The Jerusalem Post cites Israeli government officials who confirm that Finkelstein's arrest and exclusion were politically motivated:
"American political scientist and fierce critic of Israel, Prof. Norman Finkelstein, was denied entry to Israel and deported from the country early Saturday morning. Officials said that the decision to deport Finkelstein was connected to his anti-Zionist opinions and fierce public criticism of Israel around the world. . . .
"Prof. Alan Dershowitz of Harvard was active in campaigning against Finkelstein. His most recent book, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, is largely an attack on Dershowitz's The Case for Israel. In his book, Finkelstein argues that Israel uses the outcry over perceived anti-Semitism as a weapon to stifle criticism."
Check it out here: http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/05/27/finkelstein/
When the Ideological State Apparatuses falter, the good old Repressive State Apparatuses kick in. The Israeli government has apparently determined that Norman Finkelstein, former Profess of Political Science at DePaul University is a "security risk"; so not only have they arrested him at Ben Gurion Air Port, but they've banned him from entering the country for ten years. The absurdity of it all is not only that Israel likes to brand itself as an enlightened liberal European-style democracy that presumably ought to have no need for strong-arm tactics like this, but also that Finkelstein is the son of Nazi holocaust survivors. This is an absolutely despicable act on the part of the Israeli government, and it simply demonstrates the extent to which it assumes it can act with absolute impunity and violate the principles of justice and international law whenever it becomes convenient.
On the sixtieth anniversary of the Nakba, when Israeli ought to be reflecting upon the atrocities its founders committed in 1948 and how best to put them right; instead its contemporary leaders are acting very much in the spirit of their predecessors--that is, like a bunch of thugs.
I posted this review on The Panopticon not too long ago, but I thought I'd post it her as well.
Recently, I was in conversation with a friend of mine when the subject worked its way around to politics and the upcoming presidential election. When he asked me who I favored, and I gave him an honest answer, he seemed truly appalled. How could I—so his objection went—a person wholeheartedly of the Left, not be a supporter of Barack Obama? Well, I ran through the usual catalogue of Obama’s shortcomings; I don’t imagine it’s necessary to rehash all of it here—suffice it to say that most of the approbation now being sent his way rightly belongs to the Barack Obama of 2002 rather than his present incarnation. Remarkable how the hold that American politicians manage to maintain on their convictions seems to vary inversely with their ability to implement them.
Anyhow, my friend remained unconvinced. “Don’t you understand?” he said plaintively, “He’s just playing the game. He’s not actually compromising on his principles; he’s simply doing what’s necessary to get elected.” And then presumably, after his inauguration, he’ll immediately turn around, grin slyly, and ostentatiously cast off the fetching little sheep ensemble that managed to fool all of those gullible moderates and independents to reveal the anti-establishment wolf that all genuine progressives suspected was there all along. Well, at this point, the first thing that came to mind (other than the obvious point that, when it comes to speculations like these, it’s difficult to know who’s putting on whom) was, “Wait, I’ve heard this somewhere before…” In fact, was not the picture my friend of Obama precisely the one bandied about constantly in conservative circles? The notion that Barack Obama is actually some kind of left-wing elitist, that his own private convictions actually resemble those of Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers (or even Edward Said—an association that hasn’t even made the press yet) though he is obliged to distance himself from them in public in order to keep up appearances, that he is in fact a secret Muslim, which (supposedly) implies an unrevealed set of loyalties—all of these ideas are part and parcel of the image of Obama that the Right has tried to create. In fact, they are very much in keeping with the greater narrative that the Right has been using to scare the bejeezus out of the uninformed for decades: while it might appear that Communism is dead, it is in reality only sleeping; its agents have failed in their attempts at overt political action, so now they have moved underground; their present objective is to “march through the institutions” by masquerading as mere “enlightened progressives”…etc.
