Trending Topics:

Can there be poetry after Netanyahu?

Israel/Palestine
on 16 Comments

Distance himself from the new Im Tirtzu (“If You Wish”) smear campaign waged against left-wing artists in Israel as he might, Netanyahu and his government are thoroughly complicit with the efforts to brand their political opponents and artists opposed to the status quo as traitors. The tactic is nothing new. It was developed and honed in the months leading up to the assassination of Prime-Minister Yitzhak Rabin in mass right-wing rallies—where Rabin was depicted with Hitler’s moustache and uniform—attended and addressed by Netanyahu. Then, there is the more recent government bill, demanding that the Israeli NGOs, recipients of funding from abroad, make a public declaration to that effect and face strict regulations as a result. Finally, a few days ago, the Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev tabled a proposal for a “Loyalty Bill” that would allocate government grants solely to artists supportive of the regime. So, aren’t there good reasons to be skeptical regarding Netanyahu’s comments that he does not view his political opponents as traitors?

In the mainstream media, the proposed Israeli legislation has been likened to the McCarthyist witch-hunts in the US of the 1950s. The terms of comparison are quite inevitable in light of the admiration the founder of Im Tirtzu has publically expressed for Senator McCarthy. But we need not travel so far in time to find alarming parallels. It is obvious that the Israeli right is emulating above all Putin’s Russia of the 2010s. Putin, too, considers the Liberal opposition to his “vertical of power” treacherous, and its representatives—the agents of the West, bent on destabilizing the country by undermining its social cohesion, of which he, presumably, is the only guarantor. He, too, has endorsed a law that potentially bans any organization relying on funding from abroad from operating on the territory of the Russian Federation. And he, too, has clamped down on renegade artists, especially in the wake of the international success of Andrey Zvyagintzev’s feature film The Leviathan (2014), partially funded from state coffers and highly critical of the reigning political and economic corruption.

The analogies between the measures being introduced in the two countries are not accidental. Former residents of Post-Soviet states, after all, comprise over twenty percent of Israel’s population. Likewise, the political objectives of Putin and Netanyahu dovetail: colonial expansion of the respective territories they govern is high on the agenda. Both leaders are obsessed with “internal enemies,” the critics whom they deem to be collaborators with the hostile outside forces. At any price, they strive to hold onto a nineteenth-century version of nationalism, outdated virtually everywhere else in the West and based on the construction of a homogeneous political entity.

Among all these similarities, however, we should not overlook some glaring differences to do with the divergent historical contexts of Putin’s and Netanyahu’s rule. The former is an inheritor of Soviet censorship, where the political repression of those artists who did not fall in line with the regime was rife. I am referring not only to the heyday of Stalinism but also to the so-called thaw of Khrushchev’s period, when Joseph Brodsky stood trial for “parasitism” and was condemned for hard labor in Siberia. Along with, before, and after Brodsky, who will later on go on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, many other Jewish writers and artists suffered at the hands of political authorities they did not please. In Nazi Germany, for instance, Jewish art and thought were labeled degenerate as a stand-in for all the innovative, avant-garde trends of modernism.

In the face of the painful—indeed, tragic—historical experience of Jewish artists, their freedom within the State of Israel should have been sacrosanct. Similarly inviolable in the eyes of the state should have been the artistic freedom and freedom of thought of non-Jewish residents, given the clear resemblance between their position and that of countless diasporic Jews, practitioners of “the creative occupations.” Philosopher and cultural critic Theodor Adorno once said that “[t]o write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” Perhaps. But I also have no doubt that more barbaric still is to persecute certain writers of poetry, novels, drama, music in the name of the state that has emerged “after Auschwitz.”

