Category Archives: Hizbullah

The Post-Self-Destructivism of Judith Butler

Benjamin Weinthal and I have an op-ed today in the Wall Street Journal. Here are the links (as well as some of the material that got cut from the original submission (1250 words). Some of the wording may not correspond exactly to that in the published piece, and bold text does not appear in the article.

The Post-Self-Destructivism of Judith Butler

On Sept. 11, a German organization will reward the American scholar and anti-Israel activist.

By RICHARD LANDES AND BENJAMIN WEINTHAL
In 1938, shortly after philosopher Martin Buber, formerly of the University of Frankfurt, came to Israel to teach at Hebrew University, a reporter asked how his Hebrew was. He replied: “Good, but not good enough to be obscure in.”

The joke, apparently, is on the city of Frankfurt, which tomorrow—Sept. 11, incidentally—will hand its prestigious Adorno Prize for excellence in philosophy, music, theater and film to Judith Butler. Ms. Butler, an American philosopher and anti-Israel activist, is a great admirer of Buber and the 1998 recipient of the “Bad Writing Prize” for her impenetrable prose.

Professor Butler’s first-prize sentence appears in “Further Reflections on the Conversations of Our Time,” an article in the scholarly journal Diacritics (1997):

  • The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.

Dutton remarked that “it’s possibly the anxiety-inducing obscurity of such writing that has led Professor Warren Hedges of Southern Oregon University to praise Judith Butler as ‘probably one of the ten smartest people on the planet’.”

objections to award: SPME Germany statement; summary article in JPost; extensive criticism and responses to Butler’s defense at SPME Faculty Forum.

Gitlin comes to the Defense of Butler’s Diasporic Non-Violence: Red Meat for the Vegan Crowd

The Butler controversy continues. For some reason Todd Gitlin, whom even people who disagree with him consider “nuanced,” comes out with a defense of his colleague at Columbia, Judith Butler. Despite the obvious daylight between him and Judith, he frames this as part of a schoolyard fight where he’s defending his friend, and is just one stage before, “I’m rubber and your glue…”

Not what I’d call a serious contribution to the issues at hand.

The Trouble With Judith Butler—and Her Critics

September 4, 2012, 2:24 pm

By Todd Gitlin

Whatever one wants to say about the philosopher Judith Butler’s contribution to contemporary thought, I suspect that not even her most devoted disciple would call her a lucid writer. In her introduction to an early book, Gender Trouble, she writes:

  • There is a new venue for theory, necessarily impure, where it emerges in and as the very event of cultural translation. This is not the displacement of theory by historicism, nor a simple historicization of theory that exposes the contingent limits of its more generalizable claims. It is, rather, the emergence of theory at the site where cultural horizons meet, where the demand for translation is acute and its promise of success, uncertain.

What we have here, and throughout Butler’s writings, are not so much [sic?] sentences that carry propositions as a whiff of the burning of incense before an idol called “theory.” There are some in the academy who find this practice “emancipating.” I do not.

I agree (nice image), although this is hardly the most impenetrable of her smoke columns. It actually brushes close to comprehensibility.

Be that as it may, the author of those unilluminating sentences is soon to receive the City of Frankfurt’s triennial Theodor W. Adorno Prize, named for the brilliant, prolific, vastly complex, often tangled, so-called Frankfurt School German-Jewish thinker genius who was himself given to wild overstatement of the sort that Butler, in fact, quotes in the epigraph to another one of her books: “The value of thought is measured by its distance from the continuity of the familiar.” A moment’s reflection shows this to be nonsense. Adorno had bad days, too.

Actually it’s one of the unspoken goals of most academics who want to make an original contribution: the counter-intuitive truth. Who wants to spend a lifetime regurgitating Vérités de la Palice?

The politics of “theory” and prize committees would be interesting subjects on their own, but the focus of vehement attack by The Jerusalem Post and organizations devoted to My-Israel-Right-or-Wrong politics is a more specific claim.

