“Rose is an English professor. There should also be someone who can address similar issues in a literary academic capacity.”
I would like to suggest that someone address romantic vision that Rose and others use when they argue that Jews should live “without frontiers.” They often point to well known Jews like Freud, Einstein and a few others who they say weren’t partial to any country.
This is obviously a bogus argument. However, these days we have to point to the obvious as not everyone is familiar with historical facts nor do they know how to think critically about them.
Yes, a few well known Jews were always able to escape the daily misery, the occasional massacres and expulsion the rest of the Jewish community had to endure. But to use this as a model for Jewish existence is like arguing for extreme laissez faire capitalism because a few people manage to become very wealthy.
Such arguments are seldom offered in good faith since those who argue for Jewish existence sans frontiers see themselves as exceptions. They see themselves independent of the Jewish community at large. Hence it’s not a surprise that they seem to value the notion that they offer an “independent voice” in these debates.
This of course contradicts the view held by many of these same people (often citing Lacan and Derrida, and other post modernists) that there is no self.
It’s also ironic since while Freud himself and some members of this immediate family were able to escape Nazi Austria many other members of his family did not and some died in the death camps.
It is important not to allow Rose et al to monopolize the debate using abstruse Derridean or Lacanian terminology.
Stefan Zweig, the man without home a country, as he described himself, wanted to live no longer and committed suicide.
Jean-Claude Milner analyzes “Le Juif de negation” (The Jew of denial) using a Lacanian approach (did not know Lacan was classified as post-modern) in “Le Juif de savoir” (The Jew of knowledge, Grasset,2006). Here’s a (translated) sample: “This is how the Jew of denial was born. It’s a new phenomenon. Even if there are predecessors in the 19th and the 20th century, they ‘the Jews of denial) appear after the gas chambers . I’m talking about the Jew of denial, not the Jew of interrogation. The latter wonders “what does it mean, to be Jewish?”, “what can I say about this to myself?”, “what can I say about this to my children?”. The former can only pronounce “le nom juif” (the name Jew) in association with a negative operator. This operator takes several forms. He will say no to the state of Israel, but this “no” is indifferent to Israel; if it would no be for Israel, it would be something else (the Jewish bankers, people wearing a kippa, the films by Lanzmann, etc). He also says yes. Yes to the Palestinians, an open ended yes , an unlimited yes. Yes to anti-Jewish cartoons, yes to the protocols of Zion, yes to suicide attacks. But this yes is not a yes and it has nothing to do with the Palestinians. He is in essence indifferent of the faith of the Palestinians, their lives, their deaths, their joys , their sorrows, their victories and their defeats are of no concern to him, if it was not an opportunity to differentiate himself from the other “porteurs du nom juif” (wearers of the name Jew).”
Now I’m not a linguist like Jean-Claude Milner, neither am I a psycho-analyst or a Professor of English (sic) so I cannot judge if this approach is actually Lacanian, or if all this has any value at all. But the “costume that is tailored” here (as they say in French) is fitting perfectly. So if I were part of the gang, I would follow Danid Hirsh’s lead and stay away from psycho-analysis this context..
I think that everyone has a right to express themselves. I do have to wonder one that some of these people have no knowledge of the depth and breath of Jewish history and culture. Why are they only interested in the negative side of Israel, and can see nothing positive in Israel?
Perhaps because it’s such an easy way to feel better about themselves.
Perhaps it’s because we live in a 24/7 electronic soundbite newsworld which seems to lend itself so readily to seeing everything in black-and-white. Recently, two different Toronto-based newspapers, the Globe and Mail and the National Post (the latter generally an Israel-friendly paper) published stories that used a backgrounder from Agence France Press that described the origins of Israel’s jurisdiction over the West Bank and Gaza as a matter of having “seized” them in 1967. Not a word about the events that led to the supposed seizure nor a word about Israel’s prompt offer to return the lands in exchange for peace agreements, which were ultimately signed by two of Israel’s neighbours.
As Rose has pretensions towards psychoanalysis, and as this debate is essentially about Jews being uncomfortable with their identity, it would be appropriate to invite someone who can say something sensible from a psychoanalytic point of view, rather than putting that agenda in the “too hard” basket and letting Rose go unchallenged.
