Bush Calls for Israeli-Palestinian Peace Conference: Yawn!
George Bush today made the ‘momentous’ announcement that he’s calling a Mideast conference for later this year including Israel, the Palestinians (that is, the ‘Abbas version’ of Palestinians–not the Hamas version) and unspecified other Arab countries (presumably Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt). My reactions: YAWN! And after yawning, I’d ask: what does he hope to accomplish? Indeed, what can he accomplish? What does he have to offer the Palestinians or Arab states?
Indeed this comment from the NY Times’ coverage indicated that Bush was more interested in scoring anti-Arab propaganda points on Israel’s behalf than in dealing with real issues:
He exhorted Israel’s Arab neighbors to open talks with Israel and to show leadership by “ending the fiction that Israel does not exist” and “stopping the incitement of hatred in their official media.”
The accompanying photo image of Bush announcing the peace conference is suitably imposing, imperial and unilateral. Instead of the smiling, eager faces of Israelis and Palestinians who will supposedly benefit from this deal, we see Bush’s icy reflected image. It’s as if he’s announcing the initiative in a mirror. And this is a suitable metaphor for U.S. Mideast policy. It is created unilaterally by people looking at themselves in the mirror rather than looking in the faces of the real people they are attempting to influence.
Bush seemed to think that a reference to Anwar Sadat would create stars in the eyes of the Saudi monarch and make him rush to join the party:
He also urged them to send cabinet-level visitors to Israel, a request directed implicitly at America’s closest Arab ally, Saudi Arabia, which has refused to do so.
“With all these steps, today’s Arab leaders can show themselves to be the equals of peacemakers like Anwar Sadat and King Hussein of Jordan,” Mr. Bush said.
What Bush neglects to remember (and he knows so little about the Middle East that there’s very little there for him TO forget) is the respective fates of Sadat and Hussein’s father, both murdered at the hands of Arab extremsts who viewed them as sellouts. Actually, given the strength of Islamism in his kingdom, the image of two bloody murdered leaders’ bodies might motivate the Saudi king a bit more than that of Sadat and Hussein signing peace treaties with Israel.
I especially liked this comment from Bush:
“This is a moment of clarity for all Palestinians. Now comes a moment of choice,” Bush said in a White House speech. “The alternatives before the Palestinian people are stark.”
Oh, I don’t know about that. If I were either a West Banker or Gazan I’d say: “what has George Bush ever done for me that I should heed his urging to see this as a “moment of clarity” or a time for a “stark” choice? Instead, I think I’ll just sit back with and enjoy this afternoon cat nap.” Remember, western powers come and go in the Mideast. How many presidents, secretaries of state or appointed peace negotiators have come and gone since 1947? They’re all gone with the wind. And who remains? The long-suffering Palestinian and Israeli people of course.
Then, after I woke up from that cat nap I’d invite George over for a leisurely cup of Arab coffee at my local cafe and tell him a thing or two…like, “come back when you’ve decided to stop telling me what I need to do and when you’re ready to tell me what you’re prepared to do to make any of my dreams come true.”
The Post quotes Shibley Telhami saying something similar:
“I don’t see how anything serious on the diplomatic front can be accomplished so long as the strategy to isolate Hamas continues,” said Telhami of the University of Maryland.
And he is right. None of us like Hamas much. But thinking you can negotiate peace with only one part of the Palestinian people would be like trying to negotiate the future of the United States after the Civil War while pretending the Confederate States (i.e. the South) didn’t exist. It simply won’t work. But hey, good luck! Maybe you’ll pick a rabbit out of your hat, George. Or perhaps a scorpion–that might be more suitable to the Middle Eastern locale.
37 thoughts on “Bush Calls for Israeli-Palestinian Peace Conference: Yawn! – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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whatever. we know that until aipac is handcuffed and defrocked of its power over our politicians, that nothing good will ever come from washington which will be of any value to the palestinians…its lies, lies and more lies. a steady diet of zionist brutality for the palestinians, and our press is guitly of complicity in the abuse of these peoples.
Avigail Abarbanel, a native-born Israeli Jew who lived there 27 years before emigrating, has even harsher words:
“Palestinian citizens of Israel live under an arbitrary and brutal police state. Their dealings with Israeli bureaucracy are not just frustrating but can be outright dangerous.
“The Palestinians in the Occupied Territories live under a Pinochet-like regime. They can and do disappear in the middle of the night. They are blindfolded, cuffed, beaten, humiliated, taken to unknown locations with no information given to them or their families, tortured physically and psychologically and incarcerated indefinitely, often without charges and regardless of whether they are guilty of anything.
“Israel is not a nice country. It is a powerful police state founded on pathological paranoia with only a veneer of civility, carefully crafted and maintained for the consumption of those who still believe in the myth of Israeli democracy.”
i see hamas and syria believe our tsars words and trust his intentions.
richard, i like hamas a lot, unfortunately my dislike of the other side has grown to that degree…it is now my belief that they are way more honorable in their intentions.
CAIRO, Egypt –
Hamas rejected President Bush’s proposal for a Mideast peace conference, denouncing it Monday as nothing but lies, while Syria said it fears the offer is “just words.”
Without cooperation from key Arab players, Bush’s last major push for a Mideast breakthrough could falter.