This is an interesting trope that one runs across often: “my Israel right or wrong” or the “Israel firsters.” It’s an effort to dismiss as some kind of primitive incarnation of an “us-them” mentality, people who defend Israel against calumnies. Most people identified as Israel-firsters are not. They are capable of both recognizing legitimate criticism and even articulating it.

But we draw lines between constructive criticism and destructive, between criticizing policies soberly and demonizing, between concerned tochachah and existential hatred. Most people who dismiss defenders of Israel as Israel-firsters, on the other hand, are “Israel is wrong firsters,” who, like Judith Butler, have no trouble finding their full-throated voices when criticizing Israel in no uncertain terms and based on highly uncertain sources, but somehow mumble and fumble when it comes to denouncing her ferocious enemies.

In the context of a battle with an enemy that has one of the most regressive “my side right or wrong” attitudes – “love my side and hate everyone else” – which is constantly being reinforced by the opposite “progressive” meme of “your side right or wrong” that must accept the epistemological priority of the subaltern “Other” (as does Helena Cobban), it’s a pretty ugly accusation. It goes hand in hand with the common trope, “any criticism of Israel is considered anti-Semitic,” which Butler and her convulsively anti-Israel colleagues uses constantly as a smokescreen for vicious criticism.

In the words of the Post’s Benjamin Weinthal, Butler “advocates a sweeping boycott of ties with Israel’s cultural and academic establishment and has defended Hezbollah and Hamas as progressive organizations.”

This slovenly slash-and-burn propaganda, masquerading as journalism, has occasioned a crisp reply by Butler:

Wow. This is pretty amazing. Weinthal’s piece is slash and burn propaganda, while her long, rambling, and insubstantial reply is “crisp”? Surely a scholar of nuance, like Todd Gitlin can do better. This is red-meat language for the carnivore “progressive” choir.

Judith Butler, the Adorno Prize, and the Moral State of the “Global Left”

The following is a long version of a response to Judith Butler that will appear in various forms at other sites, including SPME. This version is here either for those who enjoy my overwrought prose, of those who find that the logic of edited versions elsewhere is interrupted by the cuts.

Judith Butler’s feelings are hurt because some professors who claim they’re for “peace in the Middle East,” have criticized her and openly called on the Adorno Committee to withdraw the Prize that they have announced would be offered to her this year, on Adorno’s birthday, 9-11. Stung by the criticism, Butler responded at the site of the notoriously anti-Israel Jewish blog, Mondoweiss. in her defense. The defense illustrates every aspect of the problem with Butler’s approach to the criticism of her work, including the folly of German intellectuals to raise her up as a heroic example.

The criticism of her receiving the Adorno prize involves the following three points: 1) Her criticism of Israel for violations of (her) moral standards is exceptionally harsh, even though she has very little to say about exceptionally harsh violations among Israel’s enemies. 2) She has taken this moral imbalance from mere rhetoric to determined action, supporting extensive and punishing academic boycotts of Israel (e.g., Kafka archive should not go to Hebrew University). And 3) she enables and encourages virulent anti-Semitism both in this participation in BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions), and in identifying some of the worst offenders where that ancient hatred is concerned (Hamas and Hizbullah) as part of the “progressive, global, Left.”

Her response was a long, rambling, self-defense (2000 words) in which she systematically misrepresents the critique, and shields herself by claiming the status of a suffering victim of a vicious attack that deeply hurt her feelings.

What the World Isn’t Being Told about the Israeli-Lebanese Border Incident: My latest at PJM

What the World Isn’t Being Told about the Israeli-Lebanese Border Incident
Don’t look to the MSM to give you the truth about this week’s ambush of IDF reservists.
August 6, 2010 – by Richard Landes Page 1 of 2 Next -> View as Single Page

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Despite the careful “he said … she said” approach of the mainstream news media about the clash along the Lebanese-Israeli border this week, events are quite clear: Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were deliberately ambushed by Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).

In an outdoor press conference held at a lookout point above the Lebanese border where the incident occurred, Ilan Diksteyn, the deputy commander of the Israeli brigade, explained what happened. The IDF had notified the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) of its intentions and complied with multiple requests to delay a routine job that should have started early in the morning and didn’t get going till midday.

