Queers contra Settlers or the Mainstreaming of BDS
by Friedrich Hansen
Israel is once again becoming the focus of disruptive political debate due to the intensifying attacks by the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. One of the reasons seems to be the crumbling rainbow coalition of minorities that helped President Obama to win the White House. Obama and his supporters seem to externalize their problems by going global. Speaking and acting on behalf of victims abroad such as Palestinians is almost the default liberal escape from facing the music and nevertheless still claiming the moral high ground. Thus a new cohort of victims, African refugees, recently became the subject of a biased if not demagogic film by Max Blumenthal. That film even unsettled fellow liberals because it crosses the line to unbridled hatred. Blumenthal claims that 50.000 African guest workers concentrated in South Tel Aviv are being treated in ways reminiscent of Nazi terror. Originating from sub-Saharan Africa, these illegal immigrants are ex-post politicized as asylum seekers and tossed before cameras to accuse Israel of atrocities. Unheard of though is the siding with Blumenthal of the New America Foundation, the most prestigious think tank of the Democrats and as close as it gets to the White House, by hosting the launch of his inflammatory Israel-book “Goliath”. Later John Kerry was reported stating: “The risks are very high for Israel. People are talking about Boycott. That will intensify in case of failure (of the peace framework).” With this brazen endorsement (disclaimed later on) of BDS John Kerry lent his support for its mainstreaming; equally unexpected was President Obama’s stance regarding the withholding of military assistance for Israel in the same context. It looks like well healed liberals are attempting to deflect pressure from Obama’s faltering presidency onto the Jewish state.
This is where the recent decision of the American Studies Association (ASA) to join the anti-Israel Boycott fits in too. In April 2013 the much smaller Asian-American Studies Association had joined BDS with a vote of just on fifth of its members. Many universities have distanced themselves from the boycott in the meantime. Yet the well-funded cause of anti-Zionism keeps attracting academics worldwide. A few prominent examples may suffice: Oxford don Tom Paulin, Stephen Hawking of Cambridge, Noam Chomsky of MIT, Peter Slezak of the University of Sydney, Judith Butler from Berkeley, University of California and Georgina Barret of Rhodes University, South Africa. Thus an academic network is being created not on scientific merits but on risk-free political posturing not least for tapping the gravy train of international travel and guest lecturers and what have you. This is just about liberals selling out academic credentials on the cheap. Worse still these dons are sacrificing academic independence on a global scale betraying Western treasures. Who would have expected that the lack of tutoring history would one day result in roaming, slavering students dabbling in anti-Semitic politics – an activism that reeks of German universities in the Weimar era with its culture of unchecked transgressions all over the place. Past experience alerts us: disrespect towards traditional forms breeds totalitarianism; Dahn Hiuni for one is answering in kind by creating a new movement called RDS – Retractions and Disavowals in Scholarship – to discourage the academic BDS brand of anti-Israel activism. Yet if Ahmadinejad’s threat to eradicate Israel could not stop BDS in the tracks what will?
How are we to understand this dangerous nonsense? President Obama’s transformative politics of “change” was about a shift from the Republican issue of freedom (reflecting the moral discourse of the West) towards the Democratic obsession with necessities (bound to a Greek-style discourse), in short a turn from Jerusalem towards Athens. The issue of climate change, never mind that it was originally about global warming, fitted perfectly for this agenda. For the mysterious clockwork of climate change, ever so reminiscent of finemechanic Spinoza’s pantheism, played nicely on the break with religion that marked the birth of modernity. This discourse comes comfortably close to the determinist framework of ancient Greek culture. The ensuing moral void would be covered up with the rules of political correctness imposed with the bludgeon of equalizing Holocaust and Global Warming denial. This gave us the clue for the new liberal “moral” pivot targeting Jerusalem. The whole story in a nutshell is now being dramatized in a US court libel case. The liberal hockey-stick hurling Global Warming guru Michael Mann – in a breathtaking reversal of First Amendment logic – is set to win his libel case against freehanded Republican polemicist Mark Steyn. Steyn originally fled to America from Canada because of the First Amendments pürotection of free speech. Alas, it didn’t last long. This libel case has all the marks of a rehearsal of the Catholic censure case against Galileo Galilei and it gives us a hunch as to were critical minds are headed. In the West the hamstrung public appears unable to restore the free Jerusalem discourse over Athenian rigor which has dominated American institutions of higher learning for decades.