Perplexed Belgian, I very much enjoyed reading your post. You brought up some very important issues some of which I’d like to address briefly.
I haven’t read yet, Jean-Claude Milner analyzes “Le Juif de negation” but I intend to since it strikes me as an important work.
As for Lacan’s postmodernism: whatever he though of himself his “mirror phase” of the child’s development of an identity in which the child identifies himself with his mirror image and led Lacan to the striking but much abused phrase first formulated by Rimbaud that “je est une autre” to emphasize his insight that this moment of faux identification is constitutive of all subjectivity.
There has been much debate over the years about the truth and validity of this view, but the mirror phase has influenced generations of post modernist thinkers from Kristeva to Zizek. Many have also used it, along with similar formulations by Derrida, to attack all national and social identities and some Jewish post modernist like Rose have obsessively concentrated their attacks on mainly Jewish identity.
Her work, as I read it, and not only her use of Jewish historiography about which she knows very little, is vulnerable to critique on many issues.
It’s been my experience that deconstructive literary critics tend to indulge in creative thinking when dealing with data which they would adduce in support of their theses. As The Perplexed Belgian put it “But the “costume that is tailored” here (as they say in French) is fitting perfectly.” Rose is no exception.
This is why like zkharya and the Perplexed Belgian I would urge that the discussion include someone knowledgeable in these theories who can answer Rose’s own many intellectual obsessions with Jews in general and Israel in particular.
To answer the original question, it strikes me that the answer is, sadly, no. We can’t discuss Israel. I have had the somewhat surreal experience in the past of writing something I thought was sickeningly moderate and neutral, something along the lines of “Both sides have done bad things. Both sides have legitimate claims and grievances. Both sides have rights and wrongs” etc. And an “as-a-Jew” responded with a rhetorical question asking if people like me ever accept any criticism of the perfect state of Israel.
It isn’t that Israel shouldn’t be discussed. It is that it can’t be. Whether the response is a knee-jerk Livingstone Formulation, claims of “self-hating Jew”, ad-hominem attacks, slanging matches, attempts to shout the other side down, or just a simple “well, you would say that, wouldn’t you?”, it is too rare that civil discourse necessary for true discussion actually occurs. Instead, what you get is dueling monologues. The other side’s “facts” and “evidence” are dismissed as propaganda. The words of your side are treated as incontrovertible wisdom.
This isn’t to suggest actual bad faith on anyone’s part. It is just that the topic is so confused by distortions, propaganda, biased reporting, competing narratives, cultural differences, ideology-derived blindness and “solidarity”. And, of course, the topic is further muddied by the inclusion of people who genuinely hate. Combine all of that with the amount of stuff that is written (i.e. too much for anyone who has a job and a life to read) and the natural tendency of people to start by reading with an open mind things they agree with and ignoring or dismissing the rest, and it all adds up to the sad conclusion:
I won’t be able to get to it in any meaningful way for a while. Sorry. I’m sure other people reading here can give examples of people claiming either that someone is a self-hating Jew or that someone is claiming they are being called a self-hating Jew.
As a rejoinder to Rose’s alleged expertise in psychoanalysis, it would be nice if someone so qualified could be there too. A psychoanalyst trained by my late father has just told me how he has questioned the integrity of Rose’s forays into the field ever since 1974, in a matter wholly unrelated to Israel or Zionism.
Anyhow, this contains an interesting review of Said’s (ridiculous?) appropriation/misrepresentation of Freud’s Moses and Monotheism for his own narrow Palestinian nationalist agenda, a book Rose feted:
Á propos of Freud and Zionism, here is an interesting citation:
“With Nazism rampant in 1935, Freud wrote to L. Jaffe of the Keren Ha-Yesod, the financial arm of the World Zionist Organization, “I well know how great and blessed an instrument this foundation has become in its endeavor to establish a new home in the ancient land of our fathers. It is a sign of our invincible will to survive which has, until now, successfully defied two thousand years of severe oppression! Our youth will continue this struggle.”
