(May 8, 2006)
[Ed. As a reminder to Letter writers: If you want your letters to be published, you must include your first and last names and your city and state of residence. Also, please, enter in the subject line of your e-mail "letter to the editor," and specify the article or the subject on which you are commenting. Thank you.]
Jonathan Nitzan's Warning of Plagiarism: Bob Wrubel's Letter to the Editor (ed. No, it's not Bob who plagiarized but the authors of a book he referred to.)Dear Gilles and Bob:
I have come across your recent correspondence in Swans in the Letter to the Editor (April 24, 2006). You may want to know large chunks of Retort's AFFLICTED POWERS are plagiarized from our work. For more on the how and why, see "The Scientist and the Church" at http://bnarchives.yorku.ca/185/.
Political Science, York University
Toronto, Ontario, Canada - April 24, 2006
National Anthem: Ban Banality and ChauvinismTo the Editor:
As to whether the National Anthem should be sung in Spanish or English, I would like to point out that neither would improve the sprawling, belligerent, unaesthetic melody which is supposed to reflect the spirit of our country. If musicality and inspiration were the criteria, by all rights George Gershwin's "Of Thee I Sing" would be the National Anthem as it is chirpy, upbeat, and intrinsically American. Similarly, if the English had any sense, they would dump "God Save The Queen" and substitute the stirring "For He Is An Englishman" from Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore, a melody which perfectly captures the Brits' inflated notion of themselves.
National anthems are too important to be left to the mercies of banal and chauvinist composers.
Malibu, California, USA - May 1, 2006
Journalistic Accuracy according to Joseph Farah: Gilles d'Aymery's Blips #35To the Editor:
Reference above, I never called illegal aliens "human parasites."
I write 1,000 words a day. I have written 13 books. My opinions could not be a more open book.
So I don't know why anyone would try to put words in my mouth.
You are no doubt misinterpreting and twisting a column I wrote April 11 of this year in which I said: "Every day now, it seems, hundreds of thousands of ungrateful human parasites rally in American cities condemning their host country's lack of hospitality."
Clearly I was referring to those rallying in America's cities, not those entering the U.S. illegally to feed their families. How there could any confusion about that, I do not know -- unless, of course, your purpose is to enflame, agitate and stir passions rather than accurately reflect my words.
I don't know whether you consider yourself a journalist or a person with ethics and scruples. If you do, you will correct the record. If you do not, you probably will not. That's up to you. I do not consider the error libelous.
But I will look forward to hearing your reply.
Editor and Chief Executive Officer
Medford, Oregon, USA - April 24, 2006
Imperialist Construct Turned Ghastly Reality: Jacob Amir's The Case Against The Case Against Israel
To the Editor:
Dr. Jacob Amir writes:
It is very important to stress that, in spite of what Finkelstein writes and says, Zangwil's idea that "Palestine is a land without a people for a people without a land" was NEVER the official policy of the Zionist movement. And Zangwil himself abandoned the idea ofa state in Palestine and supported the idea of a state in Argentina.Yes (although it was official propaganda as I knew it here in Argentina when educated at a Zionist Jewish school) and this is one of the main reasons why I, a young Argentinean Zionist Jew whose whole family on the mother's side had been burnt in Hitler's ovens, and who had spent a whole year in Israel in 1971, discovered the ultimately unworthiness of the Zionist endeavour.
It was one thing to receive the usually sparing comments on Palestinians by Argentinean-born Israelis with whom I had lived for the most part of a year (one of them, in a gesture of extreme sincerity -- and he considered himself a Socialist, mind you! -- even went to the extreme of allowing that "Hitler was right, we Jews are different. Only that we do not agree on the prescription."), one thing was to receive those comments which, in the end, predicated upon people I had not seen in my life, and a very different thing was to realize that the same could have happened to me or my fellow countrypeople.
As an Argentinean Zionist and Jew, I had been asked many times the disturbing question: "OK, but in a war between Israel and Argentina, where do YOU stand?" My usual answer had always been: "Don't be silly. There can't possibly exist such a war." After I learnt of Zangwil's proposition, I knew best.
There COULD exist such a war. And in that case, I would have taken arms to defend my own country, which is Argentina.