According to Fred Siegel today’s liberals are split between two major political issues: environment and human rights (“The Revolt against the Masses”, Encounter 2013). The first represents nature and the second culture or more precisely: the artificial carving out of human rights for minorities. Now with regard to authentic issues it appears that climate change has passed its apogee and therefore liberals are falling back to the default rights issue, picking up the Palestinian cause. Amnesty international and Oxfam have sensed this trend long ago. On the home front though conflicts have emerged within the Democrats coalition of identity groups and therefore a new brand called “intersectionists” has been created, activists who are in charge to hold the rainbow coalition together. And what better idea of emulating Bismarck again, as Obama has been fond of doing frequently – a case in point being his mandatory health insurance in sync with his culture war against religion. Now Bismarck also happened to found the second German empire by uniting the endless sprawl of fiefdoms in a fight against common enemies like France and Denmark. Now this might explain why the rainbow coalition, which forms a big chunk of Democrat constituency, is being pitted against Israel. More importantly the rallying of allegedly victimized minorities against the Jewish state is a way of leveling or challenging Israel’s identity as the home of Holocaust victims. This happens at a time when emigration from anti-Semitic Europe to Israel is building up again – so much so that Moscau is deemed a safer abode for Jews than Paris or Berlin these days. What could be more symbolic of the “intersectionist” strategy, than the alignment of its at times conflicting constituents such as the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) campaign behind the anti-Israel boycott targeting the modern Jewish equivalent of the first American frontier men: the settler families?
Nevertheless Obama could not be bothered less, admitting to the White House of all men Stephen Walt of “Israel Lobby” fame. This gives meat to his resolve to using Anti-Semitism as a last resort in his strategy of stabilizing the home front. For it is hard to overestimate the dangerous implications of reversing the Zionist millennial achievement by relocating sanctions and boycotts from Iran to Israel – even if it still might turn out a phony war. The Israeli government just pointed out that the economic damage caused by the BDS campaign has been naught so far. Yet who knows how an international political isolation of Israel, a country already threatened by a host of Arab countries, will play out? What concerns me here is the subtle erosion of the traditional family in sync with the abuse of independent institutions such as the arts, universities and charities. These essential formats for the grooming of free personalities in our civilization are being corrupted through their reckless politicization, a politicization thrown upon us by a transgressive tiny minority. The gender activists are taken by the Friedrich Nietzsche just as much as this paradigmatic iconoclast has been among Obama’s formative thinkers.
It is worth noting that leading boycott activists are also talking heads of the gender revolution. Judith Butler of Berkeley is the leading “queer-sex” theorist and Lisa Duggan the gender expert of New York University and new president elect of boycotting ASA. Both frequent speakers for the Israel boycott have no expertise on the Middle East whatsoever. The same is true for the other battle grounds on BDS, Brooklyn College and its political science department which is headed by a professor also specializing in gender studies. Given their affiliation it does not surprise anybody that these academics are hiding their incompetence behind glamorous events of the arts, music or celebrity stunts. They are deceiving the public knowing it is always easier to rally against something you don’t really know rather than to unify people behind a positive purpose.
For instance last year BDS activist Judith Butler delivered a political show at the Berlin Jewish Museum harvesting standing ovations upon denouncing Israel after she had just received the Theodore-Adorno-Prize from the city of Frankfurt. Now the Jewish Museum of New York ventured to follow up this particular tasteless business with a series of events. Headlined in the typical lowering pop fashion “Wish You Were Here: XX” ten dead Jewish luminaries. You see, the loaded political message is wrapped into an inauspicious Andy Warhol portfolio of paintings: “Ten Portraits of Jews in the 20th Century”. Butler was booked for a talk on Franz Kafka on 6th of March 2014. Franz Kafka is the writer who dreamed up the overnight metamorphosis of Gregor Samsa into a bug – a classic descent in the organic order translating moral entropy into an aesthetic image. Butler’s talk eventually had to be cancelled because the political stir became too strong as to eclipse the intended art event. What I want to point out here is that a genuine moral question – and for that matter a question of life and death for Israelis – is being approached from a purely aesthetic angle, exposing Jerusalem to hideous attacks from Athens; an approach not only insincere but also inauthentic.
