Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Recommended article: Judith Butler's ‘I affirm a Judaism that is not associated with state violence’

Judith Butler: ‘I affirm a Judaism that is not associated with state violence’

Strongly recommended.  A particularly good read if you are concerned that people who criticize Israel or endorse BDS (the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement against Israel and/or the Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian Territories) are anti-Semitic (or, if Jewish, self-hating) or automatically support Hamas or Hezbollah.  

It is untrue, absurd, and pain­ful for any­one to argue that those who for­mu­late a cri­ti­cism of the State of Israel is anti- Semitic or, if Jew­ish, self- hating. Such charges seek to demon­ize the per­son who is artic­u­lat­ing a crit­ical point of view and so dis­qual­ify the view­point in advance. It is a silen­cing tac­tic: this per­son is unspeak­able, and whatever they speak is to be dis­missed in advance or twis­ted in such a way that it neg­ates the valid­ity of the act of speech. The charge refuses to con­sider the view, debate its valid­ity, con­sider its forms of evid­ence, and derive a sound con­clu­sion on the basis of listen­ing to reason. The charge is not only an attack on per­sons who hold views that some find objec­tion­able, but it is an attack on reas­on­able exchange, on the very pos­sib­il­ity of listen­ing and speak­ing in a con­text where one might actu­ally con­sider what another has to say. When one set of Jews labels another set of Jews “anti- Semitic”, they are try­ing to mono­pol­ize the right to speak in the name of the Jews. So the alleg­a­tion of anti- Semitism is actu­ally a cover for an intra- Jewish quarrel.
In the United States, I have been alarmed by the num­ber of Jews who, dis­mayed by Israeli polit­ics, includ­ing the occu­pa­tion, the prac­tices of indef­in­ite deten­tion, the bomb­ing of civil­ian pop­u­la­tions in Gaza, seek to dis­avow their Jew­ish­ness. They make the mis­take of think­ing that the State of Israel rep­res­ents Jew­ish­ness for our times, and that if one iden­ti­fies as a Jew, one sup­ports Israel and its actions. And yet, there have always been Jew­ish tra­di­tions that oppose state viol­ence, that affirm multi- cultural co- habitation, and defend prin­ciples of equal­ity, and this vital eth­ical tra­di­tion is for­got­ten or side­lined when any of us accept Israel as the basis of Jew­ish iden­ti­fic­a­tion or val­ues. 


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