Sunday 12th of July 2020

the problem with the jewish settlements...

World-renowned philosopher Slavoj Zizek has emerged as the latest high-profile target in the fight against perceived anti-Semitism in the UK, for a moment there moving aside the usual suspect, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.


In a recent article for the Independent, Zizek criticized Israel for its aggressive settlement policies in the occupied West Bank, and argued that such criticism of Israeli policies does not make someone an anti-Semite.

Within the text, the philosopher used a very inconsiderate turn of phrase – “the trouble with Jews.” Immediately, a crowd of outraged commenters rose up, and fully proving Zizek's point, the paper removed the offending phrase and replaced it with “the trouble with the settlement project.”

Zizek himself admits it was a poor choice of words, but when he asked the Independent to run a follow-up explanation, the paper refused – and RT is the only outlet that gave Zizek the floor.

“I was wrong, I committed an unpardonable mistake in using the phrase ‘the trouble with Jews’... which effectively can be understood as implying that some ‘trouble’ pertains to the very identity of being a Jew.”

Such a reading “runs against the basic premise of my text which is that the proponents of full annexation of the West Bank are betraying the emancipatory core of the Jewish tradition itself,” the philosopher says in the explanation piece.



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the trouble with "them"...


From Slavoj Zizek


Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that, if you are attacked for the same text by both sides in a political conflict, this is one of the few reliable signs that you are on the right path. In the last decades, I have been attacked by a number of very different political actors (often on account of the same text!) for antisemitism, up to advocating a new Holocaust, and for perfidious Zionist propaganda (see the last issue of the antisemitic Occidental Observer). So I think I’ve earned the right to comment on the recent accusations against the Labour Party regarding its alleged tolerance of antisemitism.

I, of course, indisputably reject antisemitism in all its forms, including the idea that one can sometimes ”understand” it, as in: “considering what Israel is doing on the West Bank, one shouldn’t be surprised if this gives birth to antisemitic reactions”. More precisely, I reject the two symmetrical versions of this last argument: “we should understand occasional Palestinian antisemitism since they suffer a lot” as well as “we should understand aggressive Zionism in view of the Holocaust.” One should, of course, also reject the compromise version: “both sides have a point, so let’s find a middle way…”.

Along the same lines, we should supplement the standard Israeli point that the (permissible) critique of Israeli policy can serve as a cover for the (unacceptable) antisemitism with its no less pertinent reversal: the accusation of antisemitism is often invoked to discredit a totally justified critique of Israeli politics. Where, exactly, does legitimate critique of Israeli policy become antisemitism? More and more, mere sympathy for the Palestinian resistance is condemned as antisemitic. Take the two-state solution: while decades ago it was the standard international position, it is more and more proclaimed a threat to Israel's existence and thus antisemitic.

Things get really ominous when Zionism itself evokes the traditional antisemitic cliché of roots. Alain Finkielkraut wrote in 2015 in a letter to Le Monde: “The Jews, they have today chosen the path of rooting.” It is easy to discern in this claim an echo of Heidegger who said, in a Der Spiegel interview, that all essential and great things can only emerge from our having a homeland, from being rooted in a tradition. The irony is that we are dealing here with a weird attempt to mobilise antisemitic clichés in order to legitimize Zionism: antisemitism reproaches the Jews for being rootless; Zionism tries to correct this failure by belatedly providing Jews with roots. No wonder many conservative antisemites ferociously support the expansion of the State of Israel.

However, the trouble with the settlement project today is that it is now trying to get roots in a place which was for thousands of years inhabited by other people. That’s why I find obscene a recent claim by Ayelet Shaked, the former Israeli justice minister: “The Jewish People have the legal and moral right to live in their ancient homeland.” What about the rights of Palestinians?



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