Remember, Bush hears voices telling him “invade here,” “found a country there.”
I just noticed that a portion (too small) of this post of yours has gotten quoted prominently by the Slate Blogger (http://www.slate.com/id/2170620/fr/rss/) . Nice work, Richard. I only wish they had published the entire thing. They did link to you, though. Nice.
The thing that really got me about the Bush speech was in the part in which he discussed Blair’s role as Middle East envoy for the EU. He had the gall to say that one of Blair’s tasks will be to convince young Palestinians to “participate in the political process.” Didn’t they do that in 2006?
the brits may be reaching a tipping point…i hope the british people turn up the heat on their leaders and get them the hell out of the middle east. I want to see George the decider and Liar totally isolated.
July 16, 2007
Afghanistan: British Front Line Casualty Rate Claimed to be Higher than the Second World War
The Telegraph is claiming that the rate at which British soldiers are being seriously injured or killed on the front line in Afghanistan is about to exceed that suffered by UK troops during the Second World War. While there are many reasons to be cautious about their analysis, e.g. they may be unfairly comparing frontline casualties from Afghanistan with total casualties in WWII, the claim is nonetheless striking.
Richard – The term is cat nap, not cap nap.
Absolutely right. I write after midnight and sometimes get a little bleary eyed. I rely on my spell check but it doesn’t catch mistakes like that one. So thanks.
Good job with this piece on Bush’s ridiculous peace conference proposal.
Yesterday, I found these two articles in Time magazine online. They both point out the absurdity of ignoring the democratically elected Hamas government. I was surprised to read this in Time. Although, I never read it, I assumed Time did not deviate from the typical mainstream reporting on the Middle East.
Also, recently Israel removed 178 Palestinian names from its “wanted” or “kill or capture list.” Israel claims that the militants have agreed to turn in their arms and renounce violence. However, it has been reported in the Israeli press that those who signed this pledge have agreed to join in a military effort to defeat Hamas in the West Bank. It is not clear how much military resistance Hamas can muster in the West Bank, but think it may be considerable. It could turn very bloody.
In the category of “the enemy of my enemy is my (temporary) friend,” it is noteworthy that Included on the list of names is Zacharia Zubeidi, the commander of Al Aqsa in Jenin. Israel attempted to assassinate him in April, wounding him in the shoulder. The IDF also more recently killed his deputy Mahmoud Abu el-Hija.
I am afraid this may signal an increased military effort by Israel and the new West Bank government against Hamas. I get the feeling that the US will also have a hand in this.
It is all so sad and senseless, but so is Bush’s War on Terror of which I am convinced the above is a small part.
maybe the decider guy can enlist the help of this group to help in the middle east ….
Mandela marks 89th birthday by launching braintrust
By Rebecca Harrison
Wednesday, July 18, 2007; 10:24 AM
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Nelson Mandela marked his 89th birthday on Wednesday by launching an international group of elder statesmen, including fellow Nobel peace laureates Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter, to tackle the world’s problems.
It seems to me that these things always get called by a president named Bush when they need to generate enough of a positive ‘spin’ on their policies towards the Arab world that they can gain support in the ME for another invasion. I sincerely hope that’s not what’s behind this particular piece of news, because there is no way that this can end well.
How can there be peace with הפרדה – why is this translated as ‘convergence’ ?
“I, for one, do not trouble myself over “recognizing” Israel’s right to exist — this is not, after all, an epistemological problem; Israel does exist, as any Rafah boy in a hospital bed, with IDF shrapnel in his torso, can tell you. This dance of mutual rejection is a mere distraction when so many are dying or have lived as prisoners for two generations in refugee camps. As I write these words, Israeli forays into Gaza have killed another 15 people, including a child. Who but a Jacobin dares to discuss the “rights” of nations in the face of such relentless state violence against an occupied population?
I look forward to the day when Israel can say to me, and millions of other Palestinians: “Here, here is your family’s house by the sea, here are your lemon trees, the olive grove your father tended: Come home and be whole again.” Then we can speak of a future together.”
Mousa Abu Marzook is the deputy of the political bureau of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement
Is what Abu Marzook says incorrect?
“The writings of Israel’s “founders” — from Herzl to Jabotinsky to Ben Gurion — make repeated calls for the destruction of Palestine’s non-Jewish inhabitants: “We must expel the Arabs and take their places.” A number of political parties today control blocs in the Israeli Knesset, while advocating for the expulsion of Arab citizens from Israel and the rest of Palestine, envisioning a single Jewish state from the Jordan to the sea. Yet I hear no clamor in the international community for Israel to repudiate these words as a necessary precondition for any discourse whatsoever. The double standard, as always, is in effect for Palestinians.”
tangentlama, the case of world jewry is one that boggles the mind. zionism socialism communism or whatever conglomeration of moses hesss’ movement these guys are espousing now stands in the face of humanity and dares anyone to stand up to them. the heroes of our time are the arabs who know this enemy better than the brainwashed west, they will not compromise their islam to the demands of the western powers.
i meant to include these sites which can add some granularity to the zionist history that you mentioned….
these guys have a long history dealing with zionism as a threat to judaism according to them (the rabbis).
and although im sure not the favorite of the zionist, ilan pappe nevertheless speaks up against the crimes of that government which others fail to do…he has a few speeches about the early diaries of one of zions leaders
My hope for Israel and Palestine is that they be like Greece and Turkey: not necessarily best friends, but not fighting. Greeks no longer daydream of restoring the Byzantine Empire, and Turks have given up imperial illusions, too.
