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Collaborators in the War against the Jews: Judith Butler

Posted By Steven Plaut On March 9, 2010 @ 12:55 am In FrontPage | 74 Comments

Professor Judith Butler from Berkeley’s Department of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature is not just your ordinary deconstructionist feminist anti-Semite.  A self-proclaimed leading scholar in the pseudo-discipline of “Queer Studies,” she is also one of the leading academic defenders of anti-Semitism, which she insists is not anti-Semitic at all.  She has devoted much of her academic career to the struggle to see Israel eliminated.  While often posturing as a free speech absolutist, she is also absolutely opposed to Israelis having any academic freedom and is a leader in the attempt to impose a world boycott against Israeli universities.  Naturally, she has never come out in favor of an academic boycott of Syria, Libya, Iran, Cuba, or the Hamas. Hamas and Hezbollah may seek the extermination of every Jew on the planet and not just of Israel, but Butler still likes to wave her “Jewish roots” when she serves as an apologist for them.

Butler is perhaps best remembered as one of the most strident attackers against Lawrence Summers, the ex-President of Harvard. She was horrified when Summers proclaimed: “Profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities. Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent (September 17, 2002).”   Butler venomously denounced Summers for telling the truth, arguing that telling the truth threatens academic freedom: “Summers has struck a blow against academic freedom, in effect, if not in intent.”

Edward Alexander, who is also a professor of comparative literature, explains that Butler’s hysterical attacks on Summers stemmed from something more than her girlish enthusiasm:

“Butler had herself signed the divestment (against Israel) petition at its place of origin, Berkeley, where it had circulated in February 2001.  She therefore found Summers’ remarks not only wrong but personally ‘hurtful’ since they implicated Judith Butler herself in the newly resurgent campus anti-Semitism.  Butler could hardly have failed to notice that the Berkeley divestment petition had supplied the impetus and inspiration for anti-Israel mob violence on her own campus on 24 April 2001, a few weeks after it had been circulated, and for more explicitly anti-Jewish mobs at San Francisco State University in May of the following year.”

Summers insists that people who oppose Israel’s very existence are anti-Semitic.  The fact that a second Jewish Holocaust would result from Israel’s annihilation does not seem to matter to his attackers like Butler.  She writes, “A challenge to the right of Israel to exist can be construed as a challenge to the existence of the Jewish people only if one believes that Israel alone keeps the Jewish people alive or that all Jews invest their sense of perpetuity in the state of Israel in its current or traditional forms.”   The fact that the very people calling for Israel to be annihilated are not calling for the elimination of any other country, not even a single one of the 22 fascist Arab states, cannot possibly have anything to do with anti-Semitism, she insists.

Butler’s proof that anti-Israel radicals are not really anti-Semites? It is that she manages to find some anti-Israel extremists among Israelis, the Israeli equivalents to Taliban John, Lord Haw-Haw, and Noam Chomsky.  She writes, “Identifying Israel with Jewry obscures the existence of the small but important post-Zionist movement in Israel, including the philosophers Adi Ophir and Anat Biletzki, the sociologist Uri Ram, the professor of theatre Avraham Oz and the poet Yitzhak Laor. Are we to say that Israelis who are critical of Israeli policy are self-hating Jews, or insensitive to the ways in which criticism may fan the flames of anti-Semitism?”  The proper answer to her question is often: yes.

Butler recently showed up in the Middle East, to strut her support for the intifada.   As a militant feminist, however, she was on a bizarre mission.  In February, 2010, she spent her time in the West Bank shilling for the very same Palestinian Islamic terrorist groups who make a point out of torturing and murdering homosexuals and who insist that the place of women in Muslim society is somewhere out back and out of sight, barefoot and scarved.   Like so many apologists for Islamofascism, the only “oppression” of Palestinian women Butler could find was their supposed mistreatment by the Zionist “occupiers.” You know, the same ones who have a woman Chief Justice in their Supreme Court, who have more women doctors than men, and who have elected a woman as Prime Minister.  Butler denounced Israel at length for its “mistreatment” of Arab women, and never mind that they are treated at least a thousand times better by Israel than they are inside any Arab regime.  Meanwhile, Islamic religious figures in Egypt have been proclaiming that Muslims have the natural right to rape all Jewish women. Butler has yet to issue a response to that.

To remove all doubt, Butler made it clear that she objects to Israel’s presence not only in the West Bank, where she was doing her Terrorism Grand Tour.  She also wants Israel removed from within Israel’s pre-1967 borders.  Butler has long supported a worldwide boycott of Israel, and not simply because Israel “occupies” the West Bank.  She has made it clear that she demands that Israel allow millions of Arabs claiming to be Palestinian “refugees” to flood into Israel and convert it into yet another Palestinian Arab state.  She wants this even after the creation of some Palestinian state.

