Joel Kovel responds to comments on his piece, “Israel and the Nomination of Chuck Hagel” (posted January 20)
It was most gratifying to read the very lively discussion stimulated by the article. Among the many important themes raised was an extended commentary on the sentence beginning with the statement: “Israel is no normal state, but one governed by the forging of Zionist system-logic into a Satanic ideology. . . .” Particular attention was given to the use of the adjective, “Satanic” as a modifier of Zionist ideology. A number of people wondered if I just tossed that off or used it casually or even sloppily.
The answer to that is easy. I fuss over every word, and especially in such a serious piece as this. After about the fourth time pondering the modifier of Zionist ideology I decided to go with “Satanic,” precisely to induce the kind of response that resulted. It’s an ancillary project of my religious conversion (which is going along nicely, thank you), namely, to resuscitate spiritually charged figures of speech as a way of stirring up a deeper level of discourse and getting closer to the heart of things. Hopefully, an extended memoir I’m working on will help to achieve the same effect.
But in what sense is “Satanic” to be regarded? After all, this is a word that has been the subject of many volumes of scholarship. I’m a long way from being an expert on the subject, but I do have a particular point of view to share–which one commentator, “MRW,” who posted on January 21, got. I am following the usage, as I do in many circumstances, of William Blake, the chief influence on my intellectual life in general. The signpost here is the phrase “Dark Satanic Mills,” which appears at the beginning of his great long poem, Milton, much of which is devoted to the Satanic. I elaborated on this in a recent essay, which I’ll put on my website, joelkovel.net, as soon as the blasted thing is up and running after being repaired. The essay is called “Dark Satanic Mills: William Blake and the critique of war.” It’s been recently published in We Have Not Been Moved, edited by Elizabeth Martinez, Matt Meyer, and Mandy Carter (Oakland: PM Press, 2012, 366-378). Alas, it’s not an easy read, as it advances the idea that war is more than aggression, weaponry, and imperial possession. It’s also a (Satanic) state of being, Egoic separation from life, replacing life with accusation. Blake calls Satan the “Accuser who is the God of This World.” All of which is close to the cold, cold heart of Zionism.