Hafradah would be translated as ‘separation’ & not “convergence.” The Hebrew word for the latter, I understand, is hitkansut.
I think you somewhat overstate the vehemence of Israel’s historic rejection of its Palestinian brethren. And the main diff. bet. the extreme rightist Israeli pols calling for transfer or expulsion is that they do not control government policy while Hamas does.
That being said, I’m in no way defending Israel’s rejection of talks with Hamas which I think is reprehensible.
Finally, I think that Hamas’ rejection of Israel is as troubling as Israeli rightist rejection of Palestinian rights.
That’s perilously close to anti-Semitism if not over the edge. If I understand you correctly you’re blaming Jews for these political movements?? If so, you’re way over the line. I don’t allow such remarks at this site. So be very careful.
Richard, that’s over the edge – it reminded me of right-wing antisemitism and 1950s Judeophobia masquerading as anticommunism/anti-tradesunionism.
I think there have been several key points where Israel has rejected it’s Palestinian brethren, and I do see those moments as vehement!
I’m thinking here of Sa’id Hammami, Issam Sartawi, and from the Israeli side, people such as Henri Curiel (z”l) and Uri Avnery. Both Hammami and Curiel were assassinated 4 months apart, in 78, after the Likud came to power. Hammami was a proponent of the two state solution and sought a peace process through open dialogue. Curiel was an Egyptian Jew who had sought to keep dialogue open with Palestinians.
On Nov. 16, Dec. 17, 1973, The Times (London) published articles by Sa’id Hammami, the PLO’s London representative. On March 22, 1974, Yediot Aharonot published an interview with Na’if Hawatma. All of these articles put forward a new approach – the two-state solution – seeking an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank/Gaza strip, talking of peace between the two peoples, with Israel’s borders at their June 4, 1967 placement. The Israeli Govt ignored these forward thinkers of the time. Ignored by Israeli Govt, Hammami sought out unofficial Israelis such as Uri Avnery to discuss these ideas with, hoping
Without official Israeli recognition for these progressive ideas, back in 1975, Hammami had difficulty convincing the rest of the PLO that they should abandon the idea of one, democratic secular state – it took until 1988 before the PLO finally abandoned that in favour of the two state solution. Henri Curiel, the PLO, and the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace
It’s not 1975 anymore, but Israel’s government are still ignoring all joint Israeli-Palestinian pleas for negotiation and recognition.
Several times since the famous 2005 ceasfire began, and even before their election, Hamas have taken steps to recognise Israel – they recognise Israel’s ‘right to exist within 67 borders’ but not recognised Israel’s right to exist beyond those borders. Hamas don’t recognise Israel’s right to build like fury on Palestinian farmers land, sell apartments built on confiscated land to American citizens on a buy-to-let basis, permit Settlers in the Occupied Territories to uproot Palestinian farmers’ olive groves, persecute farmers who try to harvest their olives withs settlers screaming ‘this is our land, go back to Saudi Arabia’, etc. I’ve seen at least 4 articles of recognition of Israel, since Hamas was democratically elected by the Palestinian people, and one signed document:
the mensheviks and the bolsheviks were both a branch of the socialist second international, if you care to take a peek in the 1943 universal jewish encyclopedia under BUND or the Jewish Communal Register for 1917-18,
the Kehilla (Jewish Community) of New York City, 356 Second Avenue, New York City, you can get some clarity from those who published those tomes, history is not faith based.
I have never felt insulted, though i am a christian, when someone has pointed out that many nations under the banner of christianity have commited attrocities. I have felt shame for the association and sorry that they know so little about the ineffable galilean who stepped into human history a little over 2000 years ago, about the time that israel was expulsed from the land that they recently have taken back on their own. my identity as a his follower is not tied to the government of any country, or to any group that chooses to call themselves christians, that violate the mandates of the galilean who impacted history as no other.
this is one of the things that the old pre zionist rabbis feared upon the foundation of zionism; that judaism would be associated to that government.
richard, being called anti semitic has no place when one is recounting history, it is mainly used to keep people from saying something that they dont want told. I hate no people, none. Many people are called anti semitic these days when they dare to question israels policies against the palestinians. (jimmy carter), being called a racist of any type, or being threatened with the label of racist is deplorable.
I am sure you do not feel intimidated by being called a self hating jew due to your stance on israels treatment of the palestinians, your own bloggin career has attracted the ire of many a zeaolot.
my parents lost a country to a marxist leninist leader and i have with great interest dug deep into it’s entrails to know a little bit about it.
the moses hess book “rome and jerusalem” is very informative, in the preface to the 1918 edition the translator called Hess, “The herald of Nationalism and the trumpet of Zionism.”
his continued publicizing for practical socialism in Germany earned him a sentence of death after the 1848 revolution.” (Universal Jewish Encyclopedia)
if you choose to allow me to post here, thank you.
if you choose not too, then good luck in your endeavor to succor the hopeless and helpless in the tradition of judaism.
Bush Told Iraq War Has Helped al-Qa’eda
By Tim Shipman
Wednesday 18 July 2007
Iraq war has helped al-Qa’eda, says Bush ally.