I understand Dr. Amir's feelings. But his position is untenable. Whether intentionally or not, Israel is forced by its primeval alliance with the imperialist powers in the Middle East to prod against the best interest of their neighbors. Zionism makes that country "the country of the Jews." That is, essentially, the Jewish community of the United States of America is an important political element in the Middle East by the very constitution of the Israeli state. Nay, even an anti-Zionist Jew from, say, Salta city in Northwestern Argentina (I know some) has more right to decide over that land, and to live on it, than a Palestinian of any belief. And that is insurmountable.
It is the link between Zionism and the State which makes Israel, all Fata Morgana notwithstanding, not at all an ethnic state but yes a splinter of a "multinational Empire" in the sense of the old Austro-Hungarian or Czarist empires. The symbolic meaning of a wall encircling a Jew-dominated community -- for reasons of safety -- approaches that of the Ghettos of the Middle Ages (which were also built for the same reasons at first) or the enclosed neighborhoods of the privileged ones that spurt like mushrooms in Latin America today.
This is, in my own view, what bitter result Zionism has brought on the Jews: an exchange between the barbaric and filthy European Ghetto of Nazi Germany to the ultra-modern and even cozy Middle East Ghetto of democratic, Zionist, United States.
And I sincerely weep on this result. It looks like Jews can't avoid a bitter destiny. Such is, I guess, capitalism in action.
But I also believe something else.
Dr. Amir is absolutely right in that there is no pretense of Zionist leadership to "permanently expand" over its neighbors. This, I believe, is a wrong line to dispute the Zionist claim, in the end a projection of the Westward march by the US early 13 colonies on the history of the Middle East.
The Zionist movement is not an irredentism, it is territorialist, that is, in the end it does not care what the "historic claims" are.
Add Madagascar to Argentina as possible territorial targets. And also add negotiations between Zionist leaders and Nazi leaders when it was not clear who would win WWII. What makes the essence of the movement is that it was conceived since the very beginning as a political movement, not a religious one. As such, and this was Hertzl's great addition, Zionism began to sell its goals to the actual powers-that-be, namely imperialist nations. It was not a Biblical mandate which put the Jews in Palestine, but a -- British enforced Mandate of the Society of Nations!!! If the fold had been installed, say, in Argentina or Madagascar, the Bible would have been of no avail or it would have been interpreted accordingly (I am already imagining Jabad Lubavitch rabbis explaining that the Province of Entre Ríos was the actual land of milk and honey -- God, of course knew all of the globe even when the Hebrews were roaming across the Sinai...).
Zionism, as it was traditionally conceived (and Ben Gurion's great "farsightedness" as avowed by Dr. Amir is simply an expression of this fact) had no "Biblical" mandate in the sense American ideology brought the Pilgrims to their New Jerusalem. It is a secular movement, and uses religious arguments simply because the British mandate (not God's, remember) was Thou Shalt Claim Your Land in Palestine.
Amir is also right on a second point: that the Arabs did not accept the State of Israel.
But they didn't for the reasons above, namely that the Zionists not only decided that this land that had been other peoples' homeland for centuries had come to its mature age and now should be the homeland of "returning" Zionists. This is quite hard a pill to swallow itself. But the real issue is that what Zionists claim is that this land belongs to all Jews the world over. That is, they don't only imply the replacement of one population by another, not even a "federal" state where there had been no reasons for such a reason to exist for long years, no. But also a State where the majority group would be the local representative of the wishes and will of a still larger group, located outside the State itself!
Let the State of Israel admit that, at most, it simply represents a newly created nationality ("newly" in historical terms, of course: some 100 years), the Israeli nationality, let the State of Israel break every link with Jews outside its frontiers, and the Arab world will slowly open up its arms to receive it in the complex task of building an Arab nation, where there will be plenty of room for Druze, Israeli, or whatever minority groups. But this, unfortunately, will not happen for the time being. Not, concretely, before honest and progressive Israelis like Dr. Amir recognize (and it is a hard recognition indeed) that Zionism was a mistake from the very beginning, that peace can be won only at the price of throwing Zionism to the sea. And by their own Israeli Jewish hands.
Thirdly, and lastly: it is also mistaken to attack Israel as an ethnocentric state. It is not. It has strong ethnocentric tendencies, but these come from its relationship with US and British Jews (who, at their own turn, sip the cup of white-skinned racism in the same way that Russian Jews sipped the coups of "multinationalism under a Great Nationality" and socialism). It is a political movement whose mistake does not lie in expansionism, nor in ethnocentrism. It simply lies in that it is an imperialist construct turned ghastly reality.
Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
Buenos Aires, Argentina - April 24, 2006
"La patria tiene que ser la dignidad arriba y el regocijo abajo."
Thinking Alike: Philip Greenspan's Is The Israel Lobby Effective?
To the Editor:
I greatly appreciated Philip Greenspan's article about the excessive power of the Israel lobby (I'm not anti-Semitic, just anti-war). He said many of the things I have long been thinking.
Robert E. Phillips
Fayetteville, Texas, USA - April 25, 2006
Backward People and Ancestral Home: Gilles d'Aymery's The Case Against Israel
The history referred to in Gilles d'Aymery's review does not go back far enough. You can poopoo the Bible's verses about giving the land to the Jews, but here's what the Bible says: God gave to Abraham for Isaac and his descendants the "land of the water," Israel. God gave to Hagar, Abraham's maidservant and the mother of his first son Ishmael, the land from the Nile to the Euphrates Rivers for all her descendants (Arabs). After the advent of Islam every effort was made by the Muslims to be sure that Mohammed would be connected to Ishmael, in order to claim they were of the Abrahamic tradition.
The Quran recognizes that Israel is the land of the Jews and tells Muslims not to bother the "People of the Book," (Jews and Christians. But shortly after the advent of Islam, Muslims conquered Jerusalem, just as they conquered land after land with religious jihad. The Muslims captured Jewish women and made them their concubines and wives and passed a law that children from such unions would be considered Muslims. They forced Jews and Christians to wear colored patches on their clothes, the better to torment and harass them and prevented the Jews from worshipping as they had.
It was the Romans who changed the name of the land from Judah to Palestine, the better to sever the Jews' connection with the land. The Romans were forcing Jews out in the Diaspora, but many Jews still lived there, as they have for 4000 years. The Jews may not always have been in control of the government, but the Jews were always there.
The Holy Land was controlled by the Ottomans until WW I, at which time it became part of the British Empire when they defeated the Ottomans. After WW II the Brits ceded the land back to the Jews under the auspices of the UN. At the time it's estimated there were about 500,000 Arabs there. I don't defend the Jews for all that happened in the early days of Israel, but the fact is after Israel started turning green and lush with the fruits of the Jews' labors, Arabs streamed in to take advantage of this developing area, now that there was something to fight over. The Jews had been known as Palestinians for centuries, but now Arabs began to organize politically to eject the Jews and took the name of Palestinians for themselves. What was a fight over land became a fight between Jews and Arabs, Judaism and Islam. The bottom line is: The Muslims conquered the Holy Land by force. The Jews took it back by force.
For the life of me I can't think it strange that the Jews would want to reclaim their homeland, the land of their origins, the land that was taken away from them. They have every right to it. The problem with the Palestinians is they have had the worst leaders in the past century anyone could have. Their fortune lies in peace with the Jews, who will bolster their economy and bring them into modernity. There is a whole generation of Palestinians who were brought up on the rantings and ravings and murders and terror instigated by Arafat, but prior to him, they had been one of the most educated people in the Middle East. These people today are backward. It's difficult to deal with them. They are so susceptible to propaganda, which is really all they know.
The Jews are back in their ancestral home. Let there be peace on earth.
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA - April 24, 2006
Common Interests? Philip Greenspan's Is The Israel Lobby Effective?
To the Editor:
I think what many of the very knowledgeable analysts who are scholars of American Middle East Foreign Policy don't realize is the fact that the Zionists who are in control in Israel have a very collusive relationship with the Congress of the United States. This relationship creates an atmosphere of control and manipulation. The ones in control are the leaders and supporters of Israel and the American Congress, (both the Senate and the House of Representatives). The ones being manipulated are the citizens of Israel and, to a lesser extent, the American people. The effective use of this control to manipulate these parties has made Israel a wedge to be used to destabilize the Middle East. There is no common interest between Israel and the United States. It is one policy of domination and the state of Israel is the convenient tool to achieve this end. If it did involve common interests the United States should get some kind of payoff for all this effort. The only payback that the U.S. is receiving is a state of continual war and hatred directed at it. Not much of a benefit I would say.
Donald MacRae Brown
Colonial Beach, Virginia, USA - April 25, 2006
Differing Historical Interpretations: Michael Neumann's Ethnic Nationalism Versus Common Sense - Response to a Zionist Book Review
To the Editor:
Michael Neumann should be reminded that calling something "nonsense" does not make it so. It also makes a lousy intellectual argument.
