Pandaemonium

INTELLECTUAL CHARLATANS & ACADEMIC WITCH-HUNTERS

Judith Butler is a queen, perhaps the queen, of poststructuralist philosophy. A pioneer of queer theory and one of the world’s leading feminist philosophers, she made her name with her 1990 book, Gender Trouble, which dismisses the idea of sex and gender as fixed categories, viewing them instead as forms of social artifice. Butler introduced in the book the concept of gender as ‘performativity’: by behaving as if there were male and female ‘natures’ we create the social fiction that these natures exist.

Next week Butler is due to receive the prestigious Adorno Prize. Awarded by the city of Frankfurt to honour its most celebrated philosophical son, Theodor Adorno, the triennial award is given for ‘outstanding work in the fields of philosophy, music, theatre and film’. Previous winners have included such luminaries as Jurgen Habermas, Zygmunt Bauman, Norbert Elias, Pierre Boulez, Jean-Luc Goddard and György Ligeti.

This year’s award has caused a major controversy. Critics have described the award of the prize to Butler as ‘monstrous’, a ‘scandal’, and ‘morally corrupt’.

Butler’s work has always divided critics. While some view her as a courageous and innovative thinker, others view her as an intellectual charlatan. ‘It is difficult to come to grips with Butler’s ideas’, the American philosopher Martha Nussbaum has written in a devastating critique, ‘because it is difficult to figure out what they are.’

Butler is not only a princess of postmodern prose; she is also the empress of the impenetrable phrase. In 1998 she won another, less desirable, prize, when the journal Philosophy and Literature awarded her its ‘Bad Writing’ award, a prize that sought to ‘celebrate the most stylistically lamentable passages found in scholarly books and articles’. Butler responded with an op-ed in the New York Times in which she celebrated incomprehensible writing as the only way ‘to question common sense, interrogate its tacit presumptions and provoke new ways of looking at a familiar world’.

In fact, as the philosopher Martha Nussbaum observes, the impenetrability of Butler’s prose serves not to challenge common sense but to protect the emptiness of the ideas within. The jargon-infested obscurity of Butler’s work, Nussbaum wrote, helps ‘create an aura of importance’, so as to ‘bully the reader into granting that, since one cannot figure out what is going on, there must be something significant going on, some complexity of thought, where in reality there are often familiar or even shopworn notions, addressed too simply and too casually to add any new dimension of understanding.’

It is not simply the form of Butler’s work, but its content, too, that is problematic. For Butler we are constituted in discourse, in relations of power, and out of that discourse, out of those relations of power, we cannot escape. Power, for Butler, as for Michel Foucault, from whom she draws much of her argument, is omnipresent. Its threads are everywhere and it is only through power that reality is constituted. ‘The power is “always already there”’, as Foucault puts it, meaning ‘that one is never “outside” it, that there are no “margins” for those who break with the system to gambol in’ [Power/Knowledge, p85]. Or, in Butler’s words, ‘Called by an injurious name, I come into social being, and because I have a certain inevitable attachment to my existence, because a certain narcissism takes hold of any term that confers existence, I am led to embrace the terms that injure me because they constitute me socially’ [The Psychic Life of Power, p104]. Since I am, in other words, created by social relations of power, I can never escape those relations of power without ceasing to be. I can never challenge the system in any comprehensive way because ‘the power is “always already there”’. I can simply work within it, carve out a space, turn the language of subordination that imprisons me upon itself to mock my imprisonement,  transgress by performing in a slightly different, parodic manner. For all her claimed radicalism, Butler’s politics, like that of many poststructuralists, is the politics of gesture, not the politics of change.

Little of this, however, seems to concern the critics of Butler’s Adorno Prize. What has infuriated them is not so much the intellectual shallowness of Butler’s work as the unacceptability of her political views, in particular her fierce hostility to Israel. Butler supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign that seeks to isolate Israel, culturally and economically, arguing that links to Israeli universities and cultural institutions should be cut. She has called Hamas and Hezbollah ‘social movements that are progressive’, and ‘part of a global Left’. (In a response to her critics, Butler has attempted to evade the charge that she supports Hamas and Hezbollah by insisting that the comment was ‘merely descriptive’.  Since when has ‘progressive’ been merely a ‘descriptive’ term?)

