PREFACE TO THE POSTSCRIPT TO “TEXTE ZUR KUNST”’s ANTI-ANTI-SEMITISM ISSUE
We, the five people responsible for “Anti-Anti-Semitism,” the September issue of Texte zur Kunst, are aware of its contested and controversial nature; even the foreword makes clear that this is not least an argument among ourselves. But in light of the strong reactions the issue has provoked, including from our own comrades and colleagues – primarily regarding the contributions relating to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement – we want to represent this debate here in the coming weeks, in the form of a statement by a group of members of the advisory board in addition to further critical and constructive responses.
No issue of our Texte zur Kunst is ever intended to constitute the last word on a subject; much rather, it should serve as the starting point for further discussions, which should in our view be made transparent. While taking into account the formation of discourse and judgement, the journal has, since its founding, also repeatedly been faced with criticism from within.
It is first necessary to formulate the basic concept behind our September issue more precisely: it seeks to pursue the specifics of anti-Semitism in its current right- and left-wing expressions, both with reference to and independently of racism’s cultural and aesthetic manifestations. Even if the dispute with BDS is foregrounded on this occasion, this is not meant to suggest that BDS is a monolithic movement that is anti-Semitic in all of its (often justified) demands and should therefore itself be boycotted. Rather, the object of the analyses is the movement’s rhetoric, which is in our eyes (and not only ours) at times problematic, for example the way in which Israel is declared an example of “colonial evil.” Not least, we examine the question of why this movement has found such resonance worldwide in left contexts, in comparison to other global human rights movements.
Nor does the issue in any way bring into question the significance of postcolonial studies; on the contrary, it points to its achievements and significance, with a view to contemporary debates around restitution and the challenge of decolonization within art education, for example, and with reference to artistic concepts of collective memory. Some texts raise objections to the previously observed tendency for anti-Semitism to be subsumed into concepts of racism that in our view fail to recognize the ideological specificity of anti-Semitic discrimination. But the issue also analyzes anti-Semitism with regard to the misogynist connotations pertaining to discrimination against Jewish people, and to anti-Jewish tendencies within recent intellectual history, while presenting a non-identarian perspective on Jewish art and culture that instead makes recourse to multiperspectival and intersectional concepts. As laid out in the preface, it calls for a revision of our own theoretical premises and the blind spots that can appear within these.
To clear up any misunderstandings that may have arose, we would here like to once again emphasize that we reject the right-wing authoritarian politics of Benjamin Netanyahu, including Israel’s policies in the occupied territories, which breach human rights, and its discriminatory treatment of the country’s Palestinian Arab population. We also criticize the instrumentalization of the Shoah, as sometimes practiced by Israel’s nationalist Right. Saul Friedländer recently described a double bind with which he sees his himself confronted in his work as a historian: while on the one hand he wants to see the memory of the Shoah maintained at all costs, he also rejects the way in which Netanyahu’s politics exploits this memory. With this, he aptly identifies one of the aporias with which we, too – although in a different situation to Friedländer – have been and continue to be confronted with when thinking about anti-Semitism and its criticism.
The focus of our September issue is on the historical and contemporary situation of a virulent anti-Semitism that should be examined from a German perspective, but by no means only in view of its German specificities. This led us to the question of which perspective to take in reflecting upon Jewish artistic and cultural practices, which in turn sparked an internal debate over a possible lack of inclusivity. We greatly regret not having given space over to this disagreement within the issue itself, and we hope to give more space over to it and reactions to the issue with this postscript. Criticism came from outside but also from within our own ranks – an internal debate that we document here in the form of a statement by some members of the advisory board. This represents a joint decision on the part of the editors, guest editors, and part of the advisory board.
With this “postscript,” our aim is to offer a forum for critical-rejective readings of this “Anti-Anti-Semitism” issue, as well as to those which are positive or ambivalent. We reserve the right not to publish personal attacks on individual authors or attempts to publicly defame their work and competence.
Translation: Ben Caton