Judith Butler, more Palestinian than the Palestinians

Cross posted by Alan Johnson

Judith Butler

In 2006 the rock star left-wing academic Judith Butler said that “understanding Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important.” (See 16:24 in this video.)

Butler’s remark expressed all that’s wrong with the new style of “Palestinian solidarity work.”

Viewing the two-state solution as a sell-out, Butler attacks the PA application to the United Nations for recognition. The bid’s only value, she argues, is that it allows the left to jump up and down on grave of the “sham of the peace negotiations” and celebrate the “break with the Oslo framework.”

She wags her finger at Salam Fayyad and Mahmoud Abbas. By seeking a deal with Israel they are “abandon[ing] the right of return for diasporic Palestinians” and “potentially abandon[ing] Gaza.” If they succeed, “half of all Palestinians may well be disenfranchised.”

The Guardian newspaper sounded the same note when it published the leaked “Palestine Papers” from the Olmert-Abbas Annapolis talks, with distorted editorial gloss, and called Palestinian negotiators “craven” for engage seriously in final status talks.

The London Review of Books routinely denounces Fayyad, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, as a collaborator. “Fayyad’s critics,” wrote Adam Shatz, “call him a ‘good manager of the occupation,’ a ‘builder of apartheid roads,’ ‘the sugar daddy who got us hooked on aid,’ and it’s all true.”

The Palestinian national movement is being policed from the “left,” and from the coffee shops and seminar rooms of London and New York by people who consider themselves more Palestinian than the Palestinians.

Butler gives an outraged “No!” to Abbas. She will not “sacrifice of the right of return for millions of Palestinians outside the region.” But think about that “No!” It is a program for the dismantling of the Jewish state. “The loss of demographic advantage for the Jewish population in Israel would surely improve prospects for democracy in that region,” she writes (optimistically, shall we say) in her new book, Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism. As Leon Wieseltier wrote in the New Republic back in 2003, “the one state solution is not the alternative for Israel. It is the alternative toIsrael.”

The new style treats negotiations as useless. Butler claims the Oslo years have seen only “the indefinite deferral of all ‘permanent status issues’—effectively establishing the occupation as a regime without foreseeable end.” Quite as if there never was Camp David at which Ehud Barak offered the shop, ’67 borders more or less, settlements uprooted; nor the Clinton-era proposals which Barak accepted and Arafat rejected; nor Annapolis at which Olmert offered all of that and more, including a shared capital in Jerusalem.

Another part of the new style is to pose an entirely literary “alternative” to the two-state solution. Butler talks of “Palestinian self-determination … without external interference,” “the right of return for diasporic Palestinians,” “the one-state solution.” Refusing to travel to Israel, so with no feel for Israeli society, and with a prose style that secured her first prize in the “Philosophy and Literature Bad Writing Contest” Butler’s answers are, literally, literary. More importantly, Butler gets wrong what the conflict is actually about. Two highly developed and distinct societies, Israeli and Palestinian, each based on a powerful sense of national identity, must divide the land. When there are strong desires for national self-determination, the one-state idea collapses. Brit Shalom, the bi-national Zionist movement of the 1920s, could not know this. We can’t not know it.

To divide the land, each people needs to feel confident and secure if it is to make excruciating compromises. For that, each people must feel itself to be understood as a permanent feature of the Middle East. Butler’s one-statism does the opposite. It proposes to resolve a national question by denying the right to national self-determination of both peoples.

 [Editors’ note: Please also see A. Jay Adler’s post on Butler, ‘Impenetrable: The hallow rhetoric of Judith Butler‘]

38 replies »

        • Why defend misogynist comments by fcallen? I see you similarly find homophobic remarks by Ed Frias OK.

          Why does CiFW attract so many right-wing bigots?

          • Mysoginist comment? Saying that she is similar to Dickie – a good looking youngish man is mysognistic? And how do you see that I find OK anything? My God you must have some extra sensory ability or you are employed by the Illuminati…

              • Exactly pretzel. I can’t find here any homophobic comment at all but the post about Belgium was so stupid that even taking into account its author intellectual abilities was a specially funny example of the ignorance of an “anti-zionis”t oxygen-waster.

                  • You where here earlier when the “kapo queer” comment was posted.
                    Are you a stalker or a paparazzi confusing me with Prince William?
                    1. I don’t read every post on a thread before commenting.
                    2. The expression “kapo-queer” in itself is not homophobic at all. Saying Jewish criminal is antisemitic? (Before you start your rantings: in the example Jewish represents queer and criminal represents kapo). Benya Krik (I doubt you ever heard about him) and Meir Lansky were Jewish criminals.
                    Maybe you should show similar sensitivity next when you apologize for real and not imaginary anti-Semites…
                    Why are you lying?
                    Why are you out of your nano-sized mind?
                    I don’t expect an apology pretzel, doing it would contradict your personality…

          • It’s not a misogynist comment as he/she/it is barely a woman – just as Silverstein is barely a man. I apologise to any decent hermaphrodites who may have been offended by my comment.