President George W Bush was facing increasingly blunt criticism of his Iraq policy last night as a US intelligence report suggested that the war has made al-Qa’eda attacks on American soil more likely.
Senator George Voinovich, a close ally of Mr Bush, delivered a withering assessment of the situation in Iraq, declaring that the Bush administration had “f****d up the war”.
The Ohio senator revealed that he warned Karl Rove – the President’s chief political adviser – last week that Mr Bush must devise a new plan for Iraq or he would vote with Democrats on Capitol Hill to withdraw troops from Iraq.
He spoke out as a declassified National Intelligence Estimate of the terrorist threat to the US indicated that the Iraq war has helped al-Qa’eda “raise resources and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for homeland attacks”.
The document, which represents the considered views of 16 US intelligence agencies, appeared at odds with Mr Bush’s repeated claims that America must prosecute the war in Iraq to prevent terrorists “following us home” with attacks in the US. The three-page report, two pages of which were released to the public, argues that “al-Qa’eda will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qa’eda in Iraq”.
The findings echo similar assessments of the terror threat from British spy chiefs.
They inflamed an already febrile atmosphere in Congress, where Mr Bush is haemorrhaging support from Republicans.
this is a priceless piece on the decider guy…this is from one of the Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
“Once a policy has been adopted and implemented, all subsequent activity becomes an effort to justify it…Adjustment is painful. For the ruler it is easier, once he has entered the policy box, to stay inside. For the lesser official it is better…not to make waves, not to press evidence that the chief will find painful to accept. Psychologists call the process of screening out discordant information ‘cognitive dissonance,’ an academic disguise for ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts.'”
Two quotes from 2006:
I agree with several points Mr. Silverstein made.
First, most of the Arab world, extremist or not, despise Sadat… In fact Nasser is seen as sordove hero in Egypt today and despised by most Egyptians… especially the younger generation. Ironically the only places Sadat is revered by the average man in the street is Israel and the US. (perhaps Europe as well…)
Second, if a free and fair election was held today in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas and Al Queda forefather) would likely win by a large margin… Sadat’s party would likely finish 2nd and the Liberals would finish a likely far dead last.
Third, Saudi leaders not only don’t want to be grouped with Sadat in the same sentence because they would then fear for their lives…. please most of the population despise the Saudi Mafia Royal family…. it’s because the Saudi leaders themselves, supposedly “moderate” (I guess compared to Al Queda?) hate and despise Israel’s existence… Remember these are the same people funding Hamas, Al Queda, extremist insurgencies in Asia, and most of the mosques around the world that teach religious extremism and hatred…
Sure, the “Peace Conference” is bogus… but the big problems in the Middle East are not Israel… Israel/Palestinian conflict is 1 of many…… The idea that an Israeli Palestinian situation can be amicably resolved within the context of the Middle East the way it sits today is a tragic and unfortunate fantasy. And the idea that it is the cause of the real endemic problems there an even bigger one.
Bush is simply using it to create PR… how you feel about that and why he’s doing would depend on your outlook on the overall situation in the Middle East. For instance, Lebanon would be another perfect example…..
I meant “Nasser is seen as a hero today” and Sadat mainly despised as a sellout… (Arafat and the Palestinians referred to him as such as well)
2nd correction –
I meant Mubarrek’s party would likely finish a distant 2nd to the Muslim Brotherhood in a real fairly held election today in Egypt.
I’m not arguing that there have not been moments when Israel rejected opportunities represented by people like Hammami or Sartawi. That’s certainly the case & I mourn those lost opportunities as you do. What I argue against is making sweeping generalizations that overstate the case. When I make such a generalization I try to temper it so that it takes into account both positives & negatives & doesn’t give undue weight to either.
Yes, I largely agree with that. But Hamas has never as a group made such a statement. Individual leaders of Hamas have made similar statements to that. And other individual leaders have repudiated such statements. But it would be far better to have a statement representing the entire movement, rather than individuals. Until there is such a statement Israelis are justified in terms of wondering how strong or sincere the statement may be.
You said that Communism was a movement created by Jews. And now you attempt to bring proof that this is so by noting that ‘Menshviks’ & ‘Bolsheviks’ are mentioned in the article about the Bund in the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia??? This is getting beyond bizarre. Just note that anything you say in future that I deem anti-Semitic or even bordering on it will be stricken here.
Socialism & Communism are not movements created by Jews. And even implying that the world should blame Jews for them is insidious. I will not tolerate it here & I put you on notice of that. Further, I have absolutely no interest in knowing about your religious beliefs and prefer that you keep them to yourself.
You know the rules. Follow them & you may comment here to your heart’s content. Otherwise, not.
The Saudi royal family funds Al Qaeda?? Prove it. I dare you.
The only people who agree with you are Likudniks & neocons. Every other credible Mideast analyst including most Israeli ones absolutely disagree with you. I disagree w. you. The Baker Hamilton Iraq Study Group disagrees with you. Tony Blair disagrees with you. The entire Arab world disagrees with you. Heck, most American Jews even disagree with you. Other than that it’s unanimous…
The Baker Hamilton study group? Well, excuse me if I don’t give them much credence.