All this has inevitably created outrage.  ‘Who boycotts Israel cannot be an Adorno-laureate’, insisted the German section of the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, an advocacy organization for Israel.  It added that ‘this grotesquely wrong decision of the City of Frankfurt leads to the suspicion that it agrees with this radical enmity of its laureate toward Israel’. Professor Gerald Steinberg, a political scientist at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University claimed that ‘The boycott campaign is… the modern embodiment of anti-Semitism.’ According to Steinberg, ‘Butler is one of a tiny number of token Jews who are used to legitimize the ongoing war against Israel, following a dark practice used for centuries in the Diaspora.’ Stephen J. Kramer, the general secretary of the German Jewish Council condemned Butler’s ‘moral depravity’, lambasted as ‘shocking’ Frankfurt’s decision to honour her, and suggested that the fact of Butler’s Jewishness ‘makes her worthy of a study of the psychology of self-hatred but in no way as a laureate of the Adorno prize whose name is now stained’. Pro-Israeli activists are attempting to force the city of Frankfurt to rescind the award of the prize to Butler. An online petition has been launched under the headline ‘No Adorno Award for Anti-Semite Judith Butler’.

There is certainly something deeply dispiriting about the BDS campaign, about the idea that there is anything progressive about trying to silence Israeli academics or preventing theatre groups from performing abroad, about showing solidarity with the Palestinian people by seeking to restrict intellectual freedom. There is also something abhorrent about a public intellectual who not only believes that Hamas and Hezbollah are ‘progressive’ but also tries to evade responsibility for that view.

Yet the campaign against Butler is equally dispiriting and dangerous.  There is, of course, nothing wrong with criticizing Butler’s work or her politics, or even of the awarding of the Prize to her. Indeed, it would be astonishing if there was not such criticism. The current campaign against Butler is not, however, just about exposing Butler’s arguments. It is also about defining the kinds of criticisms of Israel that are legitimate, about marking out the political and moral limits of acceptable academia. To label Butler ‘anti-Semitic’ is simply an attempt to shout down debate. As Butler herself rightly observes (with a lucidity so often missing from her academic work):

Such charges seek to demonize the person who is articulating a critical point of view and so disqualify the viewpoint in advance. It is a silencing tactic: this person is unspeakable, and whatever they speak is to be dismissed in advance or twisted in such a way that it negates the validity of the act of speech. The charge refuses to consider the view, debate its validity, consider its forms of evidence, and derive a sound conclusion on the basis of listening to reason. The charge is not only an attack on persons who hold views that some find objectionable, but it is an attack on reasonable exchange, on the very possibility of listening and speaking in a context where one might actually consider what another has to say.

It is ironic that critics of the campaign to enforce a cultural boycott of Israel should themselves seek to constrain free speech and to force Frankfurt to rescind the prize.  It is ironic that critics rightly incensed by the facile comparison of Israeli actions with those of the Nazis should make similar comparisons about cultural boycotters. It ‘is a scandal’, claimed the SPME ‘that the City of Frankfurt… where the boycott against Jews of the Nazis in 1933 is still remembered, awards a prize of €50,000 named after a scholar who was driven into exile by the Nazis, to a person that calls for the singular boycott of Jewish Institutions within the state of Israel’. One might not agree with BDS tactics, but to compare them with the actions of the Nazis is absurd. It is ironic, too, that those happy to lambast Butler for the ‘immorality’ of her hostility to Israel think nothing of  dismissing the reality of Palestinian life, describing the ‘Israeli “occupation” [as] a relic of the past’ and condemning ‘the false Arab-Palestinian notion of being “occupied” and “robbed” of their true destiny’.  Such a view is a grotesque distortion of reality; but people have the right to hold those views, and even win to prizes while doing so. The same applies to Judith Butler.