While in the West Bank, Butler went to visit a “theater” in the terrorist stronghold of Jenin.  Theatrics is largely what Jenin is all about.  During Israel’s battle against terrorists there in April of 2002, the Bash-Israel Left invented fictional tales about Israel carrying out a “massacre,” some even calling it a “genocide.” As it turned out, after days of Jenin street-to-street gun battles, launched by the Palestinians intentionally in built-up urban areas, 23 Israeli soldiers were killed along with a few dozen terrorists.  Less than 20 Palestinian civilians died in the intense urban firefight, largely because Israel foreswore reducing the town to rubble using artillery to spare civilian collateral damage.  It sacrificed the lives of its own soldiers for that reason. And this was called “genocide.” A propaganda film about the battle called “Jenin, Jenin” was later produced by Israeli Arab pro-terror director Mohammed Bakri, who himself publicly admitted that his film was a tissue of lies.  Bakri is now being sued by some Israeli soldiers for libel.

Butler explained to her terrorist hosts that she opposes the existence of a Jewish state even alongside some future Palestinian Arab state.  Instead, she favors what she calls a bi-national state, something along the lines of Rwanda.   She claims to be some sort of authority on Hannah Arendt and promotes her anti-Israel “bi-nationalism” by obsessively citing Arendt’s ancient writings on bi-nationalism (at Berkeley Butler is officially the “Hannah Arendt Professor”).  Of course, no one knows just what Arendt would have to say about the Arab-Israeli conflict in the twenty-first century.  But one suspects that anyone like Arendt who spent so much time studying the totalitarian mindset would retch at the willingness of people like Butler to vouch and shill for Palestinian violence.

Butler writes: “And if we have a bi-national state, it’s expressing two nations. Only when bi-nationalism deconstructs the idea of a nation can we hope to think about what a state, what a polity might look like that would actually extend equality.” Come to think of it, the genocidal consequences of bi-nationalism in Rwanda are pretty close to what Butler seems to have in mind for the Israeli Jews. Among the terrorists who hosted her in Jenin was Zakaria Zabeidi, a head of the genocidal “Al Aqsa” Brigades.  Assaf Wohl, a columnist in Israel’s leading daily Yediot Ahronot, dismissed Butler as a Jewish anti-Semite.

According to Professor Edward Alexander,

“Prior to the autumn of 2003, this University of California professor of rhetoric and comparative literature was, like many members of Berkeley’s ‘progressive’ Jewish community with which she habitually identifies herself, somebody who defined her ‘Jewishness’ (not exactly Judaism) in opposition to the State of Israel. She was mainly a signer of petitions harshly critical of the Jewish state, full of mean spite towards its alleged ‘apartheid’ and ‘bantustan’ practices, oily sycophancy towards such Palestinian figures as Sari Nusseibeh, and a habit of covering over the brutality of Arab terror with the soft snow of Latinized euphemisms. She was one of the 3700 American Jews opposed to ‘occupation’ (Israeli, not Syrian or Chinese or any other) who signed an ‘Open Letter’ urging the American government to cut financial aid to Israel; later she expressed misgiving about signing that particular petition–it ‘was not nearly strong enough…it did not call for the end of Zionism.’”

Butler, whose PhD is actually in philosophy, is a walking illustration of the very worst things wrong with the humanities.  She is a leading American proponent of “Queer Theory” (which is what she calls it.)  You will never discover in “Queer Theory” any scientific hypotheses about what produces homosexuality.  Instead, it serves as the umbrella term for politicized militant homosexuals seeking the annihilation of America, Israel, and capitalism.  Whether such people seriously think that homosexuals are treated better in non-capitalist regimes and in the Islamic sections of the Third World is doubtful.

Butler’s favorite prefix is “post.”  She uses it more often than the Cliff-the-Mailman character on “Cheers.”  She proudly describes herself a “Post-Zionist,” by which she means she is anti-Zionist.  Butler likes to describe herself as a “poststructuralist,” and sometimes also as a “Post-Marxist,” which – as far as we can tell – seems to mean a Marxist.  (The Marxist New Left Review is one of Butler’s favorite venues.)   She claims to reject “dialectics” as her political theology because it is too “phallogocentric,” and that has upset some of the members of the academic Comintern.

Like so many members of the tenured Left – her favorite methodology of analysis is the silly polysyllable.  Her writings ooze “Deconstructionist” jive and are exercises in the worst forms of pseudo-academic NewSpeak.  And that is when she is sticking to her actual “discipline,” not pontificating about the Middle East, about which she has no expertise or training at all.  “Deconstruction” is the nonsensical infantile “philosophy” that argues that words have no meaning, there are no facts nor truth, and the only thing we can really be absolutely certain about are that the US and capitalism and Israel are evil and must be eliminated.  Language is the ultimate form of tyranny and source of control over us oppressed folks by those evil elites.  There are no false narratives, just different subjectivities.  Deconstructionism has become something of a pseudo-intellectual orthodoxy among certain of our academic colleagues, especially those in the academic professions that never quite found out where’s the beef.