Well, that would be the basis of a psychoanalytical drama of the Jewish people, wouldn’t it? It could address the issue of, “How has 2000 years of being “Palestinians” influenced Israeli Jewish attitudes to Palestinian Christians’ and Muslims’ rejection of Jewish right of return, restoration to and self-determination in the land of Israel/Palestine?”
But that would not serve the narrow anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian Christian and Muslim nationalist agenda of a patroness of PSC.
The whole of week 5 is devoted to “One Being Jewish?”.
The primary text is Moses and Monotheism. The chief secondary text is Said’s risible “Freud and the Non-European”, a pro-Palestinian vanity piece dressed up as a “serious” lecture.
The almost universally admired secondary work on MAM, Yerushalmi’s Freud’s Moses: Judaism Terminable and Interminable, is somewhat lower on the list.
For heaven’s sake!
MAM is a complex work, building on Freud’s earlier work. Does Rose mention, for instance, that, for Freud, Israel killed Moses, their “father”, for trying to prevent them enter the promised land/the Mother/the female hoarde, whom they then deify out of guilt?
Does she also mention Freud’s regarding monotheism as having chiefly evolved in the exile, when Israel was cut off from The Land/The Mother/The Female, and consequently strengthening the homosexual libido?
Isn’t there a whole strain of alleged post-Zionism, applying allegedly post-colonial theories of Zionism as Heterosexualization of the Jew?
The whole of Said’s argument revolves around Freud’s saying Moses was an Egyptian and acquired his monotheism from the cult of pharaoh Akhenaten. This was a thesis of 19th century German biblical criticism and the parallels have been noted in biblical studies to this day. They are de rigeur in Israeli academic circles.
Said then takes Freud’s asserting Moses was an Egyptian as well as that Jewry is descended from ancient Mediterranean rather than what he calls “Asiatic” peoples (whatever that means) and expounds a vast structure.
According to Said, Freud is saying Jews are “European” -a highly questionable interpretation-, which accords with Said’s view of Israeli Jews as alien Europeans. Since Moses was an Egyptian, they should now become more middle eastern i.e. Arabicize/Egyptianize.
The trouble is, Jews have been quite happy to believe Moses was an Egyptian in the only way that mattters i.e. culturally (he was pharoah’s adopted son, after all!), for most of their history, Israeli Jews no less.
Worse for Said, with the Sinaitic discovery of the proto-semitic alphabet, some think that a or the Moses was responsible for adapting Egyptian hieroglyphics for the Canaanite Semitic of the ancient Hebrews and writing down a proto-Mosaic law i.e. serving to illustrate some kind of historical basis for Exodus and the revelation on Sinai.
But Freud’s work is immensely complex. Freud was deeply pessimistic about the ability of humans to “get along”, that only force i.e. empire could impose law and order, that nationalism, while tending to militate against empire, was inevitable and impervious to the efforts of Marxism.
Is it any wonder that he appears to have acknowledged the right of Jews to their national movement?
Where does that leave the nonsense of Said and Rose?
Actually I’ve just found that Rose defended Freud from a critique by the Marxist philologist Sebastiano Timpanaro. He argued that most of cases of “Freudian” verbal slips were unnecessary or violated the principle of Occam’s Razor. Rose argued against him in defence of Freud.
And here’s a nice letter by Frederic Raphael about Rose and mentioning, as witness, Sebastiano Timpanaro:
Questions of Zion, Complicit Aphra Behn, Live all you can, etc
Questions of Zion
Sir, – May I dispute Nicholas Jacobs’s belief, expressed in his letter (April 28), that Jacqueline Rose, in her book The Question of Zion, makes an “interesting and original” suggestion? Her suggestion was that “suppressed and unmastered Jewish shame at the Holocaust having been allowed to happen” empowers “some Israeli Jews in attacking and demonizing Palestinians”.