The shallowness of Butler’s ideas is good reason to question the award of the prize. Her hostility to Israel is not. Even intellectual charlatans with questionable political views deserve protection from academic witch-hunters.

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33 comments

  1. Simon

    Good post. I too am shocked by the lucidity of Butler’s writings on Israel Palestine. Crisp prose, and quite insightful. Perhaps there is more to her general corpus?

  2. Simon

    Also, as an individual of Jewish heritage I do certainly stand for Butler’s academic freedom. Even her remark about Hamas and Hezbollah was later qualified when she noted that being anti-imperialist was part and parcel of left-wing movements. Even though I sometimes feel like the obsessive focus on Israel/Palestine is somewhat anti-semitic and pathological, I can stand this comment, I think.

  3. Simon

    Finally, it seems Nussbaum’s critique of Butler is similar to one made by Richard Rorty regarding Foucault. Both alledged that the author in question’s work is insufficiently positive, in the sense of providing a direction for future emancipatory struggles.

    • Benjamin Tallis

      Correct. The point in both Foucault and Butler’s case is that they reject specific emancipation (see the Foucault – Habermas debate and many more) as the route to a newly imposed form of domination. Rather than viewing power as purely repressive, it should be see as productive – of identities, social relations and indeed possibilities. why for example do you submit to the powerful bodily invasion performed by doctors – beacuse you believe it is in your best interest. This highlights what foucault, drawing on the work of Etienne de la Boetie called voluntary servitude. Nussbaum & Malik totally miss the point …

      • Simon

        Hi Benjamin. I am obviously only somewhat familiar with Foucault and Butler, but it seems from your comments that I understand what they’re getting at. Is it wrong of me to read them as deeply conservative, that is, does it leave adequate scope for left wing egalitarian projects? If emancipation is an illusion, were the hopes of the Enlightenment in vain?

  4. Kuldeep

    Do yo mean to imply that Nussbaum is right about everything? Butler’s work has been far more influential, and has contributed to more real change than Nussbaum’s though their areas of expertise–rhetoric and classics–overlap. You seem to believe that Butler and other ‘postmodernists’ are simply–quite simply–charlatans! It is amazing that you can be perceptive about the operations of power in so many ways and domains that you write about but cannot conceive that there could possibly be other ways of understanding power. Is this an article of faith that cannot be argued against? If not what’s wrong with the position that we are constituted in and by relations of power? And there is more to gesture than you seem to see. Do authors of books and blogs do anything more engage in a politics of gesture?

    • No, I don’t think that Nussbaum is right about everything. Where did I imply that? And no, I don’t think that all postmodernists are ‘simply charlatans’. I don’t even think Butler is, though clearly I don’t have as high an opinion of her work as you do. I’m not what sure you imagine is the ‘article of faith that cannot be argued against’. Of course there can be, and are, many ‘ways of understanding power’. That does not mean that they are right. One of the problems with Foucauldian notions of power is, ironically, an inadequate conception of the social. Power, for Foucault, cannot be conceived of in class or social terms. It is not the property of an individual or a class, nor does it emanate from an identifiable source or institution, such as the state. It is simply omnipresent. It is this that makes it inadequate as a social conception and carries with it the seeds of political quietism. I have spent nearly two decades laying out my arguments against many aspects of poststructuralist / postmodernist thought, including the question of power. Sections of my first three books (The Meaning of Race, Man, Beast and Zombie, Strange Fruit) tackle various aspects of the issue. A 1000-word blog post will not provide an adequate analysis. It was not supposed to. But what I might do is post some extracts from the books over the next few weeks.

      • With postmodernism, the Sokal hoax deeply impressed me with how po-mo writers’ often impenetrable prose and obfuscating rhetoric are used to either conceal plain nonsense, or dress up banalities as profound insight. When a thinker deliberately undermines his ideas with obscure writing, his or her intellectual honesty becomes suspect.

        I look forward to reading your posts arguing against these aspects of postmodernist thought. I’m also interested to know what you think are the positives of po-mo.

