Vile anti-Zionist “logic” at Guardian Comment is Free

August 11th, 2011 by Mark Gardner

 A 2010 survey by Jewish Policy Research examined the real interconnection between Jews and Zionists and Israel; and showed why the border between hatred of Jews, Zionism and Israel can be so porous.

  • 72% of British Jews self-categorise as “Zionists”
  • 82% of British Jews say Israel plays a “central” or “important but not central role in their Jewish identities”
  • 87% of British Jews agree “that Jews are responsible for ensuring ‘the survival of Israel’”
  • 54% of British Jews who do not self-categorise as “Zionists” nevertheless agree “that Jews are responsible for ensuring ‘the survival of Israel”
  • 62% of self-described Zionists agree that Israel should give up land for peace
  • 78% of British Jews believe in a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict 

These figures demonstrate the hurt that is caused to ordinary Jews when “anti-Zionists” push their dehumanised and demonised perversions of the word “Zionism”. This is done by everyone from Marxists to Nazis to Jihadis: but it can also seep into mainstream media, including the Guardian’s Comment is Free (CiF) website. 

The latest example of Guardian CiF facilitating such perversion is an article by “philosopher”, Slavoj Zizek. It demonises the meaning of Zionism; tries to somehow equate Zionism with the twisted mind of Norwegian terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik; says that Zionist Jews regard other Jews like antisemites do; and ends with an ill-defined lunge at alleged Zionist relations and parallels with the attitudes of Christian fundamentalists and Nazis (Austrian ones no less)!     

This kind of prejudicial hysteria shows why so many people in the Jewish community have utterly given up on the Guardian. Not just given up, but actually believe it to be one of the primary facilitators of antisemitism in Britain today.

It is not really because of what the Guardian says directly about Jews, but rather because of what it says directly about Zionism and Israel, how often it says it; and how Jews instinctively perceive that this must, inevitably, have harmful impacts for how “correct-thinking people” feel about them. (Look again at the above statistics to see why this would be the case.)

This kind of intellectual anti-Zionist veneer allows antisemitism to take hold: despite whatever sincere opposition Zizek and his publishers actually feel and voice regarding that utterly predictable and depressing outcome.

Having written for CiF, I know its rigorous editorial standards. For me, this makes the publication of Zizek’s article all the more startling. Nominally, the article is about the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. Its title gives no clue about the anti-Zionist screed that follows:

 A vile logic to Anders Breivik’s choice of target

Like Pim Fortuyn before him, Breivik embodies the intersection between rightist populism and liberal correctness

Zizek’s article is 1,553 words long, but over half (797) of these words are in sections concerning (mainly condemning) Zionism or Israel, some of it adapted and grafted from his 2010 book, “Living in the End Times”. What the bulk of this has to do with Breivik is anybody’s guess – as is how it passed the editorial process.  

Zizek begins by explaining different aspects of Breivik’s ideology. The first sniff of the “vile logic” comes after he describes Breivik as antisemitic, yet pro-Israel, then writing:

He [Breivik] realises the ultimate paradox of a Zionist Nazi – how is this possible?

Here Zizek betrays his bias, and his playing fast and loose with terminology as and when it suits him rhetorically to do so. Firstly, he knows full well that Breivik cannot simply be pigeonholed as a “Nazi”: Zizek himself wrote as much, in the preceding paragraph. Secondly, it is a total perversion of the word “Zionist” for Zizek to employ it here: demonising it to mean the same as Breivik’s (1) hatred of Muslims and (2) attendant support for Israel as the supposed first line of anti-Muslim defence.

Nevertheless, this rhetorical flourish provides the lift-off for Zizek’s hateful riff. He alleges an accommodation between Israel, Zionism and the European right’s attitude to “Islamicisation and multiculturalism”. There are heated debates within Israeli, Zionist and Jewish circles over this and I have participated in many such debates: but to simply characterise the most right wing elements as the current Israeli and Zionist position is deeply misleading, malicious and ultimately another quite pathetic example of Zizek attempting to demonise Zionism.  

Then, there is an especially outrageous attack upon Zionists for aping antisemites’ anti-Jewish “logic”.

 Zizek alleges Zionism has:

come to adopt some antisemitic logic in its hatred of Jews who do not fully identify with the politics of the state of Israel

It would have been bizarre enough had Zizek alleged such hatred from Zionists towards anti-Zionist Jewish activists, but read his words again: this Zionist semi-antisemitism and full on hatred is supposedly directed against all who “do not fully identify with the politics of the state of Israel”. Next, there is a similarly scandalous allegation concerning Zionist construction of “the figure of the Jew who doubts the Zionist project”. Zizek’s casual transition between these descriptions typifies his lack of care over terminology, despite the sensitivity of the subject (for Jews at least).

Contemplate European antisemitism in all of its historical, recent and current modes. There is no fit between any of this and even the harshest pro-Zionist attitude to the most ardent Jewish anti-Zionists. (Not that Zizek means the extremes anyway.) At worst, Jewish anti-Zionists are derided as “self-haters”: an ugly, hurtful and not especially accurate term, but not congruent with antisemitism, be it Christian, economic, nationalist, Communist, racial-biological, revolutionary new left, or whatever.

Zizek’s claim that Zionism has “come to adopt some antisemitic logic in its hate” is explained by his stating that Zionists construct the non-Zionist Jew as “dangerous because he lives among us, but is not really one of us”. If this is what antisemitism amounts to, rather than, say because they conspire as the demonic Other / anti-Christ / the world bankers / the global war-makers / the race polluters etc etc: then Zizek might as well argue that any dissenting opinions within a single community share a resemblance to antisemitism. He could as simplistically say that disputes between different Muslim groups have “some antisemitic logic”.

Eventually, the article ends with overblown claims of collusion between Israel and “US” and “Christian” “fundamentalists” (both terms are used), before he references a depiction of two Austrian Nazis, and departs with one final demonization, writing:

These are today’s allies of the state of Israel.

The emphasis is Zizek’s, not mine. It is not entirely clear if he means that it is Christian fundamentalists, American fundamentalists or Nazis who are “today’s allies of Israel”. Whatever: it is one final, dirty twist.