On the Death of Siegfried Lenz ? ?You have to justify your life?

Siegfried Lenz, one of the great writers of German post-war literature is dead. He died on 7 October 2014, surrounded by his family. He was 88 years old.... more more

GoetheInstitute

10/08/2006

The Jerusalem syndrome

Andre Glucksmann on reactions to the war in Lebanon: From surrealistic geopolitics to apocalyptic delusion.

The outrage of so many outraged people outrages me. On the scales of world opinion, some Muslim corpses are light as a feather, and others weigh tonnes. Two measures, two weights. The daily terrorist attacks on civilians in Baghdad, killing 50 people or more, are checked off in reports under the heading of miscellaneous, while the bomb that took 28 lives in Qana is denounced as a crime against humanity. Only a few intellectuals like Bernard-Henri Lévy or Magdi Allam, chief editor of the Corriere della Sera, find this surprising. Why do the 200,000 slaughtered Muslims of Darfur not arouse even half a quarter of the fury caused by 200-times fewer dead in Lebanon? Must we deduce that Muslims killed by other Muslims don't count - whether in the eyes of Muslim authorities or viewed through the bad conscience of the west? This conclusion has its weak spots, because if the Russian Army - Christian, and blessed by their popes - razes the capital of Chechnian Muslims (Grosny, with 400,000 residents) killing tens of thousands of children in the process, this doesn't count either. The Security Council does not hold meeting after meeting, and the Organization of Islamic States piously averts its eyes. From that we may conclude that the world is appalled only when a Muslim is killed by Israelis.

Should we thus presume that the public at large implicitly endorses the ideas that Ahmadinedjad shouts at the top of his lungs? And yet so many of those sceptics who display consternation over bombings in Lebanon seem shocked if you suspect them of anti-Semitism. I want to trust them. We don't want to imagine that the entire planet is mired in anti-Jewish paranoia! But then the matter becomes even more puzzling. What is the source of this hemiplegia? Why is the world frightened by Israeli bombs alone?

Perhaps the reason why the deaths in Lebanon are so disproportionately shocking as compared with the starving people of Darfur and the ruins of Chechnya is that they are seen as a surrealistic geopolitical signal. Anyone who follows the news in Gaza or Qana does not simply count the dead on a particularly violent day - rather, the coffins of these victims encircle the aura of a fatal promise - a promise that the hundreds of thousands of corpses from Africa and the Caucasus have no chance of approaching. Haven't legions of experts - for decades now - identified the Mideast conflict as the centre of the world's chaos and the key to its pacification? Is there any diplomat who does not repeat ad nauseum the formula about the gates to a hell of future wars versus the gates to world harmony, all of which open in Jerusalem? A never-changing script haunts 21st century minds. The script maintains that everything is decided on the banks of the Jordan. In its most grim version, that means: As long as four million Israelis and as many Palestinians are facing off against one another, 300 million Arabs and 1.5 billion Muslims are condemned to live in hate, bloody slaughter and desperation. And the rosier version: We just need peace in Jerusalem to put out the fires in Tehran, Karachi, Khartoum and Baghdad and to set the course for universal harmony.

Have our sages gone crazy? Do they really believe that sans Israeli-Palestinian conflict nothing bad would have happened, neither the deadly Khomeini Revolution, nor the bloody Baathist dictatorships in Syria and Iraq, nor the decade of Islamic terrorism in Algeria, nor the Taliban in Afghanistan, nor the angry warriors of God the world over? The sad, reverse hypothesis is seldom posed, but it is actually much more likely: Every truce along the Jordan is fleeting, as long as the palaces and streets, the majority of the intelligentsia and the officials of the Muslim world hang on to their anti-western passion. Globalization (which entails the dismantling of economic barriers but more importantly all social and mental barriers) necessarily leads to tough and terrible defensive reactions. The development of anti-western ideologies in Germany, from Fichte to Hitler, does not depend on the foundation of the Zionist state. The anti-western affect is constantly renewed in Russia, from the tsars to Stalin and on up through Putin. And it would be naive to presume that the Iranian lust for power, in search of its Khomeinistic force de frappe, uses the "Jewish question" as anything more than a pretence for a universal Jihad. Does anyone think that the green subversion, after erasing Israel from the map, will mark its success by laying down its weapons?

A hypocritical geopolitics, which ordains the Mideast as a basic pillar of the world order, has become the religion of the European Union, the belief of the unbelievers and of the doubters of the west. Post-modern thinkers have no justification in proclaiming the end of all ideologies. In fact, we are swimming in an ideological illusion and have secretly exchanged our deceptive hopes for a final battle with a fearful incantation conjuring a catastrophe to end all catastrophes, that is just as absolute. While our head swarms with surrealistic ghosts, our heart perceives, in every photo from Lebanon, the death of humankind. Jerusalem is only the centre of the world because it is considered the centre of the end of the world. Our illusions feed on apocalyptic notions.

And so every Mideast conflict is like a rehearsal for the end of days. Just look at the undefinable war of cultures, if you need convincing. And anyone taking that position is resigned to a self-fulfilling prophecy. The years of bombing of Israeli cities by the rockets of the Party of God become a foretaste of the Iranian godfather's promised destruction. And so, as Clausewitz already noted with irony, it is not the aggressor who starts the war. Instead it is he who steps in to stop the aggression. So Israel is guilty. Guilty of a collectively fomented fantasy of the end of days. From surrealistic geopolitics to delusion - just one step.

*

This article first appeared in Le Figaro on 8 August, 2006.

Andre Glucksmann is a French philosopher and writer.

Translation: Toby Axelrod.