Tony Blair? Really? He is a politican so what he is gong to say? “Well sorry most of the Arab world has been taught to demonize and hate Israel for decades.. so in my heart I believe until major reforms and changes in the Arab world take place, like Lebanon being our best hope… we can’t count on seeing any reform in the West Bank or Gaza…”
No, he espouses the same canned line “secuirty for Israel etc… etc..” and ‘peace is possible” just as we can talk Iran into not going nucleur… Which is what Baker Hamilton said by “talking” to the Iranian thugs…
OK, public now doesn’t everyone feel better… good…
Btw, not only do countries like Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, etc… not only demonize Israel Soviet style in their media… but fund rejectionist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, etc…
However, your next statement is the biggest doozy……
Really? You know this… simply amazing.
What the Arab world recognizes? The last mouthed statement about the rehashed political football thrown by the Saudis supposedly at Tom Friedman… (Who’s ego and fantasy was/is likely up to par with the latest NY Times “fictional” writer who you yourself poo poo) talked about the Full Right of Return… and then maybe recognizing Israel’s existence? “Yes we recognize that you are in fact there… pat on the head.
The same Arab world that watches dehumanization of Jews and Rabbis on their state run televisions and Satellites? Maybe, if wey’re reallll lucky they’ll recognize Israel the way Egypt (the leader or close 2nd depending on your opinion of promoting anti semitism in the media) does… you know send an Embassador to sip coffee occassionally in an Israeli office… All nonsense…
American Jews opinon aside… I doubt “most” American Jews would agree to “peace” if it meant a Full Right of Return (whatever that means at this point btw… grandkids too lol.. like me going back to Poland) let alone sacrificing the Golan to Syria or even a so-called UN force like the masquerade now talking place in Lebanon….
I have some friends that just got back from Israel… pretty left wing folks… 1 of their first statements was “After being on the Golan if Israel ever gives that away they’re crazy”…..
Second, American Jews, if I may be presumptive (though not quite nearly as presumptive as yourself above) like to hear the words peace…. repeated every few years…. like “yes this time they’re making peace” then go back to their regular lives….
Let me add… I recently met some British/Irish protestants obviously from Northern Ireland… they laugh pretty loudly when they hear Americans say yes, don’t you have peace there now after what Clinton did..
Do you mean to say you think the Arab world agrees with you that “the big problems in the Middle East are not Israel” or “the idea that [the Israeli Palestinian conflict] is the cause of the real endemic problems there is a tragic fantasy.”
Wrong. The Saudi/Arab League proposal talks about the Right of Return, NOT the full Right of Return. The proposal clearly allows for readjustment of the Right of Return to replace physical return with monetary restitution.
Not what I said. I said American Jews agree with the Baker Hamilton report and most serious Mideast analysts that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a festering wound that helps exacerbate other conflicts in the region; and that it’s solution is key to improving U.S. standing in the Middle East.
Absolutely wrong. I’m not sure whether such specific polling has ever been done (if anyone knows of any pls. let me know), but I’m certain that since a majority of American Jews favor withdrawing from some West Bank settlements that an even greater majority would favor leaving Golan in return for a negotiated peace with Syria involving full recognition.
I just love statements like this & I can’t tell you how many times rightists have tried to pass off such silliness as evidence of some greater truth or phenomena. So you have a few friends who visited Israel who reject the idea of Golan withdrawal. This anecdotal evidence is supposed to represent what? An intelligent and informed judgment about what Israeli policy should be? And what is their specific expertise to make such a judgment? And they’re “pretty left wing folks?” Meaning what in an Israeli context? They support the Israeli left? You’re statement is so vague as to be meaningless.
a mind is a terrible thing to waste….
French philosopher Alain Badiou gave this interview to Le Monde last week. The original title was about the crisis of the intellectual Left. While the first two questions focused on the crisis of the French Left, most of the interview was about the particularisms lying at the foundations of Israel as a Jewish only state. Badiou speaks with clarity on matters which appear to be complexe in the news, using fundamental philosophical concepts like Truth, History, Universals, and Universalism (as opposed to Particularisms and exceptionnalism).
Le Monde: You are, since the publication of Circonstance, 3. Portées du mot “Juif” (The Uses of the word “Jew”), at the heart of an intellectual controversy because of your position on Israel, a position some believe is favourable to the disappearance of Israel as a state. What is your opinion on this ?
Alain Badiou: I believe this controversy, if taken at its highest and most coherent level, is about the existence of universals. What is the relation between the word “jew”, in its entire extension, its historical and intellectual resonance, and the liberating and emancipating effect of universalism? Universalism is attacked from the Right, which maintains that we should return to the values of Nations, Traditions, Religion, Family values, etc. Universalism is also under attack from the Left which maintains that abstract Universalism is a form of intellectual Imperialism or an abstraction of the global market (or global economy) against which sexual, racial, and communautarian identities should be defended. In this debate, I stand in the middle, even if I am considered as a radical. I oppose the traditionalist defence of moral, national, and religious identities, but I oppose the modernist position on this matter which pretends to defend identities by making them the center and the principal player in the political opposition to international Capitalism. It is in this context that I consider the word “jew”.
Le Monde: Why reduce the whole question to a word ? Isn’t a reality ?