What unconscious affinities does this tacit agreement between Right and Left reveal? Well, quite simply, in Lacanian terms, it reveals that the fundamental fantasy structuring American political desire is, today, a Rightist one. The fantasy, you will recall, is what instructs us how to desire, it determines for us what outlet the satisfaction of our libidinal energies out to seek. As such, it is the quintessential field for the operation of modern ideology. So, for instance, to the extent that we remain mired in patriarchy, women are only able to channel their desires into modes of expression that are, in the last instance, in keeping with the dynamics of masculine fantasies. Hence Lacan’s formula: the hysteric is homme-sexual; she desires like a man. Analogously, such as been the extent of George Bush’s invidious influence that the Right, in America, now occupies our unconscious. Their hegemonic control is, in fact, so complete that we can only conceive of resistance on the terms dictated by Rightist discourse, so that we imagine that what we need is some kind of bizarre combination of a Leninist van guard Party and a quasi-terrorist sleeper-cell (fantasies are always over-determined). Are we not thereby confirming every caricature and misconception of Leftist politics that has existed since the days of the anti-Communist purges? Are we so thoroughly convinced that we have no independent existence outside of the framework of the dominant culture? I mean, imagine if the Jews decided one day that the program outlined in the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion wasn’t really such a bad idea after all, or some equally absurd conscious enactment of stereotypes. Would we not say that it betrays the worst kind of self-hatred?
In short, I say “No” to Barack Obama because I am obliged to say “No” to defeatism. My “No” is directed not simply at him but at the terms on which the choice has been presented, premised as they are an cynicism and manipulation—manipulation not of the “ignorant masses” whom we’ve managed to dupe into supporting our “Leftist-in-disguise”, but a much more subtle and insidious manipulation of the Left as a political movement by the ideology of our enemies. When the very terms of the game itself seek to interpolate you as a political subject in a manner that is unacceptable, the only choice is to refuse to participate. You may say that the costs of such abstention could be dire in times such as these, but I say that cost of participation is that reality itself comes to resemble the worldview of the John Birch Society. I’ll be buried in my grave before I become party to that. Unlike Barack, I maintain that some concessions are simply too great to be endured by men of conscience.
Today is the sixtieth anniversary of the UN’s Partition Mandate which divided the land of historic Palestine between Palestinians and the Jewish settlers in order to create what is now the state of Israel. It has often struck me that Israel is perhaps not so much a country as a kind of living “Abridged History of the Modern State,” condensing as it has the over-arching historical trajectory of the nation—from the violence of its original foundation to its first independent military conflict (the “baby steps” of the nation-state, to be sure) to the acquisition of nuclear weapons and a seat at the neocolonial table—into a period of just sixty years. I mean, John McCain is older than Israel. Perhaps the Israelis are within a different time frame, like the microscopic civilization in that old Twilight Zone episode.
We’re all familiar with story of Israel’s foundation–or with the story of the rationale behind it anyway; the actual history of the 1947 war remains relatively unknown to most of us. When it comes to the logic behind Israel’s foundation, it appears that there is a dual causality at stake: that is, there a religious rationale behind the formation of the state of Israel, as well as a secular one. For now, let us set aside the first and assume that there is a legitimate secular reason to honor the claim of a contemporary ethnic minority scattered throughout the world to a piece of land they allegedly occupied for a period of sixty years some two millennia ago. Really, the most common reason given for the necessity of a Jewish homeland in Palestine is, of course, the Nazi genocide, and the idea that the Jews are entitled to a safe haven so that they will be protected in case anything like it should happen again. This is perhaps an odd piece of irony because, to hear the Israelis tell it, the groups of people most committed to their destruction are the very ones whom the Jewish state has territorially displaced in the course of its foundation. Israel would seem to have helped exacerbate the very problem it was formed ostensibly to combat.