      • Benjamin Tallis

        Kenan, please do post those extracts because it seems to me that you don’t do justice to Foucault’s highly social conception of power. In the texts ranging loosely from D&P to HoS1 and encompassing the lecture series Society Must be Defended, Security, Territory, Population, Birth of Biopolitics, a highly social model of various modes of power, manifested in various dispositifs is outlined. You are right to say though that Foucault does not see power as the possession of one class – he doesn’t see it as a possession at all. Escaping the false hope and dogma of marxist ‘emancipation’ was one of his major goals, as he has made repeatedly clear.

  5. I'm a charlatan too then

    You know, the substance of your post vis-a-vis Butler’s…

    Oh I can’t even concentrate on the substance of your post because I’m gobsmacked that anyone would take Martha Nussbaum as an authority on Butler.

    There is a difference in both intention and method between political engagement as a public intellectual and scholarly analysis. This seems to have escaped Nussbaum, and possibly you too.

    Butler is hard because her subject is hard–so very hard–both to think and write about. Nussbaum is easy because she is facile. As far as I can see (and I haven’t found her valuable enough to read much of her), she presupposes a human nature and then starts pontificating. Easy, but not really, you know, useful.

    • This, of course, is the standard defence: the subject is hard and therefore the writing has to be obscure. I take the opposite view. It is precisely when the subject is difficult that you need the greatest clarity in both thought and expression. There are philosophers with whom it repays the effort required to work through obscure or difficult language. Butler, I’m afraid, is not one of them.

      Yes, of course, there is a difference between political engagement and scholarly analysis. But scholarly analysis must also have some relationship to political engagement, especially if such analysis is about questions of power, oppression, discrimination, etc, and about how to challenge these. It is precisely because Butler’s analysis is inadequate on these questions that her conception of political engagement is also suspect.

      As for Nussbaum, yes I am deeply critical of many of her arguments. But since when did quoting someone on one issue mean that you agree with everything they say?

  6. Typical me to attempt to change the subject slightly:)… but where is the intellectual furore over the German Supreme Court’s highly dubious ruling on circumcision? Typical Germans – they want us all to “wear helmets” apparently! :)

  7. I have read Butler – and am conflicted over her work:some of it reads as obfuscatory and annoying – but elsewhere she is insightful and interesting – but this is not what’s at stake here.

    The piece above seems to be summed up in one short passage:

    “The current campaign against Butler is not, however, just about exposing Butler’s arguments. It is also about defining the kinds of criticisms of Israel that are legitimate, about marking out the political and moral limits of acceptable academia. To label Butler ‘anti-Semitic’ is simply an attempt to shout down debate”

    This strikes me as both true and depressing…

  8. Great post. It’s very frustrating dealing with arts students who admire the post-structuralists because they genuinely believe paving roads of jargon that wind their way through a gist constitutes a scholarly argument. I’ve taken to the habit of translating Butler into plain English to expose how facile and/or incoherent her ideas are – it’s not remotely impossible to do and it really helps expose her emptiness to students, provided they accept your translation is valid (the true believers never do).

    • Benjamin Tallis

      So, do you really think that there is nothing of value in her work. I have found performativity to be one of the most useful ways of thinking about identity as well as other issues such as security politics. It seems to be one of the most thoughtful and nuanced ways of dealing with Heideggers dasein – mitsein conundrum, rejecting both the liberal fallacy of the pre-formed individual and the constructivist ‘choose your own identity’ myth. The way that it accounts for iterative processes, which over time shape and give direction to a form is particularly useful, I found. Some of her writing is certainly difficult, but like many who criticise Foucault for the same thing, I am left wondering if perhaps they just didn’t get it …

  9. I am asking myself whether the symmetry which you create between Butler and her critics is not a little bit too accommodating. You say that the comparison of Israeli actions with those of the Nazis is as wrong as to say that this argument is antisemitic and reminds us of the nazis. But pardon me: The equalization between jews and nazis is just the most acute form of antisemitism today and nearly the definition of the modern form of antisemitism. I know that this thinking is rather popular in left wing academic circles in the UK (whether they are “po-mo” or not). To deny the right of Israel to exist, which is in the aims of the BDS campaign, to call Hamas and Hibollah “progressive” – all this may be in the range of free speech. But you can also ask whether this sort of position merits a prize for critical thinking to the amount of 50.000 Euros. And why do you call the comparison of Israel to the Nazis “facile”. Isn’t it quite simply absurd?

