Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Competing for Good Jobs Made Artificially Scarce by Big Corporations

Why is it getting so hard to find a good job? Why is it so expensive to get a college degree?

The answer is not complicated or mysterious. The people at the top of our increasingly unequal society--the corporate elite--want it to be that way. They make it so that good jobs are artificially scarce and ordinary people have to compete against each other for them. In an unequal society like ours, the most important concern of the people at the top is staying in control, lest ordinary people turn the tables and make things more equal and democratic. The more that people are made to compete against each other, the easier it is to control them.

Consider some numbers. The per capita income in Massachusetts in 2005 was $44,289. That means that the total income was the same as if every man, woman and child had $44,289 income. Think about what this means. It means that if every person living alone had an income of $44,289, and every couple with no children had an income of $88,578, and every couple with one child had an income of $132,867, and every couple with two children had an income of $177,156, and every couple with three children had an income of $221,445, etc. ($44,289 times the number of people in the family), then the total income for everybody combined would be not a penny more than what the total income actually was in 2005.

So how come most families have incomes way below these numbers? Only one reason--our society is very unequal. Some families of, say, four members, have incomes much higher than $177,156, while the rest make do with far less. Actually, the inequality is far more extreme than what is suggested by these numbers because wealth (homes, yachts, shares in stocks, jewelry etc.), as opposed to income, is distributed even more unequally. According to Edward Wolff, a professor of economics at New York University who studies this topic, the top 5 percent own more than half of all wealth in the United States.

Consider what a good job looks like from the point of view of the big corporations. A good job is one that pays a fairly high wage or salary and provides a good benefits package. In other words, it's a big expense. What's a CEO to do? The answer is obvious. Either use technology to automate the job so that it can be done by somebody with less skill who will work for less pay, or outsource the job to a foreign country like India or China or Mexico where even a skilled employee will do the work for far less pay. Any CEO who doesn't use these strategies would be considered incompetent by the company's board of directors and major share-owners.

Result? Good jobs are made scarce. No matter how much education we get, we just end up competing with each other for fewer and fewer good jobs.

As good jobs get more scarce, people are forced to acquire more and more credentials to get one of them. In the past one didn't need a college degree to get a good job. Now you're out of the running without one. On-the-job training used to be the way people learned the skills needed for a good job. Nowadays you need a college degree just to get a low-paying job caring for toddlers at a day care center. The more people are forced to compete for good jobs, the more they are forced to pay whatever colleges charge to get a degree. No wonder the price of a college degree is rising.

But there's more to it than that. As good jobs become more and more scarce, the people at the top need to make sure that the ones who fail to get a good job blame themselves, not the system. That's why we're always told that "getting an education is the key to success." The message is that if you're smart and study hard you'll do well, and if you don't do well it's only because you're not smart or you didn't study hard--it's your own fault. That's why good jobs that didn't used to require a college degree now do. It's to make sure that fewer people consider themselves "qualified" for the job.

But if college degrees were so affordable that everybody could get one, then everybody would think they were qualified for a good job, and the scarcity of good jobs would lead to social unrest and anger at those responsible for their scarcity. Solution? Make college expensive enough so that not too many people can get a degree. That is why students are having to rely more and more on going deep into debt to pay for college, and why the government is not subsidizing these education costs as it could do very easily if it wanted to.

The root of the problem is that in our society real power is in the hands of a corporate elite instead of ordinary people. The problem is that we don't have real democracy. Go here to see what you can do about this.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Vote Yes on Question X for Real Democracy

This and other posts related to Question X are now on a new blog devoted exclusively to Question X.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Israel Lobby and the "National Interest"

I dislike the Israel Lobby as much as anybody, and I think the U.S. pro-Israel foreign policy should be abolished before the sun sets. This is why it pains me to read articles critical of the Israel Lobby that are embarrassingly illogical and flat out wrong. Instead of arguing that what the Israel Lobby stands for is morally wrong and serves only the interests of wealthy elites, they abandon all logic and ignore the facts to argue that America's pro-Israel policy doesn't serve the "national interest." In doing so, they muddle everything so badly that anybody unsure of whether our government should support Israel or not would, after reading such an article, remain unsure. And that's a shame.

One recent such article is "Henry Kissinger: Realist or Neocon" by Philip Giraldi, a former CIA Officer and now a partner in Cannistraro Associates, an international security consultancy. The article is posted at, a libertarian site that opposes American warmongering and blames Israel and its lobby for it.

Typical of the genre, the article's thesis (spelled out in the first sentence) is this: "One of the most disturbing attributes of the neoconservatives is their willingness to subordinate the United States' national interests to those of Israel." Here's where the illogic kicks in. What in the hell is the "United States' national interest?" These articles throw the phrase around as if everybody knew what it meant. The authors shoot from the hip in asserting that such-and-such, which the neocons or Israel Lobby advocates, is not in the "national interest" without ever feeling the slightest need to show with logic and facts why that is true. Why exactly isn't such-and-such in the "national interest?"