But what did it really combat—Israel, that is? Hannah Arendt, among others, was notoriously skeptical about what the foundation of the Jewish state had actually accomplished, “After the [Second World] war it turned out that the Jewish question, which was considered the only insoluble one, was indeed solved—namely, by means of a colonized and then conquered territory—but this solved neither the problem of minorities nor the stateless. On the contrary, like virtually all other events of our century, the solution of the Jewish question merely produced a new category of refugees, the Arabs, thereby increasing the number of the stateless by another 700,000 to 800,000 people” (cited in Said, The Question of Palestine xxxix). The Jews were indeed stateless prior to 1948, yet according to many commentators, such as the theologian Franz Rosenzweig, one of the virtues of Jewishness was its “cosmopolitan” identity, its “homelessness,” its inability to be reified within geographical or cultural boundaries. As Eric L. Santer would have it, “[Rosenzweig’s] radical claim pertaining to Judaism is that it opens the possibility of community on the basis of a shared orientation with respect to a nonrelational remainder/excess, to the signifying stress that every ‘normal’ community attempts to gentrify by way of some sort of simulated ‘holism’” (The Neighbor 107). This radical openness of Judaism—this, by the way, is also at the heart of Joan Copjec’s reading of Moses and Monotheism: there Freud lays implicit claim to a kind of membership in the Jewish community in spite of the fact that he shares none of the concrete characteristics associated with that community: he did not keep kosher, he was an atheist, he wanted no part of Zionism, etc.—can only be betrayed when its expansive potential is channeled into the drawing of national boundaries or the expulsion of the Arab Other.
Agamben has suggested that, today, it is, in fact, refugees like the ones driven out of Palestine that occupy the position of the uncanny excess left over after the formation of the nation-state: “If refugees (whose number has continued to grow in our century, to the point of including a significant part of humanity today) represent such a disquieting element in the order of the modern nation-state, this is above all because by breaking the continuity between man and citizen, nativity and nationality, they put the originary fiction of modern sovereignty into crisis. Bringing to light the difference between birth and nation, the refugee causes the secret presupposition of the political domain—bare life—to appears for an instant within that domain” (Homo Sacer 131). Now, if Žižek is right about the essence of “Jewish-ness”—“Jews lack the ‘inner form’ that pertains to any proper national identity: they are a non-nation among nations; their national substance lies precisely in a lack of substance, in a form of infinite plasticity” (Welcome to the Desert of the Real 110)—are we not then forced to conclude that where Israel-Palestine is concerned, today, the only proper “Jews” are, in fact, Palestinians? This notion is very much in accord with another one of Žižek’s scandalous theses concerning Israel: “Are today’s reports on the secret Muslim fundamentalist plans to destroy the West the new version of the infamous Protocols of Zion? Does today’s ‘war on terror’ signal the paradoxical point at which the Zionist Jews themselves joint the ranks of anti-Semitism? Is this the ultimate price of the establishment of the Jewish State?” (WDR 151).
Well, these are all rhetorical questions, but let’s see if we can’t formulate something in the way of an answer. Now, what are some of the telltale signs of anti-Semitism?
1. A penchant for “creative” historical bookkeeping?
Well, just recently a group of pro-Israel advocates called CAMERA (The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) was caught trying to infiltrate Wikipedia and obtain editorial positions in order to “rewrite Palestinian history.” One of the group’s primary objectives was to make alterations in articles dealing with the 1948 Palestinian exodus so as to deny or at least cast doubt upon events such as the massacre at Deir Yassin by Zionist militiamen.
2. Advocating the sterilization and/or ethnic cleansing of undesirables?
A coalition of parties within Israeli known as the National Union alliance recently acquired, I believe, twenty seats out of the 120 in the Israeli Knesset. One of the member parties, Moledet, calls itself, according to its website, “an ideological political party in Israel that embraces the idea of population transfer,” which means, it goes on to explain, that it has a plan to expel all of the Palestinians to Jordan (Ali Abunimah One Country 99). Support for the idea of an ethnic cleansing of the Occupied Territories, and Israel itself, has grown steadily since the onset of the second intifada. Furthermore, Novosti, a mainstream Russian-language newspaper within Israel published an article in 2003 suggesting that “Arab men should be threatened with castration and that Arab families ‘who have more than one child’ be ‘deprived of various benefits, lose their jobs,’” and be threatened with exile (95).
3. How about threatening an outright holocaust?
In March of this year Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said in an interview, apropos of the siege in Gaza, “The more Qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they [the Palestinians of Gaza] will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves.” Shoah, in case you don’t remember, is the Hebrew word for “holocaust;” it literally means “burnt offering.” I suppose it’s superfluous to note that it’s illegal for a government even to threaten genocide according to the Genocide Convention of 1951.