“Such ideas”, Mr Jacobs writes, “surely have to be addressed.” Let’s start with the idea that Professor Rose has been original. Her views are standard cant among a certain tranche of bien-pensant opinion. (The word “tranche” is appropriate, since it recalls the “serialization” – Sartre’s term – used by the Nazis in giving temporary privileges to Kapos, who then assisted in the disciplining and destruction of, in particular, other Jews. Mátyás Rákosi’s “salami tactics” in Hungary were of the same order, though Sartre never mentioned them.)
Rose’s “originality” was trumped, with a greater depth of insight and range of instances, by Georgi M. Derluguian in his Bourdieu’s Secret Admirer in the Caucasus. He demonstrates how not a few of the smaller republics of the ex-USSR reacted to its break-up with the reawakening of violent ethnic self-assertion and irredentism; for example, the Chechens, whose parents and grandparents had been forcibly deported, brutalized and often murdered by Stalin. Who can know whether its quondam satellites’ hostility to Russia was due to the “shame” attributed to Jews or to a version of never-againism?
Jacqueline Rose imputes unique self-centredness and lack of control (a mutation of the old charge against wailing, hand-waving Jews) to the Israelis whom she demonizes. Their “shame” is rather too confidently specified, perhaps because it is integral to her preconceptions. In The Freudian Slip, Sebastiano Timpanaro raised the question of why Freud so regularly “discovered” that bourgeois guilt was exclusively sexual. Might it not just as well have derived from shame at the exploitation of the working class? Smiles at this come a little too quickly.
Elsewhere in the issue of April 28, Desmond M. Clarke praises Descartes’s originality in denouncing formal explanations based on a “redescription of the reality to be explained”. The confident search for group or personal motives, based on a single-track ideology, recalls the game of Hemingway’s friends the Murphys, who buried treasure in the sand, so that their children might have the thrill of discovering it. The ideologist, Left and Right, roots out evidence already buried in his/her own theory/religion, and makes out that it is a “scientific” finding with empirical credentials.
Mr Jacobs goes further than Professor Rose, by insisting that Israel “constitutes a lethal danger not only to itself and its perceived enemies, but also to the wider world”. Here comes that old “merited” pariahdom attached to the deicides.
The dangling unseen rider is that the Jews were really responsible for (since they failed to stop) the Holocaust and – dangling further down – that since they can’t “master” their own shame/guilt, they are a worldwide menace (led by the Elders of Zion, who else?).
René Girard’s “scapegoat mechanism” does a double job here: it exonerates those who were responsible, one way or another (if only for rejecting Jewish immigration before, during and after the Second World War) and makes the victims deserve their (and Israel’s abandonment. Ken Livingstone’s meta-Freudian slip, when he accused a Jew of having been a concentration camp guard, is another mutation of a very old trick. The Jews can hardly blame anyone else if they will go around massacring themselves.
None of this entails that Israel has never been cruel or crass, or that I am a Zionist (yes, I do notice my own tendency to make a separate peace), but it does suggest why the world is seen to be pink when seen through Rose-tinted spectacles.
Lagardelle, 24170 St Laurent-la-Vallée, France.
There is no archeological evidence that the Exodus happened at all. My rabbi said this to the congregation during during Passover. There is no archeological evidence that Canaan was attacked by Joshua either. So this whole dialogue is a little surreal. The Jews probably formed into a people who believed in Monotheism in Canaan which was ruled by the Egyptians at the time. They probably never left.
The Jewish Dialogue Group originated in Philadelphia, http://www.dialogue group.org. This is from its home page:
We are a grassroots organization that formed in Philadelphia in 2001 to foster constructive dialogue within Jewish communities about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other controversial issues.
We offer the following services:
* dialogue sessions and workshops to help people talk across political differences in useful ways
* facilitation trainings
* publications to help people conduct dialogue programs of their own
* consultation with people who are engaged in dialogue work
Most of our programs take place in the Philadelphia area and New York, but we also offer dialogue sessions and facilitation trainings in other cities around North America.
Many Jews are looking for more useful ways to discuss the situation in the Middle East. Discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be extremely difficult. People with strong convictions about the situation often find themselves in bitter conflict with others whose hold different views. At the same time, people who feel ambivalent or confused often have trouble finding a place where they can discuss their feelings, ideas, and questions openly, without being attacked from one side or the other. Many people avoid discussing the conflict because they feel they don’t know enough, or because the issues seem overwhelmingly painful or confusing.
