Monday, 12 July 2010


Last month’s post on Prof. Judith Butler concerned her view of feminism as only valid when tied to a narrowly anti-Western form of anti-imperialism. For her, feminists in places like Afghanistan must be hobbled like an entry for a three-legged race, while running against a murderous opposition burdened with no such restrictions.

Amongst other utterances, the post pointed to her statement on Hamas and Hezbollah in 2006. From the Radical Archives blog, a long extract with video:
This is Judith Butler’s reply to a bundle of four questions asked in Q&A during a 2006 teach-in at UC Berkeley about the war between Israel and Hezbollah. Audience members asked:

1. Since Israel is an imperialist, colonial project, should resistance be based on social movements or the nation-state?

2. What is the power of the Israel Lobby and is questioning it antisemitic?

3. Since the Left hesitates to support Hamas and Hezbollah “just” because of their use of violence, does this hurt Palestinian solidarity?

4. Do Hamas and Hezbollah actually threaten Israel’s existence, as portrayed in some media?

Judith Butler:

“Ok, well, I would just briefly say: I think its imperative to figure out what the mechanisms are of the various lobbies in the US – the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League – how they work to help to formulate US foreign policy toward Israel. I think there’s no question we need an honest, rigorous appraisal. I think there are some versions of it that strike me as perhaps a little too easily subscribing to conspiracy theories, and I think that there can be an antisemitic version, and there can be a really useful, critical version as well. I have no doubt it’s a very powerful lobby – I actually think of it as multifaceted – and I think we need more careful, rigorous analyses of it.

So you know the short answer is: one neither has to dispute the existence of such a lobby, or its power, to prove that one is not antisemitic; but neither does one have to accept every version of that, given that some versions are, I think, problematically bound up with conspiracy theories.

Similarly, I think: Yes, understanding Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left, is extremely important. That does not stop us from being critical of certain dimensions of both movements. It doesn’t stop those of us who are interested in non-violent politics from raising the question of whether there are other options besides violence. So again, a critical, important engagement. I mean, I certainly think it should be entered into the conversation on the Left. I similarly think boycotts and divestment procedures are, again, an essential component of any resistance movement.”

[[ audience claps]]

= = =

Thanks to Camila Bassi for pointing out this video in her essay “The Anti-Imperialism of Fools’: A Cautionary Story on the Revolutionary Socialist Vanguard of England’s Post-9/11 Anti-War Movement”

NOTE: The questions start at 10:30 and Butler starts her answer at 14:55.

Today I read (via here and here) that Prof. Butler is claiming that she has been misrepresented. The following is from an interview this month with AVIVA-Berlin:
AVIVA-Berlin: How do you feel about the accusation that you have perhaps taken an anti-Semitic position concerning your statement about the Hamas and the Hezbollah as progressive social movements? Does that bother you more as a philosopher or on a personal level?

Judith Butler: Unfortunately, that clip was cut short and did not include all of my response. What I actually said was that although groups like Hamas and Hezbollah should be described as left movements, that like all left movements, one has to choose which ones one supports and which ones one refuses. They are "left" in the sense that they oppose colonialism and imperialism, but their tactics are not ones that I would ever condone. I have never supported either group, and my very public affiliation with a politics of non-violence would make it impossible for me to support them. The editing of my response was obviously an effort to distort my view, and I am very sorry that the distortion has been able to circulate as it has. Thank you for giving me the chance to clarify what I actually said and what I have always thought.

It is very strange, but I find it impossible to find any evidence in that clip of the Professor’s comments being edited in any way. What do you think?

Added: The comments of the Professor’s that kicked off my first post were made when she refused a prize at the 2010 Christopher Street Day Parade in Berlin, declaring that the organisers were complicit in racism. It seems difficult to find specifics on what is at the centre of this allegation. In her statement she said that “Some of the organizers explicitly made racist statements or did not dissociate themselves from them,” but I haven’t seen any examples given of these racist statements. In a comment at Bully Bloggers she goes into a little more detail, but without giving sources or references:
I was asked by the organizers to supply evidence for my charge of racism, so I showed them several sites where their members and sponsors referred to the archaic and pre-modern character of “arab cultures” as a way of explaining putatively high rates of attacks on gay people on the part of arab youth. Groups like Maneo have actively sought to institute racial profiling as a police practice. They see this as part of “self-defense” rather than as explicit racism. Their framework assumes that there are queers and there are migrants, which means that they efface migrant queers in their very way of thinking. I suggested in one interview that maybe they should do some studies on the rise of right-wing racism in Germany, its links with homophobia, or indeed concentrate on homophobia in the Catholic Church.
Without knowing what sites and comments she’s talking about, it’s hard to know what to make of it all, other than to note that she isn’t as worried about anti-Catholic sectarianism as she is about racism and anti-Muslim bigotry.

I haven’t yet found any other references online to Maneo advocating racial profiling, so don’t know the truth of it. Maneo did contribute comments to this 2008 Spiegel Online story on migration and homophobia in Germany, and without sounding to my ears like a gang of racist nationalists. I’d be interested in hearing other views, particularly with sources.

Related, via Bob: Gay Imperialism, and Israeli Pinkwashing., and in Gay City News, Berlin based journalist Benjamin Weinthal writes What Drives Gays and Lesbians to Bash Israel?

Added: Meanwhile in Afghanistan . . .


Peter Risdon said...

Love that video. That's what I call empowerment.

kellie said...

Yes, let's have more of that sort of thing.

radicalarchives said...

i'm supposedly on "holiday" - really spending all my time preparing for a talk on left antisemitism at a conference - but when I return home i plan to publicly challenge Judith Butler on her supposed 'setting the record straight.'

kellie said...

I'll look forward to the outcome of that.