Alain Badiou: Certainly ! It is the same with the word “French”… However “being French” does not prevent me from being from a Moroccan origin, or a hereditary aristocrat, or half German, having this or this idea about my country, inheriting the French revolution or on the contrary a fetichistic vision of the land… Under a word, of variable value, we can find an infinite multiplicity. My problem is that I am against those who think that “jew” is a name, and not a word, those who insist that this word forms a homogenous and unified assembly non reductible to something else. In my opinion, their position can only be tenable in the case of divine transcendance. In this case, and in this case alone, we can argue that “jew” is a name and not a word, because it is bound to an elective space: “jew” is the name of the alliance. I argue, as Lévinas did before me in a coherent way, that it is impossible to maintain this nominal exception without the support of religion.
My target in this critique is not Zionism, neither the existence of Israel, not even a certain type of relation between the identity and the state. My target is the ideological manipulation of the word “jew” in the intellectual controversy you mentioned, especially in France where it serves some goals linked to the reactionary wave in which we have been immersed for about thirty years now.
It would be terrible for the Jews, this living multiplicity, to let the word that defines them – which has a close relationship, going on for so many years before, with the formidable question of the universals and the adventures of universalism – to become the symbol of modernised Capitalism, anti-Arab or anti-African xénophobia, and US wars. I notice, with a real sorrow, that many people to whom I was close, sometimes dear friends, who in the 70s used to gravitate around revolutionary Maoism (he is talking probably about André Glucksman, staunch supporter now of Sarkozy), have started slowly using the reference to the word “jew” and to Israel as a support for something politically and intellectually more large, that can be identified as an attempt to reintegrate the West. By “West” I mean the group of developped and “democratic” countries, their power, their way of life, which are judged superior. The unprecedented trauma that was the extermination of Europe’s jews in the Nazis gaz chambers has rendered this manipulation redoutable because it strikes the thought and immobilises it in a conservative memory.
Le Monde: You are accused of attacking the memory of the Shoah, or at least its usage. Is it because it served the itinerary you just denounced ?
Alain Badiou: I think that the promotion of massacres and victims as the only interesting contents to History is linked to a profound process of depolitisation. To examine all historical situations exclusively through moral categories results in political impotence. On the other hand, I don’t think memory is a good category if we want the non repetition of disasters, because the non repetition assumes a rational judgement about what happened. An emotional memory based on horror and its images is ambivalent. Discerning between what follows from a repulsive emotion and an emotion of fascination is very difficult. Yes, I mistrust memory, the memory of colonial atrocities, or the memory of Stalinism, as much as the memory of Nazism. Political and historical knowledge should universally become the alternatives for doubtful memory that is a designated prey for propaganda.
le Monde: Is it in this same vein that you suggest in Circonstances, 3 that we forget the Holocaust ?
Alain Badiou: This sentence, which appeared in an interview I gave to Haaretz, was, as you may suspect, a carefully designed imprudence: it cannot be understood outside the context specific to the conditions of a possible dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis. My next sentence, that you don’t cite here, made it clear that the forgetting is, in fact, impossible.
Le Monde: Isn’t Israel’s legitimacy, at least in the West, tied to the memory of the Shoah ?
Alain Badiou: Things must be clear. I never thought that the destiny of Israelis is to be pushed into the sea. Moreover, I don’t think that the question of Israel’s frontiers is at the heart of the problem. From the internal perspective of an assumed de facto situation, in other words, the settlement of hundred thousands of jews in this place being irreversible, I still think that the regulating idea for a future for the region cannot be anything else than a common life and destiny for Palestinians and Jews on the same land. I always thought that the formula of a “jewish state” is perilous. Today, the politic of emancipation dictate that national identities and states should not be defined exclusively in terms referring to identity and race. We should have a minimal requirement here, the land right against the blood right. Israel will have to deal with the prospect of universalism retaking the places where particularisms used to strive, if it has to deal with its own future.
No though there are some liberal writers who have. Most as in Egypt and Bangladesh recently are clamped down upon… for simply mouthing a positive statement about Israel.
However, you are admitting the Arab world doesn’t in fact agree with your statement?
Obviously the fact that most of the Arab world doesn’t agree with my statement is the problem. The Israeli public has come a long way in the last 20 years… while the Arabic public has become more and more radicalized in regards to Israel and in general.
Notable though you yourself appear to agree with that analysis below where you say it helps exacerbate other (imopinion) real endemic problems in the Middle East.
Really? Funny they didn’t state it.. though you could say that’s just politics… fair enough… However, funny how it’s never rationally discussed then on their state run media or satellites then? or their education books? you know monetary restitution etc.. or how dispossession of MEastern Jews took place as well? Because it is discussed in Israeli and Jewish press?
More importantly however for that matter the average man on the street in Saudi Arabia, Syria or camps in Lebanon or Syria feel this way…..
It was just a statement thrown out to Friedman mouthed in English to Western press only (Not Arabic Press) so the Saudis could relieve some pressure, gain some good pr and goodies at the time from the US administration. If I remember correctly this was shortly after 9/11….
US standing will never become solid because most of the Arab world despises and rejects Israel to their core…. in any way shape or form… that’s what’s taught in their culture. And as long as Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya not to mention the state run presses… tout lines in sync with the Muslim Brotherhood not much is going to impove US image.