The Kingdom of Judea, under Herod, was not a "state of Biblical times." And it definitely was the nation-state of the Jewish people. Josephus wrote the book Antiquities of the Jews in the 1st century. He describes what the Jewish people of his time knew about their history. After the Bar Kochba rebellion against Rome failed, and most of the Jews in Judea were expelled, the Roman emperor Hadrian changed the name of the province of Judea to Syria Palestina, as an insult to the conquered Jews. Over time the name was shortened to Palestina, which became an administrative and political unit within the Roman Empire. The Romans also tried to change the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitulina but that failed. The Jews, who lost their territorial base and were dispersed all over, took with them their historical memory. Contrary to all expectations they did not vanish like so many other peoples. It is immaterial if the Biblical stories are nothing but legends. What is important is that these legends were told and written by the Jewish inhabitants of the Land of Israel, later known as Palestine. It does not matter if the Biblical Kingdoms were small or large. What matters is that they existed. Some minimalist Biblical archaeologists even doubted that David and Solomon were actual people. Then, in 1993 came the discovery of the Tel Dan inscription containing the words "House of David." Now, very few people doubt the existence of an actual David. Also, Finkelstein and Silberman describe Jerusalem, in the time of David and Solomon, as a small and unimportant backwater village. Now, archaeologist Eylat Mazar has discovered the remnants of a massive public building in Jerusalem, dated from the 10th century BCE, the time of David and Solomon, which makes the idea that Jerusalem at that time was a small village very improbable. In the next edition of their book, Finkelstein and Silberman will have to change this theory. Which proves the saying: in archeology, lack of evidence is not evidence of lack...
I happen to be an agnostic and totally secular Israeli. But I celebrate Passover, not because it has any religious meaning to me, but because it is part of the historical tradition of my people. And I repeat the phrase "Next year in Jerusalem" even though I am in Jerusalem. It is traditions like that, which helped preserve the Jews as a people and not just a religion. The earliest written Haggadda is from the tenth century. But, long before that, the Mishnah, from the 2nd century, contains many elements that remain central to the Passover Seder: Four cups of wine; dipping of herbs and charoset, eating matzah, reclining, asking questions, explaining the meaning of the Paschal sacrifice, matzah and bitter herbs. Without customs like that, the Jewish people would have ceased to exist many centuries ago, and of course, without Jews there would have been no Zionist movement. I know it is very irritating to Neumann that close to 5.5 million Jews live in Israel, speak and write in the same language as those in Judea some 1,900 years ago. But, they would not be there if there was no Jewish people with a well-preserved historical memory.
The Zionist project had only one aim: reestablishing an independent Jewish state in Palestine and hoping that most Jews will be living there. For those who think that the Jews are not a people, this aim is unacceptable and even wrong. For those who think that the Jews are a people, that aim is fully justified. It was achieved by 50 years of struggle and overcoming enormous obstacles, but it succeeded.
It is not enough that Neumann wants to visit Gary, Indiana. He has to be part of a people who became a people in Gary, that sufficient numbers of them keep the memory of Gary alive for many centuries. Then he can try to achieve his dream.
Of course the longing for the love of Angelina Jolie is no more intense than the "terrible" (Neumann's adjective) longing for Jerusalem. But, for many Jews, both longings are a fact. And Neumann cannot dispute that fact.
Contrary to Neumann's assertion the Zionist movement understood that there are two peoples living in Palestine and that is why it accepted the UN partition plan. Had the Arabs done the same, their independent state would have been 58 years old today. The fact is that even after 1967 Israel did not annex the West Bank and the Gaza strip. Now, after the withdrawal from Gaza it is clear that the majority of Israelis support the territorial compromise and the two-states solution.
In the Jewish state, the power over life and death is held over ALL the citizens, including the 1.3 million non-Jews, just like that power is held by the Canadian state, over ALL of the Canadian citizens.
Anybody who thinks that the founding of Israel was not legitimate, that it was wrong and immoral, has a clear anti-Israeli bias. Also, claiming that Israel starves and kills on a daily basis small children, betrays a very strong anti-Israeli bias.
