The festering “Middle East”[1]
George Salzman   <>
initial posting 28 August 2011 - last update 28 August 2011


      I’ve been working — it feels like forever — on trying to untangle the Middle East Maelstrom, which threatens to swallow us all. In the course of this effort I’ve come into contact with various good people, among them Alan Hart (British journalist), Eric Walberg (Canadian journalist), Jillian C. York (American journalist), Manuel Garcia Jr. (retired scientist), James Herod (American anarchist activist), Judy Norsigian (international women’s health activist), Monica Spicher (American anarchist activist).

      A major focus of mine has been Alan Hart, whose formidable experience in the “Middle East” and the entire Islamic and non-Catholic, non-Protestant worlds is the basis for his analytical writing. Some time ago — actually four months ago — Alan wrote me the following note:

Date: Sat, Apr 30, 2011 at 2:40 AM
From: Alan Hart <>

      My dear George, First things ... I think your piece on The ethics of a just solution is brilliant. I also love your phrase “pseudo democracy”. That captures in two words what I always say — that democracy exists nowhere in the world and least of all in some important respects in the U. S. of A. We have the framework for democracy but not the substance. There is a condition for democracy to exist. Citizens, the voters, have to be informed enough about issues that really matter in order to participate in debate about choices and call and hold their leaders/governments to account. There’s s no country in the world where citizens are informed enough to do this. When I first joined ITN [Independent Television News, London] as a very, very young reporter very, very many years ago, its then great editor-in-chief, Geoffrey Cox, gave me the mission statement in one short sentence. “Our job is to help keep democracy alive.” Today I say the mainstream media has betrayed democracy.

      My overview is pretty much the same as yours. Modern life is a de-humanizing process and the name of the game for each and everyone of us is, ought to be, claiming back our humanity. If only we had the resources necessary to get a real people power global movement going! More power to you and take great care of yourself. Warm regards --Alan

      As you might imagine, I am an avid reader of Alan’s website, from which I have gained so much additional confidence that I’m on “the right side” of the struggle in Palestine. It is therefore a disappointment to me to continue seeing Alan advocating the same partial surrender to the Zionist conquerers that he sang already for years. It is as though he would in fact be satisfied if only the Zionists would — from now on — begin to “behave in a civilized manner”. It is as weak-kneed a response as Neville Chamberlain gave to Hitler’s demands. It amounts to surrender. Why? What am I to believe? Was Alan being insincere — flattering me to be friendly? I doubt it. And now of course I’m attempting to psychoanalyze him just as he does the various “important personages, like Golda Mier for example” in seeking to understand their assertions.

      So I’ll tell you what I think. It is not that you, Alan, are loyal to those calculating liars who played the Zionist concert for you. I believe it’s more a matter of you being, as it were, loyal to your own house. Your own house in which the British Empire was robustly criticized for its immorality and (not needless but necessary) cruelty in the conduct of maintaining pre-eminent control and wealth disparity. That phoney dignity (by the way, I’m reading Bertrand Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy. He’s not immune to the corruption of being “a special personage”). You have acquired so much of the class nature of British society that it seems proper to you, despite your critical appraisal. Your website is an expression of “your house”. I would say to you, “Don’t be loyal to the past. It was bad. Renounce it. Opt for life, for the lives of your and Nicole’s three children. Change your presentation on your website. Those who are not true heroes ought not be glorified. My sense, Alan, is that you are still too stuck in the past. Shuck it if you can. It would help all of us. Not least the Palestinians. With love and admiration --George

[1] Two people who insist on asking the essential questions are Robert Fisk and Eric Walberg. Each of them is focussed in a large sense on knowing: How can humanity make good lives for all the world’s peoples? Among my many Jewish American friends a fair number unfortunately believe that is an impossibility: Their view is that humans are a genetically determined species of hominids programmed for violence and mutual destruction. My effort has been to try to counter this belief, which I am completely convinced is lacking validity, in spite of being widely promoted among the world’s “intelligencia”. My effort to formulate this much more “optimistic” possibility for our future led me to a fairly brief sketch for a humane resolution of the Palestine/Israel conflict. In fact the ideas there are immediately generalizable to apply to all so-called ethnic conflicts in the world.