On another note then you would agree with Clinton’s statement? …. which was something to the effect I wish we could just take away the Israeli/Pal conflict from them so we could then force them to face the real problems in their region”
Agreed… re West Bank though that’s not whats promoted “some”… its pretty much “all” that is promoted….
Excuse me? Was it not you who passed off the anecdote “most of the Arab world disagrees with you”…
Well the tar and smear brush appears to have reared its head. They’re left wing and very educated by anyone’s definition and people I respect very much so. However, leaving your smearing aside……… they are in favor of negotiating and land sacrifice for true peace..as you stated above most American Jews are…. (remember that statement)
However, what they were actually referring to in a conversation about other things as well was how glaringly obvious it is when you actually see it – how from the Golan Heights one could literally take target practice on Israeli towns and kibutims with a simple rifle.
Further, it was you who stated in another post how close Syria was to overrunning Northern Israel in 73. I’m sure the Mafiocracy that runs Syria – assurance of “full recognition”, excuse me if I laugh in light of what they’re doing in Lebanon right now, would be comforting… and reliable. and more than that worthy of sacrificing an extremely strategic and important piece of real estate for. I imagine that means they’d end the demonization in their press as well.
ONE Bangladeshi journalist wrote something positive about Israel. Just one. There is no “most.” There’s just one. As for Egypt, I’d like you point us to an Egyptian writer who believes that the Israeli Palestinian conflict is not a major irritant and stimulant for much of the conflict in the ME.
Obvious to you but to hardly anyone else except Israel’s apologists. Solving the I-P conflict will go miles toward easing tension and conflict in much of the ME. It is perhaps the most debilitating factor undermining U.S. relations with the Arab world. This is what is obvious to most people in the world except you & a small percentage of others.
That may be true. But “publics” don’t make peace, governments do. And the Israeli government is bankrupt as far as providing leadership toward peace. Its stance, as proven by countless Israeli public opinion polls, is miles from where the Israeli public is on almost all the major war & peace issues.
The Saudi position on the Right of Return has been “stated” numerous times in the world press. Search through Google News & you’ll find it.
Unlike you, I’m not thinking about the IP conflict in world strategic terms or in terms of a battle bet. the West and Islam. I’m thinking about it mostly in terms of Israel achieving peace w. its neighbors. That’s my top priority. Also, I’m not willing to concede that the IP conflict is NOT a REAL problem esp. to the Arabs. Yes, Arab states have many internal problems they need to face and perhaps the IP conflict distracts fr. facing them. So if peace forces other Arab states to focus on the domestic problems affecting them that’s all for the good. But that isn’t what primarily motivates me.
You again claim they’re “left wing” w/o providing any proof of their actual views so that one can draw their own conclusion.
That’s not quite true now is it? They just told you that Israel would be crazy if it gave back the Golan. So if what they told you is what they do believe they not in favor of “land sacrific for true peace.” So just how “leftist” are they?
Yes, that was in 1973, not 2008. 35 years ago. Times have changed though you obviously haven’t.
Isn’t it interesting there has not been a war bet. Israel & Syria nor have their been serious hostilities on their mutual border since 1973. I’d say that’s a pretty reliable partner. Yes, Syria has made mischief using Hezbollah as their proxy. But clearly the alliance w. Hezbollah is one of convenience and one that will only last as long as they share mutual interests–which will be as long as Israel refuses to negotiate a full peace w. Lebanon settling territorial & related claims.
And as for Syria being unreliable–you think the Arab states see Israel as a reliable partner? Israel has violated almost every agreement it has signed with Arab parties since Oslo (so have the Arabs). Why should they see Israel any differently than you see Syria?
No my reference to most, was any liberal journalist that has in the past or would write something different than the company hard line is clamped down upon and intimidated.. not only from the gov’ts, as in Bangladesh and Egypt (quite a few cases there), but in the general culture. This is not the same in Israel or the US…
There are quite a few bloggers who have touted lines different than the hard line… a few have gone quiet recently bcs the Egyptian gov’t police have been calling… There is an Egyptian playright who visited Israel and spoke glowingly about the people and culture… He was shut up numerous times.
Actually you pretty much admitted above that’s its just 1 of many problems in the Middle East… and 1 the gov’ts and media use relentlessly in their propoganda machines… blame Israel and blame the US for everything and don’t ever look at yourself… There are serious endemic divisions and problems in most Arab countries… we peeled off Saddam rightly or wrongly… and now we see the chasms there that have been present within that society for how long? And these have what exactly to do with Israel?
And what does Israel have to do with the problems in Pakistan or Afghanistan again? And bcs Muslim and Pakistani press propogandize relentlessly Israel and demonize Jews suddenly Israel is relevant to that Asian country?
Or is it just your fantasy that all that hatred and demonization will end with a Utopian “peace” and end to the IP conflict?
So are you tacitally admitting the Israeli public has come a long way in 20 years and the Arab public has gotten more instead of less hard line? Bcs the man in the street is always more important in my estimation?
Are you further stating that comparably speaking the problem is not the Palestinian or Arab leadership but instead the Israeli gov’t?
I’ve read it and I have never seen anything that states a Full Right of Return in likely never going to happen and instead most would have to take other forms of compensation instead… In fact a Palestinian refugee was quote a few years back in Lebanon, as stating to the effect — the PLO is corrupt and he just wants some just compensation and to move on…. He was later intimidated and took back that statement.
