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Slavoj Zizek's ‘trouble with Jews’ may be a poor choice of words – but are you allowed to criticize Israel in UK media anymore?

Slavoj Zizek's ‘trouble with Jews’ may be a poor choice of words – but are you allowed to criticize Israel in UK media anymore?
World-renowned philosopher Slavoj Zizek has emerged as the latest high-profile target in the fight against perceived anti-Semitism in the UK, for a moment there moving aside the usual suspect, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

In a recent article for the Independent, Zizek criticized Israel for its aggressive settlement policies in the occupied West Bank, and argued that such criticism of Israeli policies does not make someone an anti-Semite.

Within the text, the philosopher used a very inconsiderate turn of phrase – “the trouble with Jews.” Immediately, a crowd of outraged commenters rose up, and fully proving Zizek's point, the paper removed the offending phrase and replaced it with “the trouble with the settlement project.”

Zizek himself admits it was a poor choice of words, but when he asked the Independent to run a follow-up explanation, the paper refused – and RT is the only outlet that gave Zizek the floor.

“I was wrong, I committed an unpardonable mistake in using the phrase ‘the trouble with Jews’... which effectively can be understood as implying that some ‘trouble’ pertains to the very identity of being a Jew.”

Such a reading “runs against the basic premise of my text which is that the proponents of full annexation of the West Bank are betraying the emancipatory core of the Jewish tradition itself,” the philosopher says in the explanation piece.

Also on rt.com Slavoj Zizek: The trouble is not with the Jews, but with my accusers

The words were taken out of context, he says. In the original, they followed a reference to French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, who said modern Jews had chosen “the path of rooting” – and “the Jews” Zizek refers to are those trying to “root” on occupied land.

“The trouble with Jews today is that they are now trying to get roots in a place which was for thousands of years inhabited by other people,” he wrote in the original piece.

Zizek believes it's part of a wider campaign against left-wing politicians and intellectuals to equate any criticism of Israel, as a state, to anti-Semitism: “The anti-Leftist campaign goes on and on – an Israeli-based group uses Facebook to spread disinformation to more than a million followers around the world, singling out Muslim US congresswomen, Jeremy Corbyn was just rated Top Anti-Semite of 2019 by [the] Simon Wiesenthal Center (ahead of actual terrorists), and even Bernie Sanders is now added to the list of anti-Semites.”

Refusing to give Zizek the right to respond to his critics, the Independent cited election coverage crunch and how the debate would be a “tricky space” to wade into. Far from letting Zizek run a follow-up piece, the philosopher was even barred from posting a retort to the many “brutal attacks” he says were launched against him in the paper's comment section.

Spearheading the outrage against Zizek and his piece was Honest Reporting – an organization that, characteristically, conflates anti-Semitism and dislike of Israeli policies, and routinely criticizes media outlets for failing to adhere to the Israeli government narrative on settlements, the status of Jerusalem, Palestinians and other points.

You can read the full text of Zizek's response published by RT.COM here.

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