Butler’s “theories” about feminism include her argument that sexual relations are “performative,” and are based on “regulatory discourse.”   The “system” attempts to impose “constructions of binary asymmetric gender.”   She has even devoted time to celebrating drag queens: “There is no original or primary gender a drag imitates, but gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original.”  A fuller collection of some of her bizarre pronouncements can be read here.   She insists, “Masculine and feminine roles are not biologically fixed but socially constructed,” which seems to prove that she never took any biology courses back at Yale.

A typical Butler bloviation is this:

“Performativity cannot be understood outside of a process of iterability, a regularized and constrained repetition of norms. And this repetition is not performed by a subject; this repetition is what enables a subject and constitutes the temporal condition for the subject. This iterability implies that ‘performance’ is not a singular ‘act’ or event, but a ritualized production, a ritual reiterated under and through constraint, under and through the force of prohibition and taboo, with the threat of ostracism and even death controlling and compelling the shape of the production, but not, I will insist, determining it fully in advance.” (From Butler, Judith 1993; Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”. New York: Routledge. pp. 95. )

It is almost impossible to read a sentence by Butler without reacting with a loud “Huh?”  So much of it sounds like a parody of an academic being concocted by “The Onion” or “National Lampoon.” In 1998 she won first-prize in the Bad Writing Contest sponsored by the academic journal Philosophy and Literature.  She won for this sentence:

“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.”

So much of what Butler writes is so mindless and filled with so many grammatical flaws that one wonders how her text survives a word processing program. Butler’s take on the 9-11 attacks on America was that “the violent acts of 9/11 is (sic) exacerbated by the inability of Americans to recognize the precariousness of non-American (particularly Muslim) lives. They are always already dead, and therefore cannot be killed.” Huh?  She insists that the West is guilty of this: “These excluded are brutally subjected to the “violence of derealization.” Huh?  She “claims that the War on Terror has provided a climate where the sexual freedoms she and others fought for are now misused to symbolize (sic) the shining, gleaming modernity of the West. The backwardness and inferiority of ‘others’ is counterposed (sic) and underscored against this.” Huh?

In an interview she explains how her feminism differs from that of some of the others, like Catharine MacKinnon or Andrea Dworkin: “I’m not always calling into question who’s a man and who’s not, and am I a man? Maybe I’m a man [laughs].” She is not one of those folks in favor of homosexual marriage, by the way.   In fact she is opposed to marriage: “It’s very hard to speak freely right now, but many gay people are uncomfortable with all this, because they feel their sense of an alternative movement is dying. Sexual politics was supposed to be about finding alternatives to marriage.”

Butler was one of the noisiest people denouncing the Campus-Watch website for daring to criticize anti-Israel radical Middle East Studies faculty members.  Naturally, Butler thinks that critics of anti-Israel radicals are not entitled to freedom of speech and that their criticism is “McCarthyism.”

While she likes to beat on her drum about supposedly growing up in a Jewish home, there is no evidence that she knows the slightest thing about Judaism.  She claims her “Jewish values” are what drive her to embrace Palestinian anti-Semites and barbarians.   Here she sums up her own knowledge of Judaism: “As a Jew, I was taught that it was ethically imperative to speak up and to speak out against arbitrary state violence.”  There is no such Jewish ethical imperative.  She clarifies: “There were those who would and could speak out against state racism and state violence, and it was imperative that we be able to speak out. Not just for Jews, but for any number of people.”  Needless to say, the only “state violence” she feels obliged to denounce is that supposedly practiced by Israel when it defends its civilians.  She is not exactly outspoken when it comes to the state violence practiced by Iran or Syria.

As part of Butler’s campaign on behalf of Palestinian terrorism, she likes to wave about the fact that she herself grew up as a “Reform” Jew.  There are very few things wrong with the world that she does not attribute to the unforgivable desire by Jews for self-determination.  Her attitude towards the Jewish homeland was summed up by her thus: “The argument that all Jews have a heartfelt investment in the state of Israel is untrue. Some have a heartfelt investment in corned beef sandwiches.”

When it comes to academic streetwalking on behalf of anti-Semitism and Palestinian violence, that old adage is true:  the Butler did it.

Articles in Frontpage’s Collaborators series:

Jennifer Loewenstein

Ian Lustick

Sarah Roy

Howard Zinn

Joel Beinin

Mark LeVine

Neve Gordon

Norman Finkelstein

Tony Judt

Michael Lerner

Marc H. Ellis


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