What can I say? I suppose they need their Lebensraum in Israel too.
Karl Heinrich Marx, rabble rouser and agent of history was born on this day in 1818. Ordinarily, I feel a bit absurd celebrating someone’s birthday who is no longer with us, but if there ever was a figure whose posthumous life has outstripped his organic life, it was surely our friend Karl. In fact, many of his followers seem to take a kind of perverse pleasure in describing to the last detail just how utterly abject and destitute he was during his time on earth—how he and Jenny were so poverty-stricken, when their oldest child died, they had to borrow from friends in order to be able to afford the coffin; how eleven people were in attendance at Marx’s funeral, etc.—almost as if the wretched condition in which he existed in life were, in fact, the necessary obverse of the illustrious place among the great cultural luminaries he was to assume after his death. It is as though the former were the sign of the latter; as though his miserable status in life were itself a kind of negative evocation of the greatness to come; as if the mortification of his literal, physical form were the necessary price to pay for the almost metaphysical degree of immaterial, cultural, and political influence he was to exercise later on. His own well-being, after all, mattered little when compared with advent of Marx-ism as a force for emancipatory politics. What all of this amounts to is that, in effect, Karl Marx suffered for your sins. His poverty was a small price to pay to redeem humanity from the scourge of industrial capitalism! Let’s just hope Mel Gibson never gets a hold of his story.
One way to honor Marx on his birthday is to learn more about him via the Mark Steel lectures:
(they’re absolutely hilarious, surprisingly informative, and virtually unknown in the US).
Another way, I suppose, would be to bring about the liberation of working class. It’s quite surprising how often we lose sight of the poor devils, preoccupied as many of Marx’s followers tend to be, with formalist aesthetic criticism and avant-garde art. I often think that Jameson and his ilk would prefer a piece of authentically “Utopian” art to a world revolution. “What is a revolutionary movement,” so the reasoning goes, “compared to Van Gogh’s peasant shoes?” I imagine them all glancing out of their windows as the shots are being fired, and the infrastructure of global capital is crumbling and declaring, “Yes, that’s all very well…but back to the negative dialectics of Schönberg’s atonal scale…” or something to that effect. Granted, Marx himself did have a propensity for this kind of thinking. When he first heard about the Paris Commune in 1871, he was initially distressed because he had not yet finished with Capital. “What’s the matter with them?” he wrote to Engels (I’m paraphrasing), “Couldn’t they wait?” Yet, we should also remember that Marx was not just a theoretician; he founded the International Workingmen’s Association and was active in it until the end of his life. In fact, the idea that theory ought to be divorced from practice within movements of social transformation is actually a relatively recent one. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, even local trade unions had all kinds of radical (and often elaborate) ideas about the structure society ought to adopt. It was widely understood among the members of these unions that their struggle was only one step in a much broader political struggle. This was simply because they understood that, as Chomsky once said, paraphrasing the newsletter of a women garment workers’ union from New England, “It’s not enough to make the autocracy less brutal; the point is to get rid of it.” Wouldn’t it be remarkable if contemporary unions operated according to this insight? Instead, the liberal ethos of reformism has replaced that of radical transformation in politics just as, in the field of psychology, the New Age-derived ethos of endless self-discovery has replaced the psychoanalytic ethos of self-overcoming. Both Freud and Marx are routinely reviled for their harshness: Freud for his model of the analyst as the cold clinician who hands down his “dictatorial” diagnosis from his position behind the patient, refusing even to look him in face (where’s the empathy?); Marx for his part, is accused even by people as astute as Hannah Arendt of being “inherently totalitarian,” and so forth, in his advocacy of the revolutionary overthrow of the middle class. And I often wonder if the (academic)reduction of Marx to nothing more than an aesthete—the Wilde-ization of Marx—isn’t simply another branch of the movement to vitiate him, to gentrify him, to have Marxism without the alluring and yet terrifying traumatic core that is the specter of revolutionary violence, to have, in essence, Marxism without Marxism. If you really want to appreciate the genius of Marx, you’ve got to appreciate all of him and his ideas, including those that might occasionally appear dark, dirty, or undesirable. A very useful corrective to the photographic image of Marx, which resembles nothing so much as Santa Claus, would be an image of something disturbing or unpleasant associated with Marx—perhaps a picture of the carbuncles on his ass.