The reason they never bother to discuss this key question is because the phrase "national interest" is, as George Orwell would no doubt have called it, newspeak: mumbo jumbo in other words. It has no meaning. It's a phrase used by ruling elites precisely to obscure meaning, to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. There's a famous cartoon of a fat rich guy lounging in a hammock with a drink in his hand. One end of the hammock is tied to a tree. The other end is held up by a poor peasant. The rich guy tells the peasant, "The Communists want to take away our hammock!" In this cartoon, the phrase "our hammock" is newspeak mumbo jumbo that has the same function for the guy in the hammock that "our national interest" has for ruling elites. When the CEO addresses the workers of the company and tells them that he's sure they will all agree that it is in "our company's interest" to be more competitive and so half the workers will be laid off and replaced with cheap foreign labor and the rest will have to pay more for their health insurance, the words "our company's interest" are the same as "our national interest" -- mumbo jumbo to hide the fact that THEIR interest is not the same as OUR interest; THEIR values of inequality and pitting people against each other and top-down control are not the same as OUR values of equality and solidarity and democracy.

People like Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, James Petras, and Philip Giraldi base everything they say against the Israel Lobby on this nonsense phrase--"national interest." As a result, what they write is nonsense. Let's use our hammock cartoon metaphor to illustrate the nonsense in all its glory.

Add to the cartoon with the hammock a smartly dressed man with a foreign accent and with the blood of foreign peasants on his suit (picture him as Henry Kissinger.) He's standing next to the guy in the hammock and advising him on his "foreign policy." Now add another man in blue jeans standing next to the peasant (picture him as, say, Philip Giraldi.) He's giving the peasant advice. Giraldi says to the peasant, "That foreign guy, he's the problem; he doesn't care at all about our hammock and his advice is detrimental to it."

This is the kind of nonsense these authors write. Giraldi, for example, starts out by saying that

"a careful analysis of the impact of Israel's domestic and foreign policies can only conclude that the relationship has been detrimental to the United States."

"Detrimental to the United States"? What does this mean? It means the same thing as "Detrimental to our hammock." It is pure gobbledegook! The problem with the foreigner next to the hammock is the blood of peasants on his suit, not his advice being detrimental to "our hammock." The very last thing the peasant needs is to be trying to figure out who cares more about "our hammock"--"Kissinger" or "Giraldi."

Obviously Israel's policies have not helped ordinary Americans or ordinary Palestinians or even ordinary Israelis. But unfortunately this is not Giraldi's point. If it were, then Giraldi would explicitly define "national interest" to mean the opposite of the elite's interest; he would define it to mean making our country more equal and democratic, the very opposite of what the elite want. He never does this, because his point is that, to use the metaphor, the only problem in the United States is that we have neocon/Kissinger characters running the country instead of the right people running the country--people who really care about "our hammock"--namely our loyal American upper class gentlemen who are presently lounging in "our hammocks."

Thus Giraldi goes on in his next sentences to imply that our hammock-lounging elite, unlike those nasty neocon/Kissinger guys, want world peace and fairness for all, even in Palestine. He writes:

"To cite only one example, Washington's counter-terrorism policy has been shaped by Israel, which insists that national liberation movements like Hamas and Hezbollah must be treated as terrorists and can only be dealt with by force. This has meant that the United States, which should have dialogue with adversaries worldwide, is hamstrung by its political commitment to Tel Aviv. It also means that any progress toward the establishment of a Palestinian state is stillborn, which may be what Likud wants, but it is not in America's interests. That the neocon agenda might not serve Israel's true interests either means that the tragedy is a double one."

What the Giraldis don't seem to grasp (or don't want their readers to grasp) is that Israel's ethnic cleansing (which they don't talk about much at all) does, in fact, serve the elite's interest. It is a classic example of divide-and-rule applied to the population of the Middle East: foment an ethnic war of Arab versus Jew. Israel plays the same role in the Middle East that the Klu Klux Klan played in the American South for the benefit of the South's upper class: keep the working class population fighting each other along racial lines.

The American gentlemen lounging in "our hammocks" understand this perfectly well. When they tell people like Walt and Mearsheimer that they are wrong, that Israel really does serve America's "national interest," they are speaking the truth. Of course it is the truth only if one knows that "national interest" is code for the upper class's interest, and our hammock-lounging gentlemen are the last people who will ever let THAT cat out of the bag. But why do the Giraldis seem just as concerned to keep the cat in the bag? Could it be that the kind of people who rise in academia and in the CIA are trained to keep such things in the bag? Has their training been so successful that they have lost sight of the cat altogether?

