New Essays On Zionism

Clearly there are forms of messianism (or messianicity) that are not bound up with myths of blood purity (one need think only of the leftist “messianism” of Walter Benjamin’s “Theses on the Philosophy of History”), as there are forms of Zionism that are at odds with the religious messianic impulse, as Jacqueline Rose amply demonstrates in her brilliant .

This is not to say that the volume lacks substance: its essays, between them, offer a valuable discussion of key issues: of Palestinian dispossession (Žižek and Mignolo), of Zionism’s colonial roots that underlie Israel’s ongoing settlement of Palestinian land (Mignolo), of how anti-Semitism and the Holocaust became alibis for suppressing anti-Israeli critique (Žižek and Marc Ellis), and of how the European left came to understand Zionism as antifascism rather than as an extension of colonialism (Vattimo).

But despite these valuable studies, the essays share a certain tentativeness about Zionism in the stricter sense of the term.

¤ 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.

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.

Zionism’s insistence on presence makes it exactly the sort of belief system that deconstruction so usefully examines.

Indeed, Walter Mignolo’s essay spells out some reasons why: Zionism’s roots grow from 19th-century European nationalism, and govern both its corresponding emphasis on the unity of a Jewish people and its emphasis on returning to the origin, the end of diaspora.

) 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.

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