    • Butler did not win the Adorno Prize for her stance on boycotts or Hamas. She won it for her academic work on identity, difference, etc. I happen to think that work is intellectually shallow and politically problematic. But her political position on Israel does not, should not, have a bearing on how we evaluate her academic worth.

      There are many who want to see the destruction of the state of Israel who would support the BDS campaign. But not all those who support the BDS campaign want to see the destruction of the state Israel. They seem simply view it as a tactic through which to force Israel to change its policies. One could question those tactics but it is nonsense blandly to suggest that the ‘aim of the campaign’ is the denial of the right of Israel to exist. Nor even is all opposition to the right of Israel to exist the same. There is, for instance, a long tradition of calling for the creation of a single binational state as the only possible solution to the conflict (as, say, Daniel Barenboim now does), a tradition that is a world way from the virulent anti-Semitism of the Hamas or Ahmadinejad variety. Not to make such a distinction would be to claim that anti-Zionism per se is illegitimate.

      Sure, the comparison of Israeli actions to those of the Nazis is both ‘facile’ and ‘absurd’. I would not read too much into the use of one word rather than the other in a blog post.

      You have always seemed to me to be a staunch supporter of free speech, Thierry. But here you appear to be adopting, as most people these days seem to do, a ‘My speech should be free but yours is too costly’ line. The real cost of that can only be to free speech itself.

      • @kenan Thank you for answering. Sure I am for free speech. I am not a part of a campaign which calls for a revokement of the prize decision. I am simpy asking to which degree of sillyness you have to go to merit a prize for critical thinking to an amount of 50.000 Euros. I don’t want to lose myself in these endless Israel debates and to which degree it may be honorous to be against Israel either. The Israel fixation of left wing intellectuals seems simply pathological to me. And even if there may be some sorts of legitimate ways of being against Israel, it is more important to me to see that the more radical currents of left wing, right wing and islamic discourses converge in a wild and often eliminatory stance against Israel. I would prefer to give an Adorno prize to a thinker who would be able to think this inner identity of these seemingly contrarian ideologies. But may Judoth Butler be the useful idiot of theses currents. It’s maisntream. We’ll have to live with it.

  10. acilius

    Israel is a small country, poor in natural resources, located on the other side of the world from the United States. In view of this fact, it is not difficult to see why an American such as Professor Butler who is greatly exercised about unattractive features of Israeli policy, vigorously supportive of measures that would limit Israel’s economic growth, and sympathetic to extremist groups with anti-Israeli agendas might be suspected of a sinister motive. Harsh as Israel’s treatment of its Palestinian subjects may be, aggressive as its military actions against its neighbors may be, they are far from the only atrocities on earth today, or even the most severe atrocities. Look at Uganda’s Ogaden province, or at North Korea, or at Equatorial Guinea, or at the eastern Congo. Why the fixation on Israel’s injustices as opposed to those committed in any other country? Perhaps, since Israel is a Jewish state, a person exhibiting such a fixation might be an anti-Semite who sees an enemy in all Jews everywhere.

    Now, if one were to say that Professor Butler is prejudiced against Israel and that this prejudice has led her, not only to make silly remarks in praise of Hamas and Hezbollah, but to adopt an overall view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is unhelpful, I would have to agree. But I do not believe that her anti-Israeli prejudice is the expression of anti-Semitism. On the contrary, I would argue that when Professor Butler sets Israel apart from other small countries of which she is not a citizen she is expressing her fealty to a particular version of Judaism. She identifies herself as a Jewish person and Israel as a Jewish project. She holds Israel to standards which she does not apply to other countries, not because of her hatred for Jews, but because of her will to see in the ethical traditions of Judaism an antidote to nationalism and racism. In a sense, one might say that Professor Butler’s objection to Israeli policy is an anti-blasphemy campaign. A black-hearted Realpolitiker such as myself can find very little to admire in such a campaign, but one makes oneself ridiculous by refusing to distinguish it from anti-Semitism.