"for months, even before most Americans had heard of Wright, prominent pro-Israel activists were hounding Obama over Wright's views on Israel and ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. In January, Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), demanded that Obama denounce Farrakhan as an anti-Semite. The senator duly did so, but that was not enough. "[Obama has] distanced himself from his pastor's decision to honor Farrakhan," Foxman said, but "He has not distanced himself from his pastor. I think that's the next step." Foxman labeled Wright "a black racist," adding in the same breath, "Certainly he has very strong anti-Israel views" (Larry Cohler-Esses, "ADL Chief To Obama: 'Confront Your Pastor' On Minister Farrakhan," The Jewish Week, 16 January 2008). Criticism of Israel, one suspects, is Wright's truly unforgivable crime and Foxman's vitriol has echoed through dozens of pro-Israel blogs."
-Ali Abunimah, The Electronic intifada, March 31, 2008
It was predicted, and so it has come to pass!
I trust Obama's handlers at AIPAC are duly satisfied.
Check this out:
It's the blog written by the now infamous Bill Ayers, the former member of the Weather Underground and current member of the UI-Chicago faculty mentioned in last week's debate.
I swear, the comments section was composed by monkeys.
I've often thought of joining that hilarious "Students for an Orwellian Society" organization, but when I hear something like this I think 1. we're a hell of a lot closer than we think and 2. it's really not all that funny.
According to the New York Times, the Bush administration, in the immediate aftermath of the Iraq war, hand-picked a number of sympathetic retired military officers, schooled them on administration "talking points," and quietly nudged them toward the network and cable news shows so that they might appear as "impartial" military analysts. Many of these people also work as consultants for the defense industry--a sector of the economy that has a considerable stake in prolonging the war.
And, perhaps most alarming of all, do you know how much attention this story has gotten from the 24-hour news networks? Exactly Zero!
I wouldn't have known about it at all if I hadn't caught the segment that PBS's Newshour devoted to it last night (it's been public knowledge since Sunday). Even NPR has given it no coverage whatsoever. Ditto for Stewart and Colbert. By all rights, this ought to be a scandal, but instead it's a virtual footnote. It's completely absurd to think that it's simply a coincidence that the cable news networks will refuse to touch a story like this one, since they themselves are implicated. It's positively monstrous, because all of those TV and radio journalists you've come to know and trust, all of them read the New York Times, you can be sure of that. They all took a glance at this story and then deliberately decided to bury it. You'd think they could take a breather from spelling out every elaborate fantasy-scenario of how the Democratic primary could end to report some actual news for a change. But no!
One upside to this protracted mudslinging contest between identicals, it's that for once, the popular press has really come under critical scrutiny. The public is gradually coming to realize that they are essentially another branch of the entertainment industry and that they care far more about sound bites and simplistic labels than they do about any specific policy issue that will ultimately affect you or me. I was profoundly surprised and gratified at the outcry over ABC's Democratic debate last week (although I can't say it was all that different from every other debate we've had since the start of this whole fiasco); it gives me a glimmer of hope that, just maybe, we're not quite as vacuous as they obviously think we are. Clearly, they expected the public to eat all of that garbage up and ask for seconds, but we didn't. We sent the food back and said, "Bring us something with a little more meat, could you? We're starving in here!" It won't be long before we get fed up with not being fed, just like those people in Haiti.
About the debate Wednesday night; top notch job for about the first 50 minutes, but what was up with all of that garbage at the end about the so-called "issues?' I mean, when I tune in to network news, I want to hear as much gossiping and name-calling as you can cram down my happy little throat. As far as I was concerned, you guys were just getting started with the innuendo and character assassination when you completely dropped the ball by asking about the economy. You never even got around to asking the question that's on all of our minds: "So, who loves America more, you or your opponent?" Don't get me wrong, you've got the right idea: if you want to cater to the American public, you've obviously got to reduce everything to a flashy soap opera and a horse race. (Man, do you have us poor slobs pegged!) But you just didn't go far enough. We are the lowest common denominator and we vote with our remote controls! You've got some work to do if you want to compete with American Idol.
