Vices and insensibilities
When the liberal intellectual thinks of himself, he thinks chiefly of his own good will and prefers not to know that the good will generates its own problems, that the love of humanity has its vices and the love of truth its own insensibilities.- Lionel Trilling
And over at the anti-Zionist JsF blog, Gabriel spends an inordinate number of words de-bunking one tiny passage from Atzmon’s book. It’s hard to justify the energy on demonstrating the incoherence of a thinker as obviously incoherent as Atzmon, but Gabriel deserves some thanks, and if you have an interest in Jacques Lacan or the Coen Brothers (I have no interest in lacan, but am a fan of the Coens) you’ll get something out of it. I liked this bit:
In what way does Israel function as a ghetto? It does function as such as a simile. There is one aspect of Israel that is like the Jewish ghetto/shtetl of yesteryear. Both are geographically bounded areas in which Jews live among Jews (in Israel, to the extent that Palestinians are segregated). Thus, the simile “Israel is like a ghetto” can be useful if one makes an illuminating argument on the basis of that aspect, but the simile does not exhaust its terms. In other key aspects Israel is not like a ghetto. It is a sovereign state possessing an army and nuclear arms, something the Jewish ghetto usually lacked. It is much larger, much more internally differentiated by class and race, much wealthier in the aggregate, etc. Why is the similar aspect determinant while the differences are not? Ultimately, Israel is like a ghetto in the same way that a gun is like a penis. The simile may illuminate why some men worship guns. But you cannot deduce from knowing that one needs a license to own a gun that owning a penis requires a license as well. What gives Atzmon’s false inference the appearance of solidity is, again, the sliding through the signifier ‘Jewish.’
“Initial nationalisations see elements of the far-Left align themselves with the new Government in the manner of previous alliances with ‘anti-imperialist’ movements abroad. A former member of the Respect party is perhaps the most prominent Left-spokesperson for the new regime, playing up the Government’s anti-American credentials while ignoring Government suppression of minority rights.”
I'm not sure if I've already linked to Marko's great peice on Libya, but you should read it anyway. Among other things, he says "Those of us who backed intervention in Libya did not do so in the belief that, if the revolution there were to succeed, Libya would turn overnight into Denmark or Holland." This phrase jumped back into my mind when I read Anshell Pfeffer's interesting piece on the democratic ideal on the Arab street, where he says:
If it seems strange at first that Arab demonstrators are using the hated Zionist entity as their democratic ideal, rather than say Sweden or Holland, it is only because they have no experience of living in a society where freedom of expression is guaranteed and members of the government are accountable to parliament and the law courts. Israel is constantly on the news agenda of Al Jazeera and the other Arab news channels, and while most of what they broadcast is soldiers shooting at Palestinians, over the last few years they have also seen the Katsav and Olmert trials, generals and ministers being hauled in front of civilian commissions of inquiry following military failures, and the wave of social protest on Rothschild Boulevard last summer.Issandr El Amrani reports from Tahrir Square:
In Egypt you get the feeling that the upper class has completely ignored the social roots of the January uprising, and at the same time backed a return to similar kinds of politics of patronage, where parties and movements try to buy the poor with handouts and cheap meat at Eid. People don't want to be given charity, they want to be given social rights. This too is political — it's not about economic mismanagement. It's not about an uprising of the poor. It's about the political vision for a social economy.
Whether it's about police brutality, social change or politics, my feeling is that Egyptians want to feel like they've actually had a revolution. Whoever gives them that feeling might win the people in Tahrir over.And here's some powerful photos from Egypt's unfinished revolution, in the Atlantic.
"The Suicidal Passion": a very well-written and thought-provoking article by Ruth Wisse on antisemitism and especially what it does to the Arab world. More on antisemitism from Gotz Aly.
Although a former member (possibly still is) of the RCP cult, Kenan Malik is one of my favourite current writers and thinkers. I've been reading his very interesting material on "the myths of a Christian Europe" and "myths of assimilationism and multiculturalism". Malik fishes in his archives here, in preparation for his submission to the Orwell prize, and you could do well to sup on some of his catch. But weirdly, he has a local connection to me, as these photos are taken in one of my favourite Lewisham parks, Blythe Hill. (Here's his photoblog.)