    • juergen martin moeller

      Uganda, North Corea, Congo etc. are not just democratic states of law. To put them and their atrocities in a line with Israel, even in the most indirect way, has some boomerang-effect for the legal character of the jewish state. To be critical towards some illegal practices by the State of Israel means not to confond Israel with Uganda, North Korea, Congo etc…….

      • acilius

        You raise an interesting point. The traditions of diplomacy as expressed in institutions such as the United Nations proceed from an agreement to behave as if there were no distinctions to be made between various categories of states. So the representative of a state which exercises undisputed control of its territory is seated next to the representative of a group which is little more than the most successful of a number of competing bands of marauders. The representative of a state which has no army or navy is addressed by the same title as the representative of the state on which his depends for its defense. The representative of a totalitarian regime observes the same rules of parliamentary procedure as the representative of a liberal democracy. Such traditions and the kindly fictions that underlie them are necessary if diplomats are to do their work. But they have little place in the realistic analysis of world affairs.

        Unlike Uganda or the Congo, Israel has firm control of its territory. Of course, it also controls territory which it does not claim as its own. Also unlike them, it has excellent systems of education, medicine, and other public services, as well as a thriving market economy, all of which combine to make the latest technological advancements widely available to its citizens. Let us consider these facts as we return to the question, Why is Professor Butler so harsh in her views of Israel if she is not an anti-Semite? Many people seem to believe that war and injustice generally are the consequences of poverty. Certainly much of the rhetoric one hears in support of international development aid rests on this assumption. A believer in this proposition might well be quite incensed with Israel, since it is a prosperous country which pursues many warlike and unjust policies. I don’t see much evidence that Professor Butler is such a believer, however, nor do I think that if she does believe in such an idea her belief is likely to be so deep as to lead her to make the outlandish remarks she has made about Hamas and Hezbollah.

        Unlike Equatorial Guinea or North Korea, Israel has multiparty elections at regular intervals, and governments which lose those elections leave office as a matter of course. Also unlike them, it has an independent judiciary which enforces a code of laws that limit the government”s powers. It has a vigorous press, and a culture that sustains lively debate on a wide range of political perspectives. For those reasons, and many others, a devotee of liberal democracy might classify Israel among what you call “just democratic states of law.”

        To one who values liberal democracy, therefore, it is sad to think that a country which can boast all of its signature institutions is in any way comparable to countries which have none of those institutions. Champions of liberal democracy will therefore be downcast when they think of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians, and eager to see change in those policies. I am sure that Professor Butler sees many virtues in liberal democracy, but I do not believe that her views can be explained by describing her as a frustrated lover of the liberal tradition. Not only has she offered a deep and searching critique of that tradition in her academic works, but her statements on Israel explicitly refer to the limits of liberalism. And again, Hamas and Hezbollah, while they may be anti-colonial movements, are not in any way apostles of liberal democracy.

        So, I continue to suspect that Professor Butler’s intensity on issues regarding Israel/Palestine is a feature of her Judaism. I can find no evidence that there is any other tradition or belief to which she attaches such great importance that it would lead her to devote so much energy and time to the affairs of a small country located thousands of miles from her own.

  11. SwedishChef

    Professor Richard Landes on the Butler controversy:

    “We are not calling her an anti-Semite. Some may, that’s their prerogative, and there’s a case to be made, although not one I’d care to make. We’re accusing her of being a dupe to demopathic anti-Semites, their useful idiot, of lacking any real or theoretical courage to denounce the worst kind of anti-Semitism when it appears on the Left. Indeed, she’s one of the Leftist/Jihadi anti-Semites’ favorite laundry soap.”

    http://www.theaugeanstables.com/2012/09/05/gitlin-comes-to-the-defense-of-butlers-diasporic-non-violence-carnivore-rhetoric-for-the-vegan-crowd/