Get the signandsight newsletter for regular updates on feature articles.
signandsight.com - let's talk european.

 
More articles

This kiss for the whole world

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Who actually owns "intellectual property"?  The German media that defend the concept of intellectual property as "real" property are the first to appropriate such rights, and they are using this idea as a defensive weapon. With lawmakers extending copyright laws and new structures emerging on the internet, intellectual property poses a serious challenge to the public domain. A survey of the German media landscape by Thierry Chervel
read more

Suddenly we know we are many

Wednesday 4th January, 2012

Why the Russian youth have tolerated the political situation in their country for so long and why they are no longer tolerant. The poet Natalia Klyuchareva explains the background to the protests on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on December 10th. Image: Leonid Faerberg
read more

The Republic of Europe

Tuesday 20 December, 2011

Thanks to Radoslaw Sikorski's speech in Berlin, Poland has at last joined the big European debate about restructuring the EU in connection with the euro crisis. The "European Reformation" advocated by Germany does not mean that the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation will be established in Europe, but instead – let us hope – the Republic of Europe. By Adam Krzeminski
read more

Brown is not red

Tuesday 13 December, 2011

TeaserPicFilmmaker and theatre director Andres Veiel disagrees with the parallels currently being drawn between left-wing and right-wing violence in Germany. The RAF is the wrong model for the Zwickau neo-Nazi group, the so-called "Brown Army Faction" responsible for a series of murders of Turkish small business owners. Unlike the RAF, this group never publicly claimed responsibility for their crimes. Veiel is emphatic - you have to look at the biographies of the perpetrators. An interview with Heike Karen Runge.
read more

Legacy of denial

Tuesday 29 November, 2011

TeaserPicGermany has been rocked by the disclosures surrounding the series of neo-Nazi murders of Turkish citizens. In the wake of these events, Former GDR dissident Freya Klier calls for an honest look at the xenophobia cultivated by the policies of the former East Germany, where the core of the so-called "Brown Army Faction" was based. And demands that East Germans finally confront a long-denied past. (Photo: © Nadja Klier)
read more

Nausea in Paris

Monday 14 November, 2011

TeaserPicIn response to the arson attack on the offices of the Parisian satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on November 2, Danish critic and semiotician Frederik Stjernfelt is nauseated by the opinions voiced against the publication, especially in the British and American media. Why don't they see that Islamism is right-wing extremism?
read more

Just one pyramid

Monday 10 October, 2011

Activist and author, Andri Snaer Magnason is among the Icelandic guests of honor at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. His book and film "Dreamland" is both an ecological call to action and a polemic. "The politicians took one of the most beautiful parts of Iceland and offered it to unscrupulous companies," says the author in a critique of his native country. By Daniela Zinser
read more

Dark side of the light

Monday 3 October 2011

In their book "Lügendes Licht" (lying light) Thomas Worm and Claudia Karstedt explore the darker side of the EU ban on incandescent bulbs. From disposal issues to energy efficiency, the low-energy bulb is not necessarily a beacon of a greener future. By Brigitte Werneburg
read more

Lubricious puritanism

Tuesday 30 August, 2011

The malice of the American media in the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a symptom of sexual uptightness that borders on the sinister, and the feminists have joined forces with the religious Right to see it through. We can learn much from America, but not when it comes to the art of love. By Pascal Bruckner
read more

Much ado about Sarrazin

Monday 22 August 2011

Published a year ago, the controversial book "Deutschland schafft sich ab" (Germany is doing away with itself) by former banker and Berlin Finance Senator Thilo Sarrazin sparked intense discussion. Hamed Abdel-Samad asks: what has the Sarrazin debate achieved beyond polarisation and insult? And how can Germany avoid cultivating its own classes of "future foreigners"?
read more

Economic giant, political dwarf

Wednesday 3 August, 2011

Germany's growing imbalance between economic and political competence is worsening the European crisis and indeed the crisis of Nato. The country has ceased to make any political signals at all and demonstrates a conspicuous lack of responsibility for what takes place beyond its own borders. This smug isolationism is linked to strains of old anti-Western and anti-political, anti-parliamentarian sentiment that is pure provincialism. By Karl Heinz Bohrer
read more

Sound and fury

Monday 11 April 2011

Budapest is shimmering with culture but Hungary's nationalist government is throwing its weight about in cultural life, effecting censorship through budget cuts and putting its own people in the top-level cultural positions. Government tolerance of hate campaigns against Jews and gays has provoked the likes of Andras Schiff, Agnes Heller, Bela Tarr and Andre Fischer to raise their voices in defence of basic human rights. But a lot of people are simply scared. By Volker Hagedorn
read more

The self-determination delusion

Monday 28 March, 2011

TeaserPicA Dutch action group for free will wants to give all people the right to assisted suicide. But can this be achieved without us ending up somewhere we never wanted to go? Gerbert van Loenen has grave doubts.
read more

Revolution without guarantee

Monday 21 February, 2011

Saying revolution and freedom is not the same as saying democracy, respect for minorities, equal rights and good relations with neighbouring nations. All this has yet to be achieved. We welcome the Arab revolution and will continue to watch with our eyes open to the potential dangers. By Andre Glucksmann
read more

Pascal Bruckner and the reality disconnect

Friday 14 January, 2011

The French writer Pascal Bruckner wants to forbid a word. Which sounds more like a typically German obsession. But for Bruckner, "Islamophobia" is one of "those expressions which we dearly need to banish from our vocabulary". One asks oneself with some trepidation which other words we "dearly need" to get rid of: Right-wing populism? Racism? Relativism? By Alan Posener
read more