Anti-Democratic Israel Jewish Nationality Law

Declaration of Independence

This image posted by Tzipi Livni on Facebook shows in a visual way the damage that the proposed Jewish nationality law does to the fabric of the country’s political culture. The text is from Israel’s Declaration of Independence. All reference in the Declaration to of universal principles have been, as if, struck out, violently in red ink, by the proposed Basic Law. These universal principles are the very principles upon which Israel has always prided itself as “the only democracy in the Middle East.” There is no place in the proposed Basic Law for “the good of all [the country’s] residents,” “freedom, justice, and peace according to the vision of the prophets of Israel,” “complete equality of rights for all citizens irrespective of religion, race, and gender,” “freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture.”

“Everyone” is against the proposed Basic Law. That would be a significant part of the governing coalition, including the Justice Minister, probably close to half of the Knesset, the President of the country, its current Attorney General and previous Attorney Generals, blue-chip Revisionists like Reuben Rivlin, the current President of the country, and Moshe Arens, an ex-Minister of Defense. This is not to mention the Arab and Haredi parties. Abe Foxman weighing in against the law suggests that even many mainstream American Jews are deeply ambivalent, if not outright opposed to the proposed legislation. The fact that the vote for Wednesday has been postponed might indicate that the bill is already in trouble. The only thing democratic about the proposed Basic Law is the broad opposition it has solicited.

What then do we learn from this developing story about Israel or about the tension between Jewishness and democracy? Maybe it’s that politicians cannot legislate the Jewish-state idea without causing fundamental damage to the democratic principles upon which that concept depends. As a distinctly modern political formation, the Zionist idea is based on universal human values. The hierarchical approach in the proposed Basic Law with Jewishness trumping democracy is not viable. It would violate the basic tension that has defined Israel heretofore as a democratic country with a Jewish national majority. Even in a such Jewish majority state, Jewishness becomes more and more a private matter. Attempts to give the idea determinate form by settling tensions basic to the political and cultural life of the country through legislation idea only serve to undercut it.

What the Basic Law would do would be to link citizenship to nationality in ways that contradict the very principles upon which Israel was founded as a democracy, no matter how imperfectly realized. Consider for example this piece here from today’s Ynet about ideas being suggested in the government coalition as to using citizenship as a police tool with which to combat terrorism and support for terrorism, as well as combating expressions of Palestinian nationalism among Israeli Palestinians. It would comport with the Jewish nationality law even as it flies in the face of accepted norms of democratic governance according to which citizenship is inalienable bedrock.

More and more, the government of Israel insists on turning the country into something that many of us will not be able to “recognize,” not as “democratic,” and not as “Jewish.” I’m pasting below in italics [the] details about ideas concerning the anti-terrorism legislation. It’s hard to see how they could have a rightful place in a democratic polity, no matter how constituted:

Israeli Arabs caught engaging or cooperating with terror will automatically lose their citizenship – or Palestinian Authority residency, in the case of Palestinians.

After completing their prison term, terrorists will be deported from Israel.

Those killed during their attempt to conduct a terror attack will not receive a funeral.

The body of terrorists will not be transferred to their families, and will be buried in an unknown location, without ceremony and without future access for their families

Terrorists’ houses will be destroyed within 24-hours of the attack

Masked stone throwers and those inciting for terror and violence participating in illegal protests in which firebombs or fireworks were thrown will be arrested and held in remand until the completion of legal procedures against them. The same measures will be taken against those who waved an ‘enemy flag’ during the protests, including the Palestinian flag. Anyone convicted at the end of their remand will lose their social welfare benefits and driving license for a 10 year period. 

Families of terrorists will lose their citizenship and will be deported to Gaza should they express support for their relative’s deed. Support, according to the bill, can be expressed through public or social media.

The bill also includes a clause that would close businesses and printing presses that print posters that support terror or terrorists. 

 

 

 

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God Would Have To Have A Body (Edmund Husserl) (Ideas II)

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Part one of Husserl’s Ideas II is given over to the phenomenological “constitution of material nature.” Of all places, it’s here that Husserl speculates about God and spirits as embodied, about the objectivity of a world saturated by subjectivity (95, 90). In this speculative exercise, slightly tongue in cheek, Husserl toys with the notion that this could include God and spirits entering into the world as possible appearances in consciousness (91). The key words to what I would call “phenomenological theology,” as it were, are “possibility,” “appearance,” “seeing,” “things,” “mutual understanding,” “the other,” “body.”

Of course, God enjoys no ontological status in these speculations. Why not and why should one demand otherwise, either from Husserl or from philosophy in general? In a section devoted to “More precise characteristics of the physicalist thing,” Husserl insists that we cannot attribute actuality to any appearing thing in and of itself. It’s “out of the question” since the appearance of sense qualities is unstable, depending on the disposition of the sense organ.

But what about God, Husserl begins to speculate, what about the way in which things might appear to God? (What follows below are taken from pp.90-1).

[1] “Shall we say that God sees things as they are in tthelselves, whole we see thjem thorigh poour sense organ, which are a kind of distorting eyeglasses?”

