Monday, 31 July 2017

Bullshit - Macron, anti-Semitism and Israel

One of the more insufferable frameworks through which the gormless mainstream Irish media has filtered the rise to prime minister-ship of Leo Varadkar has been the comparison to Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron.  They are all young men, they all look agreeable, and they seem to have a veneer of youthful liberalism.  It all reminds me of what a rather mordant friend of mine from Ontario said to me at school in Canada 33 years ago, about 'PET' - Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Justin's father: he's like a condom - he makes you feel safe while you're being fucked.

I am not sure how safe I feel around Leo Varadkar, but it's been precisely his good looks, his immigrant father, his apparent shoot-from-the-hip no-bullshit manner, and his openness about his sexuality which have made him a liberal icon in Ireland.  Not that one has to be very radical to be a liberal icon in Ireland, of course.  But idiots like Una Mullally - a 'youthful liberal' columnist at the Irish Times - have found it hard to imagine that a gay man might also be a Thatcherite.  And the merest scratching of the surface of Varadkar's past reveals an aggressive young Tory, who marries a dog-eat-dog model of society to Victorian morality about the deserving middle classes and those who rise early in the morning.

Here is a wonderful LRB essay by Stefan Collini, on Christopher Hitchens during the years when the latter's star was in the ascendant but his intellectual and political compass had been addled by the magnetic field of neoconservatism.   Collini analyzes Hitchens's macho 'straight-talking' bullshit particularly well.   Various gaffes by Varadkar this early in his tenure as Taoiseach - judicial appointments, his attack on Paul Murphy TD - may suggest an imminent collapse into his own bullshit in the manner Collini so brilliantly describes.

    ‘No Bullshit’ Bullshit: Christopher Hitchens, Englishman

    And at the same time, the unpleasantness of Macron is gradually being revealed.   He is not a liberal - he is a neoliberal.  He is more concerned with the freedom of movement of capital, than of human  beings, though for the French he appears to represent neoliberalism with a human face. Where have we heard of that kind of combination before, and didn't it all end in tears?

    It may be that it's in foreign policy that Macron will reveal his dark side most easily or carelessly.   As this  blog has noted before, France purports to operate as the home of Enlightenment values of democracy and brotherhood in its internal politics, but in its foreign policy it is, of course, a great power, or a former great power which still wishes to deploy its own Machtpolitik in the usual combination of the ideas of Clausewitz and Hobbes.  Macron's recent meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu exemplifies this - Macron dresses up power-politics with liberal language.  But when France's purported Enlightenment universalism is affiliated with Israel and Zionism, the mask slips rather easily, since Israel and Zionism are not to be associated with liberté, égalité and fraternité - or rather they are, but only for Israel's Jewish citizens.  That is, Israel is not a democracy, but rather, as Oren Yiftachel has been arguing for some years, an ethnocracy - a polity where sovereignty lies not with the demos but with a majority ethnos.

    So here is a critique and protest against Macron's commemoration, with Bibi at his side, of the Vel d'Hiv roundup of French Jews in 1942, written and publicised by Media Palestine.  It fixes precisely on the fact that the presence at the commemoration of Netanyahu suggests that the solution to anti-Semitism is Zionism - ethnic nationalism and racism - rather than France's vaunted Enlightenment values.

    Making no concessions to the Palestinian people’s rights

    And here is an open letter addressed to Macron from the brilliant dissenting Israeli historian Shlomo Sand, which praises his willingness to address the anti-Semitic history and legacy of Vichy, but which refuses Macron's equation of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism (from the Jacobin site):

    An Open Letter to Emmanuel Macron - Jacobin


    Sunday, 16 July 2017

    No it's not anti-Semitism

    Emmanuel Macron is starting to show his real colours, and the love-in with him of many non-French liberals hopefully will be over soon.   He's been meeting Benjamin Netanyahu, and has won great favour with Bibi (and so with the most rightwing government Israel has ever had) on account of his assertion that 'anti-Zionism is the new version of anti-Semitism'.   Actually, it isn't, and we need to nail this canard immediately.   No-one better for this task than Judith Butler.  Here is her classic essay on the topic:

    No, it’s not anti-semitic: the right to criticise Israel · 21 August 2003


    Tuesday, 11 July 2017

    Interview with Judith Butler: Worldliness, Collectivity and Dissent

    Few contemporary philosophers have engaged more with movements of dissent in America and elsewhere than Judith Butler, one of the heroines of this blog.  Here is an interview with her where she discusses the performativity of protest, activism and dissent.  I am taking it from the Verso website; it was originally published on The Other Journal: An Intersection of Theology and Culture

    We are Worldless Without One Another: An Interview with Judith Butler