Vile anti-Zionist “logic” at Guardian Comment is Free

This is a cross-post by Mark Gardner at the CST blog

A 2010 survey by Jewish Policy Research examined the real interconnection between Jews and Zionists and Israel; and showed why the border between hatred of Jews, Zionism and Israel can be so porous.

  • 72% of British Jews self-categorise as “Zionists”
  • 82% of British Jews say Israel plays a “central” or “important but not central role in their Jewish identities”
  • 87% of British Jews agree “that Jews are responsible for ensuring ‘the survival of Israel’”
  • 54% of British Jews who do not self-categorise as “Zionists” nevertheless agree “that Jews are responsible for ensuring ‘the survival of Israel”
  • 62% of self-described Zionists agree that Israel should give up land for peace
  • 78% of British Jews believe in a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict

These figures demonstrate the hurt that is caused to ordinary Jews when “anti-Zionists” push their dehumanised and demonised perversions of the word “Zionism”. This is done by everyone from Marxists to Nazis to Jihadis: but it can also seep into mainstream media, including the Guardian’s Comment is Free (CiF) website.

The latest example of Guardian CiF facilitating such perversion is an article by “philosopher”, Slavoj Zizek. It demonises the meaning of Zionism; tries to somehow equate Zionism with the twisted mind of Norwegian terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik; says that Zionist Jews regard other Jews like antisemites do; and ends with an ill-defined lunge at alleged Zionist relations and parallels with the attitudes of Christian fundamentalists and Nazis (Austrian ones no less)!

This kind of prejudicial hysteria shows why so many people in the Jewish community have utterly given up on the Guardian. Not just given up, but actually believe it to be one of the primary facilitators of antisemitism in Britain today.

It is not really because of what the Guardian says directly about Jews, but rather because of what it says directly about Zionism and Israel, how often it says it; and how Jews instinctively perceive that this must, inevitably, have harmful impacts for how “correct-thinking people” feel about them. (Look again at the above statistics to see why this would be the case.)

This kind of intellectual anti-Zionist veneer allows antisemitism to take hold: despite whatever sincere opposition Zizek and his publishers actually feel and voice regarding that utterly predictable and depressing outcome.

Having written for CiF, I know its rigorous editorial standards. For me, this makes the publication of Zizek’s article all the more startling. Nominally, the article is about the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. Its title gives no clue about the anti-Zionist screed that follows:

 A vile logic to Anders Breivik’s choice of target

Like Pim Fortuyn before him, Breivik embodies the intersection between rightist populism and liberal correctness

Zizek’s article is 1,553 words long, but over half (797) of these words are in sections concerning (mainly condemning) Zionism or Israel, some of it adapted and grafted from his 2010 book, “Living in the End Times”. What the bulk of this has to do with Breivik is anybody’s guess – as is how it passed the editorial process.

Zizek begins by explaining different aspects of Breivik’s ideology. The first sniff of the“vile logic” comes after he describes Breivik as antisemitic, yet pro-Israel, then writing:

He [Breivik] realises the ultimate paradox of a Zionist Nazi – how is this possible?

Here Zizek betrays his bias, and his playing fast and loose with terminology as and when it suits him rhetorically to do so. Firstly, he knows full well that Breivik cannot simply be pigeonholed as a “Nazi”: Zizek himself wrote as much, in the preceding paragraph. Secondly, it is a total perversion of the word “Zionist” for Zizek to employ it here: demonising it to mean the same as Breivik’s (1) hatred of Muslims and (2) attendant support for Israel as the supposed first line of anti-Muslim defence.

Nevertheless, this rhetorical flourish provides the lift-off for Zizek’s hateful riff. He alleges an accommodation between Israel, Zionism and the European right’s attitude to “Islamicisation and multiculturalism”. There are heated debates within Israeli, Zionist and Jewish circles over this and I have participated in many such debates: but to simply characterise the most right wing elements as the current Israeli and Zionist position is deeply misleading, malicious and ultimately another quite pathetic example of Zizek attempting to demonise Zionism.

Then, there is an especially outrageous attack upon Zionists for aping antisemites’ anti-Jewish “logic”.

