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April 27, 2015 / 8 Iyar, 5775
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Judith Butler Comes To Brooklyn College

Judith Butler

Judith Butler

What Butler’s polemic left out was even more blatant than what it included. It omitted history altogether, torturing a text and omitting context. Did it never occur to Butler that the divestment effort is the latest installment of the decades-old Arab economic boycott of Israel?

Equally egregious was the omission of context that is compulsory for those who have made the “Palestinian cause” the cornerstone of campus liberalism. The “occupation” they bemoan did not precede and cause Arab hatred and violence; it was Arab hatred and violence that led to “occupation.”

But the crucial omission from this essay by somebody who had built a career by insisting on the political implications of language was precisely the political implications of the language of advocates of divestment. The Harvard/MIT divestment petition that Butler championed was promoted at MIT by Noam Chomsky, a person who would be rendered almost speechless on the subject of Israel if deprived of the epithet “Nazi”; it was promoted at Harvard by professors calling Israel a “pariah” state.

Butler was herself among the “First Signatories” of a July 28, 2003 “Stop the Wall” petition that uses the Israeli-Nazi equation beloved of nearly all denigrators of the Zionist enterprise (going back to British official circles in Cairo in 1941) in asserting that “concrete, barbed wire and electronic fortifications whose precedents…belong to the totalitarian tradition” were transforming the Israel “‘defense forces'” and indeed “Israeli citizens themselves into a people of camp wardens.”

So it would seem that, to quote Butler herself, “Language plays an important role in shaping and attuning our…understanding of social and political realities” – except when it happens to be the anti-Semitic language that demonizes Israel as the devil’s experiment station, black as gehenom and the pit of hell.

About the Author: Edward Alexander is professor emeritus in the English department at the University of Washington and the author of a number of books including “The State of the Jews: A Critical Appraisal” (Transaction, 2012).


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4 Responses to “Judith Butler Comes To Brooklyn College”

  1. One of Butler's more astonishing pronouncements:

    :
    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.

  2. Edward Alexander says:

    Prof. Rosenthal neglects to mention that it was for this piece of stupefying opacity that Judith Butler won her first prize in the Bad Writing Contest conducted annually by the Literature/Philosophy journal.

  3. I must vomit my guts out even just by looking at that photo attached to the article. Otherwise, Well done Edwin Rosenberg!

  4. I must vomit my guts out even just by looking at that photo attached to the article. Otherwise, Well done Edwin Rosenberg!

Comments are closed.

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