Friday, May 19, 2006

Jacqueline Rose Snipped

I met (well, sort of) Professor Rose at the last Limmud Conference in Nottingham. I asked what I tried to formulate as a pointed question regarding Jabotinsky, of which I know much, within the context of Rose's book on Zionism which, unfortunately, I know little as I haven't read it but just the reviews and subsequent brouhaha.

Looking about the Web, I found this letter which should be reproduced:-

Questions of Zion

Sir, – May I dispute Nicholas Jacobs’s belief, expressed in his letter (April 28), that Jacqueline Rose, in her book The Question of Zion, makes an "interesting and original" suggestion? Her suggestion was that "suppressed and unmastered Jewish shame at the Holocaust having been allowed to happen" empowers "some Israeli Jews in attacking and demonizing Palestinians".

"Such ideas", Mr Jacobs writes, "surely have to be addressed." Let’s start with the idea that Professor Rose has been original. Her views are standard cant among a certain tranche of bien-pensant opinion. (The word "tranche" is appropriate, since it recalls the "serialization" – Sartre’s term – used by the Nazis in giving temporary privileges to Kapos, who then assisted in the disciplining and destruction of, in particular, other Jews. Mátyás Rákosi’s "salami tactics" in Hungary were of the same order, though Sartre never mentioned them.)

Rose’s "originality" was trumped, with a greater depth of insight and range of instances, by Georgi M. Derluguian in his Bourdieu’s Secret Admirer in the Caucasus. He demonstrates how not a few of the smaller republics of the ex-USSR reacted to its break-up with the reawakening of violent ethnic self-assertion and irredentism; for example, the Chechens, whose parents and grandparents had been forcibly deported, brutalized and often murdered by Stalin. Who can know whether its quondam satellites’ hostility to Russia was due to the "shame" attributed to Jews or to a version of never-againism?

Jacqueline Rose imputes unique self-centredness and lack of control (a mutation of the old charge against wailing, hand-waving Jews) to the Israelis whom she demonizes. Their "shame" is rather too confidently specified, perhaps because it is integral to her preconceptions. In The Freudian Slip, Sebastiano Timpanaro raised the question of why Freud so regularly "discovered" that bourgeois guilt was exclusively sexual. Might it not just as well have derived from shame at the exploitation of the working class? Smiles at this come a little too quickly.

Elsewhere in the issue of April 28, Desmond M. Clarke praises Descartes’s originality in denouncing formal explanations based on a "redescription of the reality to be explained". The confident search for group or personal motives, based on a single-track ideology, recalls the game of Hemingway’s friends the Murphys, who buried treasure in the sand, so that their children might have the thrill of discovering it. The ideologist, Left and Right, roots out evidence already buried in his/her own theory/religion, and makes out that it is a "scientific" finding with empirical credentials.

Mr Jacobs goes further than Professor Rose, by insisting that Israel "constitutes a lethal danger not only to itself and its perceived enemies, but also to the wider world". Here comes that old "merited" pariahdom attached to the deicides.

The dangling unseen rider is that the Jews were really responsible for (since they failed to stop) the Holocaust and – dangling further down – that since they can’t "master" their own shame/guilt, they are a worldwide menace (led by the Elders of Zion, who else?).

René Girard’s "scapegoat mechanism" does a double job here: it exonerates those who were responsible, one way or another (if only for rejecting Jewish immigration before, during and after the Second World War) and makes the victims deserve their (and Israel’s abandonment. Ken Livingstone’s meta-Freudian slip, when he accused a Jew of having been a concentration camp guard, is another mutation of a very old trick. The Jews can hardly blame anyone else if they will go around massacring themselves.

None of this entails that Israel has never been cruel or crass, or that I am a Zionist (yes, I do notice my own tendency to make a separate peace), but it does suggest why the world is seen to be pink when seen through Rose-tinted spectacles.

Lagardelle, 24170 St Laurent-la-Vallée, France.

As I have always maintained, if there is a "Holocaust connection", it is that of the links between the Arabs of Palestine and their leader, the Mufti Haj Amin El-Husseini, and German Nazism including active support for the killing of Jews in Europe and the Palestine Mandate as well as causing enough pressure on British diplomats to effectively keep the Jews in Europe where Hitler was better able to murder them.

Their violence prior to the Holocaust was an enabling factor in the post-Holocaust result of 6,000,000 murdered Jews. Had we only had a state previously, one we have full rights to in the area of the historic boundaries of the Jewish national homeland.

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