At its worst morally naïve liberals, raised on the dire vocabulary of PC culture, plunge into bizarre metaphors such as Blumenthal going for the Israel’s “reductio ad Hitlerum”. The fascism label is the most abused liberal metaphor at all and it often is used vaguely for political repression, whereas real fascism was as much about the unleashing of instincts. The fact that BDS liberals attack Israel as fascist reveals their true insincerity for they are fighting a straw man in order to hedge their risks. In addition „Nazi-Israel” is made up in order to avoid tackling real enemies of the gender issue like Iran. Equally in the recent past the Nazi straw man has also been used in the West as default justification for the sexual revolution. Importantly this hyperbole is one plausible explanation for the new linkage between LGBT and anti-Israel boycott. In addition the former has build-up so much traction in the West to possibly carry the boycott into the mainstream. The new reproach of “pink washing” hurled against Israel has asserted the linkage too for it argues the tolerance of the Jewish State towards homosexuals – in contrast to the surrounding Arab states – had been orchestrated only to heap blame on the latter.
All of this is suggestive of the decline in educational standards at many Western universities. For as always mostly poorly educated academics compensate their infirmities with political activism under the iconoclast paradigm. Of course this is about the replacement of classical liberal arts syllabus with postmodern identity studies, a narcissist move of turning students’ idiosyncratic needs into the subject of their “studies”. The dismal quality of those studies has been thoroughly exposed by Bruce Bawer (“The Victims Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind” 2012). Decades ago liberal activists at Western universities began revising through gender, cultural and post-colonial studies the traditional canon of Western heritage.
In the same vain Peter Berkowitz’ recently claimed: “professors and administrators at our best liberal arts colleges” are hastening the demise of higher education
(http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/02/21/how_to_improve_our_colleges_and_universities_12165 HYPERLINK “http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/02/21/how_to_improve_our_colleges_and_universities_121657.html#ixzz2up5W0iEA”7.html#ixzz2up5W0iEA).
Another report by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, “Education or Reputation: A Look at America’s Top-Ranked Liberal Arts Colleges,” confirms the dire findings. Thus a 530% increase of college costs in US is matched by a considerable decline in content and quality. Anyway the ASA boycott reveals a severe lack of respect for cultural forms and the tradition of academic freedom resting on detachment from politics. For sensibility to forms used to be the essence of liberal arts training. Yet with affirmative action as the conveyer belt for higher education “liberal arts” have been thrown under the bus. More doubts about today academic standards were raised after the American Studies Association’s decision to join the BDS campaign. Luckily meanwhile hundreds of ASA members seem to have distanced themselves from the break of academic neutrality.
Now it is not incidental that the aggressive gender rights campaigns infringe on classical liberal rights too. Firstly in the sense that gender and anti-Israel campaigners seem to be taking it for granted that sexual liberation and the Isolation of the Jewish state is to be expanded globally regardless of the sensibilities of other cultures. The battle over the Ukraine according to some reports has clearly undertones of the aggressive LGBT campaign expanding eastward. Yet it is Israel that is above all targeted as the global testing ground for the gender revolution proof being the denial of Israel’s right of self-determination and other non-Western countries should take note. Clearly the link is evident in the philosophical concepts of Judith Butler. Butler defines difference or diversity with regard to gender in the same way as she splits national Jewish identity; Queer, the free choice of sexual identity regardless of biology, is equalized with Galuth (Jewish for Exile, Diaspora). This again points to a corruption of forms, striking family with the same bludgeon as nation (c.f. Butler “Who owns Kafka”, London Review of Books, 2013). Butler, who is a Jewish heretic, rejects Aliyah or the return of Jews to Israel on the same grounds as she rejects a return to traditional gender roles. Her brazen cross-cultural and cross-gender concepts are iconoclastic meant to uprooting individuals and exposing them to totalitarian appetites. This is on display with the weird liberal combination of fighting the endangered Jewish state and simultaneously pandering toward the strongmen of the Muslim world. Even joining forces with Muslims fundamentalists against Israel has been ventured with the combined Western-Turkish flotilla.