All the best,
Jerusalem, Israel - April 29, 2006
To Yugoslavia with love: and Walter Trkla's A Helmet For Dung CollectorsTo the Editor:
Alison and I thank Walter Trkla for his splendid "A Helmet For Dung Collectors. Yugoslav Memories." This is one of those writings that arises naturally from real life experience, written in an open and unpretentious style.
We want to add that our first journey through Jugoslavia was by a through train from Venice to Athens. We -- two parents, three daughters -- and our fellow travellers shared thoughts and bits of life history and food. At one train stop, where we couldn't get off, having only a "transit visa," we held an empty bottle out the window and a young man, smiling, grabbed it and ran away, returned just in time to give us back the bottle full of water. A wave and a smile as the train moved on. The optimism and friendliness of the people we met on that long train trip stayed with us. We were, after all, Americans from the heart of the Cold War, but we were treated as comrades. We wanted to go back, and so we did, five years later.
Martin and Alison Murie
North Bangor, New York, USA - April 27, 2006
The Yugoslavia of Martin Murie and Walter TrklaTo the Editor:
Born in Ireland in 1949, I too saw the kind of poverty that Walter Trkla talks about. Indeed, the world he describes could easily have been Ireland! But I don't think that the bombs destroyed it. It just disappeared with time. Ireland too has changed beyond recognition without anybody ever dropping any bombs on it -- thanks to EU membership -- and it has gone from being one of the poorest countries in Europe to one of the richest! But I don't regret the disappearance of the old misery. I wouldn't want to go back to living as people did 50 years ago.
To come back to the bombs, there has been a positive side to all this. The U.S. hijacked NATO for the Yugoslav escapade as a sort of dry run for its Middle East adventures and that has proved to be a fatal error. Because, before Dubya went after Iraq, ex-Yugoslavia had already turned into the almighty mess that it still is to a great extent, the man in the street in Europe realized that the Iraq war was doomed to failure and wanted nothing to do with it. The same is now happening in regard to Iran. Europe's instinctively pro-American and pro-Israeli elite, including the three gents that Mr. Trkla mentions, have had to bow to that reality. That won't bring back the dead or lessen anybody's suffering, but at least it will not happen again.
Luxembourg - April 26, 2006
Socialist Disagreement between two Joes: Joe Middleton's The Only Road To Scottish Socialism Is Independence
To the Editor:
Joe Middleton continues to trumpet, erroneously, Scottish independence under any banner as a way forward for the Scottish working class. It is not. Unless the struggle for independence is wedded to the class struggle (and where applicable, subordinated to the class struggle), then it is based on nothing more than a Scottish exceptionalism which does not, and cannot, enjoy any credibility with anyone who is in possession of anything approaching political awareness or consciousness.
Elements campaigning for independence under the umbrella of Independence First envisage a future Scotland with the monarchy continuing as head of state; with Scotland becoming a haven for global corporations; and with Scotland as a member of NATO.
Progress? I think not.
Unless the minimum demand in any campaign for Scottish independence is for a republic, then it is not independence we are discussing, but rather enhanced devolution, with no qualitative change in the composition of the British State.
Any meaningful campaign for Scottish independence can only be waged under the banner of anti-imperialism and internationalism, with the only relevant argument in support of independence, based on existing material conditions, the breakup of the British State, an imperialist construct which today is a major ally of US imperialism, the common enemy of all humanity. Anything else is nationalism, an emotional and atavistic desire to replace the Union Jack with the Saltire (the Scottish flag) over Edinburgh Castle.
The great James Connolly, the finest Marxist ever to come out of the British Isles, put it best when he said: "There can be no socialism without national liberation. There can be no national liberation without socialism."
Edinburgh, Scotland - April 26, 2006
Want change? Make it happen...and, please,us help YOU make a difference.
Question to Milo Clark on "grokking"Dear Editor,
Could you ask Milo Clark to kindly explain how he groks? Thank you.
White Rock, British Columbia, Canada. - April 25, 2006
[ed. Mrs. Murray wanted to know more. She persisted:]
Thank you for your e-mail regarding grokking.
I may not have explained myself clearly. I am wanting to understand how you grok. What is it that you actually do? It seems to me that grokking is a way that can assist consciousness. I am looking to understand what are the actual steps you do that take you to the inner place of grokking. Thank you.
White Rock, British Columbia, Canada. - April 25, 2006
[ed. Milo Clark was glad to muse further:]
Remember,Swans. It only will hurt your wallet, not your freedom to be heard.
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