  1. Self-conscious attitude striking might make you famous but it will never be practical. Butler’s statement about Hamas and Hezbullah is so ‘clever’, so artificial, that she has removed herself from consideration as a moral human being.

    Morality would involve seeking the well-being of both parties perhaps even within the po-mo framework, Butler has removed the concept of well-being and put in its place her vapid theorising.

      • I see that you don’t understand the immorality of accepting the terrorists Hamas and Hezbullah as part of the natural environment of the liberal left

      • Can you please explain… Where I read this kindergarten style crap?
        Ariel you are Nat ver.2. and I claim my five dollars…

      • Your terms are wrong: there is no “occupation” as there is no “Palestinian territory”. The last sovereign of Judea and Samaria was the Ottoman Empire. Since then it has only been under the administration of various entities, although the Jordanians attempted to annex it for 19 years – resulting in 0 bombings of bars and discos in Amman.

      • Let’s see: your friends cheerled for genocide, started a war that they lost badly, whined for years, backed up ANOTHER war that they lost even more badly, said that the only solution was a zero-sum genocide based on war (you know, a plan based on what they’d been enamored of and then failed at), made a half-hearted bid to find a mutual peaceful solution (oddly enough, in English but not in Arabic), started more wars, lost those too, returned to the zero-sum genocide based answer, and here we are. That’s your love interest’s morality, troll. It’s also why you don’t really need to worry about anyone else’s moral standards.

  2. My favorite line by Plaut against Butler.
    Butler explained to her terrorist hosts that she opposes the existence of a Jewish state even alongside some future Palestinian Arab state. Instead, she favors what she calls a bi-national state, something along the lines of Rwanda.

        • Peter perhaps ‘Ariel’ is thinking of the well known Belgian Moez Garsallaoui, whose death has been reported this way on a Belgian news agency website.

          “Claims that the man who was convicted of terrorist offences has been killed during an American air raid have appeared on several extremist internet websites.

          Alain Winants of the Belgium’s state intelligence agency: “The sources of this information on jihadist forums seem credible. But in this type of operation we should remain cautious, because in the past other leaders of the Jihad have been declared dead, while they were still alive. In the present situation we require extra information in order to be able to confirm or deny this report.

          In 2010 Garsallaoui got an eight year sentence for recruiting youngsters to go and fight a Holy War in Afghanistan. In recent years the convicted terrorist has been living in Afghanistan.

          Garsallaoui is considered to be one of the leaders of the terrorist outfit Al Qaeda in the borderlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He also stands accused of training the man held responsible for a bloodbath in Toulouse in France last year.”

        • Hey…don’t you know that Belgium is a leading global R&D centre for chip technology? Potato chip technology. They also broke new ground in combining mayonnaise with fries, and developed other healthy dietary supplements such as chocolate and beer.

      • That might have something to do with the fact that the Walloons haven’t tried to drive the Flemish into the sea.

    • People are still communicating on positive terms with this bigot who called Butler a “kapo queer”?

  3. Successful in what way? For breaking the record for going the longest time in not being able to constitute a representative government because the two nations can’t agree? Perhaps that is something you think Israel should strive towards?

    Perhaps you mean that Belgium is more successful than Israel in IT? in Nobel Prizes? In having three universities in the world’s top hundred?

  4. Hardly a worthy winner of the Adorno prize recently here in Germany.

    The left-wing taz (far fairer towards Israel than e.g. the Guardian) published this series of pro/contra views about the award:!101512/
    (in German)

  5. She seems to be a female version of Chomsky, ie. a left-wing intellectual of Jewish background who is proud to be anti-Zionist. She may be a talented writer and scholar, but when it comes to Israel, she is hopelessly out of her depth.

    • The non-Jewish Jew

      Or as another ‘intellectual’ left-wing Israel hating Jew, Eric Hobsbawrn, recently deceased so described himself – ‘A non-Jewish Jew’

      Which begs the question – Is a self confessed ‘atheist Jew’ another fashionable term for a ‘non-Jewish Jew’

      One of my Jewish left wing friends complained that the main problem about being born a Jew is that no one will believe you if you try to disown that heritage. – Poetic justice for a self hater

  6. I hereby serve Butler her call-up papers for the Palestinian Liberation Army (Foreign Legion). I’m sure she’ll be keen to put her rhetoric into practice.

  7. About Butler I already posted enough at Die Zeit, it isn`t worth to waste more of time and energy on her dumbness.