Making a Palestine of happy children
A model for making a world of happy people

      The destruction of Palestine should be stopped and the land returned to its indigenous peoples. I presented a fairly brief sketch for doing this without any further bloodshed, torture, theft or suffering of any of the peoples involved, including the would-be Jewish Zionist conquerors. It’s so easy to scoff at the notion of seeking a non-violent, humane resolution, and to declare without further thought, That would be contrary to human nature. So easy and so fatal. One of the things I have learned from the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca is the existence of a “better way” to settle conflicts than British officialdom ever dreamed of.

      To people whose life experience has been shaped almost entirely by the contemporary dominant global ideology, the possibility of a different way of living — with a really totally different set of governing values — seems inconceivable to most of the people I know in the U.S. It must seem to them that I’m oblivious to what “human nature” is, that I’m living in a dream world. So they act like the normal people they are: they ignore me and what seem to them to be my “mad ravings”.

      No one can be expected to comprehend events and/or possibilities for human interaction that are totally outside his/her life experiences. If you tried to tell a native bushman of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa about snow, you would be thought to be delusional. Most of my American contacts have life experiences limited to the U.S. To them my experiences among indigenous Oaxaqueños who are not “naturally greedy and aggressive” seem incredible. They take me for a deluded romantic, and dismiss my vision of “how the world could be”. They “know” — they believe — what “human nature” is, and that, like an engraving in stone, it is frozen forever. I see their attitude as showing an unrelenting stubborness. And, I should empahsize, this stubborness is by no means limited to my self-labelled “liberal” friends. My American anarchist friends are also addicted to the notion that they are entitled to live at a level of material wealth that is increasingly beyond the reach of former “middle class” Americans. They too enjoy being privileged. Surprise! Surprise!

      Just yesterday (the 18th of Aug 2011) I got a letter from an anarchist friend, who wrote in part, “XXXXX and I are safely back from Bread and Puppet in Vermont, and are all fired up, with batteries recharged, and working hard to "change the world." It was raining hard the whole way back. It was a difficult drive, but XXXXX got us through it okay”. The intrepid strugglers battling for a better world by driving several hundred miles to celebrate with other “turned on” radicals. How much gasoline burned? How much ecological damage in the pursuit of fun? No clue. No interest. It’s their right to have fun. And these are committed American anarchists! Do I sound as though I have contempt for principled people who prefer to win an argument and lose the world than to lose an argument? You bet! Preventing the genocide of the Palestinians is my first priority. Here are two papers on saving the Palestinians:

      There are only two possibilities at the moment for global human society: Either we will learn to love one another in a global culture that discards notions of ethnic divisions, or we will all (or nearly all) perish in the massive irreversible heating of the ecosphere into a Venus-like furnace. Of course I know that I am “preaching”. But what else can an old man do — an old man who “sees the light” where so many millions, in particular the hyper-wealthy, see only darkness. For me, a committed athiest communist, it is not a matter of adhering to Jesus Christ’s beliefs, but recognizing, as a physicist — a “hard scientist”, that love — true love of life — is the only way. To renovate Margaret Thatcher’s vulgar praise of market capitalism and empire “There is no alternative (TINA)” into into an equally brief, but truthful assertion, “There was an alternative (TWAA)” [2]

[2] Both of these catchy quips are in Eric Wallberg’s outstandingly perceptive book, Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games, p14.

George Salzman is a former American Jew living in Oaxaca, Mexico, an ex-physics prof, Univ of Massachusetts-Boston.

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Initial posting of this page: 28 August 2011.
Last update: 28 August 2011