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How Alain Badiou, a Mao-trivial philosopher, and his friend, the calamitous Cécile Winter, deal with Israel-Palestine

vendredi 10 avril 2020

In « Circonstances III. Portées du mot “juif” » (1) Alain Badiou wrote : « If we want to solve the problem of the infinite war in the Middle East, we will be obliged to forget the Holocaust – and I know this is a difficult thing. » If one reads the explanation that follows this foolishly provocative sentence, one realizes that the philosopher’s thought (at least in Circonstances III) is more nuanced than what Eric Marty asserts in his violent ideological attack (2).

A few lines later, Badiou moderates his statement made in an interview published in Haaretz on 27 May 2005 : for him, it’s not the Europeans but the Israelis and Palestinians who must « forget the Holocaust » if they want to succeed in creating a united and democratic Palestine. Moreover, in other texts of the same book, Badiou takes a clear stand against any form of Holocaust denial (or even « revisionism » – the code word for Holocaust denial) regarding the gas chambers, and he thinks Europeans should remember the « destruction of European Jews » – an expression he prefers to « Holocaust ».

According to Badiou and his idol, President Mao, one can find a right, a left and a centre everywhere, except in the deserts ; therefore one can also observe this configuration in the Palestine « solidarity movement ». Let’s admit this explanation which is rather simplistic, but quite adequate to crude Maoist « logic ». However, Badiou forgets to mention an essential fact (after all, he is a philosopher, and one expects him to offer us something more sophisticated than a collection of trivialities) : the « left » of this « solidarity movement » does not live in Israel-Palestine, but in Europe, in the United States, in Latin America, in Asia, in Africa, or in the neighboring Arab-Muslim countries.

Europeans and Americans have no interest in forgetting the Judeocide – even if left-wing anti-Zionists do that every day, and have been doing that for a long time. (They are not even able today to recognize an antisemite when they meet one, as shown by their attitude towards the stand-up comedian Dieudonné, the Sheikh Yassin Collective or the Indigènes de la République (3)).

As for Latin Americans, given the impressive number of former Nazis welcomed by their governments after 1945 and given the antisemitic influence of the Catholic Church (or, more recently, of the fundamentalist Protestant Churches) in the religious education of Latin American masses, it would be also very useful for them to remember the Christian origins of Nazi anti-Semitism and its political consequence : the Judeocide.

As far as the Arab-Muslim countries are concerned (the members of the Organization for the Islamic Conference) they should not forget fourteen centuries of dhimmitude (cf. my article in French « Geopolitics of Islam and Jewish dhimmis » ? article907), anti-Jewish persecutions and especially the expulsion of the Jews after 1948. In these countries no one evokes this Jewish « Naqba », except those who think, like Western leftist conspiracy believers, that Mossad bombs in the synagogues pushed 900,000 Jews to flee their native countries, even though they had been living in the Middle East and North Africa for centuries and had endured a lot of pogroms, state racketeering, etc.

The above quoted interview with Badiou, like the collection of articles or excerpts of texts included in Convergences III, does not bring anything essential to the knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Admittedly, one can deplore that this book contains some silly anti-Zionist clichés like : – Hitler’s first idea was to « deport the Jews out of Europe » to send them to Madagascar. Badiou has obviously not read Mein Kampf and ignores the deep roots of the German nationalist/racist currents (the völkisch movements), prior to the Nazis, before and after the first world war). The French website gathers dozens of quotes that show Hitler’s willingness to exterminate the Jews well before 1942 : . – Israel is an « anti-Semitic country » (a convenient explanation presented by « anti-Zionists » who want to condemn antisemitism only in... Israel !) ; – the Palestinians are the « Jews of the Arab world » (Badiou reveals here his ignorance of 1,400 years of Jewish history in the Near and Middle East and in North Africa).

But, let’s be honest, these reservations made, Badiou’s political conclusions can be reduced to five very simple and good points : 1. Any state is a machine of oppression. 2. Any state founded on a religion, an ethnical group, a « race », a myth, etc., is (or will become) a machine of oppression. 3. Those who work in a country have the right to live there (« He/She who is here is from here »), regardless of their origins. 4. Nazism can’t be reduced to antisemitism and is part of a global political project that we must try to understand and explain. 5. Jews and Palestinians have an exceptional historical opportunity to create a common, unique, universalist state, if they abandon, or rather set aside, their religious, cultural, ethnic, mythological, etc., particularisms.

The perspective thus traced by Badiou is correct but completely trivial for those who have known Marxist positions (or even anarchist positions on the first four points) for decades. It’s up to the Israeli and Palestinian people to decide whether they want to live together in one universalist, multicultural, multi-religious state (a world first) or separated in two hostile nationalist states (an oxymoron).

In any case, it’s certainly not up to (left- or right-wing) anti-Zionists) of all countries to decide the future of Israelis and Palestinians by supporting the PLO, the PFLP, the Islamic Jihad or Hamas. And the anti-Zionists who compare the « Zionists » (i.e. the Israelis) to the Nazis, or the leftists who support political Islam (antisemitic or not), in Europe or in the Middle East, should not be given the slightest credit for finding a political solution.

