributing to what I hope will become a ‘circle of trust’. I’m very encouraged that even with the internet alone, which is how our relationship developed prior to your visit here, it’s possible, with some effort, to build trust and mutual respect. With your ‘go ahead’, I think I’m just about ready to make the posting public with an announcement to my listserv. I’ll let it sit until tomorrow morning in case the one remaining person who wished for anonymity wants to comment. A very good person whose wishes I must respect in this regard.

Date: Fri, 26 Jun 2009 19:50:34 -0700 (PDT)

      George I am pleased to be placed in company of the courageous correspondents you have found. I don’t think my story lost anything from your editing, and anyone from my town will find enough details still included to be absolutely sure of the town we are talking about. I think that is as it should be. People who live here will know and people who don’t live here don’t need to know the specifics; the point is still well made. At first I wanted to say “It’s as honest as I can get, so just restore the details.” but this way those to whom it matters know, and to others — the details don’t matter. I’m proud of your work and your courage. It deserves continued escalating success.

      After the last note I didn’t get anything from Louis for almost nine months, until 18 March 2010. Instead of adding this and subsequent notes to the text part of this posting, I will list these chronologically in endnote [7] as addendums, with links.
[1] The letter to Yasser Arafat about Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" is at

[2] Article on energy and entropy

[3] Blum's criticism of right libertarians and Ron Paul is the last of his comments at

[4] The Guardian article is at

[5] Mark Lance's warning about Israel Shamir and our subsequent exchange. .

[6] My open letter to Giordano and his response. These are posted at and

[7] Addenda, starting with 2010 exchanged items.
    Letter from Louis Kohler letter, 2010-03-18
    Reply to Louis Urban Kohler's 2010-03-18 letter 2010-03-19.htm
    2nd reply to Louis Urban Kohler, 2010-03-21 2010-03-21.htm
    2010-03-25, Kohler's reply to my 2010-03-21 note 2010-03-25l4.htm
    2010-03-26, my response to Kohler's note of yesterday 2010-03-25l5.htm
    2010-03-27&28, Kohler's e-mails of 2010-03-27&28 2010-03-25l6.htm
    2010-04-05, my e-mail to Kohler and others 2010-03-25l7.htm

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.  <>

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