Zizek alleges Zionism has:

come to adopt some antisemitic logic in its hatred of Jews who do not fully identify with the politics of the state of Israel

It would have been bizarre enough had Zizek alleged such hatred from Zionists towards anti-Zionist Jewish activists, but read his words again: this Zionist semi-antisemitism and full on hatred is supposedly directed against all who “do not fully identify with the politics of the state of Israel”. Next, there is a similarly scandalous allegation concerning Zionist construction of “the figure of the Jew who doubts the Zionist project”. Zizek’s casual transition between these descriptions typifies his lack of care over terminology, despite the sensitivity of the subject (for Jews at least).

Contemplate European antisemitism in all of its historical, recent and current modes. There is no fit between any of this and even the harshest pro-Zionist attitude to the most ardent Jewish anti-Zionists. (Not that Zizek means the extremes anyway.) At worst, Jewish anti-Zionists are derided as “self-haters”: an ugly, hurtful and not especially accurate term, but not congruent with antisemitism, be it Christian, economic, nationalist, Communist, racial-biological, revolutionary new left, or whatever.

Zizek’s claim that Zionism has “come to adopt some antisemitic logic in its hate”is explained by his stating that Zionists construct the non-Zionist Jew as “dangerous because he lives among us, but is not really one of us”. If this is what antisemitism amounts to, rather than, say because they conspire as the demonic Other / anti-Christ / the world bankers / the global war-makers / the race polluters etc etc: then Zizek might as well argue that any dissenting opinions within a single community share a resemblance to antisemitism. He could as simplistically say that disputes between different Muslim groups have “some antisemitic logic”.

Eventually, the article ends with overblown claims of collusion between Israel and “US” and “Christian” “fundamentalists” (both terms are used), before he references a depiction of two Austrian Nazis, and departs with one final demonization, writing:

These are today’s allies of the state of Israel.

The emphasis is Zizek’s, not mine. It is not entirely clear if he means that it is Christian fundamentalists, American fundamentalists or Nazis who are “today’s allies of Israel”. Whatever: it is one final, dirty twist.

16 Responses to “Vile anti-Zionist “logic” at Guardian Comment is Free”

  1. Absolute Observer Says:

    Is it not strange that for an Hegelian-Lancanian-Miarxist the other thing that remains static, that remains outside the dialectic is “old” antisemitism; the type that one can find in Eastern Europe.
    Even if that highly unlikeky theoretical possibility were true, Zizek overlooks the ways that the fantasies of the “old” antisemitism has connected with anti-Zionist discourses, indeed, they go back further to include the medieval blood libel.
    He also repeats the idea that not only is there no new antisemitism, and claims it exists stops attention to “real” (i.e. old) antisemitism.
    He also alleges that those criticising Israeli policy is labelled antisemitic. One wonders whether he would include within that the thoughts of those such as Jenny Tonge and how he would distingush such claims from the “old” antisemitism; that is, does he fall for the Livingstone Forumlation.

  2. comment is not free. Says:

    “Zizek alleges Zionism has:
    come to adopt some antisemitic logic in its hatred of Jews who do not fully identify with the politics of the state of Israel”

    But, mummy, look, look carefully, really carefully, the Emperor doesn’t have any clothes on at all.

  3. Saul Says:

    What a mature critique of contemporary events.

    Zizek claims,
    1. Zionists call anti-Zionist Jews, “antisemitic”
    2. So in response, to this claim Zizek calls Zionists “Nazis”.

    More importantly, in terms of Europe, one of Zizek’s conclusions is that the threat to the multiculturalism of (Western) Europe comes from two sources; the far right haters of contemporary Europe and “Zionists”, what he calls the “Zionist-rightist pact” a pact which as used by Zizek constitutes the majority of (Western) European Jewry since as noted in the article, Zizek recognises no political contestation within the concept of “Zionism” itself, hence the term “right” referring not to Zionism or Israel but only to the right of European politics, since, apparently, only Europe and not Israel has (normal) political divisions.

    In other words, Zizek argues that the risk to the “new Europe”,(indeed, just like the risk Jews were said to carry in the old Europe) comes from an enemy within – the Jews – or, at the very least, the majority of Jews who in some way or another identify with ZIonism and Israel. For Zizek, therefore, the fight for a multicultural Europe and against the far-right is a fight against ZIonism and Zionist Jews who, just in case we miss the point, he recasts and as Nazis and as antisemites.