[2] “But should the things which appear to us be the same as the things which appear to God as they appear to God, then a unity of mutual understanding would have to be possible between God and us, just as, between different men, only through mutual understanding is there the possibility of knowing that the things seen by the one are the same as those seen by the other.”

[3] But how would the identification be thinkable if not in the sense that the supposed absolute spirit see the things precisely also through sensuous appearances, which, likewise, have to be exchangeable in an understanding that is reciprocal…as is the case with appearances we sshare among us men?”

The CONCLUSION, drawn by Husserl: “Obviously, the absolute spirit would have to have a Body (Leib) for there to be mutual understanding, and thus the dependency on sense organs would have to be there as well.” Nature is understood to be an intersubjective nexus-reality for everyone who “can have dealings with us. This means that, “There is always the possibility that new spirits enter into this nexus; but they do so by means of their Bodies, which are represented through possible appearance in our consciousness and through corresponding ones in theirs.”

(Note, the word Leib is used by Husserl to denote the lived, living animate body. Körper is the word denoting the inanimate, physical body. It’s a distinction that bears the trace of vitalism and Lebensphilosophie in Husserl’s thought).

My own takeaway is that the kind of theological speculation here flies in the face of any kind of theology, rationalist or other, that would insist on God’s absolute alterity, or asks us to think in a more radical way the thought of non-differentiation (about that, more tomorrow in relation to Heidegger). It’s focus on sensation would draw Jewish theology away from Maimonides, Cohen, and Levinas towards (certain readings of) Buber and Rosenzweig. But unlike, Buber and Rosenzweig, it is more tongue in cheek. The idea of God’s thought disappears as soon as it appears in “the constitution of material nature.”

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Phantasy and Phenomenology (Edmund Husserl)

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Empathy and phantasy are an integral part of phenomenological method. In particular, it is phantasy, or imagination, that suggests that there’s more to consciousness than what presents itself to consciousness. Phenomenological consciousness includes as well that which lies outside the immediate zone of consciousness. Phantasy or imagination stand out as a kind of perception.

As a “spiritual” phenomenon, the personal ego as understood by Edmund Husserl in Ideas II is not a thing-like datum. The body is experienced as the body of a “soul,” but not localizable as such (185). The sense is one of an excess of reality beyond the merely physical in the physical (186). Viewed personalistically, the person is a subject of a surrounding world that is perceived in acts, remembered, gasped in thoughts, etc. (194-5). The “essence of personal being” is “being of persons and for persons.” Summing up the progress made so far, Husserl continues, “We carried out a segment of personal life or we phantasized ourselves into such a segment in a full and lively way, and we also, by empathy. Entered into the personal life of another” (219-20).

Not confined to “logical investigations,” Huserl was a phantasist. About phantasy as a kind of dim perception, he will explain further on in the third part of Ideas by positing phantasy in terms of a question. “[C]an I not think myself into motivational situations in which I have never yet been and the likes of which I have never yet experienced? And can I not see , or discover in a quasi-seeing, how I would then behave, although,, I might behave differently…although it would be thinkable that I would decide differently….whereas in fact, as this personal Ego, I could not behave that way?”  I do, according to Husserl, “by means of phantasizing presentifications of possible situations, in which I ‘reflect’ on what kind of sensuous or spiritual stimuli would affect me, [etc.].”

By the “quasi” in “quasi-seeing” Husserl means something like imaginal thinking and “practical possibility.” An example given would be the quasi-joy,” in which “I place myself, or think myself, into a pleasure.” At issue in this case is possible pleasure, not actual pleasure, possible seeing and things like that. The quasi-perception is my wanting something or wanting to do something, to decide in “such a way in a given situation” (275-6, 275n1). “I could do it,” but then again, “I could not do it” (277).

The point this suggests about Husserl is that, as it developed, his model of phenomenology turned into an aporetic method to consider forms of mental states at the border between presence and absence, the physical and the spiritual. His thinking lends itself to images and to the imagination at precisely this point of quasi-perception.

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Hatsune Miku: Post-Human Hologram Pop Star

japan pop

“Hatsune Miku is a Piece of Software. She May also be the Future of Music,” so reads the subtitle by Lindsay Zoladz in New York Magazine, which you can you read here. Maybe yes, maybe no, but certainly she’s awesome. A technological object, her ontology’s confusing. “[Justin] Bieber boasts of his many fans and Miku replies, ‘B%^ch please, I have millions of fans and I don’t even exist.'” In the article, Zoladz quotes Tara Knight from UC San Diego. I add my two cents below.

“Hatsune Miku, one of Japan’s most famous pop stars, has been 16 for the past seven years. She wears her cascading aquamarine hair in pigtails that skim the ground when she dances, and according to stats offered up on her record company’s website, she stands five-two and weighs about 93 pounds. She has opened for Lady Gaga, collaborated with Pharrell, and sung more than 100,000 songs, dabbling quite literally in every genre imaginable

[….]

Miku is what’s known as a Vocaloid, an avatar of voice-synthesizing software (also called Vocaloid) — roughly, Siri–meets–GarageBand. One fan-written history of Vocaloid explains: “Human voices are recorded in short samples, and these samples are stored in a database which becomes a software for songwriters and producers to use as an alternative [to] a singing voice.