In this sense, Alain Badiou singularly lacks political lucidity, as shown by the discussion between him and Georges Bensoussan which is currently taking place in the columns of the daily newspaper Libération.

But it’s rather his ally, Mrs. Winter, who is targeted by Bensoussan precisely because of a particularly disgusting text signed by her and included at the end of Badiou’s Circonstances III : « Master-signifier of the new Aryans ».

If the reader does not immediately understand what this mysterious « master-signifier (4) » means, he (or she) grasps from the first lines who the « new Aryans » are. They are « obviously » the Israelis, and therefore also the new Nazis. You can find the same idea in the book of the holocaust-denier Roger Garaudy (5), The Founding Myths of Modern Israel, a best-seller in the Arab-Muslim world, when he criticizes the book of a Jewish theologian in these terms : « Such remarks annoyingly evoke the ’Aryan myth’ whose ideology founded Pangermanism and Hitlerism. »)

So Mrs. Winter’s article already stinks as soon as we start to read it. In her text, Mrs. Winter indulges in a rapid rewriting of Jewish and world history (20 pages), similar to what can be found in the texts of Bardèche, Rassinier, Faurisson and Garaudy or their German or American friends (Zundel, Irving, Carto, Duke, etc.) ; according to Mrs. Winter, all the Zionists supposedly applauded to the good deal offered by the prospect of the judeocide, because they were conscious, as early as 1942, that after the war they would get both the « heritage » (sic) of the judeocide and the « interests » (sic) of the Holocaust. American Zionist leaders did not take their responsibilities, did not know what to do, and did not want to push Roosevelt and the Allies to intervene, etc. Curiously, Mrs. Winter does not say a word about the attitude of the USSR, which had more than 4.2 million soldiers and was geographically a little closer to Poland and Germany than the United States.... But shhh, when you’re « anti-Zionist », you have to protect (even posthumously) Stalin and his regime, which of course were very concerned about the fate of the Jews, as everyone knows ...

The retrospective, sweeping judgments of Mrs. Winter and her manipulated quotes only feed the mill of holocaust deniers and (left- or right-wing) antisemites. The convergences between them and her are obvious on four points : 1. after all, Hitler (dixit Badiou) did not want to exterminate the Jews (so let’s erase the genocidal dimension of Nazism, even if it was clearly expressed before 1939) ; 2. it’s above all the fault of Western democracies and Palestine Zionists if the Jews were exterminated (the Nazis’ responsibility thus becomes secondary, or even conveniently disappears) ; 3. today Israeli governments finally continue the same policy as the « Zionists » before 1948 : Hitler’s former « Zionist » allies continue the Nazi policy ; 4. Israeli governments are fuelling antisemitism in order to be materially and morally supported by the West (so one can turn a blind eye to left-wing antisemitism and its political function, especially in France).

The alliance between Badiou (a Mao-trivial philosopher but nevertheless not a Holocaust denier thanks to the last vestiges of his left antifascist culture) and Mrs Winter who flirts with the Holocaust deniers’ argumentation illustrates the limits and aberrations of current anti-Zionism.

Just about everywhere in Europe, young people who are rightly outraged by Israeli war crimes are unaware of the danger of demonstrating alongside antisemites of all kinds. Although the existence of such alliances is denied by Badiou and Winter, they are supported in fact by Mrs Winter’s odious arguments. And these arguments can only encourage young people to continue on a path that is a dead-end for everyone, both in Europe and in Israel-Palestine.

Y.C., Ni patrie ni frontières, 19 August 2014


1. Lignes, 2005, p. 98.

2. Cités n° 57, 2014 : « Shoah, généalogie d’un nom, histoire d’une négation », pp. 141-158.

3. See the part about the Indigènes de la République and antisemitism in « Antiracism and class struggle in France : dialogue around the PIR (Parti des Indigènes de la République) »

4. If you are puzzled by this expression, here is the definition I found in an « encyclopedia of Lacanian psychonanalysis » on line : « A Lacanian concept derived from Saussurean structural linguistics. In structural linguistics, language is a system in which there are no positive terms, only differences. This means that language only refers to language ; that words are only distinct because they are not other words. Imagine looking for a definition of a word in a dictionary. When one finds the definition it consists of only other words. This endless chain of signifiers is halted by the master-signifier. The master-signifier is a signifier that points to itself instead of other signifiers. Žižek refers to Marx’s conception of commodity fetishism as an example of a master-signifier. »

5. Roger Garaudy (1913-2012) : Communist MP and official « philosopher » of the Stalinist Party, member of the CP from 1933 to 1970, , he was expelled from the CP in 1970, became a regionalist-ecologist, then a Muslim in 1982 and finally a militant antisemite associated with holocaust deniers and the Iran regime.

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