Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Judith Butler Speaks at UC Irvine (With Video)

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Judith Butler

On Monday evening, March 2, UC Berkeley Professor Judith Butler spoke at the University of California at Irvine. Butler is a professor in the Dept. of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory. Her speech was entitled, "Versions of Bi-nationalism in (Edward) Said and (Martin) Buber". It was all about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I videotaped the event, which can be seen after the text. (My camera's battery died out during the final question. In addition, the focus turns away from the speaker as I walked to the microphone to give my question, but the audio remains.)

Butler, who is decidedly on the Palestinian side in her outlook, spoke on the writings and sayings of Said and Buber as applied to the prospect of Israelis and Palestinians living together either as part of a two state solution or single state solution.  She spoke for about one and a half hours then answered questions.

Butler's speaking style is pedantic, dry and boring. She basically read her presentation. She is a theorist and seems to think that even after a right of return for Palestinians, the two sides can live in peace. She sees a commonality between the Israelis and Palestinians based on their diasporic experiences. There was nothing in her talk about Palestinian terrorism or anti-Jew hatred. She referred to the "900.000" Palestinian refugees uprooted during the 1948 war, but said nothing about the hundreds of thousands of Jews driven out of Arab countries. It was a very one-sided presentation. Indeed, I can present no better rebuttal to her naive thinking than the below piece by Dr Cary Nelson (University of Illinois) , former president of the American Association of University Professors.

The main point made by Nelson is that Butler doesn't recognize the danger to Jews in a  reformulated state where they are no longer the majority.

During the q and a (Clip 143 at the 17:55 mark) I brought up the subject of anti-Semitism on American university campuses as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I also mentioned that UC campuses had experienced anti-Semitism. I brought up the recent examples of a swastika spray-painted on a Jewish fraternity at UC Davis and the attempts to keep Jewish students off of student government at UCLA. I also mentioned examples of anti-Semitic hate speech at our own campus at UCI-specifically Amir Abdel Malik Ali referring to people as "Zionist Jews" spitting the words out Nazi style and Imam Mohammed al Asi ("You can take the Jew out of the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto out of the Jew".) I asked her if this all didn't ever give her pause and if these examples didn't discredit the pro-Palestinian cause.

Butler (who is Jewish) did not address my question. She proceeded to bring up right-wing neo-Nazi groups in Europe who were anti-Semitic, but said nothing about anti-Jew hatred coming from the Muslim population of Europe-notwithstanding some very high profile murders in places like Copenhagen, Paris, Toulouse, and Brussels. As to the examples I mentioned, and my specific question, she failed to answer it. Somewhere in that answer, she mentioned Jewish Voice for Peace as the largest-growing Jewish organization in the country and described JVP as an organization engaged in "dialogue". Could this be the same JVP that disrupted Bibi Netanyahu's speech in New Orleans a few short years ago? I also vividly recall when three JVP reps came to speak at UC Irvine in 2011 and stated that Jewish students who defended Israel should not be allowed to feel comfortable on campus and that pro-Israel speech was "useless discourse". As to anti-Semitic speech on campus, Butler said that many people who criticized Israel or Zionism were often called "anti-Semitic" (I am paraphrasing.)

Judith Butler is a very intelligent, well-educated woman. However, my impression is that she lives in a  world of theory that leads her to believe that if Israel would just give in, forget about that Jewish state, and allow the right of return, Jews and Palestinians would get along just fine, and Jews would have no worries about their safety.

Me? I live in the real world.

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