So you agree with Clinton’s statement? Yes or No?
And where did I say anything about a West Islam conflict? I said that there are real endemic problems in the Arab Muslim world and to think a “real peace” can take place with these corrupt thug gov’ts, controlled medias etc.. the way they are today is a fantasy.
DID YOU AVOID THE ELEPHANT in the CLOSET? It’s Soviet style diversion… These gov’ts purposely maximize, focus and heighten all their intention on the boogey men… the Zionists, Israelis, Joos etc…. for a reason….
Sorry but I have no interest in discussing the world views and opinions of my friends who visited Israel… I could care less if you would “annoint” them with your stamp of approval as qualifying as “left wing” or educated..
Wow, you’re onto something? yes, they’re kahanists lol…. is this really an adult conversation?
They are for giving land back but after seeing the Golan they were impressed by how dangerous it would be to ever give back certainly the lower portion of it… to the Syrians… due to the ease with which 1 could shoot Israelis…
Again, as I already stated
Yes, in some sense they have. Hezbollah is now a real dangerous Iranian trained force. Iran, which is far more advanced militarily than any Arab country, is now fully backing and training the Syrian gov’t. So yes having Iranian special forces in Southern Lebanon and on the Golan, as well as advising Hamas in Gaza… would in fact be EXTREMELY dangerous to Israel…
And aren’t you tired of your little insults which really don’t win you any points…
Why have Syrians die when you can have Lebanese guerillas do your fighting for you? Supply them with guns, rockets, and training and sit back and enjoy? That’s your reliable partner?? That’s your proof?
Further, perhaps bcs the Mafia running Syria cares more about the Billions they steal from Lebanon every year in graft and monopoly kickbacks, price gouging etc… than a nice piece of land with farms and skiing etc… Sure they propogandize in their press the “boogey man Jews and Israelis” and the crime of how “they stole their national pride etc….” but the Mafia couldn’t care less compared to the Cash Cow of Lebanon. Even Javier Solana has admitted as much recently.
That’s a Scary statement right there. Yeah, their mutual interest is Syrian domination of Lebanon, and overthrowing the elelected gov’t in place today… AS well as preventing any UN investigations into the Harriri as well as other anti Syrian politicians, murders….
As if Syria does not care about the Billions of a Cash Cow they steal from the lebanese economy on a yearly basis? NO, they simply want Israel to be fair with Lebanon in peace negotiations!!
And give back Sheba Farms (a pile of rocks) and the Golan Heights?
No they simply want Israel to be “fair” with Lebanon?Wow… what a statement!
Again, obfuscation… Well, I guess you’re correct, I didn’t see it before.. .Israel and Syria are equally as malevolent on a governmental, and societal basis… Thanks!
Ah, now you change yr tune. At first, you claimed a number of Bangldeshi journalists were intimidated because they wrote favorably about Israel. When I point out the exagerration of this statement
You simply change course & claim you were talking about liberal journalists in general, not necessarily those writing about Israel. How inconvenient when the facts don’t fit yr claims. You simply claim you meant something else.
Again, you’re provided an example of precisely one person who fits yr claim w/o even a source mind you. One person does not prove a claim such as yours. If you want to claim there is one journalist in every Arab country willing to speak well of Israel I freely concede this is possible. But that person is an extreme minority & not representative of any class. And the fact that more don’t speak well of Israel has much less to do w. repression within the Arab country itself (though that exists) & much more to do w. the fact that there is almost nothing that an Arab CAN say that would be positive about Israel given its current policies.
It is THE NUMBER ONE PROBLEM as far as I’m concerned. If there are other problems besetting the ME they pale in significance for me.
Palestine (& by extention, Israel) is as deeply relevant to Arab countries as Israel is for Diaspora Jews. It is a precise mirror. If you can understand how important Israel is for most Jews outside Israel then you might be able to understand how important Palestine & its holy places are for Muslims. Trying to belittle or demean such a connection for Muslims is a losing proposition which betrays yr abject ignorance of anything to do w. Islam.
Not at all. Do a Google search of this site & you’ll find numerous Palestinian public opinion polls which actually document how moderate Palestinian public opinion is on these questions; and in ways which precisely mirror Israeli public opinion. Call me whatever you want but it’s all there in the numbers & they don’t lie.
I’ve written this sentence 35 times at this blog. Why can’t you bother yrself to read a little before betraying yr ignorance of my views? The problem lies on BOTH SIDES. Not on one side.
That’s because that ISN’T in the document nor did I ever claim it was. The document talks about the Right of Return. In multiple news interviews & conversations w. Israeli & western diplomats the Saudis have made clear they are willing to negotiate about this & transform a physical right of return into a right to financial compensation. Again, I’ve suggested you do a Google News search on this & instead of doing one you betray yet more ignorance & sloppy reading of my words.
I just decided to give up on responding to the rest of yr comment. It’s a hopeless proposition since you are dense beyond belief.
And there is a new rule as far as you’re concerned. Since you’ve published three comments every day recently and these comments hav been incredibly long-winded, your ration has just been reduced to ONE COMMENT per day. Publish more than one & I am likely to delete anything over that number. I simply don’t have the time to rebut yr narischkeit & still write a blog.