An open letter about Robert Fisk

There’s good reason to hate Great Britain,
even if you’re not Irish

by <>  2010-07-05

      Using just ethnicity to identify someone is entirely inadequate. We all know it, but nevertheless it’s almost always the first or close to the first bit of information we give. All the rest follows, if it is even given. I do it too, of course. But I’ve had difficulty with the concept of ethnicity because it can be used, and often is, to make pretty meaningless separations of people into “them” and “us”. And these us-them distinctions can be used to generate hatreds. An example is in a letter I got the other day from a new Nazi friend, which ended with “My grandfather was Ukrainian, my grandmother Czech. I know full well what your kin [referring to my Jewish ethnicity] did. It was the rise of Zionism, Bolshevism and Communism that led to the deaths of over a hundred million people (primarily White people) in the last century. It is the foundation upon which the US and all Western White countries have been hamstrung and forced to allow the Third World in.
      “You cannot separate the Jews from their “revolutionary spirit” as the recent book claims and of which you are a prime example.” In earlier notes I had said I

Robert Fisk, photo from the Wikipedia page at http://en.wikipedia.

Born 1946-07-12, he will be 64 in a week.

am an athiest anarchist-communist, from which he drew some incorrect inferences. I have not yet written to correct his mistakes.[1] When I read his last sentence about not being able to separate Jews from their “revolutionary spirit” I thought that of course there’s a bit of truth to it (there are many Jews with revolutionary spirit) and it’s not hard to understand why. For the same reason that there are many Irish people with revolutionary spirit. And the same is true for any group of people that has suffered from a ruling power structure. You don’t need the help of a rocket scientist to figure out why that’s so. It's a natural human reaction that has nothing to do with imagined “Jewish genes”, or “Irish genes”.

      So, yes, Bob Fisk is Irish, but he’s more than that, just as each of us is more than our narrow ‘single ethnicity label’ would seem to indicate. On the Wikipedia website his ethnicity is given as British, a term that ordinarily is used for nationality of British citizens. No nationality is listed. The website also says “Fisk is a pacifist and has never voted”, and “He has written at length on how much of contemporary conflict has its origin, in his view, in lines drawn on maps: “After the allied victory of 1918, at the end of my father’s war, the victors divided up the lands of their former enemies. In the space of just seventeen months, they created the borders of Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia and most of the Middle East. And I have spent my entire career — in Belfast and Sarajevo, in Beirut and Baghdad — watching the people within those borders burn.”

      A glance at his picture leaves no doubt that my new Nazi friend David Baillie would welcome Fisk as a fellow White man. David hasn’t yet told me where in Massachusetts he lives (we only started corresponding when he wrote me on 28 June), but for sure if he’s been to Boston he will recognize that Bob Fisk is not only “one of us White guys” but will see in that wonderful smile the familiar friendly Irishman of ‘Southie’, the part of Boston where the U of Massachusetts campus is located, not far from all the Irish watering holes of ‘Southie’. What makes Fisk so admirable is not that he’s Irish, i.e. not his designated narrow ethnicity, but that he’s what I label “a lover”. Many people are either “lovers” or “haters”. By “lover” I mean someone who loves life, whose zest for living is unquenchable, who must share the shear pleasure of being alive with his/her fellow humans.

      Fisk is alive with history. For him it is intensely personal — he knows it from his own experience and through the accounts of people who tell him, verbally, of their lived experiences. That’s surely much of what gives his writing at once such immediacy and authenticity. Two recent articles point to the urgency with which

Soldiers confront civil rights marchers in Derry on Bloody Sunday
30 January 1972. Caption & photo from the Fisk article [2]

historical memory motivates him. Both were published within the past three weeks, one about the massacre of Irish civil rights marchers by British paratroopers in 1972 and the other about the aerial massacres carried out by “both sides” during World War II seventy years ago, on a far larger and hence more ferocious scale by the so-called Allies than by the German Nazi’s Luftwaffe.

[More thoughts to add when I have time, but I'll post this now on 5 July 2010.]


[1] Exchange with new Nazi friend, David Baillie <> The correspondence is posted at

[2] Bloody Sunday in Derry. Fisk’s article is in The Independent of 16 June 2010, at
      The bloody truth about the Battle of Britain 70 years on. This article, in The Independent of 3 July 2010, is at

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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Initial posting of this page: 5 July 2010.
Last update: 5 July 2010