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Comments about Esther Benbassa on the Morin affair - and comments from Alexandra Simonon and Bernard Maro :
posted on October 11, 2005 at 07:43:13 PM
Its difficult to comment on this (in my case at least)without seeing an English translation of the article.
Jeremy posted on October 11, 2005 at 08:16:49 PM
It may be interesting to remember that "a dominating, self-assured nation" which is the translation of " peuple dominateur et sur de lui ", is a part of a very famous one-liner by General De Gaulle in 1967. Also noteworthy is that, in the original piece, these words are between quotation marks, so they very clearly refer to De Gaulle's statement.
After the Six Day war France reversed it's very pro-Israeli position which may explain the commotion that followed De Gaulle's statement. But the General was criticized by most of the intelligentsia of the time (where-under his supporter Raymond Aron, and who knows, Edgar Morin himself ? :) ).
David Hirsh posted on October 11, 2005 at 08:53:13 PM
I agree with Malachi that it is difficult to know to what extent I would agree with Benbassa's judgment without being able to read the original article.
I think that the part translated above in Bernard Maro's comment is angry, rhetorical, imprecise and - antisemitic. Morin would certainly be convicted in any court of being rather silly.
"a dominating, self-assured nation, and, apart from an admirable minority, a scornful nation who gets gratification from the humiliation of others".
"The chosen people acts as the superior race"
"The Jews" do this. "The Jews" do that.
To claim that the Israeli nation is sadistic and that the Jews persecute and humiliate and impose their merciless order... is clearly antisemitic.
But the interesting thing is how anti-racists should respond to such nonsense. I think that the best response is to critique it; to de-construct it; to explain why it is problematic; to explain what the consequences of being careless in the use of antisemitic rhetoric might be; to fight for a better and clearer politics.
I don't think that this kind of hype should be censored by the state and banned by the courts. We need to take on the arguments rather than silence them.
A similar discussion is going on at Columbia University in New York where Joseph Massad, an anti-Zionist academic is facing calls for his sacking.
In my judgment Massad's work is of extremely poor quality and it propagates an antisemitic worldview. But I would not call for his sacking. I think that we need to combat the ideas that lead anti-racists to play with antisemitism, not silence them, sack them, sue them or make martyrs out of them.
posted on October 17, 2005 at 01:14:32 PM
Benbassa's crucial question is in her last paragraph.
The question: what route a left-wing/liberal Jew should take in these dark hours - in this crucial time which is going to decide whether a viable two-state solution will come about or not.
Should one ponder about one's Jewish identity and how one now and then feels uneasy with certain expressions of the Palestinian solidarity campaign and of "treacherous" fellow Jews? Or is this perhaps the hour to put aside such finesses and strengthen the grassroots non-violent efforts of putting pressure on the Israeli government.
posted on October 17, 2005 at 03:31:23 PM
Three reasons for confronting anti - semitism
1. if you don't fight anti semitism it will get much worse;
2. you won't persuade Israelis and diasporah Jews of the wisdom of permanent territorial compromise if they perceive large parts of the Palestinian populace to be motivated by irreconcilable Jew hatred.
3. rejectionist Palestinians and their supporters, motivated by anti semitism, won't accept two states.
David Hirsh posted on October 17, 2005 at 04:19:59 PM
I don't think that fighting antisemitism is about "pondering one's identity" any more than the fight racism is about black people pondering their identities or the fight against Islamophobia is about Muslims pondering their identities. There used to be a time when anti-racists opposed all racism - and opposition to racism wasn't thought to be conditional on identity.
What has happened Beate? Why do you think that the fight against racism in the UK is to be laughed off as a rather self-indulgent and eccentric little foolishness?
And since when was the fight against one form of racism counterposed to the fight against another? You seem to oppose all racism except for antisemitism.
This is about building a labour movement and a liberal and left discourse that is not disabled by antisemitism. You seem to imply that a bit of antisemitism just oils the wheels for the moment and helps us along. Like the fight against capitalism being helped along by the focus on Jewish capital?
posted on October 18, 2005 at 08:35:12 PM
I sincerely believe that these days a Jew who is against such things as cruelty against The Other - to which belong both occupation and racism - has the duty to in the first place fight against such tendencies among his own.
Only after that can one do the fight against antisemitism from a strong moral position.
This wasn't so obvious in the past when we Jews in no way were related to power. But "nobless oblige." I know that Engage considers itself also against the occupation, but it's pathos and energy seem to be mostly absorbed by the heroic fight against every hint of left-wing antisemitism.
David Hirsh posted on October 18, 2005 at 09:59:31 PM
I don't accept that political responsibility is determined by social identity. Engage is not a Jewish organisation - or an Israeli organisation - it is an anti-racist organisation.
Of course Engage is about opposing racism that comes from Jews as much as racism that comes from anyone else. We have always been clear about this and we have always been clear about our opposition to Israel's occupation of Palestine. You don't believe it. You imply that I am lying when I say that I oppose the occupation. And your evidence for this is that Engage does not focus its energy on opposing the occupation.
Well Engage is a campaign that is set up to challenge racism against Jews. Why doesn't Gush Shalom spend any energy opposing the Chinese occupation of Tibet? Is it because you only pretend to be interested in the freedom of people who live in Tibet? No, that's not the reason. It just happens not to be what you choose to do. This is fine. But don't tell the people who are fighting against Chinese imperialism that their fight is insignificant. And I won't tell you that you are careless about the fate of Tibet. Are the Chinese "The Other"? Who knows?
You are not saying that the occupation is more important than antisemitism. You are saying that our fight against antisemitism harms your fight against the occupation. I think this is wrong.
I think that the fact that the occupation is often opposed in an antisemitic way is a huge problem for Palestine. And I think that what we are doing is not at all against the interests of a free and democratic Palestine.
Beate I think that sometimes you (and Ilan Pappe too) share an Israeli habit of thinking of Israel as being at the centre of the world. It isn't. And I am not part of your diaspora. I am somebody in the UK who is involved in challenging anti-Jewish racism in the UK. And in my union. And on my campus.
In a way you are right. I do start by fighting against racism "among my own". And I am not an Israeli. I am fighting against racism in my union and in my classroom and in left and liberal discourse in London. I reject the idea that "as a Jew" I am responsible for Sharon or for the occupation.
Linda Grant posted on October 18, 2005 at 10:32:29 PM
I am engaged in a struggle to prevent a cultural boycott being imposed on Israel, one which seek to ban writers like David Grossman, Sayed Kashua and Etgar Keret being published in Britain, speaking at literary festivals here, writing for our newspapers.
Do you think that silencing the voices of opponents of the occupation on the grounds that they are Israeli citizens is something that should not be impeded, by people who care about the Other?
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