New Essays On Zionism

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Rather, most address the questions Zionism provokes — whether ethical or political — in somewhat abstracted terms.

Still, the project of deconstructing Zionism retains its force and its urgency.

Too many of the essays here simply offer an empirical criticism of Zionism-in-practice, or only partially engage how Zionist logics produced Israeli state practices.

In this, the essays strangely resemble liberal Zionist critiques of Israeli policies, which eagerly target specific excesses of the state while refusing to acknowledge the fundamental problem with the “Jewish State”: that exclusionary states can never, in fact, be democratic.

¤ If is a necessary book, it’s nonetheless an odd one.

The first of its oddities is how few of the essays actually practice deconstruction, despite contributions from such critical theory luminaries as Judith Butler, Slavoj Žižek, Luce Irigaray, and Walter Mignolo.The book is necessary because, at a time when the often overheated nature of this debate has led to attempts to suppress any critique of Zionism, proposes a moment of stepping back from immediate political engagement in order to reflect.Reflection is not, of course, the same thing as detachment, and its editors take a strong position: “Deconstructing Zionism is a matter of urgency,” Vattimo and Marder write, “because the past, present, and future victims of Zionist oppression demand justice.” The essays gathered here, they say, are “practical and political interventions, responding to the singular demands of justice.” Many readers will no doubt question the practicality of the essays, if only because few of them present what one might call a practical proposal.) in the Middle East while indulging in legal and political coercion abroad and practicing apartheid policies domestically.Deconstruction, and here I agree with the editors, is one way to show that such contradictions are intrinsic to Zionism in its very being.There is then the Holocaust and the perception at least in Europe and the United States that opposition to Israel and Zionism is anti-Semitic.Such scruples, as well as the debt to what Vattimo calls “the richness of Jewish culture and its distinct presence in the spirit of the West and the modern world in general,” may explain why so many of the essays circle around but do not engage with the deconstruction of Zionism — to do so, the writers seem to fear, might be mistaken for deconstructing , arguing that it derives from Afro-Egyptian philosophical concepts and from traditions and myths about blood-purity that originated in Egyptian culture.This tactful avoidance, if avoidance it is, of the proposed task of deconstructing Zionism, may yet have deeper causes than political anxiety.It may lie not only in the nature of Zionism, but also in that of deconstruction itself.Though Wise’s essay traces an interesting genealogy for the notion of blood-purity that may underlie Israel’s ethnically exclusive state, Zionism remains beyond the parameters of the essay.By the same token, Žižek’s essay discusses in passing the distinction between the high visibility of occasional Palestinian violence and the ongoing structural or state violence Israel inflicts on Palestine, but does not directly engage with Zionism as a philosophical and political project.


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