Apparently so. The title of Giraldi's article refers to his assertion that President Nixon really cared about "our hammock" but his advisor, Henry Kissinger, didn't care about "our hammock" because he was actually a traitor loyal to Israel's hammock. Giraldi writes:

"In late October 1973 Kissinger was sent to Moscow to negotiate with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to pursue a comprehensive peace process for the Middle East, but he ignored Nixon's instructions and pressed instead for a cease-fire that left Israel dominant and destroyed any chance for a multilateral peace effort. According to Mearsheimer and Walt, 'The American-compiled minutes of the three meetings that Kissinger attended with Brezhnev unequivocally show that he accurately and repeatedly represented Israeli interests to Moscow, almost totally contrary to Nixon's preferences.' "

So, according to Giraldi, Kissinger was a traitor; he brazenly sabotaged the direct orders of "our" president and his boss to promote the interests of a foreign nation and to undermine the American "national interest." Wow! And what did Nixon do to this traitor? Recall that the one thing we know for sure about Richard Milhouse Nixon is that he demanded of everybody in his administration personal loyalty to himself. He drew up an "enemies list" of people in government he thought were out to get him. He was not exactly a forgiving guy on this score. And boy did Nixon come down hard on the traitor Kissinger! He kept Kissinger on as his Secretary of State. And when Gerald Ford became President, what did he do to the traitor, Kissinger? He kept him on as Secretary of State until 1977. Imagine that. Kissinger, an outright traitor, caught red-handed in October of 1973 doing the traitorous deed, allowed to remain Secretary of State for more than three years. Compare that to Truman's firing of General Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur was a war hero, as popular with the American public as perhaps any man alive. Yet Truman fired him when he was insubordinate. Kissinger, in contrast, was a pudgy man from academia with a foreign accent and no personal financial fortune. Yet when he was "insubordinate" nothing happened. Is it just possible that Nixon and the hammock-lounging gentlemen who made him President were not upset that Kissinger was pro-Israel; that maybe they never really wanted peace in the Middle East but rather preferred that Israel foment an ethnic war?

Read the rest of Giraldi's article and it will be clear that it is nonsense. Its premise is that, except for the neocons, America's ruling elite don't want to engage in warmongering against Muslims; that the neocons make them do it. Nevermind that there is not one--repeat, not one--major American corporate leader who has publicly opposed Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the demonizing of Arabs for their natural anger at Israel. Not one American corporate leader even mentions the fact that Israel carries out ethnic cleansing. None of the corporate-owned media even tell the American public about the fact of Israel's ethnic cleansing. No corporation runs ads in the newspapers (remember all those Mobil "advertorials"?) exposing the dirty little secret that Israel is based on ethnic cleansing. And why is this?

It is not because pro-Israel people control the mass media. Sure, pro-Israel people do control much of the mass media. But so what? The American billionaire elite, whose interests are supposedly seriously harmed by the pro-Israel policy of the United States, could easily create their own anti-Israel mass media to get their message out if they wanted to. Billionaires, unlike regular people, can do these kinds of things. The reason they don't is because they don't WANT to. The reason is that their goal is to keep Americans fearful of Arab terrorists--irrational anti-Semitic hate-filled people who want to destroy Israel, the "only democracy in the Middle East." That way, as long as the elite pose as their protectors against the "terrorists" who want to "take away our hammock," Americans will put up with their elite lounging in hammocks that ordinary Americans have to hold up. For Americans to believe this warmongering propaganda, they need to be kept ignorant of the actual reason why Arabs are angry at Israel. Hence the 100% corporate agreement never to mention Israel's ethnic cleansing. But according to the Giraldis, the problem is just the neocon Israel-lovers, not the American corporate "peace-loving" elite.

Our hammock-lounging American corporate big shots must find it amusing as hell that many of those opposed to Israel's ethnic cleansing are looking upon people like Giraldi as wise analysts. If the public is going to start discussing the pros and cons of America's pro-Israel foreign policy, then what better framework to do it in, our elite must be thinking, than one which asks them not to notice that Israel is based on ethnic cleansing, and instead to debate whether Israel is "detrimental to our national interest."

George Shultz, in his The 'Israel Lobby' Myth (
gives a classic example of this. His article is all about his certainty, as a former Secretary of State, that the U.S. government's policy in the Middle East is not dictated by Israel or the Israel lobby. Note that Shultz insists that it is in the national interest of the United States to support Israel. He uses the words, "supporting Israel is politically sound and morally just" and "We act in our own interests." And note that he doesn't say WHY it is in "our own interests" or "politically sound." The reason is that if he gave the real reasons why the American elite supports Israel, then the public would see that they were not "morally just" reasons at all, and in fact went against both the values and the interests of ordinary Americans, because the real reasons are to maintain elite rule and inequality and anti-democracy throughout the world by using Israel's ethnic cleansing to foment a Jews versus non-Jews war in the Middle East.

Also notice that Shultz obviously wants to deflect the debate over our government's pro-Israel foreign policy AWAY from any mention of Israel's ethnic cleansing. The way to deflect it away from this revealing topic is to turn the debate into one over whether supporting Israel is or is not in the "national interest." Since "national interest" is a nonsense phrase designed to obscure the truth, this debate will be a nonsense debate designed to obscure the truth.