  12. “ ..why do you call the comparison of Israel to the Nazis “facile”. Isn’t it quite simply absurd? “

    The comparison is neither facile nor absurd. On the contrary, it is rather obvious and elementary. For an extended discussion of the subject see my essay ‘Zionism and Nazism: Is there a difference that makes a difference?’

    https://sites.google.com/site/onedemocraticstatesite/Home/today-s-headlines/zionism-and-nazism-is-there-a-difference-that-makes-a-difference-by-roger-tucker

    It is helpful to read the introductory piece ‘Us vs. Them: On the Meaning of Fascism’ first.

    Roger Tucker
    One Democratic State

    http://onestate.info

    • Yes, this equation is a classic of left wing antisemitism. One of the first to be struck by this patholology was Jean-Luc Godard (not Goddard). I wrote about that (in German unfortunetately but there is also a video): http://j.mp/QnAS1x This was also true for the German terrorists of the Seventies.

    • I have not had the time to read the piece. But the comparison is indeed both facile and absurd. Zionism is a species of nationalism. You can oppose it, and there is an honourable anti-Zionist tradition. You can challenge what Zionism has meant in practice, both to Jews and non-Jews. But to suggest that there is no difference between Zionism and Nazism is both laughable and dangerous.

      • Claiming that you didn’t have “the time to read the piece” is at least a step up from the usual blanket dismissals of anti-Zionist critiques without bothering to read them. I would like to challenge anyone on this list to actually read the two brief essays I mentioned, the first on defining fascism and the second on the relationship between Zionism and Nazism and then to make a substantive argument on their merits, which I would be happy to respond to. BTW, the title of the latter should dispel any facile claim that I don’t see any difference between the two – that would indeed be both facile and absurd.

        Otherwise I would be forced to conclude that the active list members have never descended from the island of Laputa to the surface of the planet – plus ca change, plus la meme chose.

        I should also point out that Zionism is not a species of nationalism for the simple reason that Zionism existed long before there was a nation called Israel. A fascist nationalism has replaced Zionism as the ideology of that society, whose corresponding religion is the Holycause.

        Cordially,
        Roger Tucker
        One Democratic State

        http://onestate.info

      • The argument in that article is pretty pathetic, as are phrases such as ‘whose corresponding religion is the Holycause’. I am happy to have robust debate on this blog. But if you just want to posture, there’s a whole world wide web in which you can do so.

      • Simon

        Prof. Malik, I would hope you would remove the comments from Mr. Tucker, who has links to several Holocaust deniers on his site.

      • Simon, If you have evidence of Roger Tucker’s Holocaust denial, I am happy for you to call him out on that. Bigots must be robustly challenged at every point. However, I also have a robust attitude towards free speech. My view is that bigotry is best publicly exposed and challenged rather than censored or banned.

  13. juergen martin moeller

    My English is not very elaborated, but I think it will do to answer Roger Tucker: the classification of zionism as nationalism is correct and has nothing to do with zionism beeing prior to the existence of the state of Israel.
    Theodor Herzl was a flamboyant child of the 19th century. In Europe,
    from the Balkan over Italy to Germany, this century was full of nationalistic yest for retarded state- and nation-building.

    The divided, stateless polish people, millions of jews included, were looking for a way out of their deprivations and frustrations. One jewish way finally went Jerusalem, and was nationalistic too, of course.

    The religious dreams, the socialist Kibbuz ideology too, gave the egoistic take over of the land some idealistic cover. I don’t mean this cynically. I still met nice people of that generation who believed honestly in their idealistic concepts.
    My grand-grand uncle too, who had been a christian missionary in West Africa, would never have accepted -or even got- the idea, that his idealistic work covered in a way colonialism and imperialism.
    He was deutsch-national and felt innocent. And in his way, in those times, he was.

    But today I have some problems to believe in the idealistic innocence of, let’s say, Avigdor Lieberman. (And where, on the very religious side, I can believe in some strange kind of idealism: even worse, sorry to say.)

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