 

[…]

 

Far more revolutionary is the fact that all her music — including the songs performed in concert — is written by fans, some of whom cannot read music and never felt empowered to write a song before Miku came along. “Miku is seen less as this really special person, like Lady Gaga or somebody,” Knight says, “but rather a conduit through which you can express yourself.” (Crypton has licensed Miku under Creative Commons, so that fans can use her image freely for noncommercial use. And fans retain the copyright on any songs they write, so in some rare cases they can make money off viral hits.”

The clearly undernourished Miku is a fetish –charming, flat, democratic, and utterly winning. Made for television, this clip of her appearance on David Letterman came out particularly well. The sound quality is excellent. Miku does not appear on a screen behind the live band. I can’t help but think that Edmund Husserl would have liked Miku, a phenomenological apparition in three dimensional space. Her image is sized in proportion to the musicians in the band who play around and alongside her. At the start of the clip, she appears from out of nowhere in a flash of light. She moves in synch to the tune. At the end of the song, her image disintegrates back into the dark.

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Affect & Phenomenology (In the Pleasure Attitude with Edmund Husserl)

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In the phenomenology advanced in Ideas II, Husserl proved himself to be an accomplished aesthete. He presents consciousness in gorgeous oscillation between the theoretical and the pleasure attitude. Phenomenological consciousness provides no fixed point perspective. Its intuitions are multiple, folding into and out of each other as a constant stream of conversions and modifications. These are theoretical and affective. Instead of one supplanting the other, logically or axiologically, their mutual oscillation, their “striving together in parallel,” is fundamental to human consciousness as such in its self-formation vis-à-vis intentional objects. “[I]n such thematic interweavings, new objectiviites are thus always being constituted” (p.15).

These passages from the chapter on “The Idea of Nature in General” caught my attention:

“But we are no longer performing the seeing in this eminent [theoretical] sense when we, seeing the radiant blue sky, live in the rapture of it. If we do that, then we are not in the theoretical or cognitive attitude but in the affective….[T]hough we have adopted the theoretical attitude, the pleasure may very well be present still, as, for example, in the observing physicist who is directing himself to the radiant blue sky, but then we are not living in the pleasure. There is an essential phenomenological modification of the pleasure, and of the seeing and judging, according as we pass over from the one attitude to the other..That is, all acts which are not already theoretical from the outset allow of being converted into such acts by means of a change of attitude. We can look at a picture “with delight.” Then we living in the performance of aesthetic pleasure, in the pleasure attitude, which precisely is one of “delight.” Then again, we can judge the picture, with eyes of the art critic or at historian as “beautiful.” No we living the performance of the theoretical or judgmental attitude and no longer in the appreciating or pleasure-taking.”

“Living in simple sense intuition, the one on the lowest level and performing it theoretically, we have theoretically grasped a mere thing in the most straightforward manner. When we pass over to the aesthetic grasping and judging of value, we then have more than a mere thing, we have the thing with the ‘what’ charter (with the expressed predicate) of the value; we have a value-thing.”

[…]

“On each side there are intentions which strive in parallel: a representing (cognitive, tending toward knowledge) striving versus an evaluating one which tends towards expectations, toward the delighting enjoyment.””

(Ideas II, p. 10-11)

The ideas about affect appear concerning “emptily anticipating horizons of feeling or will, fleeting glances that pre-grasp beauty, following certain indications, but without actually grasping anything at all, but which will suffice for “doxic turn[s] and predication” (p.12).

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No — Peace — Justice — Israel — Palestine

allegory-of-justice-and-peace

“No Justice, No Peace” is a well-established formula. With orgins in the Black Power Movement, it gets at the asymmetrical conflict over Israel and Palestine. The very simple argument is that Israel won’t enjoy peace without justice for Palestine. Less simple is figuring out the intention of speakers who cite the formula. Is this intended by the speaker to be a descriptive statement that seeks only to describe political reality? Or is it intended as a normative statement meaning that Israel should not be allowed to live in peace without justice for Palestine?

Flip the formula to see the other side of the coin – “No Justice, No Peace.” It’s hard to imagine how to draw up the careful arrangements that might make for justice for Palestine under the conditions of war and violence that threaten Israel. This is not meant to justify the injustice as much as to describe a parallax view of the conflict. Do war and violence reveal the pre-given injustice of a situation? Or do they only aggravate that condition and make it worse?

Spinning in vicious circles, each formula articulates a truth that is as partial as it is brutal and basic. Viewed logically, one term has to precede in order to ground the other. But these kinds of conflict do not lend themselves to logic. In the end, neither party gets what it needs. Morally, the claims must be met simultaneously, whereas politically it’s up to the stronger party to resolve the asymmetrical conflict which the weaker party continues to sustain on this side of a catastrophe.

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Jerusalem (Har Nof)

blood

In the middle of prayer, the atrocity at Kehilat Yaakov synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood Jerusalem, the terrible desecration today is going to sear into Jewish memory. The fight for Israel and Palestine turns into a bitter and blood-soaked religious war of attrition.

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