The distortion of traditional forms uproots Western liberals, makes them malleable and pulls them into the activist gender and boycott movements. So it was with a sense of disbelief that I learned in the summer of 2013 about the descent on Tel Aviv of reportedly 100 000 gender activists including many fellow travelers for the Gay Pride parade. It reminded me to an observation of the late American sociologist Philip Rieff, who according to Jeremy Beer gave us “one of the deepest readings of modernity ever produced by an American writer”. To him the “cultural fetish of transgressiveness” that he witnessed in the revolt of 1968 was reminiscent of the Shoah; today’s LGBTQ street parades carry echoes of those march columns of clandestine homosexuals in SA uniforms that marched the streets in Berlin in the 1930ies eventually culminating in the Roehm putsch (P.R. “The Triumph of the Therapeutic”, 40th anniversary edition, ISI books 2006, p. 249). This seems prescient with the re-emergence of the combined gender and boycott assault on Israel eighty years after the onset of the Nazi boycott in 1933. Another blood-curling de ja vu was the recent Paris rally of 20000 Frenchmen who for the first time since the 1930ies were shrieking anti-Semitic slanders.
Just as the Nazis worked hard to revise biographies of celebrities like Beethoven, Mozart and others in order to hijack them into their Arian genealogies so BDS attempts to draw celebrities from the music and film industries into their orbit. What failed with brave Scarlett Johannson succeeded with third rate film maker Ken Loach. He was rewarded with a “Golden Bear” while drumming up attention for BDS at the prestigious Berlinale Festival in 2014. Roger Walker of Pink Floyd fame had earlier signed up with the anti-Zionist cause. Every “coming out” of a celebrity either as gay or anti-Zionist is being exploited for the cause of liberal posturing against Israel. Interestingly David D. Dennis of Loyola University in Chicago undertook a comprehensive study of the foremost propaganda vehicle of the Nazis from 1920 until 1938, a daily paper called Völkischer Beobachter. He was surprised to find that Hitler and Goebbels cobbled together their ideology from a mix of Renaissance motives that contained powerful anti-Semitic tropes (ht HYPERLINK “http://hnn.us/article/153880#sthash.J9ToiqrJ.dpuf”tp://hnn.us/article/153880#sthash.J9ToiqrJ.dpuf). “Hitler saw himself first as an artist, second as soldier and third as politician”, Dr Dennis tells us. The same combination seems to have inspired the dismal flotilla to Gaza. Anyway BDS is using all sorts of art, science and music for stirring up deep seated Christian anti-Semitic sentiments in America today. A first casualty of this seems to be the weakening of the legendary staunch Evangelical support for Israel with the Presbyterian Church now openly hostile to the Jewish State.
Dr. Dennis findings on the Nazi’s emulating the Catholic response to the secular threat of the Renaissance resonate with BDS affiliate Christ at the Checkpoint (CatC), in part bankrolled by European taxpayers. CatC also organizes conferences where medieval anti-Semitism is studied for the sole purpose of digging up arguments to strengthen the Palestinian cause with Evangelicals: “Religious institutions are seen in many communities as embodying important moral and ethical principles… Divestment campaigns that target companies such as Caterpillar have been initiated in a number of major Christian churches.” The Palestinians are serving as the perfunctory victim despite its track record of unbridled terrorism. Morally speaking this is political appeasement or submission to the powers that be: international terrorism and Muslim demography. Even the fading environmental cause is being employed against Israel as the new Catholic indulgence: “Palestinian olive oil, reputed to be among the best in the world if produced to high standards, has the potential to become a leader in olive oil organic and fair trade markets worldwide, according to a new report released by Oxfam today as the olive harvest season begins in the West Bank.” Never mind that Oxfam more recently was forced to fight serious claims that the charity is financing terrorist groups in Palestine instead of fair trade.
It was David Gelernter’s who in Commentary draw the comparison between the new PC inquisition suffocating free inquiry at Western universities and the censorship of the medieval church. Expanding on this we might point to the abuse of art for power politics by the medieval Vatican. In his book on the Italian Renaissance Jacob Burckhardt relates how the Catholic Church consolidated its cultural hegemony in Europa through sponsorship of artists. However it was only from the dissident Catholic Lord Acton that we learned how the English turn to Protestantism in the 16th century unleashed even more violent persecution of Jews and Heretics than the Catholic inquisition. This also applies to Martin Luther whose Protestant Reformation set off waves of witch burnings and anti-Semitism throughout Europe. A recent exhibition in Schmalkalden in Thuringia/Germany for the first time ever attempted a full documentation of the Protestant mass murder amounting to at least 200 000 “witches” in continental Europe alone. This is one of the reasons why Thomas Mann, Hugo Ball and Nicholas Berdyaev among others convinced themselves that the rise of modern totalitarianism began with the destruction of traditional forms of living and worship during the Reformation. Mann criticized in particular the religious inward turn which ushered in the weakening of stabilizing rituals. Yet it is also true that the Reformation elicited a revival of interest in the Hebrew language and Jewish sources all over Europe – yet only on condition of proselytizing of Jews.
Now it was with great surprise that the Basel-based historian Burckhardt, replete with his personal idiosyncrasies, would not deal at length with the Renaissance paintings, as Joseph Epstein has observed recently. For had he looked at the paintings more carefully he probably would not have missed what Bernard Starr has spotted only recently (“Jesus Uncensored -Restoring the Authentic Jew”, Geyscale edition, 2013). Starr tells as how Jesus’ Jewish teachings, being clearly heretical, were hijacked several decades after his death by emerging Christianity as the new gospel. Yet his most disturbing chapter is presented as “The Ethnic Cleansing of Judaism in Medieval and Renaissance Art” which he wrote after a visit of the galleries of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Starr first spotted Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” which portrays Jesus final Passover celebration as a male-only meeting with his disciples in a monastic setting that has nothing to do with the historical Jewish Seder. Conspicuously Jesus’ family and all the paraphernalia of Passover are missing. Starr later found dozens more paintings with similar distortions of genuine Jewish history typically displaying uncircumcised babies and northern blonds. The extent and the sheer number of paintings clearly designed to eliminate authentic Jewish history, as Starr argues, portray the Catholic Church as extremely corrupt. Unfortunately Jacob Burckhardt could not see through this with his Christian blinds and thus missed the whole specter of forgery. For all their brilliance, the truth about these Renaissance paintings is that they are Christian contrivances in a vain attempt to succeed the great Jewish tradition. More importantly Renaissance art was used to conceal power politics. Burckhardt, who stayed a bachelor for his lifetime, developed a peculiar set of sensibilities that predestined him to look through the Renaissance masquerade of power. It is probably for this reason that Michelangelo is barely mentioned by him. We can only sense that Burckhardt might have been aware of the subversive Jewish references against the papacy in the paintings covering the Sistine Chapel. Anyway it was only recently fully revealed by researchers that the Chapel itself is a precise replica of the Jerusalem Temple (cf. Benjamin Blech & Roy Doliner, “The Sistine Secrets – Unlocking the Codes in Michelangelo’s Defiant Masterpiece”, London 2008).
