Slavoj Žižek’s views on Zionism and EU’s refugee crisis

Slavoj Žižek’s views on Zionism and EU’s refugee crisis

Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst, an itinerant academic and an author of a number of books.  He writes frequently for In These Times, initially founded in the 1970s as a democratic socialist news magazine and now more generically left wing.

I’m usually not very receptive toward his ideas.  His opinions are ponderous and his views on Israel are hard to take — not entirely wrong, but not well-informed about the internal dynamics of Zionism and Israel, as illustrated in “Whither Zionism,” dated March 2, 2015 (an article that cherry picks extreme quotes as emblematic of Zionism).  Nevertheless, a long ITT web article, posted Nov. 16, is insightful and brave for questioning left-wing shibboleths. This is from his penultimate paragraph:

When Angela Merkel made her famous public appeal inviting hundreds of thousands into Germany, which was her democratic legitimization? What gave her the right to bring such a radical change to German life without democratic consultation? My point here, of course, is not to support anti-immigrant populists, but to clearly point out the limits of democratic legitimization. The same goes for those who advocate radical opening of the borders: Are they aware that, since our [European–RS] democracies are nation-state democracies, their demand equals suspension of—in effect imposing a gigantic change in a country’s status quo without democratic consultation of its population?

I agree that it’s only prudent for Europe to reinvigorate border controls, both for the sake of security screening and to manage an orderly processing of asylum seekers; the Europeans need to decide if it’s to be done on an individual national basis, as is increasingly happening. The United States, because of the relatively small numbers involved, faces much less of a risk of culture clash than Europe. (Click here for a post on the elaborate US vetting of asylum seekers today, and the historical parallel with Jewish refugees from the Holocaust.) 

Returning to Žižek, he refers to a film by Udi Aloni, the filmmaker son of the late human rights champion and Meretz founder Shulamit Aloni:

Udi Aloni’s new film Junction 48 (upcoming in 2016) deals with the difficult predicament of young “Israeli Palestinians” (Palestinians descended from the families that remained in Israel after 1949), whose everyday life involves a continuous struggle at two fronts—against Israeli state oppression as well as fundamentalist pressures from within their own community. The main role is played by Tamer Nafar, a well-known Israeli-Palestinian rapper, who, in his music, mocks the tradition of the  “honor killing” of Palestinian girls by their Palestinian families. A strange thing happened to Nafar during a recent visit to the United States. At UCLA after Nafar performed his song protesting “honor killings,” some anti-Zionist students reproached him for promoting the Zionist view of Palestinians as barbaric primitives. They added that, if there are any honor killings, Israel is responsible for them since the Israeli occupation keeps Palestinians in primitive, debilitating conditions. Here is Nafar’s dignified reply: “When you criticize me you criticize my own community in English to impress your radical professors. I sing in Arabic to protect the women in my own hood.”

An important aspect of Nafar’s position is that he is not just protecting Palestinian girls from family terror he is allowing them to fight for themselves—to take the risk. …

In Spike Lee’s film on Malcolm X there is a wonderful detail: … a white student girl approaches him and asks him what she can do to help the black struggle. He answers: “Nothing.” The point of this answer is not that whites should just do nothing. Instead, they should first accept that black liberation should be the work of the blacks themselves, not something bestowed on them as a gift by the good white liberals. Only on the basis of this acceptance can they do something to help blacks. Therein resides Nafar’s point: Palestinians do not need the patronizing help of Western liberals, and they need even less the silence about “honor killing” as part of the Western Left’s “respect” for Palestinian way of life. The imposition of Western values as universal human rights and the respect for different cultures, independent of the horrors [that are] sometimes a part of these cultures, are two sides of the same ideological mystification.

You have to read his material carefully, as he’s easily misunderstood.  Still, this viewpoint has a flaw: African-Americans and Palestinians (the examples he provides) do need some degree of understanding and support from larger populations.  He’s also often not detailed enough.  For example, in one long paragraph, he defines the essential mechanism of South African apartheid as creating those nominally independent Bantustans, and then stripping Blacks of all South African citizenship rights by assigning their “citizenship” to one of those Bantustans, even when they didn’t live there.   He then leaps to Israel and the West Bank:

And today, even if a Palestinian state were to emerge on the West Bank, would it not be precisely such a Bantustan, whose formal ”independence” would serve the purpose of liberating the Israeli government from any responsibility for the welfare of the people living there.

Again, there is an element of truth to this, and even the Zionist peace camp argues for the two-state solution in part by asking if their fellow Israelis really want to renew responsibility for everyday governmental services, like picking up Palestinians’ garbage.  But we should all know that a two-state solution will only function well if it includes what Bernard Avishai has been writing about for years, some “confederal” features that involve close economic, security, and environmental cooperation.   
By | 2015-11-22T19:17:49-05:00 November 22nd, 2015|Blog, Zionism|0 Comments

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