According to Diksteyn, he had personally walked the border with the UNIFIL commander and identified all the trees and shrubs they intended to cut down, all approved of as being located on the Israeli side of the border by the UNIFIL commander. The key tree was some 200 meters from the Blue Line, so there was not the most remote possibility that Israel trespassed on Lebanese territory. The IDF even set out the crane without a man in it, just to demonstrate their intentions beforehand.

But no sooner did they put a man in the unit and lift him over the fence than a sniper shot and killed the commanding officer of the unit who was away from the border and observing from a distance. Despite claiming they fired first in the air, and that Israel initiated the hostilities, an LAF spokesman eventually asserted their right “to defend Lebanon’s sovereignty.”

The Israelis claim this was an ambush by units of the Lebanese Armed Forces. And as such, this was an unprecedented new level of aggression. Even the normally cautious UNIFIL, which the previous day had restricted itself to calling for calm and announcing its intention to investigate, eventually — and exceptionally — sided with Israel’s claim that the tree was on their side of the border. Even the Lebanese admit they carried out an ambush.

Read the rest (with the links)…

UPDATE: Skype interview with me and Roger Simon about the Lebanese border incident.

Israeli Officers Ambushed on Northern Border: My piece for PJMedia

Here’s the article I filed with PJMedia last night. Go to the original for the links.

Israeli Officers Ambushed on Northern Border
An Israeli soldier was killed, and another wounded, by Lebanese army forces in an apparently pre-planned provocation.
August 3, 2010

by Richard Landes

At around 1:30 pm Israel time today (August 3), an exchange of fire took place between Israeli and Lebanese forces along the border. (This map reflects the exact location of the incident.) According to Lebanese sources, the Israelis had gone over the fence and were cutting down a tree growing on Lebanese soil. Lebanese soldiers allegedly fired warning shots in the air and then at the soldiers.

Michel Suleiman, the Lebanese president, issued his own statement denouncing the clash as a violation of UN Resolution 1701 and calling on the Lebanese army to “confront any Israeli aggression, whatever the sacrifices.”

Israeli military sources assert that the work they were doing was routine; that UNIFIL was warned; and that in that place (and many other ones) the fence was deliberately placed inside of Israeli territory so that work on the other side can be conducted without trespassing into Lebanese territory.

Read the rest.

UPDATES:

Omri Ceren, “After Lebanon Border Ambush, Reuters First Out Of The Gate With Demonstrably False Anti-Israel Propaganda,” Mere Rhetoric

Robert Fisk, “Israel-Lebanon tensions flare after skirmish leaves four dead,” The Independent

Ben Cohen, “A deadly game in Lebanon,” Huffington Post

Honest Reporting, “Special Alert: Media Collusion in Lebanon Ambush,” asks about the role of media, not merely Hizbullah journalists, but Reuters and AFP photographers, conveniently there to catch an incident that arose from routine pruning along the border.

CNN fires Octavia Nasr for her pro-Hizbullah Tweet

Last week, at the death of one of Hizbullah’s spiritual mentors, Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, Octavia Nasr, CNN’s special consultant on Arab culture sent out a tweet expressing her sadness.

nasr's tweet

The tweet caused a great stir, especially among those familiar with both Fadlallah career and statements – he approved Palestinian “martyrdom operations” targeting civilians, denied the Holocaust, and may well have masterminded the attack on the US barracks in 1983 – and Nasr’s widespread knowledge of the issues.

This prompted a rapid apology/explanation from Nasr: I didn’t approve of his hatred of the US and Israel and approval of terrorism, but he was good on women. (Wouldn’t that be considered dual loyalty? Sure he’s a hateful guy when it comes to the US and other democracies, but hey, he was okay on the subject of my gender.)

Not surprisingly, perhaps, this is not a slip in terms of Nasr’s sympathies. Her coverage at CNN is shot through with support for Arab anti-Zionism, a support which she translated into (scarcely) impartial language.