Judith Butler and the Crime of Academic Inverse Liberalism
In September philosopher Prof. Judith Butler is slated to receive the prestigious Adorno prize awarded by the City of Frankfurt, Germany every three years, for excellence in philosophy, music, film, and theater.
The decision has attracted intense criticism from Israel’s top diplomat in Germany, and Jewish groups from across the political spectrum, as Butler has expressed positions relating to Israel which are morally perverse at best and could feasibly be interpreted as bigoted.
The comments deemed most offensive, were made at a 2006 teach-in at UC Berkeley. Addressing a question about the relationship between ‘The Left’ and terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah, she responded, “I think, yes, understanding Hamas/Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive that are on the left; that are part of a global left is extremely important.”
Following the recent criticism voiced, Butler penned a column defending her statements. After a long introduction explaining her personal understanding of Judaism, she writes; “My remarks on Hamas and Hezbollah have been taken out of context and badly distort my established and continuing views.”
She continues, “I was asked by a member of an academic audience a few years ago whether I thought Hamas and Hezbollah belonged to “the global left” and I replied with two points. My first point was merely descriptive: those political organizations define themselves as anti-imperialist, and anti-imperialism is one characteristic of the global left, so on that basis one could describe them as part of the global left.”
It is clear to the observer upon reading her precise statement and watching the video of it, as pointed out by others, that in fact her point was by no means descriptive but strongly prescriptive.
But what is further troublesome, and equally worthy of consideration by those responsible for highlighting her personality by presenting her with the award, are the comments she wrote in her own defense.
She admits that the claims of Hezbollah and Hamas in “define(ing) themselves as anti-imperialist” are basis enough for her to describe them as part of the global left.
In doing so, she has starkly debased her own academic integrity, as the reality of these organizations couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, in deed, action and mantra, Hamas and Hezbollah represent the embodiment of imperialist behavior. Hezbollah militarily occupies large swathes of Southern Lebanon, as a well-documented proxy of a foreign power, Iran. Hamas occupies Gaza which it seized in a military coup, and exercises totalitarian control over its inhabitants.
Both organizations are constitutionally mandated to extend their imperialist ambitions over the neighboring sovereign state of Israel.
Butler has done away with all semblance of critical thought and swallowed the words of an internationally recognized terror group’s parroting apparatchiks as fact. There is not a shred of evidence to support their ‘anti-imperialist’ claim and her support of it.
It is sad that her positions are by no means unique in academic circles, but the prominence of the award provides an opportunity for the moral community to highlight and protest the spreading of her particular brand of what one might simply refer to as ‘Inverse Liberalism.’