The Jewish Dialogue Group came together to provide resources to help our community to grapple with these problems.
We have found that carefully structured and facilitated “dialogue sessions”—conversations that are set up to foster respectful listening and collective exploration, rather than argument and debate—can enable people to talk with each other in ways would otherwise not be possible. Through dialogue, people with seemingly irreconcilable positions can find ways to talk with and listen to each other, to understand each other, and to look for common ground. We believe that dialogue can strengthen Jewish communities; foster personal clarity and healing; and indirectly, contribute to a resolution to the conflict.
I’ve only now had time to read this debate here — fascinating posts, Jacob and zkharyia in particular, but are you quite sure that Mdm Rose deserves to be taken sooooo seriously? Methinks that outside the Ivory Tower, she would just be dismissed as a compulsive-obsessive narcissist, or something like that… Why feed the obsession or the narcissism?
Moreover, when I checked out the advertisement for the debate, it says:
“Can we talk about Israel? What’s the right attitude for diaspora Jews to take toward Israel? Can they speak about it freely – even when that means voicing harsh criticism – or is it their responsibility to express constant support?”
Rather strange questions to my taste. What does it mean “the right attitude”? Right by whom or by what? If you ask Israelis, “harsh criticism” is rarely welcomed — mostly because we feel we have a surplus of it; and then, of course, we also live in the happy conceit that we’re quite good at it ourselves, thank you very much. On the other hand, some sort of mechanical obligatory “support” — well, who needs that…
So I think the answer is very simple: be well informed about how things look from a mainstream Israeli perspective, and then position yourself wherever you belong: right, left, or just in the middle of it all…
Also, re. Freud’s sympathies with Zionism and other views:
Who will psychoanalyse the psychoanalysts themselves?
Psychoanalysis is useless unless the patient acquiesces in the process, for which a patient must necessarily trust i.e. believe in both expertise and good faith of his or her analyst.
A patient who distrusts the analyst’s grasp of his or her ‘history’ need not accept the parameters the latter sets. They may request a therapist they view as more sympathetic or knowledgeable.
Where the psychoanalysis is, in effect, the case for the Prosecution, the patient/defendant need not adopt them as their advocate.
Only a police or totalitarian state would insist otherwise. Which recalls the role of psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and psychiatry against patients/dissidents in the USSR or Airstrip One.
Rose’s psychoanalysis as prosecution recalls Churchill’s dramatization as prosecution. Although I think Rose less guilty of bad faith than Churchill, rather genuine ignorance combined with intellectual vanity.
One who goes through your stuff with you in order to help.
The other goes through your stuff in order – or what she decides is your stuff – to put you in Broadmoor. Or to ‘protect the public’ in some other way. Or to demonize and stigmatize you. Or to denounce you in public. Or to have you boycotted.
Good point zkharya about the “right attitude”. Moreover, the diaspora is obviously not monolithic. But if I as a center-left Israeli could have a shot a defining what I would want to hear from this mythically unified “diaspora”, I’d say it is this: forget about the psycho babble and all the moralizing; there is a political problem, and it has to be solved with a 2state solution. In territorial terms, that would have to look like some version of Camp David/Taba and what has been proposed by the Israelis now during the Annapolis talks. The other main sticking point is the Israeli fear that the Palestinian state will quickly turn out to be a failed state with weak institutions of government that are unable to control their rejectionists. So first, it will have to be a de-militarized state, and somebody has to make sure that it stays like this for a while, and secondly, there has to be an intensive effort at institution building. Moreover, it’s time that the Arab states stopped to be so proud of putting their “peace initiative” on the table and leave it at that. They have to step up to the plate: for 60 years, they have used Israel as a scapegoat for everything that’s wrong in the Mideast, they have to wean themselves off this convenient vent for their own failures, and they have to stop to use the Palestinians for this purpose. They have to acknowledge that the “right of return” to Israel contradicts the 2state solution, and they have to do their part in finding solutions for the Palestinian refugees.