About Michael Marder

Michael Marder is IKERBASQUE Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU), Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. His most recent monographs include The Philosopher’s Plant: An Intellectual Herbarium (2014), Pyropolitics: When the World Is Ablaze (2015), and Dust (2016). He is now completing a book, co-authored with Luce Irigaray and titled Through Vegetal Being.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

16 Responses

  1. Shmuel
    Shmuel
    January 29, 2016, 1:25 pm

    A number of Israeli journalists have likened the current situation in Israel to that in Greece in the 1960’s where “private patriotic” groups did the work of the right-wing regime — often in close coordination with the regime itself, but with sufficient deniability to allow the regime to continue to claim that it was democratic and respected civil liberties.

    The recent work of groups like Im Tirzu, Ad Kan, Regavim and others (with direct or indirect government funding and/or support) closely complemented the government’s own legislative, propaganda and “security” initiatives (condemning and barring Break the Silence, the “Loyalty in Culture” bill, the harassment of Ta’ayush and B’tselem activists, the banning of books and performances in the Educational system, the promotion of the new civics curriculum, etc.). The willing participation of the mainstream media (channel 2 and Ilana Dayan, Yediot Aharonot on the Alon Liel “exposé”) also points to the coordinated manipulation of information — again with sufficient deniability.

    • JLewisDickerson
      JLewisDickerson
      January 29, 2016, 7:59 pm

      RE: “The willing participation of the mainstream media (channel 2 and Ilana Dayan, Yediot Aharonot on the Alon Liel ‘exposé’) also points to the coordinated manipulation of information — again with sufficient deniability.” ~ Shmuel

      SEE: “Who Will Save Israel”, by Uri Avnery, zope.gush-shalom.org, 23 May 2015

      [EXCERPTS] The battle is over. The dust has settled. A new government – partly ridiculous, partly terrifying – has been installed. . .
      . . . Now the situation inside Israel proper is about to change drastically.
      Two facts attest to this.
      First of all, Ayelet Shaked has been appointed Minister of Justice.
      One of the most extreme right-wing Israelis, she has not made a secret of the fact that she wants to destroy the independence of the Supreme Court, the last bastion of human rights. . .
      . . . PERHAPS WORSE is Netanyahu’s decision to retain for himself the Ministry of Communication.
      This ministry has always been disdained as a low-level office, reserved for political lightweights. Netanyahu’s dogged insistence on retaining it for himself is ominous.
      The communication Ministry controls all TV stations, and indirectly newspapers and other media. Since all Israeli media are in very bad shape financially, this control may become deadly.
      Netanyahu’s patron – some say owner – Sheldon Adelson, the would-be dictator of the US Republican party, already publishes a give-away newspaper in Israel, which has only one sole aim: to support Netanyahu personally against all enemies, including his competitors in his own Likud party. The paper – “Israel Hayom” (Israel Today) – is already Israel’s widest-circulation newspaper, with the American casino king pouring into it untold millions.
      Netanyahu is determined to break all opposition in the electronic and written media. Opposition commentators are well advised to look for jobs elsewhere . . .
      . . . One cannot avoid an odious analogy. One of the key terms in the Nazi lexicon was the atrocious German word Gleichschaltung – meaning connecting all media to the same energy source [SEE: Gleichschaltung @ Wikipedia – J.L.D. ]. All newspapers and radio stations (TV did not yet exist) were staffed with Nazis. Every morning, a Propaganda Ministry official by the name of Dr. Dietrich convened the editors and told them what tomorrow’s headlines, editorials etc. were to be.
      Netanyahu has already dismissed the chief of the TV department. We don’t yet know the name of our own Dr. Dietrich. . .

      ENTIRE COMMENTARY – http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1432296815/

  2. echinococcus
    echinococcus
    January 29, 2016, 9:55 pm

    Mainly an anti-Russian rant rather than any criticism of the Zionist entity, the latter only consisting in a request for more freedom andor state support for Herrenvolk artists because they are “Jewish”. When one knows that Mondoweiss can get much better than this in the way of contributions, some questions should arise.