This resonates perfectly with liberal PC culture and BDS campaigning that is all about eclipsing Jewish history in Palestine. Emulating the Renaissance Popes by establishing a fabricated reading of history the liberal PC inquisition is using the veneer of art, the allure of charity and the credentials of academia to hide their heinous power aspirations. Burckhardt shows us how nasty power relations, astutely described by Machiavelli, need to be camouflaged with art. Back then paintings were the best form of distraction. Today BDS uses pop music and film. Just as the Vatican the new gender church cloak moral question with drapery in order to deceive the public. The same is true about gender experts engaged with fighting the Jewish state. The gender identity is ultimately a Nietzschean contrivance like the Superman made up to serve the naked will to power. For the same reason same-sex marriage is as inauthentic as the paintings of the Sistine Chapel. It is just another abuse of ancient and divinely ordained Jewish forms for alien purposes such as drawing centralized power in the form of LGBTQ global networks.
And it is for the same reason that new camouflages for power politics are invented endlessly such as the new bestselling Renaissance colportage “The Swerve – How the World Became Modern” by Stephen Greenblatt. Framed as a narrative on the atomistic school of philosophy of Lucretius gender and identity politics are traced back through the Renaissance into late antiquity. Greenblatt’s version of the Renaissance doubles down on the Greek foundations of modernity eclipsing the Jewish source of freedom with determinism. This corresponds to the newly constructed gay hedonism firmly based on the flat pantheist mind set. The result is a world of pulverized self-interest with the free, integrated and creative personality blown to smithereens. Thus “The Swerve” comes along as a new foundation myth for Western hyper-individualism hiding the obvious framework of necessity. Thus modern liberal becomes a slave of his own body as defined by the new gender church.
The resulting mental serfdom is a result of crippling classical liberalism including religious freedom and equal protections under the law. This in turn should give concerned people in the West enough reasons to join forces with Israel rather than with LGBT. The details have been worked out by the late London sociologist Shirley Robin Letwin (“On the History of the Idea of Law, Cambridge: 2005, introduction). She assembled ample proof for the distortion of the Western legal system by feminist activism. Feminism she argues, has introduced – as a model for each subsequent identity group to follow suit – via judicial activism new laws which are biased by special interest. They are gradually replacing classical laws proper that used to grant equality for everyone. Letwin shows how identity politics undermine genuine universal laws that by their very nature allow for the freedom to abide to them. By contrast, the entirely new category of specific “orders” wedded to special interest are prone to creating mental serfdom for the rest of us. As an example these orders are rescinding the liberty of conscience, an achievement of the Puritan Revolution in England (cf. Lord Acton, “Essays in the History of Liberty”, Volume 1, Liberty Fund: 1985, p.94). Thus the Bed & Breakfast couple and the village Bakery are knuckled into obeisance by these gender orders regarding services to customers – leaving no neutral escape to save their dignity. Letwin gives us a hunch of the new mental serfdom under the PC church. An equivalent in international law can be found in the anti-Zionist bias with supposedly independent Amnesty International (http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/02/27/watchdog-group-highlights-anti-israel-credentials-of-amnesty-internationals-researchers/). The same mechanism of undermining universal standards of “equality under the law” is now evident on a much larger scale at the EU level http://www.eur HYPERLINK “http://www.europeandignitywatch.org/day-to-day/detail/article/the-principle-of-equality-turned-upside-down.html#.Uxw1yYExuCU.email”opeandignitywatch.org/day-to-day/detail/article/the-principle-of-equality-turned-upside-down.html#.Uxw1yYExuCU.email.
Finally only in their insincere ways liberals are able to engineer the creepy scape-goating of Israel. And yet the gap of credibility is opening up inevitably as will happen with the hypocrite liberal siding with Islam. For as some authoritarian Arab regimes hold on to power by deflecting inner tensions via anti-Semitic projection on Israel, liberals are increasingly targeting Jews in Western Europe too: anti-Semitic legislation that bans ancient religious rituals still observed by Muslims and Jews such as circumcision and ritual slaughter. Judith Butler and her ilk are living in denial of this sad fact that carries echoes to the 1930ies indeed. It is Amos Oz who once stated the obvious: the walls of his grandparents’ Europe were covered with graffiti saying “Jews, go to Palestine.” Now they say, “Jews, get out of Palestine”—by which is meant Israel.