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Parting Ways -- Judith Butler

Parting Ways -- Judith Butler

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Judith Butler engages Jewish philosophical positions to articulate a critique of political Zionism and its practices of illegitimate state violence, nationalism, and state-sponsored racism.
Judith Butler engages Jewish philosophical positions to articulate a critique of political Zionism and its practices of illegitimate state violence, nationalism, and state-sponsored racism.

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Published by: Columbia University Press on Aug 20, 2012
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Sel-Departure, Exile, and the Critique o Zionism
Perhaps in some formal sense
every book begins by considering is ownimpossibiliy, bu his book’s compleion has depended on a way o working wihha impossibiliy wihou a clear resoluion. Even so, somehing o ha impos-sibiliy has o be susained wihin he wriing, even i i coninually hreaens o bring he projec o a hal. Wha sared as a book seeking o debunk he claim haany and all criicism o he Sae o Israel is eecively ani-Semiic has become amediaion on he necessiy o arrying wih he impossible. I will ry o make hisclear in wha ollows, bu le me sae he risk o his endeavor clearly rom he sar.I I succeed in showing ha here are Jewish resources or he criicism o sae violence, he colonial subjugaion o populaions, expulsion and dispossession,hen I will have managed o show ha a Jewish criique o Israeli sae violence isa leas possible, i no ehically obligaory. I I show, urher, ha here are Jewish values o cohabiaion wih he non-Jew ha are par o he very ehical subsanceo diasporic Jewishness, hen i will be possible o conclude ha commimens osocial equaliy and social jusice have been an inegral par o Jewish secular, social-is, and religious radiions. Tough his should come as no surprise, i has becomenecessary o reierae his argumen over and agains a public discourse ha assumesany criicism o he Israeli occupaion, o inernal inequaliies wihin Israel, o landconscaions, and o violen bombardmens o rapped populaions such as hose we saw in Operaion Cas Lead—indeed, any objecions o he requiremens o ciizenship in ha counry—is ani-Semiic or ani-Jewish, no in he service o he Jewish people, or in no way in line wih wha we migh generally call Jewish values.In oher words, i would be a painul irony indeed i he Jewish sruggle or social jusice were isel cas as ani-Jewish.
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Le’s say I succeed in showing ha here are no only bona de bu imperaive Jewish radiions ha oppose sae violence and modes o colonial expulsion andconainmen. I hen succeed in arming a dieren Jewishness han he one in whosename he Israeli sae claims o speak. And I help o show ha here are no only signican dierences among Jews—secular, religious, hisorically consiued—bualso acive sruggles wihin ha communiy abou he meaning o jusice, equaliy,and he criique o sae violence and colonial subjugaion. Indeed, i he argumen were o sop here, and i proved persuasive, hen i would esablish ha i is surely no ani-Jewish or couner-Jewish o oer a criique o he orms o sae violenceinsiued and mainained by poliical Zionism (which would include he massivedispossessions o Palesinians in 1948, he appropriaion o land in 1967, and herecurren conscaions o Palesinian lands ha coninues now wih he buildingo he wall and he expansion o setlemens). Tis alone is imporan, since Israelclaims o represen he Jewish people, and popular opinion ends o assume ha Jews suppor” Israel wihou aking ino accoun Jewish radiions o ani-Zionismand he presence o Jews in coaliions ha oppose he Israeli colonial subjugaiono Palesinians.I I win he poin on hese erms, I am immediaely conroned, however, wihanoher problem. By claiming here is a signican Jewish radiion arming modeso jusice and equaliy ha would, o necessiy, lead o a criicism o he Israeli sae,I esablish a Jewish perspecive ha is non-Zionis, even ani-Zionis, a he risk o making even he resisance o Zionism ino a “Jewish” value and so assering,indirecly, he excepional ehical resources o Jewishness. Bu i he criique o Zionism is o be eecive and subsanial, ha claim o excepionalism has o bereused in avor o more undamenal democraic values. However imporan i may  be o esablish Jewish opposiions o Zionism, his canno be done wihou a crii-cal move ha quesions he suciency o a Jewish ramework, however alernaiveand progressive, as he dening horizon o he ehical. Te opposiion o Zionismrequires he deparure rom Jewishness as an exclusionary ramework or hinking boh ehics and poliics. Any legiimae way o hink abou a poliy or he region would have o emergerom he conesing ehical and poliical radiions ha inorm conduc, hinking,modes o belonging, and anagonism in he region. In oher words, alhough i issurely possible o claim ha here are Jewish grounds or a criique o sae violence,ones ha ough legiimaely o be exended o he Sae o Israel isel, ha remainsa parial, hough imporan, argumen o be made during hese imes. I he prin-
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