    • annie
      annie
      January 29, 2016, 10:48 pm

      echi, i definitely question this:

      It is obvious that the Israeli right is emulating above all Putin’s Russia of the 2010s. Putin, too, considers the Liberal opposition to his “vertical of power” treacherous, and its representatives—the agents of the West, bent on destabilizing the country by undermining its social cohesion, of which he, presumably, is the only guarantor.

      what’s obvious is putin is no fool and intercepted victoria nuland’s little orange revolution creating a civil war in the ukraine. as far as i know the US state department is not shoveling 100’s of millions into the destabilization of israel via “liberal” groups there. whenever people reference neoliberal w/a left or free speech connotation — i grow concerned and i find it alarming. i recognize russia has a terrible reputation w/repression but this reads to me more of an anti russian rant. i don’t know why netanyahu’s photo is on top, it should be putin’s.

      • annie
        annie
        January 30, 2016, 12:21 am

        LOL

      • echinococcus
        echinococcus
        January 30, 2016, 9:42 am

        Nailed it, Sibiriak.

      • alan
        alan
        January 30, 2016, 11:39 am

        echi. & Annie – Agreed. I can’t imagine what this silly article is doing on this site. You have rightly highlighted the writer’s dubious agenda. The language and argumentation are lazy, crude and ludicrous, this bit especially:

        “The analogies between the measures being introduced in the two countries are not accidental. Former residents of Post-Soviet states, after all, comprise over twenty percent of Israel’s population.”

        If there is a case to be made that the Zionist leadership – and Israel’s population – share a political/cultural heritage and outlook with that of the current leader of Russia that trump those they share with the US he’s going to have to do a bit better than that!

    • Rashers2
      Rashers2
      January 30, 2016, 10:22 am

      I think we must’ve been reading different articles. “……criticism of the Zionist entity, the latter only consisting in a request for more freedom and[/]or state support for Herrenvolk artists because they are ‘Jewish’.” I didn’t get that at all from the above. Has one of you been slipping Ziocaine into my coffee?

      • annie
        annie
        January 30, 2016, 12:03 pm

        rash, as an aside,when i moderate i don’t clear comments w/that nazi reference. i leave them and let someone else decide. it’s not to my liking.

      • echinococcus
        echinococcus
        January 30, 2016, 2:29 pm

        It’s in the text, up there.
        For your convenience:
        “I am referring not only to the heyday of Stalinism but also to the so-called thaw of Khrushchev’s period, when Joseph Brodsky stood trial for “parasitism” and was condemned for hard labor in Siberia. Along with, before, and after Brodsky, who will later on go on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, many other Jewish writers and artists suffered at the hands of political authorities they did not please. In Nazi Germany, for instance, Jewish art and thought were labeled degenerate as a stand-in for all the innovative, avant-garde trends of modernism.

        In the face of the painful—indeed, tragic—historical experience of Jewish artists, their freedom within the State of Israel should have been sacrosanct. Similarly inviolable in the eyes of the state should have been the artistic freedom and freedom of thought of non-Jewish residents, given the clear resemblance between their position and that of countless diasporic Jews…”

        I particularly like the reason given for accepting “similarly inviolable” rights for non-Jews in the Zionist entity.
        That’s a keeper.

  3. Kay24
    Kay24
    January 29, 2016, 10:39 pm

    With Nutty there is no poetry or prose……just a dirge that goes on and one for decades.

  4. ckg
    ckg
    January 30, 2016, 9:11 am

    It is obvious that the Israeli right is emulating above all Putin’s Russia of the 2010s. Putin, too”

    Thanks, Michael. I couldn’t agree more. And I think Trump is trying to emulate both of them. Just look at that scowl on Netanyahu.

    BTW, Human Rights Watch published its annual report this week–sober reading for Putin fans and Netanyahu fans.

  5. Elizabeth Block
    Elizabeth Block
    January 30, 2016, 10:25 am

    Two thoughts:

    Israel likes to think of itself as the Athens of the middle east. It’s not. It’s the Sparta.

    And is the Jewish National Fund one of the NGOs that receives funds from abroad, and is required to publicize that fact? If not, why not? [Silly question…..]

Leave a Reply