    And Zizek reaches this conclusion, and seemingly without irony, to argue for the non-existence of a “new” antisemitism in the UK and other Western European countries.

    .

  4. mark gardner Says:

    On Harrys Place I was taken to task for saying I know of CiF’s “rigorous editorial standards”. I think it may have been better had I written instead of CiF’s “many editorial hurdles that have to be cleared”.

  5. Thomas Venner Says:

    Just wondering, why is it this article in particular that’s been picked out? It’s by no means the worst piece of anti-Zionist propaganda the Guardian has published in the last week or so. Zizek’s use of language is potentially problematic, but he isn’t actively calling for Israel’s dissolution – the Guardian published two separate articles (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/05/48-arabs-palestine-abbas-zionism and http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/04/palestinians-secular-state) both pushing the “one-state solution” and spreading a lot of the same old bizarre myths about the conflict. Zizek’s article is more complex than that – the final point about the far right “supporting” Israel for their own twisted reasons could be read as a warning to Zionists to choose their friends carefully, however isolated they might feel.

    Seeing as the planned declaration of independence could help give the Palestinians a real chance at finally having their own state, we can expect anti-Zionists to be working especially hard to shove the “one-state solution”, the modernised blood libels and all the other stuff down our throats with panicked vigour for the foreseeable future, for the simple reason that they want to hammer the Jews as much they can while they can still get away with it, before their main justification is taken away from them (and by the very people they insist they’re showing “solidarity” with). If and when an independent Palestinian state is created, it will become much more difficult for them to push for the destruction of Israel and pursue their little witch-hunts against “Zionists” in the UK without many more people starting to smell a rat.

  6. A.J. Sutter Says:

    I don’t comment on Zizek, with whom I’n not accustomed to associate the word “rigorous”. But I’m confused by the sentence “These figures demonstrate the hurt that is caused to ordinary Jews when “anti-Zionists” push their dehumanised and demonised perversions of the word ‘Zionism’.” How do they demonstrate it? Is there something dehumanized about a 2–state solution? If it is demonized, then by whom? Are you saying I’m less Jewish if I support such a solution? If I don’t self-identify as a Zionist? Make your point more clearly.

  7. Absolute Observer Says:

    Mark,
    As I read that original comment, I could not but think that this was your particular experience. Had you written more “acceptable” opinion, then the “standards” would not have been so “rigorous”.
    Just a thought.
    AO

  8. Mark G Says:

    AO – yup, fully agreed, and a source of deep frustration for me.

    A.J. – one of the things that I get really hung up on is the abuse of the word “Zionist”. I regard it simply as the Jewish right to self-determination, realised in Israel; and, for me, the JPR poll bears out that this is how other Jews see it also.

    When I say dehumanisation, I merely mean the way that all of the very human (including the religious and post Holocaust) dimensions of Zionism are totally scorned by Zizek etc. By demonisation, I mean the way that the word Zionism is used as if it were an empty vessel into which Zizek etc pour whatever hateful attributes they wish to attack. This Zizek article does both of these things by its coalescing Zionism with racism, Breivik, and even antisemitism – I take that as a personal insult; and I think the JPR stats indicate that others would too.

    I think the abuse of the word “Zionist” is hugely important in facilitating antisemitism – which is why I rail against it in mainstream spaces such as Guardian, especially when its a blatant heap of crap that is masquerading as rarefied philosophy.

    The point about British Zionist Jews wanting a 2 state solution is very important: because it shows that Zizek is abusing the word “Zionism” to mean something that is essentially the hateful opposite of what its self-declared British adherents mean it to be.

    (Hope that makes some sense.)

  9. Noga Says:

    “This kind of prejudicial hysteria ”

    More like, “This kind of prejudicial malice … “

  10. Gideon Swort Says:

    The fact that Zizek is a forked tongued twerp was brought home clearly during his promotional visit to Tel Aviv. Nothing to get excited about here. He is a middling featherweight beneficiary of the IP conflict, earning recognition and financial gain from peddling miserably deficient racist theories on the loaded gravy train of a populist genre. Like many others he treads a secure line, where present law does not sufficiently cover issues pertaining to defamation of states and peoples. His equations as demonstrated above are simplistic and vile,

    The Guardian’s CiF cesspool has become an enabler to many a moron. A congregation place for many untreated conditions and syndromes. While many may disagree (including friends who receive a guardian pay-check), in my mind the Guardian is a Jew haters paradise – a rag unworthy of its name and history.