But to have such a nonsense truth-obscuring debate and to thereby prevent the public from understanding why our government should stop supporting Israel, it is necessary to have somebody take the "other side" of the debate. This is the role that Walt and Mearsheimer are playing. It is a valuable service to the elite.

It is just as valuable as was the role played by Gene McCarthy and RFK (who took the "other side") during the Vietnam war when the elite needed to prevent the public from understanding WHY the U.S. invaded Vietnam, i.e. that it was to suppress a popular peasant revolt against a pro-U.S. elite Vietnamese dictatorship. McCarthy and RFK told the, by then, majority of Americans who opposed the war, that the only problem with the war was that "it couldn't be won." McCarthy also admitted that his aim was to get the anti-war folks off the streets and into the voting booth (in other words, to prevent the anti-war movement from continuing to grow into a mass revolutionary movement, and to rely instead on politicians and the ballot.)

The point is that Shultz and the Walt & Mearsheimer couple are both on the elite's side; they are both concerned with preventing the public from understanding that the American elite supports ethnic cleansing to foment ethnic wars to control ordinary people and strengthen elite rule and inequality and anti-democratic regimes all over the world. That is why W&M, when they go on NPR, never even mention Israel's ethnic cleansing.

Israel/Palestine: “It’s Complicated!”…Or Is It?

We often hear it said that the Israel/Palestine conflict is complicated. But is it really?

What makes a conflict “complicated?” Take South African apartheid, for example. White South Africans before 1992 responded to criticism of apartheid by insisting that it was a “complicated” issue. Their government said it was “anti-Christian” to oppose it. Racial equality was a noble idea, said many whites, but there were special reasons why it wasn’t a good idea in South Africa. But then, in 1992, South Africa’s President de Klerk, no doubt in response to the growing world wide boycott against apartheid, decided that apartheid needed to be abolished. He made his views known, and he held a referendum on apartheid for whites.

In 1992 the BBC reported that “White South Africans have backed an overwhelming mandate for political reforms to end apartheid and create a power-sharing multi-racial government…In a landslide victory for change, the government swept the polls in all four provinces, and all but one of 15 referendum regions…It won 68.6% of the vote in a record turn-out, which, in some districts exceeded 96%.”

Suddenly, apartheid wasn’t “complicated” any-more, just wrong. Today, few whites admit they ever supported it. It turns out that what had made apartheid “complicated” for white South Africans was the fact that their leaders had said it was right when, in their hearts, white people knew it was wrong. The same thing made many whites in the American South think that slavery, and later Jim Crow, was “complicated” until their leaders stopped supporting these evils.

When one’s respected leaders say one thing and one’s heart says the opposite, the natural and genuine subjective reaction is to believe that the issue is “complicated.” This doesn’t, however, mean it really is.

The conflict in Israel is no more “complicated” than was apartheid or slavery. The root of the conflict is that Israel won’t let the Palestinian refugees return to their country, which is the 78% of Pales-tine now called Israel. They are refugees because in 1948 Jewish leaders (who call themselves Zionists) used military force to drive out 80% of the non-Jews (Palestinians) living in what is now the Jewish state of Israel. They did it because they believed that Israel must have a population that is at least 80% Jewish or else it won’t be a Jewish state. Israel continues to deny the refugees their right of return today. This is the root of the conflict.

Israeli historians, like Ilan Pappe (anti-Zionist) and Benny Morris (extremely pro-Zionist) have thoroughly researched the historical archives and concur that the expulsion took place. Morris says it was a good and necessary thing, and Pappe says it was ethnic cleansing, and wrong.

Jewish leaders say the expulsion of non-Jews from their country is justified because, since all gentiles are, and always will be, latently if not overtly anti-Semitic, Jews need a Jewish state to be safe.

But many Jews suspect that gentiles are no more inherently anti-Semitic than whites are inherently racist. How do such Jews respond when they hear their respected rabbis and other Jewish leaders telling them that it is necessary for Israel to deny Palestinian refugees their basic human right to return to their country, to prevent them from getting to a hospital when they are about to give birth, even to prohibit the few Palestinians who live in Israel from marrying a Jew or from living in good neighborhoods from which non-Jews are presently barred or from building houses for their families in the designated “Arab” towns? These Jews respond by saying to themselves that it is “complicated.”

What would they say, however, if tomorrow their most respected rabbis and Jewish leaders announced that Israel ought to stop denying Palestinians their rights? In short order it would be hard to find a Jew who would admit to having ever supported the denial of those rights.

Once upon a time people said that slavery was complicated. They said that apartheid in South Africa was complicated. But these things were not complicated, just wrong.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Zionists Are Wrong in Claiming Gentiles Are All Innately Anti-Semitic

Many Jews are as anti-racist and fair-minded as could be on every issue except one: Israel's ethnic cleansing (i.e. forcible transfer out of their homes and villages inside of Israel, as documented by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe in his book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine) of Palestinians, carried out to ensure that Israel's population remains at least 80% Jewish. On this one issue they put their otherwise egalitarian values aside and make a huge exception. They justify this on the grounds that Jews need a place in the world that is virtually all Jewish, so they will be safe from the inevitable outbreaks of antisemitism. These Jews believe that, for some mysterious reason, all gentiles (non Jews) are, and always will be, prone to an irrational and inexplicable hatred of Jews. They believe that gentiles are always antisemitic, if not overtly then latently. On the basis of this anti-gentile stereotype, they insist that Jews need a "nation of their own" because they can never be secure living among gentiles, not even in the most democratic, egalitarian and enlightened society.

Theodor Herzl founded the modern Zionist movement in 1896 by writing his famous book, The Jewish State, which argued that Jews needed a state of their own because,

"The nations in whose midst Jews live are all either covertly or openly Anti-Semitic...the longer Anti-Semitism lies in abeyance the more fiercely will it break out...Anti-Semitism increases day by day and hour by hour among the nations; indeed, it is bound to increase, because the causes of its growth continue to exist and cannot be removed."

The essence of this negative anti-gentile stereotype is the supposed permanence of gentile hostility to Jews. Its permanence, in turn, stems in large part from its supposed irrationality. If there were a rational basis for the hostility then one could imagine that under changed circumstances the hostility would disappear. If, say, the problem were that gentiles believed a lie about Jews, then education could end antisemitism. Or if the problem were that gentiles had a legitimate grievance against Jews, then a just resolution of the matter would solve the problem. But the closest that elite Jewish discourse comes to acknowledging a rational basis for hostility to Jews is the idea that Jews are superior to gentiles in some way and gentiles are just jealous; and since this Jewish superiority is timeless, so is the antisemitism.

What does the actual history of Jewish persecution tell us about whether gentiles are innately antisemitic?

Let's start out by looking at a sample of what Jews are taught by their religious leaders, about the history of Jews being persecuted by gentiles.

The Chmielnicki Pogroms

Here is an example of how Jews learn a version of history that serves to make them believe an anti-gentile stereotype--that gentiles have an irrational hatred of Jews. The Chmielnicki pogroms of 1648, in what was then Poland and now the Ukraine, are considered to have been the most atrocious attacks on Jews by the gentile masses (as opposed to the state acting on its own as during the Nazi era) in European history. There is no doubt that it was a vicious attack and that tens of thousands--some say 100,000 or more--Jews died terrible deaths because of it.

This is how Rabbi Ken Spiro, a licensed tour guide from the Israel Ministry of Tourism who has appeared on radio and television programs such as B.B.C., the National Geographic Channel and the History Channel, describes the event in his "The Jews of Poland: Crash Course in Jewish History #49":


When the Ukrainians decided to throw the Poles out of their land, a full-scale massacres of Jews began.

The year 1635 saw the first big explosion of violence in Ukraine against Poles and Jews. But this attempt at the revolution was crushed. It returned with new vigor thirteen years later.

This second rebellion, in 1648, which succeeded in freeing Ukraine from Polish rule, was led by a Ukrainian Cossack named Bogdan Chmielnicki. In large measure it was directed at the Jews.

Chmielnicki was one of the biggest anti-Semites in human history, on par with Hitler. His aim was genocide and his forces murdered an estimated 100,000 Jews in the most horrendous ways:

Here is one description (from Yeven Mezulah, pp. 31-32):

"Some of them [the Jews] had their skins flayed off them and their flesh was flung to the dogs. The hands and feet of others were cut off and they [their bodies] were flung onto the roadway where carts ran over them and they were trodden underfoot by horse ... And many were buried alive. Children were slaughtered at their mother's bosoms and many children were torn apart like fish. They ripped up the bellies of pregnant women, took out the unborn children, and flung them in their faces. They tore open the bellies of some of them and placed a living cat within the belly and they left them alive thus, first cutting off their hands so that they should not be able to take the living cat out of the belly ... and there was never an unnatural death in the world that they did not inflict upon them."

Here is another account from a Luthuanian Rabbi Shabbetai ben Meir HaCohen (1621-1662) also known as the Shach, who survived this time:

"On the same day 1,500 people were killed in the city of Human in Russia on the Sabbath. The nobles [Cossacks] with whom the wicked mob had again made an alliance chased all the Jews from the city into the fields and vineyards where the villains surrounded them in a circle, stripped them to their skin and ordered them to lie on the ground. The villains spoke to the Jews with friendly and consoling words: 'Why do you want to be killed, strangled and slaughtered like an offering to your God Who poured out His anger upon you without mercy? Would it not be safer for you to worship our gods, our images and crosses and we would form one people which would unite together.' "But the holy and faithful people who so often allowed themselves to be murdered for the sake of the Lord, raised their voices together in almighty in Heaven and cried: 'Hear of Israel the Lord our God, the Holy One and the King of the Universe, we have been murdered for Thy sake so often already. O Lord God of Israel let us remain faithful to Thee.' Afterward they recited the confession of sins and said: 'We are guilty and thus recognize the Divine judgement.' Now the villains turned upon them and there was not one of them who did not fall victim."

It's no wonder when Jews hear the word Cossack they break out in a sweat. These people killed 100,000 Jews and destroyed 300 Jewish communities in the most brutal way one could imagine.

Yet to this day Chmielnicki is considered a nationalist hero in the Ukraine, where they regard him as a kind of "George Washington." In Kiev there is a big statue in the square erected in his honor.

Irrational hatred of Jews (at least of Jews who did not convert to Christianity) surely seems to be the explanation for the pogrom based on this account. But there are some parts of the story left out by Rabbi Spiro. These parts are discussed in Yiddish Civilisation: The Rise and Fall of a Forgotton Nation by Paul Kriwaczek, who was born in Vienna in 1937 and, with his parents, narrowly escaped the Nazis in 1939.

Kriwaczek writes,"Peasant life on the Ukrainian estates has been compared with African-Americans' experience of ante bellum plantation society in the southern Confederate states of North America....The distinguished historian of Poland Professor Norman Davies's judgement is severe but probably fair:

"the Jewish arendator [a person who leased land from a noble] became the master of life and death over the population of entire districts, and, having nothing but a short-term and purely financial interest in the relationship, was faced with the irresistible temptation to pare his temporary subjects to the bone...In 1616 well over half the Crown Estates in the Ukraine were in the hands of Jewish arendators. In the same era, Prince Konstanty Ostrorog was reputed to employ over 4,000 Jewish agents. The result was axiomatic. The Jewish community as a whole attracted the opprobrium directed originally at its most enterprising members, and became the symbol of social and economic exploitation."

Had Rabbi Spiro included this part of the story his readers would not have been so quick to conclude that the motive for the violence against innocent Jews was inexplicable and irrational. Wrong, yes; inexplicable and irrational, no.

It was the tiny minority of wealthy Jewish agents and arendators against whom the peasants had a legitimate grievance, and against whom violence was quite understandable. But why did the peasants hate the innocent Jews? Part of the answer, no doubt, stems from the fact that even the poorest Jews were seen by peasants to be living off the wealth that the rich Jews stole from the peasants; they were not perceived as people who shared anything in common with peasants. The position of Jews in feudal society explains why this would be so. As Kriwaczek writes:

"Jewish inequality was, in any case, always rather different in kind from that prevailing among the gentiles. Instead, it resembled a kind of inverted version of the surrounding feudal system. Among Christian Slavs the movement of wealth was upwards, from the worse-off to the better-off, from the base of the social pyramid towrds its summit. Riches were sweated from the soil by the multitude of peasants and passed upwards to swell the coffers of the noble few. Among the Jews, the movement of money was in the opposite direction, flowing from the prosperous, middle-class, Yiddish-speaking merchant minority, growing wealthy from the export trade--the entrpreneurs of Cracow, Lemberg and Lublin...down to the mass of the Jewish Slavic working class who serviced their social superiors' religious and existential needs: the kosher butcher, the matzo baker, the Sabbath candlestick maker, the vintner, the dyer, the weaver, the tailor, the musician and the man who drove the mule cart."

But was the violence even mainly driven by hatred of Jews? Kriwaczek adds the following additional part of the story:
"It is not to diminish the Yiddish people's afflictions to note, as reported in these same grisly accounts, that the worst cruelties were practised on Polish noblemen and Catholic priests: 'The Jews were led to the cemetary...They entered the cemetery chapel and were killed there. Afterwards the buildng was set on fire...The Catholic priests...were skinned alive while the dukes who had been buried for a long time were dug up from their graves and tossed aside'; that it was Polish nobles and priests who provided the greater number of victims: 'In the city of Mogila they slaughtered 800 nobles together with their wives and children as well as 700 Jews, also with wives and children,'"

Far from supporting the stereotype of irrational hatred of Jews, the actual events of the Chmielnicki pogroms suggest that the peasants were driven by class anger at the entire upper class of Polish society. They attacked Jews because they perceived them to be an integral part of the upper class. The anger clearly did not stem from anything mysterious, timeless and irrational. The behavior towards Jews of modern gentiles today simply cannot be predicted by, or understood as a continuation of, the supposedly "timeless and irrational" behavior of peasants in 1648 Poland.

Jewish leaders have long wanted Jews to fear peasants and have contempt for them. One illustration of this is that Israel's national poet, Chaim Nachman Bialik (1873-1934), born in the Ukraine, wrote his famous poem, "My Father," in 1932 during the great Ukrainian famine that killed millions. As Nicholas Lysson writes, "The poem depicts Bialik’s 'righteous and upright' father dispensing vodka in a 'den of pigs like men,' to Slavic peasants 'rolling in vomit' with 'faces of monstrous corruption.' Bialik calls them 'scorpions' for good measure. The father’s 'whispered syllables,' mean-while, audible only to his adoring son, are 'pure prayer and law, the words of the living God.' The poem nowhere acknowledges the common complaint that the Jews encouraged Slavic alcoholism, which brought in revenue, exposed peasants’ remaining assets to foreclosure, and made them easier to control." [from "HOLOCAUST AND HOLODOMOR" ]

Orthodox Judaism's Contempt for Gentiles

Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits is the former Chief Rabbi of Ireland and later became the spiritual leader of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue in New York City. He is the author of the book Jewish Law Faces Modern Problems. He has a most interesting article, titled "A Modern Blood Libel--L'Affaire Shahak" in the summer, 1966 issue of TRADITION (Volume 8, Number 2) that is also online. The article is a defense of the Israeli rabinnate against an accusation made against them by Dr. Israel Shahak the previous December in a letter to Haaretz newspaper in Israel. Israel Shahak (1945- 2001) was a resident of the Warsaw Ghetto, a survivor of the Nazi Bergen-Belsen camp, and an outspoken critic of Zionism and champion of human rights in Israel, as well as having been a Chemistry professor. Shahak has written in great detail how Orthodox Judaism is fundamentally contemptuous of gentiles, basing his views on quotations from the original Hebrew Talmudic writings (which, as he notes, are often incorrectly translated into English in order to obscure how anti-gentile they actually are.) The interested reader can read Shahak's own words in his book Jewish History, Jewish Religion, in which Chapter 5 ("The Laws Against Non-Jews") is most relevant to the topic at hand.

Rabbi Jacobovits writes that, in his letter, Shahak
"charged that according to 'Orthodox' Jewish law it was forbidden to violate the Sabbath to save the life of a non-Jew. To 'prove' his inflammatory charge, he subsequently 'revealed' that he had himself witnessed an incident in which an Orthodox Jew had refused to allow his telephone to be used to call for help for a non-Jew who had collapsed nearby. Shocked, he asked the rabbinate for a ruling, and they had, so he claimed, confirmed that the Sabbath could indeed be violated only to save a Jewish life."
Rabbi Jacobovits claims that Dr. Shahak later admitted that he had fabricated the whole incident. I don't know the truth of this matter. In either case, it isn't relevant to our discussion. What is, however, very relevant is the rabbi's explanation, based on citations from the Talmud, for why, as he asserts, "the rabbinate, far from having confirmed Dr. Shahak's allegation, had in fact ruled that the Sabbath must be violated to save a non-Jewish no less than Jewish lives."

Rabbi Jacobovits explains why a Jew should break the Sabbath to save the life of a non-Jew with these exact words:
"Nevertheless, even Biblical violations of the Sabbath are warranted for non-Jews 'on account of enmity,' i.e., if the refusal to render such aid may imperil Jews. This stipulation is explicitly made by R. Moses Schreiber (Chatam Sopher, Yoreh De'ah, no. 131; cited in Pitchel Teshuvah, Yoreh De'ah, 154)."
In contrast, the reason why it is permitted ("sanctioned" as Rabbi Jacobovits says) to break the Sabbath to save the life of a Jew is explained by the rabbi this way:
"The principal verse cited by several sages in the Talmud to provide this sanction is: 'And the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath to observe the Sabbath" (Ex. 31:16), which they construed to mean: "Desecrate one Sabbath for him (i.e., a dangerously sick person), so that he may [survive to] keep many Sabbaths [later.]" (Yoma 85b; Sabbath 151b; Mekhilta, Tissa). Accordingly, the whole sanction to violate the Sabbath for the preservation of life is founded on the superior value not of life itself but of the prospect to observe "many Sabbaths" afterwards, so that the Sabbath can be suspended only for the sake of a person who himself observes the Sabbath."
What is remarkable about Rabbi Jacobovits's explanation of the Talmud on this question is that his own words confirm Shahak's main point--that the Talmud views gentiles as inferior to Jews and less deserving of even having their life saved. For, according to the rabbi, if the circumstances were such that a gentile's life depended on a Jew breaking the Sabbath, but no gentile would ever find out about it if the Jew refused to break the Sabbath, then there would be no risk of it "imperiling Jews" and hence the 'on account of enmity' reasoning would not apply and the poor gentile ought to be left to die. Nowhere in Rabbi Jacobovits's article is there an affirmation that a gentile's life is inherently as valuable as a Jew's life. Orthodox Judaism doesn't believe it is.

The Significance of This for Jews Today

Of course most Jews today do not decide how to behave based on Talmudic law. The point is that whenever a Jew breaks the Sabbath to save the life of a gentile (or in general treats a gentile as an equal, regardless of whether failure to do so imperils Jews) he or she is acting contrary to Orthodox Judaism. For centuries the rabbis and wealthy Jews, who controlled Jewish communities in Europe, used the Talmud to inculcate in ordinary Jews a profoundly disrespectful attitude towards gentiles. This played the same role then (and now, in the case of Palestinians) as racism played in the American South. The white upper class feared poor whites uniting with blacks (as indeed happened in the 1930s on a large scale in the Southern Tenant Farmers Union) and pushed the racist idea that blacks were inferior in order to turn the whites against the blacks. Similarly, the Orthodox Jewish religion helps to prevent ordinary Jews from forming relations of solidarity with gentiles against the upper class that oppresses them both.

