Monday, August 8, 2011

Zizek on Breivik and Antisemitism

After Joshua wrote a post on Anders Breivik, we started receiving a boost in traffic in google searches for "zizek breivik." Today in The Guardian is that article I suppose people were waiting for, Zizek's "A Vile Logic to Anders Breivik's Choice of Target." Zizek points out a number of hypocrisies in European responses to the rise of anti-immigrant populism, aided and abetted, I might add, by what Rancière calls 'racism from above.' A prime example is the way that some of the more opportunist right-wing sympathizers have tried to use Breivik's attacks as device to introduce the reconsideration of "multiculturalism" or immigration, revealing a clear double standard in the ways that domestic right-wing violence and other acts of violence are treated. 

This is what makes certain parts of Zizek's argument so pertinent. He notes that Breivik is antisemitic but pro-Israel, a stance that might seem contradictory, but isn't due to a kind of antisemitic paternalism: "the state of Israel is the first line of defence against the Muslim expansion" (this is similar to the way that some Christian Zionists believe that the state of Israel must exist to fulfill Christian prophecy, but otherwise...). I've emphasized what I take to be the most stinging line in the article regarding this series of hypocrisies:
A key is provided by the reactions of the European right to Breivik's attack: its mantra was that in condemning his murderous act, we should not forget that he addressed "legitimate concerns about genuine problems" – mainstream politics is failing to address the corrosion of Europe by Islamicisation and multiculturalism, or, to quote the Jerusalem Post, we should use the Oslo tragedy "as an opportunity to seriously re-evaluate policies for immigrant integration in Norway and elsewhere". The newspaper has since apologised for this editorial. (Incidentally, we are yet to hear a similar interpretation of the Palestinian acts of terror, something like "these acts of terror should serve as an opportunity to re-evaluate Israeli politics".)
This (the discourse that Zizek is criticizing) is an entirely self-serving logic: if one attempts to get at the root causes of Palestinian violence, one is apologizing for or sympathizing with it (right, it could never be that one should criticize the ways that one's own way of life is enmeshed in social relations that dominate others...); however, right-wing violence affords the opportunity to discuss "legitimate concerns"--an opportunity to reinforce imperialist or settler-colonialist prejudices.  

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