A comment on Gil Anidjar’s paper “Jesus and Monotheism” and its discussion at the MESAAS department colloquium on September 11th.
Murder, it soon becomes clear, goes far beyond the “who-done-it?” digressions, down which Freud (and Anidjar) takes his readers. This word designates more than a crime, far more than an action. It describes a kind of relation: the relation of a father to his sons, of a son to his father, of a people to their leader and, ultimately, of Christianity to Judaism.
What Anidjar terms “the Christian question” is an inquiry about this relation. But this inquiry is not about Christianity’s relation to just anyone. It is what we arrive at when we turn the screw of “the Jewish question” one more time. When we ask what it is about Christianity that so persistently maintains this relation—“murder”—to its Others. Certainly this question goes far beyond “the Jewish” one, but in Anidjar’s reading of Freud’s Moses and Monotheism, the “(Jewish) Christian question” takes center stage.
My parents, native Israelis with wide and deep ties to the Hebrew language, insisted, always, on maintaining a Hebrew-speaking household in the U.S. so that my two sisters and I might carry on in the world with “a miracle” of a language at our disposal. I remember my father telling me excitedly that, “before 1948, no one made love in Hebrew!” I was fascinated by the thought of a language existing by virtue of some dedicated people carefully applying ancient, known words to their contemporary surroundings. I would imagine them staring at birds or one another in an attempt to string together some sounds and silences that might do justice to a subject’s fullest character.
But studying Hebrew literature in MESAAS has been one long attempt to bend my thinking to accommodate the reality that modern Hebrew literature is a contemporary Middle Eastern affair. Or is it? Hebrew literature and Israeli culture fits into MESAAS geographically; but Hebrew has long been a shared cultural language of the Jews that only in the 20th century became a spoken vernacular in Israel. A question of belonging arises: how does modern Hebrew literature fit into MESAAS when we look beyond basic points of contact, such as the Semitic origins of the Hebrew language or the many centuries of political-Zionist poetry?
“Israel is a small piece of land. We are not even 1 percent of the Arab space, you know. We don’t have water. We don’t have oil. Our greatness, if one may say greatness, stems from the fact we had nothing to start with. So we turned to human talent because there weren’t natural resources. The Arabs can do it too.” – Shimon Peres, Foreign Policy (March/April 2012 issue)
If by “human talent” the Israeli President meant illegally and unfairly managing water access for Israelis and Palestinians, then I might be inclined to agree. Now, the above quote was by no means the only condescending and misleading one to be found in the interview, but given the recent report released by the French parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee asserting Israel’s “apartheid” water management policies, it stood out as particularly cringe-worthy. (Note: a partial English translation of the report can be found here, and the original report, in French, can be downloaded here in PDF format.)
Earlier this month, Occupy AIPAC convened as the national AIPAC conference took place in Washington, D.C. With the drum beats heralding war with Iran growing louder, what seemed lost in both the AIPAC conference and the Occupy AIPAC conference was Palestine. With the Israeli government and supporters of Israel distracting the discourse away from Israeli settlement building, unlawful imprisonment of Palestinians, and the continued occupation of Palestinian land, the national AIPAC conference operated under the premise that Israel is a legitimate state actor with legitimate grievances to Iran’s governance over its nuclear energy program. Occupy AIPAC mimicked this distracting discourse in order to counter hollow arguments, from the Israeli government and its supporters, on Iran’s role as a “rational” or “irrational” actor and the role of the Arab revolutions in destabilizing Israel’s political and discursive power within the region. Thus, this action was a semi-unconscious performative result of the compelling Israeli/U.S. discourse, and Occupy AIPAC attempted to subsume itself within this discourse as a means to combat it.
Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is upon us again, and while Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (C-SJP) sets up on College Walk, pro-Israeli organizations ranging from Hillel to LionPAC, and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs are launching their responses to begin damage control.