Middle East studies in the News
Anti-Semitism Wasn't Getting Anywhere Until the Jews Got Behind It [on UCLA's Gabriel Piterberg]
by Joseph Bottum
"Anti-Semitism wasn't getting anywhere until the Jews got behind it," Paul Johnson quotes a nineteenth-century Viennese joke in his History of the Jews. New Left Review's December issue is life imitating humor, in which one Jew makes an anti-Zionist prophet out of another Jew with a scandalous ambivalence towards Nazism.
UCLA Professor Gabriel Piterberg, hailing Hannah Arendt as "Zion's Rebel Daughter," reviews the recent Arendt collection, The Jewish Writings. Nowhere does Piterberg mention Arendt's youthful love affair and lifelong apologies for the philosopher Martin Heidegger, who, while rector of the University of Freiburg during the 1930s, fervently supported Hitler, and who never repudiated Nazism.
Piterberg writes that Arendt's
Although sympathetic to Zionism in her youth, Arendt turned hostile to the Zionist movement during the 1940s, as Piterberg reports:
Her alternative? As Piterberg approvingly notes, Arendt suggested employing the nationalities policy of the Soviet Union. "The Russian Revolution," she wrote, "found an entirely new and—as far as we can see today—an entirely just way to deal with nationality or minorities." Otherwise, Arendt suggested, "Palestine could form part of a Mediterranean federation, including Italy, France and Spain and their North African extensions, and eventually other European countries and the rest of the Near East, bringing the Arabs into union with the Europeans."
The "Mediterranean federation" idea was a fantasy, but conceivably the Jews might have been absorbed into the Soviet Union, although Piterberg does not indicate what they would have done once the Soviet Union collapsed. In 1944, she railed against Zionist hopes for American support:
Commentary magazine rejected the essay because "it smacked of anti-Semitism," Piterberg allows.
Arendt's relationship to Heidegger has been the subject of several books and considerable controversy in recent years. The facts are indisputable that Heidegger to his death refused to repudiate Nazism, and that Arendt to her death defended Heidegger. Whatever her motives, these circumstances make Arendt a curious choice for a Jewish authority on the subject of Zionism. But that is no more curious than Piterberg himself, who believes that Israel's War of Independence was an exercise in ethnic cleansing. According to the website www.uclaprofs.com, Piterberg has campaigned for divestment in Israel and equated Israeli pilots with suicide bombers. Heidegger, at least, would have been pleased.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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