Newsflash: Marxists have nothing better to talk about than the former princess of pop!
So, recently I went down to the Sunshine state (I believe that's Florida and not California, but I could be wrong) for an academic conference as us geeky types do now and then. It was at the U of F in Gainesville, home of the world-famous Gators and all that. This particular get-together was hosted by U of F's Marxist Reading Group and it featured Michael Denning as the keynote speaker. I'm sure that name means nothing to you, but I assure you, he's absolutely huge in certain circles. He's practically the Justine Timberlake of American studies, to compound the pop-culture references.
I was pretty apprehensive about this because my background is really in psychoanalysis, not Marxist theory, but I figured I know enough to get by. I even threw out some of the Freud references in my presentation and threw in some Walter Benjamin, Adorno, and Althusser, just to let them know I was one of them.
If you've never been to one of these things, how it works is that three people appear on a panel, they each give a talk lasting about 15 minutes, and then the audience asks them some extremely pretentious and long-winded questions, so that the whole thing lasts about an hour and a half.
Now, I think it's fair to say I'd prepared extensively: I'd presented my paper before in front of a gathering of Notre Dame students--to rave reviews--and I'd even sent it to Prof. Joseph Buttigeig, the Marxist of our department, and he gave it four stars. By all accounts, my paper was "a comic tour de force," "the feel-good hit of the...late Spring," etc. But apparently the Marxists didn't see it that way.
I knew they wouldn't know the author I'd written about (Robert Coover), but I was sure there were plenty of other viable topics for conversation addressed in my paper: Freud, Benjamin, culture and crime, and whatnot. However, after I'd finished reading and they finally got around to asking me questions (you know they don't like you when you're the last one they ask) they wanted to talk about positively everything except what I had written! One girl I'd made affable conversation with earlier asked me how my paper could be applied to the execution of Saddam Hussein! This was an occasion for absolute panic, because, truly, I had no idea whatsoever. Somehow, I managed to say something passable and I thought that now we'd move on to the important stuff. The next question, however, was even more a ridiculous curve-ball. (I suppose I should tell you my paper was on The Public Burning, Robert Coover's infamous retelling of the Rosenberg executions; I'd talked about the relationship between culture and some kind of communal sacrifice) When I thought things couldn't get more ludicrous, this professor said something like, "Yeah, I was watching South Park the other night, and they made the hilarious suggestion that Britney Spears has assumed the role of a kind of sacrificial victim--that she's made to look like a train wreck so that the rest of us can all be saved, and all the rest. How does that relate to your argument? ...Oh yes, and maybe you could say something about 9/11?" Once again, I had no idea what to say. This was like one of those horrendous dreams of public humiliation. I think I just rambled about the second part of the question without getting to the first.
But I mean really, South Park? I'll tell you what I wanted to say: "Well, I don't really have the slightest idea what South Park has to do with the question at hand, any more than the latest plot twist on The Hills. I mean, I'm sorry but South Park is garbage. It's written by people who discovered long ago that they don't have to come up with any actual jokes, so long as they can be perpetually offensive and over-the-top. Everyone who has more than two brain cells to rub together gets tired of that 'Oh, I can't believe they went there!' gesture after about ten minutes. I can honestly say I feel dumber every time I've watched even a few seconds of it. It's not worth my time or yours. And, incidentally, can we get off the subject of 9/11 already? I've heard it so many times in this room today, I feel like I'm listening to a Guiliani speech." (I guess I didn't mention that before, but yes, 9/11 had come up ad nauseum in previous discussions. God, these people make me want to become some kind of cultural elitist like all these assholes here at Notre Dame. For the record: yes, I think television can be a valuable artistic medium; however, we also need to recognize that there is also a considerable amount of garbage on it, and garbage needs to be eschewed, lest we all become infected with something; we don't need to recycle everything.
Frankly, you people at the U of F should know better than to devote your time to garbology. If you want to spend your days analyzing shit, you can jump up my ass.