  11. Mark G Says:

    noga – I reckon its more hysteria than malice, but the two aren’t exactly a million miles apart.

    i see it as a ziocentirsm that can’t help itself from placing zionism at the centre of near everything that goes wrong in the world. its utterly inexplicable: until, that is, you recall the mythology of antisemitism.

  12. haim shalom Says:

    Dear MG,

    As a zionist, and an Israeli (and a Jew), I am grateful to you for doing your bit to try and protect us all – as is the job of the CST. Unfortunately, life is beginning to imitate art. The mad distorted horror movie going on in Zizek’s head is slowly becoming truer and truer. As Israel lurches towards becoming a fascist state (outlawing dissent, removing Arabic as a national language, etc, etc), we only invite the fantasies of the antiSemites with regard to how we are now in league with the neo-Nazis. If you really want to save us – could I suggest making aliyah and trying to save us from ourselves?

    • Gideon Swort Says:

      “As a zionist, and Israeli (and a Jew)”

      So, you got the qualifications for a kvetch. You are hereby awarded a Kvetcher Badge.

      If you really want to save us – could I suggest making aliyah

      Why would you presume that Mr. Green is the saviour? Did you read some hidden messianic message in his text? Are you in the business of enrolling candidates for the Jewish Agency?

      save us from ourselves?

      Put a cork in it.

  13. Absolute Observer Says:

    Jews for Justice get it right with the headline to Zizek’s article,
    “The West’s enemy within – those who protect the ‘alien’”

    Needless to say, they remain uncritical of his reworking of “old” antisemitism.

  14. Absolute Observer Says:

    I note also that in their latest mailing, JJfP recommend a link to a notorious “Zionist” conspiracy website (at the same time that they support Zizek’s ZIonists=Nazis thesis).

  15. Absolute Observer Says:

    Haim
    I agree Israel can look after itself. Maybe its first move should be to get rid of the current government. That seems to me to be a political decision that has nothing to do with whether one is a Zionist, and Israeli or a Jew; just good politics.
    I disagree that what Israel does, even in its most reactionary moments (such as now) can “only invite” the fantasies of antisemites. One can make an objection to the current raft of nasty policies without articulating it in an antisemitic manner.
    After all, there was and is much opposition to the (prior?) regime in Egypt, Tunisia and to the regimes in Libya without recourse to anti-Arab racism.
    Likewise, whilst you in Israel are relatively free from antisemitism – one of the raison d’etres of the Jewish state in the first place – we in Europe are not. However, even though we are at the forefront of this antisemitism, we still hold the political principle that Jews, no matter what nonsense Israel does,are, like all victims of racism, not responsible for the irrational nonsense that seems to part of mainstream anti-Israel thinking (see Zizek).

    In other words. “we” (whoever that is) are not trying to “save” Israel – although “we” feel free to comment as and when just as “we” do in any other situation. “We” are simply trying to combat the antisemitism with which some see as a “legitimate” means to attack not just this or that Israel it government, but also the existence of Israel per se.

    And, finally, I disagree entirely with your view that the world is becoming nearer to Zizek’s fevered imaginings.
    Zionists in Europe are not the same as neo-Nazis, the EDL and other far right dregs. Nor are they the “enemy within” that any and all Europeans have to confront so as to save civil rights, human rights, multiculturalism, etc, etc.. That Zizek thinks that has to do with Israeli current policies, or Europeans (Jews and non-Jews) not adopting an anti-Zionist orthodoxy is really besides the point. That is antisemitism plain and simple.

    But, if you are so pissed off with your own government (and you are not alone) that you want to hold them responsible for European antisemitism, that is your business. Do note, however, that such views mirror exactly the (Israeli) right’s belief that it speaks “in the name of all Jews”; a belief shared by those by many in the anti-zionist movement and which justifies the approach taken by Zizek and which is used to as a tool against European Jews and European Zionists.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 125 other followers

%d bloggers like this: