Short commentary on Alain Badiou: “On the uses of the word ‘Jew’ “.
Alain Badiou proposes a “global” or “reboot” solution for the Middle East conflict. The living, enjoying body is not included in this perspective.
I will say, firstly, that I feel deeply touched by Badiou’s statements and conclusions regarding the abolition of identity predicates, among them, as he writes, “Jew” and “French” as means of establishing national and political boundaries, because they are prone to not desirable consequences. I thank him personally. I also agree. It is surely desirable to reach this advanced phase. I’m also afraid it is too advanced in the present moment, and for a species with a body, an enjoying body, to live with.
It is a fact—a discourse fact, a “hystory fact”-- that the state of Israel, founded in 1948, if it is supposed to be the consequence of Zionism as political ideology and movement, undoubtedly was a de facto consequence of what I shall call, yes, the Shoah—because that is the name most convenient subjectively for survivors, if we believe some testimonies—and there is no reason not to believe them. Survivors feel, in my experience, less persecuted when they use “Shoah”--. Survivors lost their entire families by the industrial massacre orchestrated by the Nazis, with the inestimable, precious help of European democracies and governments. Without the precious European help, it is perhaps difficult to imagine such perfection in economy, means, timing, transports, information, data recollection, statistics, etc. etc.
Those economies and democratic states are very civilized nations today, that after great and moving efforts of many years have reached an agreement to slowly form an entity, political and economical, called in the meantime the EU, that puts aside as a sort of temporary “semblant”, some of the many national characteristics of the people living there, as Badiou says, in Europe. But they still live and call themselves with generic names, attributive suppositions of identity.
It is also undoubtedly a great achievement for the United Nations to have reached to the conclusion that helped to create the state of Israel, a home for those bearing the danger of believing too intensely to have something to do with the “Jew predicate”. It alleviated many more continued forms of persecution for these people. If you strongly believe you “are” something “called X”, and you are persecuted by people who coincide with your identity delusion… Well, it is rather urgent for you to find a place where you may feel that this “identity predicate” has some chances of being included in discourse, kept away from persecution, to give you some time to bear your own definition of it, to reach a sort of a pact with it, etc. You will need time, and a place to live.
It is also a sort of paradox that it is asked—as Badiou does-- precisely from Israel, as a state, to “cross the fantasy” of collective predicate-- to cross it collectively. It sounds as if Badiou is asking Israel “to be the light to Nations” once more. To achieve as a community precisely what so many nations only touch as a very far “semblant” (make-believe).
This is a paradox, a “Badiou’s paradox”, that is somewhat analogous to Burali-Forte paradox. “All sets which have P property”. In the set called “Israel”, let’s call “Israelis” to all those who are there”. But I will not enter this point by now.
There are many courageous people in Israel—Badiou dixit—who are already ready for this solution proposed by him, at least in declaration. This sort of change, however, takes more than exhortations or desires. It takes the one-by-one crossing of the “identity attributions”. “Identity attributions” as a problem include the body, the living body of each one.
To reach the point where we agree to separate from some attribution of identity, (a signifier of the Other, a S1 as Lacan writes it) we need to do it with some distance from the attribution of the Other who, starting to say you are effectively “X”, you must depart from “the territory for X”, or perhaps to turn “the territory for X”, into “the territory for X, Y, and Z”, and so to help solve “a problem”” that your “erroneous” solution of identity has somehow fixated in a way incompatible to enlightened Europeans/Americans. I use the plural. It is not known what sort of plural is this. We are in a complete imaginary field. Testimonies are one by one.
The problem with Badiou’s solution (a “global” or “reboot the system” solution)
The problem with Badiou’s proposed solution for the Middle East conflict is built-in the solution itself. The solution is a sort of generalized proposal: “You should undo the collective identification that defines you as “Jewish state”, and then proceed to define the new situation as ‘Israeli is who is situated here’”.
This is a sort of “reboot the system” proposal. The only problem with this global solution is that the identification of “Jews” as “ Israelis” was made necessary and urgent by the fact of the Shoah, which in turn was a “final solution” of the Nazis for the “Jewish problem”. It became evident that the Nazis caught even those enlightened ones for the only reason they had ancestors who called themselves “Jew”. Then they reduced their bodies to ashes or soap. Now Badiou asks for the undoing of the state as a “Jewish state”. May I remind, by the way, here that the title of Hertzl’s seminal book is “Judenstaat” (“A state for/of the Jewish”).
Spinoza refused to accept the idea of “the chosen people”, except for: (PTT, Ch 3)
Lastly, if any one wishes to maintain that the Jews, from this or from any other cause, have been chosen by God for ever, I will not gainsay him if he will admit that this choice, whether temporary or eternal, has no regard, in so far as it is peculiar to the Jews, to aught but dominion and physical advantages [imperium et corporis commoditates](for by such alone can one nation be distinguished from another), whereas in regard to intellect and true virtue, every nation is on a par with the rest, and God has not in these respects chosen one people rather than another.
But Spinoza is inimitable. He separated himself from “the chosen” position by his singular invention—as Borges writes in a poem, Spinoza created God. From there he could examine what is the function of “chosen” positions. This is something that only can be made-through “one by one”.
This is partially the reason for which Lacan preferred Kant to Spinoza. Kant includes Shylock. Shylock is an “anti-reboot” character. Spinoza, with all its lovable beauty, rejects the body, even if he writes “imperium et corporis commoditates”.
After a subject arrives to a little separation from “the Other’s attribution”, he still may decide to continue using this “attribution”. I don’t see (neither I believe) how it is only by “force of the Other” that the use of “Jew” exists as such.
This distance, we need a name for it. Perhaps is more precisely a sort of “moment to understand”. Perhaps it is “subjective time”. It took Freud many years to reach his “Acropolis conclusion” that put him a little step forward from one particular use—Freud’s use-- of the “name of the father”. Is there a chance of a collective pluralisation , something like “the names of the Father” as a basis for a new collective discourse?
Israel is “archaic” as a state in the same sense that to “have a body” today is “archaic”.
Finally, in these times where the best 50 internet sites of the World as “chosen” by “Time inc” are sites where you may have the sensation that nothing is lacking there, that “everything is there” and it is a sort of surfing experiment in anxiety, may I say that I read Badiou’s sentence about the state of Israel as “archaic” in this sense: to attach such an importance of a state and the definition of its citizens— among other, circumcised in general – is archaic in the same sense as today it is more and more difficult to say you have a body.