As long as Jews accept that gentile antisemitism is unchangeable, they will be swayed by their leaders who preach the need for ethnic cleansing to keep Israel as purely Jewish as possible. They will be forced by the logic of this anti-gentile stereotype to side with Israeli leaders who carry out ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, even though these same leaders--an elite class of billionaires and generals--oppress and exploit ordinary Jews and have no concern for their welfare. The anti-gentile stereotype makes the very idea of solidarity between working class Jews and Palestinians unthinkable, and in this way functions to strengthen the Israeli elite's control over ordinary Jews.

Why do so many Jews believe the anti-gentile stereotype? To put the question more sharply, why do many American Jews believe this stereotype when they can see with their own eyes that virtually anytime antisemitic graffiti appears in any American town huge numbers of gentiles denounce it and march with Jews to condemn it?

The answer is that Jewish elites have been teaching Jews this anti-gentile stereotype for centuries. Wealthy Jews and rabbis were powerful people in feudal Europe, and their elevated position in society required preventing solidarity from developing between ordinary Jews and ordinary gentiles. The anti-gentile stereotype made this possible. This is a part of history that is not well known because the version of history that the rulers of society teach the masses deemphasizes or even excludes altogether the stories about how ordinary people challenged elite rule and how elites contrived to stay in power by telling people lies. For this reason most Jews as well as gentiles have only a vague idea about the context in which gentiles attacked Jews in the distant past. Even the more recent Nazi Holocaust is more lied about than accurately presented to the public when it comes to the role of ordinary Germans during the Nazi period.

Most Jews, when they hear about the famous pogroms against Jews, imagine the Jews in those times as having been no different from the contemporary gentiles, with the sole exception of having a different religion and being discriminated against because of that. Jews are not taught important facts of European history that contextualize violence against Jews. For example, they aren't taught that Jews occupied a very different position in feudal society from gentiles, that, for example, there were never Jewish peasants in Europe, that even the poorest Jews lived in small towns or cities and were far better off than the rural peasants in feudal society who were virtual slaves, or that peasants were often directly oppressed by wealthy Jews who acted as agents of the nobility. It is understandable that, not knowing these things, Jews conclude from what they are taught by their religious leaders that the attacks on Jews can only be explained by the notion that gentiles harbor an irrational hatred of Jews, and that gentile antisemitism is mysterious, inherent and timeless.

Believing a negative stereotype about people because one doesn't know the full story happens all the time. For example, most Americans know that Palestinians don't like Israel, but they don't know why; they don't know that Israel carries out ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. So it is natural that Americans believe it when they are told that the reason Palestinians don't like Israel is because "Arabs have an irrational hatred of Jews, always have and always will."

Jews today are very well informed about the centuries of persecution of Jews by gentiles in Europe. Jewish leaders make sure of this. But what Jews today seldom know are the historical facts that indicate the actual motives of the gentiles who attacked Jews. Jewish leaders want Jews to believe that the motives of the gentile masses were always the same: irrational hatred of Jews, period. It's just "in their nature," like the killing instinct of the scorpion in the famous story of the scorpion who convinces the frog to carry him across the river by telling the worried frog that he would never kill the frog because then they would both drown, but who nonetheless does sting the frog in midstream and, when asked by the frog, "How come?" replies, "It's my nature."

Jews who want a more equal and democratic world need to understand that many of the beliefs they have been taught by the rabbis and wealthy Jews who lead organized Jewry are factually wrong when it comes to historical events, and morally wrong when it comes to placing more value on the life of a Jew than a gentile. Jews need to understand that these beliefs prevent them from standing with the great majority of people in the world in opposition to racism and ethnic cleansing and other forms of inequality that elites enforce in order to strengthen their power over people. Until they do, they will continue to suffer from a kind of collective paranoia. This is dangerous to both themselves and to the gentiles their Jewish leaders turn them against.

Israel's leaders are the modern-day version of the wealthy Jews of the past who aligned themselves with the nobles against the peasants and who tried to keep "their people" separated from and contemptuous of the peasants. This led to disasters like the Chmielnicki pogroms. Jews who think that they are making the world safer for ordinary Jews by siding with Israel's Zionist leaders and supporting their ethnic cleansing of Palestinians are making a monumental mistake. Jews, no less than gentiles, should oppose Israel's ethnic cleansing and demand it stop. They should join with the rest of us in supporting the right of return for the Palestinian refugees so they can return to their homes inside the green line (Israel) and receive fair compensation for the land and other property that the Zionists stole from them. It is the decent thing to do, no matter what one's religion.